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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Football team enjoyed a successful 69-year run, including a trip to the inaugural Cotton Bowl in 1937

This is the first of a three-part series on the tradition, demise and future of the Golden Avalanche, Marquette’s Division I football team.

With such a storied and successful basketball program on campus, it’s easy to forget Marquette had a football program for almost seven decades, playing Big Ten teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State and going toe-to-toe with future NFL Hall of Famers like Sam Huff and Mike Ditka in the process.

The team was known as the Blue & Gold, the Hilltoppers, the Golden Avalanche and finally the Warriors throughout its run at Marquette.

Beginning in 1892, just 11 years after the university was founded, Marquette took the field for the first time, playing local colleges and high schools.

The program steadily gained credibility and success over the next few decades, reaching a peak when the team posted 15 consecutive winning seasons from 1917 to 1931. During that span, only Michigan, Notre Dame and Southern California had better win-loss totals.

Much of that success is credited to head coach Frank Murray, who compiled a career record of 104-55-6 during two stints at Marquette, from 1922 to 1936 and 1946 to 1949. He is the only member of the Marquette program to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Murray also coached the men’s basketball team from 1920 to 1929.

One of the program’s most successful seasons came under Murray’s watch in 1937.

Behind captain halfback Ray Buivid, who would finish third in the Heisman balloting that year, the team finished 7-1. The only blemish was a 13-0 loss at Duquesne, and many believed Marquette would have earned a Rose Bowl bid had the team gone undefeated.

Instead, it was invited to the inaugural Cotton Bowl, one of six bowls in the country. Marquette was defeated, 16-6, by TCU, which featured future NFL Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh.

The success of the program during the ’20s and ’30s vaulted Marquette into national recognition and participating on the top stage of college football taught players the meaning of hard work.

“Playing at the highest level and against the best players, you learned that you had to work hard to be successful,” Lou Gral, a defensive end from 1952 to 1955, said via e-mail. “You learned how to be a competitor and that when you get knocked down, you have to get up and keep going again.”

The program hit a lull over the next decade-and-a-half, winning just 55 games from 1937 to 1952. But in 1953, Marquette strung together one more successful season, finishing 6-3-1 and earning a bid to the Sun Bowl.

Marquette turned down the bowl offer, but that team, led by scatback Ron Drzewieski, is considered one of the best teams in the program’s history. The team’s three losses came by a combined nine points to Big Ten powerhouses Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana.

Throughout the ups and downs of the program’s history, fans supported the team and, much like the current basketball program, recognized and acknowledged players on campus.

“We had 10,000 students, and they were very active,” Jim Lumber, a center from 1952 to 1956, said. “They knew your name and were very much involved and noisy at games, considering the end zones were open. It was a good turnout for the limited stadium space (at the former Marquette Stadium at 36th and Clybourn streets). People on campus knew you better than at a big school.”

Football was no doubt important for players on the field, but for 1953 offensive guard Stan Andrie, it meant everything off it.

Andrie, who did not play high school football, walked on to the team his freshman year and had to fight for a scholarship in order to stay at Marquette, where he earned his degree and met his future wife.

“I paid my own way and only had enough money for one year,” he said. “So I played scout team freshman year because that was my only chance to get action, and after my freshman year coach (Lisle) Blackbourn gave me a full ride, so I was able to stay in school.”

In the 69-year history of football at Marquette, the school finished 258-218-35. The team went undefeated nine different times.

However, just 10 total wins in the final six seasons left the school with a tough decision to make, and ultimately the program was officially dropped after the 1960 season.

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