The University of Detroit Drops Football
On Monday November 30, 1964, the student body and many of the alumni were shocked by the announcement that the University would no longer field a varsity football team. In his special release to the press, Father Britt pointed out that the President and Trustees did not act hastily in this matter. Rather, "mindful of the university's long and honorable tradition in football," the administration was reluctant to make the final decision and postponed doing so until "all reasonable efforts had been made..." to test the football program's ability to survive and prosper as an integral part of the institution's total educational program." Father Britt pointed out that the deficit for 1964 would be "well in excess of $65,000." He noted that the average home attendance that year was only 11,290 in a stadium that seated twenty thousand. The story had been much the same for the six previous years. Even the Navy game in 1961 drew only 25,864, thereby merely meeting expenses instead of helping the program. Hence, in view of other commitments such as "continued improvements of faculty salaries, expansion of university libraries and laboratories, further enrichment of academic programs, substantial expansion of our scholarship and student aid programs, expansion of major facilities on campus, expansion of the university's research and community service programs, and substantial improvement of our intramural program for all students," the administration felt it could no longer "be justified in gambling substantial funds" on football. In view of the limited resources at hand the choice had to be made.
Father Britt had expressed the hope that the students, alumni and friends of the University would recognize the validity of the decision to drop football. Unfortunately, for a while at least there were many in each group who did not. Student demonstrations began that very Monday night, November 30, after the announcement. Bands of students roamed the area around the McNichols campus. Goal posts were ripped up. Four students were arrested but released when the University agreed to pay the cost of replacing two damaged flasher-lights on police cars. On Tuesday a mob of demonstrators descended onto the Lodge Freeway at Livernois causing a mile-long traffic tie-up. Fortunately there were no injuries. Nine students were arrested for disorderly conduct that evening. Meanwhile the police acted in the best possible manner. Though sympathetic they were firm with the students. On Wednesday Father Britt and other University officials met with student leaders to ask their support in putting an end to the disturbances. Police Commissioner Ray Girardin was assured of University support in the matter.
It was not understandable that the alumni should have been terribly disappointed. Many of them had been students during the days when the University of Detroit had fielded some truly great teams. They were still most active in promoting Titan football. The University was proud of their loyalty. However, as Judge Joseph A.Gills, himself once a member of the team, was to put it, modern football was too expensive for smaller schools. It was "like the corner grocer competing with the A. and P." The big trouble was that the University of Detroit was too big to play with the little colleges and too little to compete on an equal footing with the big ones. Father Britt had noted correctly that the alumni did not want "a small-time football team." They had been too accustomed through the years to watching the stellar performances of such greats as Andy Farkas, Vince Banonis, Tilly Voss, Lloyd Brazil, Ted Marchibroda, Perry Richards, Lee Riley, Steve Stonebreaker, Larry Vargo, Bruce Mahr, Jerry Gross, Grady Alderman, Fred Beier, Jim Shorter and Tom Beer, to mention but a few.
Herman J. Muller, S.J. The University of Detroit 1877-1977 A Centennial History, 1977 pgs 69-72, 321-324.
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