Academics, Attitude, Athletics : Three words that describe a history committed towards excellence.
It all began in 1963. Merced College was founded as Merced Junior College. The Junior was dropped when it became apparent that people could confuse Modesto JC and Merced JC. Like other JC's of the time, Merced sought out an athletic program. Also, Merced College had to have a school nickname in which their athletes would play under. So with the Merced College Board of Trustees' approval, the student body set out to pick a nickname. Orchestrated by the ASMC office, possible names were sent in to be voted on. Out of all the names, fifteen were picked for voting. Out of the fifteen, two names emerged for a run-off vote. On October 25, 1963 the name "Blue Devils" won a decisive victory over "Vikings." Since then, Merced College athletes have carried the proud name of the "Blue Devils."
With the approval of the Board of Trustees, Merced College set out to start a basketball, wrestling and baseball program. Football would come a year later. So on June 17, 1963, with the Board of Trustees' approval, Merced College hired its Head Basketball Coach in 26-year-old Don Reid. Don came to the Blue Devils from Manteca High School, where he led Manteca to a 106-29 overall record and a 1962 Valley Oak League Coach of the Year award.
The Blue Devils started practice for the 1963-64 season in October. They practiced and played their practice games at Castle AFB. The first year saw the Blue Devils play 10 games at home. They played their games all over Merced County. They played games at Le Grand, Merced, and Atwater High Schools and the Armory. Their campus was at the Fairgrounds with plans to build a campus where it is located today. In those ten home games, 5 were conference and 5 were non-conference. The Blue Devils joined the Central California Junior College Athletic Association. Their first home game and first game ever was played December 3, 1963 against Gavilan College. The Blue Devils decisively defeated Gavilan 72-49. The Blue Devils went on to win five games before their first loss. On the way to a 5-1 record, the Blue Devils won the Pacific Invitational Tournament (In Fresno) on December 6th. Juan Escamilla and Bob Shadric were selected to the All-Tourney Team. The Blue Devils competed in the North-South Classic in Los Altos, losing in the Consolation Championship game. The Blue Devils first time ever over the century mark scoring was when they beat Western Bible College of Fresno 105-55. The Blue Devils also played in the Foothill Tourney and Post Christmas Tourney in San Bernardino.
In Merced's first year, they went 17-13 overall and 6-4 in league play. Juan Escamilla and Bob Shadric became Merced's two All-Conference selections. Coach Don Reid coached the CCJCA All-Stars against Conference Champion Hancock College.
The 1966-67 team saw the Blue Devils take on their first North Carolinian in Don Jones. Don was stationed at Castle AFB when he came to Merced College. In only his second game he scored a school record 36 points in Merced's 92-84 loss to Porterville.
The 1967-68 team became the first team to win 20 games in a single season. Merced's Don Jones and Willie Cherry received an invitation to try out for the 1968 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team.
Up until February 9, 1969, the Blue Devils played their home games all over Merced and the surrounding area. On February 9, the Blue Devils moved into their present home in the Merced College Gym. With a seating capacity of about 2,000, the Blue Devils would have a home second to none in the Junior College ranks. Though the Blue Devils lost their first game, they did beat Coalinga (West Hills) 81-67 on February 16.
The 1968-69 season saw the Blue Devils win their first Conference Championship and make the State Top 10. The Blue Devils lost in the first round of the State Championship to Pasadena CC in Fresno. The Blue Devils won a school record 25 games while losing only 6. Willie Cherry was the first All-American to be selected at Merced College.