It’s been over 40 years since Loyola has had a club football team. This year will be different.
According to sophomore linebacker and offensive lineman Bobby O’Mullan, it never would have been possible to resurrect the program without the inspiration and support of the 1971 alumni.
“Last year there was a senior I met who had an internship in the [Quinlan] business school with Tom Corcoran,” O’Mullan said. “Tom Corcoran was on the 1971 club team, and he was telling stories about the good old days and how it would be cool to start up the team again. Luke Culley and I had a meeting in the IC, and talked about how to make this a reality. It really just all rolled from there.”
Junior Paul Canavati, who will play both offensive and defensive lineman, credits O’Mullan with getting the initial support. “Most of the work in the beginning was done by Bobby. It really just started off as an idea.”
From there, alumni from the 1971 team began emailing their past teammates, asking them for donations and support to help start a new club football chapter at Loyola. Students interested in the prospect of having a football team helped in any way they could. This included selling t-shirts and prospective players paying $125 each to play. However, it was through the support and fundraising of the alumni that the students were able to afford equipment and a coaching staff.
The head coach is John Clarke, who also works for the Chicago Force of the women’s tackle football league (see the Phoenix, “The Force is strong with this one,” April 12, 2012). Many of the other coaches are from the Chicago Force as well.
The team now consists of 32 players. Since the beginning of this school year, the players have been practicing five days a week, but now they will only hold three practices a week. The team meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Warren Park from 5-7 p.m.
Although the team has enough players to field a team, they are always looking for more.
“We definitely have the talent, just not as many numbers for offense and defense during practice,” Canavati said. “It gets really tiring that way.”
O’Mullan says they are accepting new players all the time and anyone who is interested should contact the team at email@example.com or on the Loyola Club Football Facebook page.
Both O’Mullan and Canavati stress that prior experience with organized football is not necessary to participate on Loyola’s team.
“I honestly didn’t play in high school because my school was too small to fund a football team,” Canavati said. “It’s the opportunity I’ve always been waiting for. I’m probably going to be starting too. Anyone with athletic ability can start. Our coaches, they are preaching technique. Going against someone twice as tall and beating them and playing to our strengths.”
O’Mullan echoes Canavati, saying, “Not everyone out there is the football stud you knew in high school. There is lots of talent, but also guys who have never played.”
Not only is the team open to players of all skill levels, it is also open to players of all genders.
“Guys and girls are welcome,” O’Mullan said. “We have a few female coaches as well. If any girls are interested, I would encourage them to come and talk to [the coaches].”
If students are interested in getting involved but not interested in playing, there are board member positions available.
“A lot of our board members right now are players too, which can be tough,” O’Mullan said.
Currently, the Loyola Club Football team is an independent team. This means they are not in a league. However, the team plans on entering the Great Lakes Conference next year. If accepted into the conference, they will not only add games to their schedule, but also have the chance to enter playoffs for the Club Football “Superbowl” at the end of the season. The team has four scheduled games and is looking to add a fifth the weekend of Nov. 6. They believe that after entering the Great Lakes Conference, their schedule will be similar to that of a varsity team with nine games per season. This year’s schedule will set a high bar because the team is playing top competition, and should be a good benchmark for the program to set.