A legendary figure in the coaching annals of Bowdoin, Ray Bicknell guided two storied programs in their infancy—men’s basketball and women’s soccer—to phenomenal heights during his twenty-three-year tenure at the College.
Already an accomplished coach by the time he arrived at Bowdoin, Bicknell had served successful stints at Deering and Cape Elizabeth High Schools and had also coached the Egyptian National Team, whose bid to compete at the 1956 Olympics was canceled due to the Israeli-Egyptian hostilities.
Prior to his arrival at Bowdoin in the fall of 1962, the men’s basketball team had failed to post a winning campaign in its twenty-one years of existence. Bicknell piloted the Polar Bears to a State Series championship in that first winter of 1962–1963 and, just five years later, posted consecutive State crowns in 1967–1968 (15-6) and 1968–1969 (16-5), posting the program’s best-ever marks for wins in both campaigns. The 1967–1968 squad was named as the ECAC Division III Team of the Year and garnered Bicknell New England Coach of the Year recognition. The four-time Maine Coach of the Year finished his basketball coaching career with 202 victories—perhaps none sweeter than his upset of nationally ranked Colby for his final career win on February 23, 1985.
Bicknell assumed coaching duties of the school’s new women’s soccer program in 1977 and coolly guided them to a 6-1-0 record in their debut season. In his seven seasons at the helm, the Polar Bears became the dominant team in small college soccer in New England, capturing more than 76 percent of their contests. Under Bicknell, the Polar Bears won 67 games and four straight Northeastern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships from 1981–1984, going undefeated against NIAC opponents during that incredible four-year stretch. Upon his retirement, the Athletic Department established the Ray Bicknell Award to honor annually the most outstanding women’s soccer player.
Since his retirement, Bicknell has received numerous accolades, including being inducted into the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Fame, the Institute for International Sport Hall of Fame, and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1977, he received the Alvin “Doggie” Julian Award from the New England Basketball Coaches Association, honoring his lifetime contributions to the sport of basketball.
Ray’s late wife, Jane (Mrs. Coach), was as much a part of the team as anyone. In addition to all of his past players, whom they considered family, they enjoyed their twenty-one nieces and nephews and their families.