St. Mary's University Football Program III


Return of Football

Rev. Alfred H. Rabe wrote a letter appealing to the provincial house to allow the return of intercollegiate football. He argued it was the perfect time since the city was desiring a college team to support. The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and San Antonio Sports Association along with local papers, civic clubs, and businessmen agreed to back the University if they would bring football back. One man in particular, Mose Simms, promised the city he would bring big college teams to play in San Antonio if there was a football team in the city. Simms proposed to financially support the football program at whichever college would accept his offer. Rabe and the governing board felt this was too good an opportunity to let pass.

The new football program expanded far beyond the original program. This time the team scheduled road games to places like Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Montreal, Canada. Taking more than one long road trip a season on this new schedule. Simms provided new uniforms for the team year season, ultimately changing the team colors to red, white, and blue. Spring training with scrimmage matches were implemented for the first time. Letterman jackets and award pins were given out to virtually everyone on the team each year. The University also began a Booster Club to draw in the financial support of local businesses. The expanded program drew the attention of national magazines like Life and Time that ran stories about the University and it’s football program.

As a show of thanks to the Rattler Football team for all the publicity the team has brought the city, 15 business men under the coordination of Tom Casper, local sports announcer, raised the money to purchase the team a 53-passenger Greyhound Bus. The bus arrived on campus on 29 Nov 1938 and was painted in the Rattler colors and immediately put to use for road games all over North America. The was made famous after it appeared in a 1939 Life magazine article about the football program. After the start of World War II the bus was donated to the U.S. government to help with the war effort.

Several members of the Rattler team went on to be courted by or to play for the National Football League. Others made the Little All-American Team or the local All-Alamo Conference Team, some several consecutive years. By 1940, the team was so well put together, that over 50,000 alumni were expected to attend the homecoming game that year. Doug Locke excelled while playing Rattler football and earned himself many national honors, went to play professionally in New York, and then returned to St. Mary’s to coach alongside Simms.

In the spring of 1941, it was uncovered that Simms had violated his contract several times. The University feared that the school would face legal action if they continued to allow Simms to be tied to the school in any way. Rev. Golatka immediately published a letter stating that Simms was no longer affiliated with the University. The student body had mixed reactions to the removal of Simms, and the story gained national attention. Time magazine published on article on the departure of Simms in which it made negative comments about the students at St. Mary’s University. Suddenly the focus was off of Simms firing and onto defending the honor of St. Mary’s University from the perceptions of those who did not know or understand the student body.

By December 1940, ticket sales could no longer cover expenses of the team. A decision was made in early 1941 to seek underwriters for the team, and if none could be found the team would be dropped. The University blamed the city once again for the lack of support. A student editorial published on 4 Apr 1941 blamed the athletic board for many of the financial problems. The author argued that the school was served well by the publicity of the fantastic football team and the governing board ought to remember that before removing the team again. Another piece in the Rattle published on 7 Nov 1941, placed the blame squarely on the city for not supporting the team. Either way, it no longer mattered, they had one season to prove the team could be self-sustaining or it was over.

At the end of the 1941 season, the Rattlers were not able to cover their expenses. Underwriters stepped in and covered the remaining debt for the team and the University. However, the Underwriters refused to consider covering the team for another year, stating that the money was needed to support the war effort and not college sports. They offered to reconsider helping St. Mary’s again once the war was over.