The View From Pluto: Baldwin Wallace's Trailblazing Women's Basketball Coach Hits a Milestone

Feb 26, 2020

A Northeast Ohio women’s college basketball coach has hit a milestone that cements her legacy as a trailblazer in her sport. Cheri Harrer notched her 600th win at Baldwin Wallace University earlier this month.

WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says Harrer grew up on her family’s sprawling western Ohio farm without much exposure to sports. In fact, she started shooting hoops by herself in a barn.

From the farm to the court
“They had to move the tractors around to play ball," Pluto said. "Then she used to play at recess with some of the boys and the junior high boys coach (John Short) spotted her one day and saw that she was kind of holding her own. So they let her start practicing with the team and keep score and stats."

Harrer played at Wynford High in Bucyrus and then went on to Findlay College, now the University of Findlay. She ended up as a four-year starter and NAIA Academic All-American. 

“My wife, Roberta, played on the first women’s team at Hiram College, that’s when she was a senior in 1975," Pluto said. "They had to kind of learn from the boys, playing pick-up (games), because I remember watching my wife’s games, the coaching was so bad. And Cheri would say the same thing."

Harrer became an assistant coach at Findlay. Then she saw an ad in a magazine for a head basketball coach at Baldwin Wallace. She was hired in 1990. She had losing records the first two seasons. She has never had a losing season since. 

'They weren't even allowed barely breathing room. They had to fight for their budgets and for everything else.'

Trailblazing
Pluto said this was a time when women's sports were growing, but the trailblazers like Harrer and former University of Tennessee coaching legend Pat Summitt had to really fight hard to break through. 

"In the beginning, Pat (Summitt) was the one who drove the van and washed the uniforms. She made Tennessee the first national program.” Summitt passed away from Alzheimer's disease in 2016. 

"I’ve always been a big proponent of Title IX because of my experience with my wife, and because of people like Cheri or Pat Summit. These women have stories of being – forget second class citizens – they weren’t even allowed barely breathing room. They had to fight for their budgets and fight for everything else."

The Baldwin Wallace women's basketball team is ranked 12th nationally in Division III. They have a 23-2 record, including 12-0 at home. They are currently playing in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament, and have clinched a Division III Tournament bid for the 15th time. 

"I’d like to at least see her get to the Final Four this year with this team, because it’s one of the best she’s ever had."