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Undefeated since 1941: A History of Gonzaga Football: Case 1: Introduction

Case 1: Introduction

Gonzaga’s football journey began on Thanksgiving Day, 1892 with a tie game (4-4) against the Spokane Amateur Athletic Club and ended on November 22, 1941 with its historically worst loss to Washington State College (59-0). Those 49 years saw a seven-year intercollegiate ban on the sport, changes to how the game was played, and a football generated contribution to the rise of Gonzaga’s profile on the national level. While young boys were attending Gonzaga in its early years, they were able to play football and other sports through an intramural league called Junior Yard Association or JYA. Coach Gus Dorais led the Gonzaga football program through its golden age in the early 1920’s, and Gonzaga became a ranked team. Little Gonzaga played large schools such as the University of Oregon, Washington State University, and the University of Nevada throughout the 1920’s and 30’s. However, once World War II began, Gonzaga football lost its funding and its players.

After the war, students wrote petitions to bring football back to Gonzaga and the administration deliberated carefully over these appeals. Suggestions were made to continue the program, such as reducing the number of players and having alumni underwrite athletic scholarships. But, these ideas were not enough. The facts were that after continued losses and no promise of better results, football was harming Gonzaga’s self-respect. Furthermore, Gonzaga administration did not want to lower the school’s academic standards just so students could play football. There was concern that professors might give better grades to football players than deserved. If the players failed a class, they would be dropped from the team, and that would reflect poorly on the professor.

Finally, there was no way to pay the football program deficit that had built up over the years while simultaneously funding the program given the impending stadium repairs needed. Gonzaga refused to allow program funding using outside money because it would have meant potential external influence over administrative policies. Additionally, recent poor crowd attendance indicated a lack of civic interest. In the end, the substantial past losses and the unbearable future losses were too much to handle. The administration shut down football forever and Friday Night Lights became just a memory of the past. Today, both Gonzaga men and women enjoy competing in intramural flag football on campus.

 

 

Gonzaga Football Early Team Photo, 1896

Team members: Robert Kercheval, Egan O’Shea, Richard O’Shea, John Ehorn, John Oebbecke, John Finnegan, Thomas O’Hanlon, Albert Kenck, Henry O’Hanlon, Leon Merry, Michel Gannon, William Bulger, Arthur Lyonnais.

Gonzaga Football’s Last Team Photo, 1941

 

Team members: Tom Berry, Jack Barmon, William Biner, Carl Clark, Larry Connors, Robert Danielson, George Derr, William Dinndorf, Gene Fitzpatrick, Robert Gerstenberger, John Goodwin, Don Haynes, Pat Higgins, Everett Hille, Jack Jansen, Bruce Jaton, Chet Johnson, Robert Jones, Pat LaMarche, Tom Lee, Nick Loncaric, John Scherger, Ed Sepich, Fred Siemers, William Tessendorf (Captain), John Whaley, George Yarno.

Football Schedules of Pacific Coast Colleges, 1925

While Gonzaga was never a member of the Pacific Coast Conference (1916-1958) the football team played Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State.

 

JYA Football Team, 1903-1904

When Gonzaga College first opened, the school allowed males to attend who were at least 10 years of age and able to read. Eventually, the younger boys would move to St. Aloysius School and Gonzaga Prep. Until then, these younger students were able to play sports such as football, baseball and basketball through an intramural league called Junior Yard Association or JYA. This league was started in 1896 to foster college spirit and interest in athletics among younger students.

Gonzaga Stadium, c. 1927

Football Game, c. 1930

This photo depicts the view of the Gonzaga football stadium looking North-West. Fans fill the stadium while watching the game.

Signed Football with Signatures of the 1939 Football Team, 1939

“Undefeated Since 1941” T-Shirt

A play on words. Gonzaga has been undefeated since 1941 because there have been no teams since then. On loan from the Zag Shop.

“Zags Glad They Gave Up Football” Seattle Post Intelligencer, November 1, 1953

 

Journalist Jerry O’Brien is convinced that the University does not miss shelling out money for football. In its best year, football netted $2.70 for the University, in its worst, it lost more than $70,000. In total, Gonzaga lost roughly $350,000 on their football program.

Archie Sherar’s Season Ticket, 1932-1933

A combination season ticket to attend all football and basketball games cost $10 and was not transferable.

University of Montana vs Gonzaga University Official Program, November 4, 1938

Game played at Gonzaga Stadium. Final Score Gonzaga 0, Montana 9.

Football Game, 1898

 

The football game in this photograph was played at Gonzaga against the Blair Business College in the snow. During the game, Blair's team captain and Gonzaga player William Garrigan were both severely injured.