Best Season of All Time For Schools Who Stopped Having A Football Team aka the BSOATFSWSHAFT - Part 5 of ??? - The Marquette Golden Avalanche
One of the projects the Sickos Committee on Substack will explore during this off-season is one where we will do a dive into the internet archives to find out the seemingly lost history of College Football teams who we used to have playing on Saturdays in the fall. We will explore universities and colleges who used to have football but then decided for whatever reason to end their football program. Then we will highlight their Best Season of all time in our however many part series called the Best Season of All Time for Schools Who Stopped Having A Football Team also known as the BSOATFSWSHAFT (hope you can dig it).
I’ll give you some background on the program if I can find it. Give you some basic history about the team, when they started playing and when/why they stopped playing and of course their best season in my opinion. Also, I’ll see if I can find a football helmet with the logo to show it to you here.
Now for the next team I wish to explore in this series.
The Marquette Golden Avalanche/Hilltoppers/Warriors
Why Did I Choose This Team?
When I was in 7th Grade, my Louisiana History teacher was also the 8th Grade Basketball Coach & Football Coach. He was really big into sporting events and he assigned each student in this class a team in the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Well, I was assigned to Marquette for this tournament. The 6 Seed Marquette upset the 3 Seed Kentucky in the 2nd Round and made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to Duke. This meant I got a higher letter grade on any test of my choosing for the rest of the year. I was able to manage an A in that class thanks to the Warriors/Golden Eagles. I have always known about Marquette having a football team in the past. I’d saw them sprinkled in the first AP Poll a little but never really looked further in their history.
Well, there isn’t any better time than now I guess…
Brief History of the Marquette Golden Avalanche/Hilltoppers/Warriors football team.
The team was formed in 1892 as the Marquette Golden Avalanche football program, but then they were commonly known as the Marquette Hilltoppers from approximately 1940 to 1953 and then finally as the Marquette Warriors from 1954 to 1960.
I really love that they just kept changing their nicknames throughout their history. Also, they were independent throughout their entire history never joining a conference.
The Golden Avalanche football program was really good throughout the early days just by judging by their “known” record. As you can see there are some years of unknown records below and I didn’t dig too far there.
Towards the end, they had started to fade and losing seasons started to pile up a little.
Their all-time “known” record was 349–280–39 (.552). Just a really solid football squad, not the best but a really solid squad most of the time.
Just going by the winning percentage, which I know is rather simplifying it, Marquette would be hanging around with these teams record wise.
Marquette got as high up as being ranked 7th in 1936 in the First Year of the AP Poll’s existence.
However, after 1936, they never saw themselves ranked again.
Throughout their history they played in Marquette Stadium until 1957.
Marquette Stadium throughout the years. Shepherd's express Marquette Stadium photos
Then the majority of their home games were then moved to larger Milwaukee County Stadium for 1957 and 1958. They returned to Marquette Stadium for their final two years in 1959 and 1960.
Marquette University quarterback Pete Hall (No. 5) surveys the field during Marquette's 30-12 win over Holy Cross on Nov. 21, 1959, at Marquette Stadium. In the game, Hall broke the school's single-season passing record.
The defensive line of Marquette University tries to stop Holy Cross' running game during Marquette's 30-12 win at Marquette Stadium on Nov. 21, 1959. Is it just the dad in me? I am worried about the chin strap not being buckled in a picture nearly 65 years old.
In their history, they made one bowl game. The 1936 Golden Avalanche had a 7–1 regular season record with a top 20 ranking. They were invited to the first Cotton Bowl Classic in January 1937 in Dallas, against Texas Christian University of nearby Fort Worth. The Horned Frogs were led by quarterback Sammy Baugh and TCU won by ten points, 16–6, in Marquette's only bowl appearance.
Why did the program shut down?
The simple answer $50,000.00.
The program shut down. It was a shock and seemingly a decision out of nowhere that led to protests of around 3,000 students demanding football remain.
“WE WANT FOOTBALL, WE WANT JUSTICE” they chanted.
Marquette was faced with a recently announced fund-raising drive for $30 Million dollars for an academic expansion program over the next 10 years. They thought a loss of $50,000 was just too much to keep football.
The paper put a photo of the Reverend Edward J O’Donnell seemingly placing this decision entirely on him.
However, there was a board who made the call, not just Reverend O’Donnell.
Some alumni, such as John Sisk (he will show up again shortly) even offered to set up a fundraiser to raise the deficit to keep the football program.
If only John Sisk and the other alumni were allowed to raise the funds, this meme I made from the movie Hot Rod could have been true. I mean he collected $15,000 the first week! Marquette Football blog
But alas, football was no more at Marquette…
The 1930 Marquette Golden Avalanche
This is concept art from Marquette Golden Avalanche from SportsLogos.net but I wish it was true because it is awesome.
I really struggled with naming the best team of all time for Marquette. They had quite a few undefeated seasons, got ranked in the AP Poll, made one bowl game and had many accolades. So, if you’re a Marquette football historian you can yell at me about my choice because there could have been many correct answers.
Shout out to all of these Marquette teams: 1907 6-0, 1911 7-0-2, 1917 8-0-1, 1922 8-0-1, 1923 8-0, 1931 8-1.
Special mention to the 1936 Marquette team who reached #7 in the AP Poll but 7-2 and lost their two last games including their only bowl game.
I chose the 1930 Marquette Golden Avalanche team as the Best Season of All Time for Marquette football. If you disagree, fine. I mean I wouldn’t think I’d argue about this choice but we get people upset on our Twitter about being left off a list if their school actually has a fast food restaurant closer than another school.
I will lay out my case for my choice here.
They were coached by the winningest coach in Marquette football history, Frank Murray.
Frank began coaching Marquette’s football team in 1922. He was also the basketball coach at Marquette through 1929. However, in 1930 football coaching was his only job. Frank was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Fun thing about Frank Murray was he didn't even play football in high school or college! Which was kind of unheard of in the day and it is pretty uncommon nowadays too.
“Frank Murray was able to perform pigskin magic. Murray attended Tufts University and did graduate work at Harvard and the University of Chicago. He then turned away from a career in journalism and focused his attention on coaching, starting out at the high school and small college levels.” - courtesy of Frank Murray's Hall of Fame Profile
“Murray produced quick results in his very first year at Marquette. His team outscored their foes 213-3 en route to an 8-0-1 record. The next year, 1923, the Warriors were 8-0-0 with six shutouts - leaving a two-year record of 16-0-1 and a point tally of 374-15! Incredible. His first loss did not come until halfway through his third year in coaching!!” - courtesy of Frank Murray's Hall of Fame Profile A Legend.
Before we jump into the 1930 season, I want to address 1922 and 1923 similarities and differences
It was a very close call to make for the Best Season of All Time here.
The 1922 Marquette Hilltoppers
Played 8 out of 9 games at home.
Played 4 out of 9 teams that would be considered Major or Division I now.
They shutout 8 out of 9 opponents and outscored them 213-3.
The 1923 Marquette Golden Avalanche
Played 6 out of 8 games at home.
Played 5 out of 8 teams that would be considered Major or Division I now.
They shutout 6 out of 8 opponents and outscored them 162-12
The 1930 Marquette Golden Avalanche
Played 6 out of 9 games at home.
Played 7 out of 9 teams that would be considered Major or Division I now.
They shutout 8 out of 9 opponents and outscored them 155-7.
Did I just pull a strength of schedule move to select the Best Season of All Time? Maybe.
The 1930 Golden Avalanche team is my Best Season of All Time for Marquette.
If you don’t believe me, the yearbook called the Hilltop backed me up on the strength of schedule claim.
Good enough for me.
Still not swayed? Fine, there was nothing topping this yearbook picture for me. Look at this amazing collage.
In their first game of the year, Marquette dominated Lawrence 27-0.
THEY ONLY ALLOWED 7 YARDS IN THE ENTIRE GAME.
The next week they battled Grinnell, a team in the Missouri Valley Conference at the time.
This was a night game.
Marquette won the game 6-0 on a QB Sneaker. Can we call them QB Sneakers again?
The next week they battled against the Drake Bulldogs.
The Golden Avalanche had to rely on their defense to win this one 12-0.
They took two interceptions back for touchdowns and missed the extra point both times. Joe “Tubby” Fitzgerald had a 95 yard interception return.
Their next game was against Creighton and this was the only game they allowed a score. The Bluejays scored after a blocked punt set them up in prime field position for an early 7-0 lead.
The Golden Avalanche then scored 19 unanswered with another pick-6 for the touchdown.
They faced Ripon next week.
That’s right a yearbook in the 1930s called it a “scoring orgy” with their 53-0 win.
Next week they traveled to the Fenway Bowl, I’m sorry I meant they played Boston College in Fenway.
They defeated Boston College with defense and two field goals, and threw another complete game shutout winning 6-0.
Next week they welcomed a Big Ten foe in Iowa for their homecoming???
The Golden Avalanche stuffed Iowa’s offense and they came away with a 7-0 win, they actually made an extra point too!
Next week came their only blemish on the season.
In a muddy and foggy game, Marquette battled against the Titans of Detroit and their future Hall of Fame Head Coach Gus Dorais. Also, it was DAD’S DAY.
A Marquette goal line stand with a blocked field goal saved the day and preserved the 0-0 tie against the Titans.
The man who would try to save the Marquette football program 30 years later, Johnny Sisk, saved the Golden Avalanche that day with his touchdown saving tackle.
Here’s a uniform of John Sisk - A key cog in the “Golden Avalanche” attack of Marquette’s football team in 1930.
He later went on to play for the Chicago Bears of the NFL. During the five years he was on the team, the Bears won two world championships. Sisk’s career after football was actually during it too: when he started selling insurance policies in the locker room to his Bears teammates.
In their final game of the year, they traveled to Indianapolis to take on the Butler Bulldogs. They crushed Butler 25-0.
Remember that game to start the year only allowing 7 yards of total offense? Yeah they forced Butler into NEGATIVE FIFTEEN YARDS on the day.
A dominating and rousing performance to end the year for the Golden Avalanche at 8-0-1!!
Any chance of the program returning?
I’m just going to leave it to Father O’Donnell aka Reverend O’Donnell here.
They could return in an FCS capacity but it seems unlikely now. There are some blogs here and there calling for the program’s return but nothing sustained.
However, if they do bring football back, they better be called the Golden Avalanche…