Sweetland attended Union College and was graduate of Cornell in 1899. A gifted athlete, Sweetland was on the varsity football team at Union and Cornell and the varsity rowing team at Cornell. At Cornell he was coached by Hall of Fame Coaches Pop Warner in football and Charles E. Courtney in rowing.
Sweetland planned to the return for the 1899 football season even though he would be graduating. He planned to start his medical training at Cornell. After the 1898 season he became involve in a Controversy between two factions on the future direction of the football program that came to the head with the election of captain for the 1899 season. Originally three year starter at left guard, Daniel A. Reed was elected captain over Sweetland for the 1899 season. A very close election caused a rift in the football team. Reed won by a vote of ten to nine. Later Reed resigned as captain and the team elected Sweetland unanimously. The Cornell Athletic Council refused to ratify the election of Sweetland, stating that their decision was "in the interest of harmony among the various elements who co-operation is necessary for the success of Cornell athletics." The council statement listed two specific reasons. The first was that the Council wanted to purge all leaders of the competing factional rivalries on the team. This included Coach Warner and Tom Fennell as well as Daniel A. Reed. All three stated they would not return for the 1899 season. The second reason was a large number of football alumni protested the election of Sweetland as captain. Additionally, a charge was leveled that Sweetland was a professional, not an amateur, since he was paid for playing football for Elmira Athletic Club in the fall of 1897. Sweetland denied the allegation only admitting that he received reimbursement for his expenses but not for playing. After the Athletic Council ruling the team elected fullback Raymond Starbuck as team captain.
In Sweetland’s first year as coach of the rowing team, he was basically starting the rowing team from scratch. He spent good amount of time on basic watermenship and maintaining an even keel. He started practice in late March and was able to get the team ready for a race against the Francis Club Crew of Cornell in June. A crowd of 3000 showed up at Onondaga Lake to watch the 2 mile race in which Sweetland’s varsity crew lost by 6 seconds.
In fall of that year, Sweetland began football practice on September 4, 1900 with 10 returning players from the 1899 team. His team finished the season with a 7-2-1 record including victories over Amherst and Oberlin. One of his losses was to his former school, Cornell by a score of 6-0. Syracuse coming into the game did have a several of advantages that made their fans optimistic that the Orange could pull out a victory. First the game was being played early in the season, September, 29th. The Orangemen had been practicing for several weeks longer than Cornell. The second benefit was a large crowd of Syracuse rooters attended the game. Even with the game being played at Cornell’s Percy Field, Syracuse rooters filled half the grand stand and part of the bleachers. The third advantage was Cornell’s captain, Raymond D. Starbuck, was hurt earlier in practice and could not play. Sweetland’s team started out strong had several opportunities to score. Early in the game, after stopping Cornell on their first possession, Syracuse drove the ball into scoring position at the Cornell’s 15 yard line but could not score. Later, just before half time, Cornell returned a fumble to the Syracuse's seven yard line but Sweetland's defence stopped them from scoring and took over on downs. Then in Syracuse's next possession, Carr, Syracuse's half-back, went through a hole in the Cornell line and ran seventy yards before Cornell’s halfback A. B. Morrison caught him to prevent a touchdown. The game remained tied until the about 2 minutes to play when Cornell’s Morrison ran 25 yards for a touchdown. After the game Cornell accused Coach Sweetland's team of rough and dirty play.
Sweetland again coached the rowing team for the 1901 season. The Syracuse crew took part in a regatta on Onondaga Lake on June 7, 1901. Sweetland’s varsity 8 again raced against the Francis Club crew of Cornell and lost by 1/4 of a boat length.They raced in spite of the fact that Sweetland was in the hospital suffering from an attack of typhoid fever just a few weeks before the race. The season ended with his team rowing in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta in Poughkeepsie, New York. This was the first time in school history that Syracuse attend this event. Sweetland’s varsity 8 finishing 5th out 6 teams. Cornell finished 1st but the Orangemen were able to beat University of Pennsylvania coached by Ellis Ward.
Controversy erupted before the start of the 1901 football season. Cornell refused to play Syracuse because of bad feeling about rough play from the year before. They also questioned the amateur status of the Syracuse team. Syracuse stated that there were rules in force that prevented professional players but admitted that slight violations of the rules were possible. On the issue of rough play the year before, Syracuse investigated and found the accusation to be groundless. The Syracuse General Athletic Committee severed all athletic relations with their upstate New York rivals. The two schools would not play again until 1935. The team finished 7-1 with including victories over Brown, Columbia and Amherst and outscored their opponent by 150 to 27. The New York Sun rated them 7th best team in nation.
Sweetland returned for his third year as rowing coach in 1902. Before the season the outlook for Varsity crews at Syracuse look to be good. Coach Sweetland had experience rowers to chose the Varsity crew from. Most members of the 1901 Varsity and Freshmen crews returned for 1902. The team returned to Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta. Before the race Syracuse crew weight dropped to average of less than 155 lbs. Sweetland had to reduced the training before the Regatta. In their second attempt, Syracuse finished 5th out of 6 teams beating Georgetown in the Varsity race. Cornell finished first followed by Wisconsin, Columbia and Penn. Even though this was the same place they finished the year before it was consider an improvement. The time of 19 minutes 31 seconds was the fastest time at that distant.
The 1903 football season under Coach Sweetland saw Syracuse out score their opponents by a combined score of 153 to 87. The team finished the season with a record of 6-2-1. Wins included shutouts against Colgate and Amherst and disappointing lopsided losses to Army and Yale.
Before the 1903 rowing season, the Athletic Council replaced Sweetland with James A. Ten Eyck as rowing coach. Sweetland had demanded a higher salary to coach the rowing team. When his demands were not met he resigned from all athletic work at Syracuse. The rowing team threaten a revolt but no major action was taken. Even though they replaced him at rowing coach some in the council tried retain him as football coach for the 1904 season. They were unsuccessful, with the full council deciding to go a different direction. In the end Sweetland coached football for three years at Syracuse with a combined record of 20–5-2.
After leaving Hamilton, Sweetland consider an offer to be assistant rowing coach under his former mentor Coach Courtney at Cornell for the 1904 season. Courtney wanted Sweetland to replace F. D. Colson who moved on to become coach at Harvard. While negotiation were still pending, the Rowing Committee of the Cornell Athletic Council announced that they hired C. A. Lueder to the position. This caused a power struggle between Courtney and the Athletic Council for control of the rowing program. The conflict was resolved when the Rowing Committee canceled the job offer to Lueder. In addition, the Athletic Council limited their interference with the rowing team by giving Coach Courtney the power to pick member of the crew and designate the oarsmen position. However, Sweetland did not become Courtney's assistant because in the time it took resolve the conflict, he was offered and accepted the position as head football coach at Ohio State University. With Sweetland out of the picture, Courtney hired Lueder as his assistant rowing coach.
During the 1909 season the Wildcats scored several notable victories including a 6 to 2 over the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. The head of the military department at Kentucky, Commandant Corbusier, stated that the team “"fought like Wildcats." Shortly after this Wildcats became sunomonis with the University and would eventually become the official nickname. Other victories that year included a shutout victory over University of Tennessee Volunteers and a blow out of cross town rival Transylvania College. The team finished the season with a 15 – 6 victory over Centre before six thousand fans to win the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Association (KIAA) state title. The Sweetland led Wildcats finished the year at 9-1 and outscored their opponents by a combined score of 261 to 29 with the only blemish being a 6- 15 loss to North Carolina A&M. The gridiron success was more remarkable considering Sweetland became ill during the season and was feared that he could not continue to coach the football team. The local newspaper went so far to report that a replacement was selected.
In the fall of 1909 the faculty athletic senate voted to abolish the men’s basketball at Kentucky do to poor record and an overcrowded gym. As a reaction to this, the University of Kentucky students presented the board of trustees with a solution to the overcrowding. The plan was for a wooden floor and new lighting to be installed in the Armory. To address the poor record of the past teams Sweetland was named coach. This made him first paid coach in Kentucky’s basketball history. Before this time the team only had managers. In his first year the basketball team finished 4-8. R. E. Spahr assumed coaching duties during the season when Sweetland once again became ill.
Sweetland had recovered from his Illness to coach the 1910 football season. The season went well for the Wildcats as they won the first seven straight victories. Among their victims were the North Carolina, Tennessee and Tulane. The last two games of the season did not go the Wildcats way. Team traveled to St. Louis University in the eighth game and was shut out by a score of 9-0. Centre College beat Kentucky on Thanksgiving Day in the last game of the season by a score of 6-12. Sweetland’s team had several costly fumbles to allow Centre to claim the State title. This game was marred by several controversies. The first was before the game A. H. Throckmorton of the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Association (KIAA) ruled that several of Centre College players were not eligible to play do to there education background did not meet the minimum requirement set out by the KIAA. Centre played the players that KIAA stated that were ineligible in the game anyway. It did so since both Kentucky and Centre were also members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) who had not ruled on the players’ eligibility. The second was do to a verbal argument before the game the game escalated to a point that Centre stated it was fearful of UK’s actions and also stated it would never play Kentucky again.
At the end of the season Sweetland’s health once again began to fail. He submitted his resignation and accepted what he hoped would be a “less stressful job” as the University of Wisconsin-Madison rowing coach. By mid January, Sweetland, had to send word to University of Wisconsin-Madison Athletic Director George W. Ehler that he will be unable to continue his duties do to his ongoing illness.
The second addition of Sweetland basketball team at Kentucky was more successful than his first. His second stint as head basketball coach went better than his first. The Wildcats posted an undefeated season with a record of 9-0.
Even with the success on the hard court Sweetland return was marred by several problems and troubles. Sweetland had to deal with disciplinary action by KIAA who had been investigating the use of ineligible athletes. Sweetland announced that Kentucky would leave the KIAA after the end of the academic year. Even with this announcement the KIAA suspended the Wildcats for one year. This caused Sweetland several problems including putting together a schedule for the 1912 football season. Most games had to be filled with schools from outside the state with emphasis put on games with fellow SIAA schools. Rumors that the KIAA had informed the SIAA of its findings plus strong criticism from the Faculty council most notably the dean of the engineering department, Paul Anderson were an ongoing issues that Sweetland had to deal with.
The 1912 Wildcats posted a 7-2 record losing only to Sweetland former school Miami University 13-8 and VMI by a score of 3-2. During the season, Sweetland had to fire his assistant coach Richard S. Webb after he took several team members to a Knoxville Red-light district after the football game versus the University of Tennessee.
Near the end of the season a fire broke out in the on campus office of Athletic department critic Paul Anderson. The fire caused little damage to the building but destroyed several items in the office. Originally was reported as an electrical fire but latter changed to arson. This was reinforced by discovery of several items from Anderson’s office near the football field. In early December Sweetland, along with 6 students with ties to the athletic department were arrested for starting fire. The warrants for arrest were sworn to by Captain Richard Webb. As well as being and former Kentucky football coach and captain of the 1910 Wildcat football team, Webb was from a prominent Lexington Family as well as being an officer of the court. Sweetland and Webb had been close friends and business partners but their friendship had deteriorated.
The case took an unexpected turn when the investigation by the State Fire Marshall, Police and District Attorney changed its focus from Sweetland to Richard Webb. Webb hired a prominent legal team which included Henry S. Breckinridge. During the preliminary trial Webb’s defense attorneys, tried to paint Sweetland mentally unstable and tried to switch suspension to Sweetland. At the end of the preliminary trail the judge ruled that probable cause existed to hold Webb on the charge of arson.
At the trial the Webb’s defense team dropped the tactic of switching blame to Sweetland. Instead they focused on discrediting the testimony of Thomas Baker who had confessed to a charge of arson and implicated Webb as his accomplice. They also had several family members provide an alibi for Webb and were successful in having that the fingerprint evidence thrown out. During final arguments the defense team argued that the prosecution had failed to Webb’s motive. In the end the jury only took 45 minutes to reach a not guilty verdict.
Early in 1913, before the Webb arson case went to trial, Edwin Sweetland resigned his duties as coach and athletic administrator. The UK athletic department announced that he “could not be induced to stay.” As the football coach of the Wildcats, Sweetland compiled a 23-5 mark in three seasons.