Georgetown Football History
Chapter 8: The Beginning Of Another Era...
If football was gone from Georgetown during the 1950's, it was not forgotten. Periodic articles in the campus newspaper reminded new students of the school's former football glory, and the class intramural program provided a home for those who wished to play the sport on a competitive level.
Periodic attempts to revive the sport at Georgetown during the 1950's were routinely dismissed by the University administration. A 1957 poll commissioned by the Georgetown Alumni Club of Metropolitan Washington D.C. found 84% of alumni wanted football resumed, and of those who supported a return, 73.7% favored a program similar to that of Ivy League schools. The poll was ignored by the University, relegating it to a corner of the University Archives. In 1959, the National Football Foundation invited Georgetown's president, Rev. Edmund Bunn S.J., to discuss opportunities for Georgetown, Fordham, NYU, Chicago, Johns Hopkins, and MIT to schedule extramural football contests between the schools, but Bunn declined the invitation outright.
While talk of reviving football in some form had made the rounds of casual discussion among alumni for years, it took some student homework to get the issue back in front of the University. In 1962, the Student Athletic Commission petitioned Rev. Bunn to revive the sport--not at the big-time level that Georgetown formerly enjoyed, but for what the students termed "football for fun"-a low-budget, nonscholarship activity where students would compete against students from other academically-minded universities. Student would hire a coach, set schedules, and raise funds for its budget--in short, a football "club".
The Commission's report weighed in at a staggering 110 pages. Included within the report was a study of 50 small college football programs in the East, each of which were contacted to ascertain their football budget, their organizational structure, and a brief survey of whether they thought a low-cost football club could be successful at a liberal arts university. Of the fifty schools, forty-nine favored the concept.
The report identified six schools from which to pursue an annual schedule. By promoting play among small, academically respected liberal arts colleges that eschewed big-time football, the students sought to identify their program as compatible with Georgetown's liberal arts roots. The other benefit was a matter of goodwill--a football schedule with such schools would seek to welcome back those alumni still embittered over the program's demise in 1951.
Their arguments were not only based on emotion, but economics. Georgetown was already paying for an full-contact intramural football program that involved significant fixed costs for equipment, uniforms, instructors, and groundskeeping. For what was being spent on the intramural program, they argued, the additional expense of intercollegiate play could be matched by modest gate receipts for three home games each fall.
Even this modest proposal met with serious objections from University officials. Many of these men recalled the financial hemorrhage of pre-1950 football, and were not about to encourage similar aspirations. When the student proposal was approved, the University sanctioned only one game, not six, and offered no financial support. Even worse, the approval was not granted until after most schools had completed their 1963 schedules.
A game was signed for Nov. 23, 1963 against Frostburg State Teachers College, certainly not the kind of school that the students presented to Rev. Bunn, but the best available opponent on short notice. One day prior to the big game, the death of President Kennedy was announced. As a result, the game was canceled, and Georgetown football would have to wait until next year.
By the summer of 1964, the students' cause was bolstered by the announcement that Fordham and NYU students were following Georgetown's lead and resuming programs at a nonscholarship level. Their addition was a major boost to the "club football" cause--Georgetown not only had two familiar schools with which to play, but each school had ties to Georgetown's former football days. In addition, since both were club teams, scheduling would not be the problem that was the case in 1963.
A game was set with NYU in late November. The Student Athletic Commission revived Homecoming--the first such event at the University since 1950--and promoted the game among the alumni. Despite University admonitions that the game was strictly an "exhibition" and not a return to organized football, the fan response was overwhelming. Over 8,000 alumni and students jammed Kehoe Field to see Georgetown defeat NYU, 28-6, the largest crowd at any on-campus event since 1913. The Washington Post and the Evening Star sent reporters, and a camera crew from NBC filmed segments of the game.
The students added Fordham to its schedule in 1965, and over 9,000 fans attended that game. In 1966, a student boycott was averted after University officials relented and allowed a contest versus Catholic--another school adding a club program--to be declared a "game" and not an "exhibition". With this change, the intramural games quickly faded and football had resumed a regular place on the campus scene.
By the end of the decade, some 50 schools that had once dropped the sport were now fielding so-called "club football" programs, with Georgetown at its forefront. The unstructured club format eventually proved unwieldy, and in 1970 Georgetown joined Fordham in rejoining the NCAA ranks, beginning yet another era in the story of Hoya football.
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