Legends of the Fall
By Greg Schaber
As Xavier University approaches the 175th anniversary of its founding in 2006,
Xavier magazine is examining key moments in the University's history. This is part of a series of stories about the people, places and events that have made Xavier what it is today. You can read previous stories by clicking on the links below.
They’re ghosts now, distant echoes riding the crisp air, forever suspended in the mists of long-lost autumn afternoons. They’re the groans of effort, the crack of helmet on helmet, the ring of cheers, the music of a fight song. They are a peculiar sense of togetherness.
It’s been 31 years since the final gun sounded and the last Musketeer football squad ran off Corcoran Field and into the dark tunnel of history. But for many, the names are still tinged with a bronzed familiarity—Kropowski, Mutryn, Gilmartin, Martinkovic, Hauser, Hoffman, Abramowicz, Shinners, Conaton and a legion of others. They span the rise and fall of a small-college program with major-college aspirations, a program that glimpsed greatness before financial realities brought the game to an end.
It began in 1901, when the Spanish-American War was recent news and Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders were national heroes. The first St. Xavier College football team put on its turtleneck jerseys, bulky pants and high-top shoes and proceeded to go undefeated. But the record deserves an asterisk at best: The wins came over foes like Woodward, Franklin, Hughes, Walnut Hills and Technical—all high schools. The school began facing more formidable opponents, including Miami University, the following season, and in 1907, started a long-standing rivalry with St. Mary’s Institute, now the University of Dayton.
In the eyes of most, however, the St. Xavier football program didn’t arrive in earnest until 1918 when Joseph Meyer became head coach of the Saints, as the team was then known. Over the next 16 seasons, Meyer literally built a program from the ground up: In the early days he even marked the field himself using a coffee pot filled with lime. Following his lead, the team went 4-1 in 1918; 6-2 in 1919, including wins of 74-0 over Hanover and 121-0 over Fort Thomas; and 7-2 in 1920.
As the decade of the 1920s wore on, the University settled into its first real building boom, and it became evident that the football team needed a home in line with its upwardly mobile aspirations. After a fundraising drive led by Myers Y. Cooper, later governor of Ohio, the $300,000, 15,000-seat Corcoran Stadium officially opened on Nov. 23, 1929. According to a handwritten note in the University archives, the stadium offered "a splendid view for all." The 1929 season also marked the first time the Governor’s Cup was presented to the winner of the Xavier-Dayton game. There were other changes, too: In 1929 the Saints became the Musketeers, and in 1930 St. Xavier College became Xavier University.
To read the full length article, click here
Other stories in the 175th anniversary series:
Forming the Foundation
War & Remembrance