A win over St. John’s Institute in 1893 by a 4-0 score marked the beginning of Boston College football. By the 1920s the Eagles had established themselves as a national power with three undefeated seasons during the ‘roaring’ decade.
While the school maintained a winning tradition through the 1930s, it was head coach Frank Leahy’s 1940 squad that took BC football to the top. In his second and last season at the university, Leahy’s Eagles won a claim to the national championship by outscoring their opponents by a 359-65 margin en route to an 11-0, Sugar Bowl winning season.
One of the stunning wins that season was a 19-18 win over a Georgetown team that hadn’t lost in three years. Famed sportswriter Grantland Rice was so impressed by the game that he described the contest as “the greatest game of football ever played.”
Boston College lost a majority of its players and coaches to military duty during World War II. However at war’s, the talent returned with the arrival of the 1946 freshmen class. Three members of the group included future NFL Hall of Famers Art Donovan and Ernie Stautner and future Massachusetts Governor Ed King.
Under the coaching direction of Mike Holovak, Jim Miller and Joe Yukica, the Eagles continued to win throughout the next three decades. Yukica coached from (1968-77) and posted a BC best 68 victories. However a large number of winning seasons flew by during their tenure without the school receiving a bowl bid.
While capturing the nation’s attention with his dazzling play, BC quarterback Doug Flutie helped the Eagles break a
39 year postseason streak by leading them to three consecutive bowl games beginning in 1982. Flutie wrapped
up his magical collegiate career in 1984, but not before completing a pass that will forever live in BC legacy. The
miracle play was a dramatic, last second touchdown bomb to Gerard Phelan that gave the Eagles an upset win
over Miami. The completed “Hail Mary” pass was the perfect Heisman Trophy winning compliment to Flutie’s 3,454
yards and 27 touchdown passes that season.
Had it not been for a passionate plea in 1920 by Rev. Edward McLaughlin, today’s Boston College sports teams could be possibly be known as the “Licking Cats.”
That thought might be a stretch, but it was a cartoon portraying the BC track team as a cat licking clean a plate of its rivals that pushed the Reverend into action. His letter to The Heights, EC’s student newspaper, suggested that the school seek a more suitable symbol.
“It is important that we adopt a mascot to preside at our pow-wows and triumphant feats,” wrote Rev. McLaughlin. “And why not the Eagle, symbolic of majesty, power and freedom,” he added. Later that year the Reverend’s poetic wishes became a reality when BC officially adopted the eagle as the school’s nickname and mascot.
MASCOT: THE EAGLE
Mascot happy hour soon followed, as Boston College received not one, but two eagles as gifts following their announcements. The birds that arrived from Texas and New Mexico respectively never warmed up to the New
England lifestyle. One eagle escaped while the other broke its beak in a failed attempt.
BC officials were spared the trauma of a mascot on the run for the next 40 years when a less mobile symbol
served as a replacement. This new mascot was a golden eagle that sat on the BC perch for 40 years. What was
the key to this bird’s longevity? He was a stuffed and mounted eagle that resided in the athletic department offices.
Margo’s arrival in Chestnut Hill ushered in a less “stuffy” era in BC mascot history.
The golden eagle was a 10-pound, two-month-old female when a Colorado man gave her to the university in 1961. Margo (a combination of the first letters of the school colors) lived at the Franklin Park Zoo when she wasn’t attending a ballgame. Margo
made all BC home games and made the traveling squad for games against Syracuse, Holy Cross and Army.
However, BC hearts sunk when Margo became ill prior to the 1966 Navy game and died from a virus.
With the eagle becoming an endangered species at this time, hopes for a new pair of flapping mascot wings were
clipped. The University instead followed a national trend of putting the live mascots out to pasture and replaced
Margo with a human dressed in an eagle costume?
UNIFORMS: DRESSED TO MEET THE POPE
Despite tremendous fan loyalty for BC teams in the mid 1880’s it was sometimes difficult to measure the amount
of support. This problem was simple one. There were no school colors for BC boosters to wear and display their
allegiances. A group of students, led by the school-spirited T.J. Hurley (he also wrote the “Alma Mater” and “For Boston”)
tackled the color issue at the University.
After considering the color schemes of rival Jesuit schools—Holy Cross’s
purple, Fordham’s maroon, and Georgetown’s blue and gray, the Papal colors: maroon and gold were selected.
A group of women attending the New England Conservatory of Music were the ones that first helped the BC colors
first fly. They sewn a banner that flew at every BC event until its sudden and mysterious disappearance.
GAME DAY TRADITIONS: A SCREAMING GOOD TIME
Football Saturdays at BC aren’t complete without the “Screaming Eagles” marching band stirring up the maroon
and gold faithful. The band cranks up early with the traditional pre-game march across campus. The band then
performs a concert at Commander Shea Field, where BC fans get together for tailgating. The quest for excitement
continues as the band marches into Alumni Stadium for the purpose of playing an eventual victory song.
“THE IRON MAJOR”
The life of a World War I hero who later coached for BC was chronicled on the silver screen in 1943. Actor Pat
O’Brien portrayed Frank Cavanaugh in the movie titled “The Iron Major.”
After being badly wounded in the Battle of San Mihiel, Cavanaugh recovered to launch a College Football Hall of
Fame coaching career. Cavanaugh’s first season was highlighted by a 5-3 win over powerful Yale in 1919. After
coaching BC’s biggest win in school history to date, Cavanaugh compiled a 48-14-5 record in eight seasons.
NO REASON TO PARTY AT THE COCONUT GROVE
One of the biggest upsets suffered by BC in its football history might have been a blessing in the end. The
undefeated Eagles were ranked No. 1 in the country late in the 1942 season with only Holy Cross in the way of
perfection. After a planned dismantling of the Crusaders, a “victory party” was to be held at Boston’s Coconut Grove.
Holy Cross whipped the Eagles 55-12 that day and BC fans and players became so disenchanted that the party
was cancelled. The popular Coconut Grove nightclub was destroyed by fire that night and 490 people died while
trying to escape the packed building.