Football Dreams Still Buried on the Bluff

By The Beacon | September 10, 2010 9:00pm

By John McCarty, Staff Writer --

When the University of Portland's football program was shut down in the spring of 1950, a few players buried a ball in an unknown location on campus, and with that ball so too the University's dream of becoming a pigskin powerhouse.

Despite the dire financial straits many institutions find themselves in today, approximately 26 colleges will add NCAA-certified football programs between 2009 and 2013 according to USA Today. Smaller schools like Pacific University and Concordia University plan to introduce football programs in hopes of increasing enrollment, which begs the question: will football return to The Bluff?

According to Steve Hatchell, president of the National Football Foundation, football has proven itself a crucial asset in increasing enrollment. It is, however, unlikely that football will return to The Bluff in the near future.

When asked about football returning to The Bluff, Athletic Director Larry Williams said, "Absolutely, if I win the Powerball. I love the game but at this point I just don't see it in the cards... It's an expensive sport and we simply lack the current means for generating that much money."

According to Director of Intramural sports Brian Dezanni, it's been long enough that students don't care as much anymore, and the addition of football would also take the school in the wrong direction on Title IX.

The Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, more commonly known as Title IX, is a federal law that makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based upon sex in regard to any education program or activity receiving federal funding. In order to remain in compliance with Title IX, UP must field and provide funding for an equal number of men's and women's sports. The athletic department is already working on adding another women's sport to remain in compliance with Title IX. If football were added it would mean that an additional women's sport would also have to be added.

The cost of implementing and running a football program at UP has defined the struggle to maintain the sport on campus, and ultimately contributed to its removal from the athletic program.

Fr. Theodore J. Mehling, C.S.C. announced the demise of football in February of 1950, saying: "This decision was reached after a long and exhaustive study of the football situation at the University and in this locality. We hoped that intercollegiate football could be retained but the case against it was so overwhelming that a negative decision was the only possibility."

According to Phil Loprinzi, former assistant business professor, alumnus, and JV football coach from 1946-49, the University considered selling some of its property and even firing professors to finance football, but these actions didn't seem to coincide with the school's commitment to education. The money intended for football was instead used to launch the University's engineering, music, art, psychology and physical education programs, along with assisting in the construction of the building that is now Shiley Hall.

After 48 years of Bluff football, 150 wins, 136 losses and 34 ties, the program was no more. A group of alumni attempted to raise $25,000 to field a team for the 1951 season, but the cost and lack of facilities proved too daunting, and the prospect of UP football was scrapped.

Alhough the Pilot football program showed promise, the dream of becoming the Notre Dame of the west proved too costly for the Holy Cross community to handle.

Marlowe Branagan, a UP alumnus and former Beacon Sports analyst wrote,

"The University of Portland, like other schools, found out it was too big to be a boy scout and too small to play the tuba in the National Guard band. Somehow, it seems, from an economic standard, the ‘in between' school is just plain out of luck."