SMC Daniel Berkes Walking Tour Stop 3: Football History

Congratulations! You have found the historical marker detailing the history of the football program here at Saint Mary’s.

Walking Tour SMC Stop 3

St. Marys has a very interesting history with football. In 1892, football began unofficially with a club team called the Brickpile Saints. After safety concerns were brought to light by Theodore Roosevelt in 1899, the sport was shut down, with Rugby taking its place between 1899 and 1907. However, football made a comeback in the early 1920s. In 1921, Edward “Slip” Madigan came to Brickpile and built a powerhouse team. Madigan transformed the team from one that had lost 127-0 against Cal the previous year into a powerhouse that took down Cal, Davis, Nevada, Fresno State, Pacific, Santa Clara, and Army on the way to a 17-2 season in 1925-1926. Madigan revolutionized the game of college football, all while also coaching basketball, baseball, and being the athletic director! Besides being a football genius and devising dozens of new plays and formations, Madigan was flamboyant and eccentric. His team played in silk or satin, beautifully designed uniforms, unheard of at the time. He was also known for his cross-country train extravaganzas, where he would travel across the country with the team, visiting historical sites, and of course playing many football games. He would also bring the media aboard, and he was known for his amazing relationship with reporters. Madigan made sure the athletes were staying educated as well by bringing teachers and tutors aboard the train. The team continued dominating, and in 1938, Madigan led the team to a Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech. At the end of the 1939 season, Brother Albert released him, but his legacy lives on to this day. His overall record was 117-45-12, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974. In January of 1951, football and baseball were dropped again in response to problems with academic standards, inflated competition, and the Korean War. Club football once again revived the sport, and by the 70s it was officially reinstated. The team never was as dominant as they were in the early 1900s, but the program continued until March of 2004, when the Trustees once again tried (and this time succeeded) in shutting down the sport. An official Gael Stadium was built in 1970, which could house 3,500. Currently, this stadium does not house a football team, but instead is used for rugby and other sporting events.

Have you found the other two historical markers yet? If you want to learn more about the vibrant history of Saint Mary’s, try and find the other markers! Your hints are: Cottrell Field, and Assumption Hall!


Newhouse, Dave. The Incredible Slip Madigan: The Flamboyant Coach Who Modernized Football. St. Johann Press, 2018.

An Historical Guide to the Campus: Saint Mary’s College.” Saint Mary’s Digital Commons

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