In 2012, Loyola’s then-president, the Rev. Michael Garanzini S.J. floated an intriguing idea: reestablish a formal football program for the school.
“I would add football,” he wrote in an email to The Phoenix that year. “But only on the condition that I could have a stadium, two new practice fields and several million dollars in scholarships and coaches’ salaries.”
Seven years later — and nearly 100 years after Loyola discontinued its football team — the idea never took off and under Garanzini’s successor President Jo Ann Rooney, it seems unlikely to happen any time soon.
“Quite honestly, we haven’t had discussions about it,” Athletics Director Steve Watson said. “[We’re] trying to do everything we can to fund [the sports we offer] and to position them to be successful.”
However, there are students on campus who would love to see Ramblers return to the gridiron in a fully sanctioned NCAA fashion — including members of the school’s club team.
“It’s a fall sport, and our men’s and women’s soccer teams are both really good. I’m worried that if there was a football team it would draw away from them when attendance isn’t always the best anyway.”
-Kennedy Murphy, senior marketing major
First-year marketing major Ryan Luft, a quarterback and wide receiver for Loyola’s club football team, said he would love to see the club team on a NCAA level. Luft said the biggest challenge with starting a new program is getting it off the ground, but budgeting toward the making of the varsity team could help build the fan base.
“You need a stadium, new coach, new uniforms, new players and a lot of logistics goes into developing an NCAA level football team,” Luft, 18, said. “Through the construction of field grass or turf with hash marks and bleachers for the crowds, it would increase its popularity tenfold.”
Even though Loyola’s initial football program wasn’t one of the best in its conference, it still managed to find success through a loyal fanbase, even playing games at Soldier Field, according to the Loyola library archives. However, the program was discontinued in 1930.
“With the administration feeling that collegiate football was becoming too centered on celebrity and entertainment and not enough on the amateur nature of the students, Loyola disbanded the varsity football team,” the archives said.
The school then had a club team, but it was disbanded in the 1970s, according to the Loyola club football website. In 2012, the team was brought back after a 41-year hiatus.
As the Loyola football team lacked a home field, players ‘rambled’ across the country for games, the archives said. The Ramblers got their nickname in 1926 and the team was dissolved four years later, but the name still stuck with the school. According to the archives, “Bo Rambler” — short for “hobo” — was introduced in 1982, but was changed to LU Wolf in 1990.
Loyola hasn’t had a football team in almost 90 years, but that hasn’t stopped the topic from coming up among students and administration. But when it comes to reestablishing a collegiate football team for Loyola, opinions are mixed.
“Quite honestly, we haven’t had discussions about it. [We’re] trying to do everything we can to fund [the sports we offer] and to position them to be successful.”
-Steve Watson, Athletic Direction
Sophomore finance major Max Gonzales said he wouldn’t want to follow a newly developing team, but he said he thinks a new program could have the potential for success down the road.
“With the right coach and the right team, the Loyola football team could be very successful in the future,” Gonzales, 19, said. “And there is no better time to establish a Loyola varsity football team.”
While Gonzales and Luft believed it would be a good idea, senior marketing major Kennedy Murphy was adamant about not having a football team at Loyola because she doesn’t like football. But most importantly, it draws attention from other sports.
“I actually chose Loyola because there was no football team,” Murphy, 21, said. “It’s a fall sport, and our men’s and women’s soccer teams are both really good. I’m worried that if there was a football team it would draw away from them when attendance isn’t always the best anyway.”
Sophomore club football player Jack Murray, a biology major, suggested the start of a football program could lead to success in multiple areas. School traditions could blossom, the school could profit off tickets and there would be greater opportunity to showcase student-athlete talent, he said.
This type of success was seen with the men’s basketball team after its run to the 2018 NCAA Tournament Final Four run. After that run, men’s basketball attendance grew more than 200 percent, but other sports are often lacking attendance, The Phoenix reported.
Men’s basketball is the only sport to see that response to recent success. Despite the men’s volleyball winning back-to-back national championships in 2014 and 2015, its attendance didn’t increase like the men’s basketball team’s did. So, it’s possible that a potential football team wouldn’t create the interest Murray mentioned — especially if it’s not successful.
Ultimately everyone mentioned that money and space on campus would prevent a new football program from being born, so as of now it doesn’t seem in the cards for Loyola.
Additional reporting by Abby Schnable.