Friday nights at the stadium. Weekly pep rallies. A big game one week, a bigger one the next. National rankings. Undefeated seasons. Bowl bids.
Those were the days, my friend. They thought they'd never end.
Thirty years have passes since the Goergetown University football team had the pleasure of a bowl appearance. It's been 10 years longer since Catholic University had post-season activity. Each has a long wait before its first, last and only bowl revenue.
The Hoyas and Cardinals now play in Division 3, the lowest allowed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The Colonials haven't played a down since the final gun of the 1966 season.
And yet, years ago, the three schools were the talk of the town. People knew that Maryland existed, but they didn't much care.
Money was the root of their demise. Rising costs and falling revenues doomed the three to living in the past. Catholic was first to fall, abruptly halting the program after a tie against mighty Arizona in the Sun Bowl.
Seven years later football was reinstated. But the good times only lasted four seasons. Then there were no pads on campus until 1960, when the club program began. CU went Division 3 four years agoi, but this could be its last season unless the studenbt government votes next month to keep funding the team.
The Hoyas went down in April, 1951. not to be seen again until 1964 when a club program began., Six years later, the team became a member of Division 3.
The Colonials hung on longest -- until 1966 -- but when they went, it was with a whimper, not a bang. There are no play-it-again believers in sight at 20th and H-Streets.
"Those were glorious years," Augie Leo said fondly. He should know. As a two-way guard for Georgetown, he played a major role in making 1938-40 the zenith Hoya football.
In 1938, the Hoyas were 8-0. They scored 185 points to their opponents 26. The next year they were 7-0-1, a 13-13 tie with Syracuse preventing another perfect season, and outscored their opponents, 109-22.
Those years were a prologue to 1940. Georgetown won its first seven games, scoring 257 points and allowing 22. Boston College finally stopped the Hoyas, winning, 19-18, in a game which legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice claimed to be one of the greatest ever played.
"That was an amazing game," recalled Lio, the only Hoya in the College Football Hall of Fame. He went on to play seven years of pro ball before becoming a sports columnist at the Herald-News in Passaic, N.J.
"We went ahead 3-0, then 10-0, then they got up 13-10," Lio said. "Then we scored and I missed the extra point, so we led 16-10. Then they made it 19-16. We trapped their quarterback in the end zone for a safety, but that was all we could do.
"I was taken out in the middle of the fourth quarter because I could hardly stand up. In those days the rule was that if you were taken out you couldn't go back in. So I had to stay on the sidelines while our second-string kicker tried a field goal. He missed, and I rememnber crying like a baby. That missed field goal has stayed in my mind since."
The Hoyas barely regrouped in time to beat an aroused GW club, 8-0, in their final tuneup before going to the Orange Bowl to play Mississippi State.
"We felt like the roof had caved in on us," Lio said. "GW was much better prepared mentally, and we were lucky we won."
The luck ran out in Miami. State, which hadn't lost a game in three years, scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, then hung on as the Hoyas threatened to turn its players into orange pulp. But Georgetown could convert only one of its numerous opportunities and lost, 14-7.
"We actually scored the tying touchdown, but it was called back because out quarterback wasn't five yards behind the line when he threw," Lio recalled. "We were pretty bitter, and we talked about how 'that good Southern officiating' had beaten us.
"But we forgot it when we got to Union Station. There must have been 10,000 people waiting for us. Then they made a big fuss over us at The Hilltop (campus). They knew we lost, but we didn't do anything to disgrace the school."
Across town, Catholic already had gone Georgetown one better. It was party time in 1936, when the Cardinals capped a 7-1 season with a 20-19 upset of Mississippi in the very same Orange Bowl, and again in 1940, when the boys from Brookland finished off an 8-1 year with that 0-0 tie against Arizona in the Sun Bowl. After that, the deluge.
"The Orange Bowl trip was a real fantasy thing," said Joe Goodek, who played halfback and cornerback (they had players, not sissy platooners, in those days) from 1933-36. "None of us had seen Florida before. And what made it even better was that it snowed the day we got on the train. Coming from that to sunshine was really something."
The CU team had been something for the first half of the decade. It was 8-1 in 1932 and 7-2 in 1933 before slipping to 4-3-1 the neaxt season despite outscoring opponents, 194-39. So in 1935, Dutch Bergman, who later coached the Redskins, had his players primed.
"1934 was one of those years when we played real well but couldn't get any breaks," Goodek said. "So the next season all the seniors wanted to show what they could do.
"We had a good group. Nobody ran away from us, and we used to get good support from the fans. We played the gib games at Griffith Stadium and the smaller ones at CU. It really was big-time ball."
For sure. Even then they didn't give away bowl invitations, although CU and Mississippi played the first national bowl -- e.e., one without a Florida team -- the Orange Bowl.
"We were pretty heavy underdogs," said Goodek. "They had Bruiser Kinard (later a pro star) and a whole bunch oif other big guys. At halftime, Bergman told us that we had forgotten to bring our clips along so they could see how good we were. That made us mad, and we hung in there and won it with a field goal."
George Washington's moment of glory came in 1956, with Catholic down and Georgetwon out. The Cardinals hadn't flown high since 1940, and Georgetown hadn't suited up in five years. So the force was with the Colonials.
They won their first three, tied Boston University, 20-20, then won four of their last five, losing only to West Virginia, 14-0. Then -- wonder of wonders -- a trip to the Sun Bowl to play Texas Western.
"That had been a long time coming," said Andy Davis, a star quarterback on the 1948-51 teams and holder of several school records. He was one of Eugene (Bo) Sherman's assistants in 1955-56.
"I remember when we beat Georgetown for the first time (in 1950)," Davis said. "We hadn't beaten them in 58 years, and two weeks before we played they got an invitation to the Sun Bowl. That was all we needed. Then we beat them two more times before they dropped the sport. But the Sun Bowl was better."
Texas Western has won 30 straight games and had a high-powered offense led by halfback Don Maynard, later one of Joe Namath's favorite receivers on the New York Jets. The Colonials were ranked 16th, but the Miners couldn't have cared less.
"I think they thought, 'Who are these guys?' They were probably disappointed," Davis said. "They took us lightly and we stomped them. We stopped Maynard cold. It was no contest. The score isn't indicative of what we did."
There were 7,000 fans waiting to greet them at the airport. The pilot had to circle for a half hour before they could land to celebrate what would be the school's -- and the city's -- last football hurrah.
Gone now are the pep rallies and the rankings and the bowl games. Only the Redskins use the stadium. And Lio, for one, looks back in anger.
"It eats by heart out that I can't turn on players I see go to Georgetown," he said. "How can I? There's nothing to turn them on to."
Not like there once was.