Rarely has there been one player, one coach, or one caring individual that made such an important impact on women’s athletics - both in the high school and collegiate spectrum - than 2000 Branford Sports Hall of Fame inductee Bethany Collins-Irwin.
Born on May 12,1966 in New Haven, Bethany attended schools in the Branford system and earned numerous academic and athletic achievements while a student at Branford High School from 1980 to 1984.
During her sophomore season at Branford High School, Bethany earned First Team All-Housatonic and Second Team All-State while a member of the Hornets’ Girls Basketball team. She was named “Athlete of the Week”, on numerous occasions during the 1981-82 season. The Hornets won 17 and lost one, claimed the Housatonic League Championship, and advanced to the Semi-Final round of the State Playoffs. As a member of the girls volleyball team, Bethany led Branford to a Housatonic League and State Championship title with a perfect record of 28-0, the longest winning streak in Branford High School history.
In her junior year (1982-83), Bethany played on two championship teams in both volleyball ( a Housatonic League and State Championship title) and basketball. The Hornets posted another dream season in basketball , as they went undefeated at 24-0 and won the Housatonic League and Class “L” State titles. That year, the team earned the number five ranking nationally in Parade Magazine and the number eight ranking in the USA TODAY poll. Bethany, for her efforts, was recognized on the First Team All-County, First-Team All Housatonic, and First-Team All State. She was also named to the All-League and All-State Volleyball team.
As a senior, Bethany led Branford to a 24-2 record and a second straight Housatonic League and Class L CIAC State Championships in basketball. She collected 549 points, 307 rebounds, and a team high 49 steals that year. For her accomplishments, she was named to the First-Team All County, First-Team Housatonic, First-Team All State, First-Team All American, Converse All American, and Parade All American. In volleyball, she led Branford to another State Championship team and was named to the All-League and All- State team.
For her career, tonight’s inductee set a school record with 1,339 points in three seasons, most points scored in a game (40), highest field goal percentage in one game (10-11, .900), 516 career defensive rebounds, 261 career blocked shots, 98 blocks in one season, and 11 blocked shots in one game.
Following her career at Branford High School, Bethany attended Penn State University from 1985 to 1988. While a member of the Nittany Lions’ Women’s Basketball team, she ranked twelfth in all-time scoring with 1,1,86 points in 126 games (9.4 average), eighth in all-time rebounding (857), and fourth in all-time blocked shots (92). The team was ranked in the nation’s top 10 for four consecutive years, the Atlantic 10 champion in 1985 and 1986 and reached the second round of the NCAA playoffs three years in a row from 1986 to 1988, in addition to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 1985. In her senior season, she was named to the Atlantic 10 Second Team. Bethany graduated from Penn State University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Education Degree.
Bethany began her coaching career in 1989 as the Head Varsity Basketball Coach in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania before assuming the same position at State College High School in State College, Pennsylvania from 1994 to present. She holds a coaching record of 113-59,and captured the Mid-Allegheny Conference Championship in 1998 and 2000. Her team qualified for state playoffs and was district runner-up in 1999 and 2000.
In 1993, Bethany was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. On December 26th, 1999, she was voted by the Hartford Courant as the “Best of the Century” local legends in the 20th Century Greatest Athletes. Bethany is married to Robert F. Irwin III and is the mother to son, Patrick Collins Irwin,(4 years old) and daughter, Kyla Collins Irwin (3 years old) and step-mother of Kate, (14 years old), Kristin (13 years old), Robbie (11), and Christopher (10). Bethany is the daughter of Warren and Nancy Collins and sister of Gail Collins-Ball, Warren, and Darren.