Organized sports were in high demand by the students and the college responded by adding a football program to the other programs already available. The first football team was put together for the fall of 1909, but the first football coaches were not hired until the fall of 1914. General Dwight Eisenhower, at the time a Lieutenant at Ft. Sam Houston, was hired as a coach in the fall of 1916. Out of town games were not allowed until 1920 when a game was set up that benefited the program.
Students and alumni pushed the university to develop the program into something larger believing it would benefit the public perception of the school. However, several faculty members doubted the benefits of a large program and nothing happened to build the program up until 1925 when Coach Tom O’Donnell was hired. The expanded program lasted for seven years and had three other coaches - Tim Griesenbeck, Jim Kendricks, and Barlow “Bones” Irvin.
An article appearing in the San Antonio Light Newspaper on 1 Jan 1926 praised the progress the team had made. It also commented that the St. Mary’s College team was the first “real college team” in the city. It also praised Coach O’Donnell as well as the baseball and basketball teams at the school.
In December 1928, the school reorganized the athletic department in order to make improvements to the program. To implement the new program Coach Barlow Irvin was hired in April 1929 because of his ability to maintain discipline and coach winning teams. The 1929 team had a week long road trip November to play DePaul University at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Rattlers were the first Texas team to play at Soldier Field and beat DePaul 20–12. The 1929 team finished the season 8 and 1, becoming and staying the winningest football team in St. Mary’s University history.
By 1928 it was becoming apparent that the football program was losing money for the university. The governing board could not agree on a budget nor if the popularity of the team counted as advertising for the university. An editorial by a student published on 9 Nov 1929 in the Rattler, expressed the confusion of the student body when he asked why the winning team was losing money. By the end of 1929, University leaders are considering terminating intercollegiate sports.