The Glory Years - The 1930s
In a preseason interview Harding promised to bring "showmanship" to the 1930 Tomcats. "We will concentrate on timing, speed and flash, in fact, the essentials of a musical comedy will be sought here in the St. Thomas camp." Unfortunately, the season started off as a tragic comedy. The Tommies lost the first game to Lafayette 7-0 because of penalties that ended Tommy scoring drives and a penalty that gave Lafayette its scoring opportunity. The team then lost an away game to Temple 28-2 playing under the lights for the first time. This game's showmanship was closer to the Keystone Cops rather than a musical comedy. Temple used a white football which blended in well against their red and white jerseys. In the poor incandescent light the Tomcats had trouble finding out which Temple player was carrying the ball and wasted much effort tackling the wrong players. The Purple and White rebounded with 20-0 victory over St. Vincent but then lost 14-0 to Bucknell. But the Tommies turned the season around and won their next four games before losing their Thanksgiving day finale to Canisius 2-0. They finished with a 5-4-0 record.
The 1931 season proved to be quite disappointing as the team only managed two wins against six losses and one tie. The team suffered quite a few injuries during the season including the loss of star tackle Cyril Gallagher who sustained three broken ribs during the St. Bonaventure game. He was elected captain for the '32 season. The season also saw the debut of the St. Thomas College marching band during a pre-Thanksgiving day game parade. As usual, the team lost the Thanksgiving day game to Canisius.
The 1932 season started with two losses. But then St. Thomas turned it around and won all but one of the next eight games for a 7-3-0 record. St. Thomas routed the Notre Dame "B" squad 24-6. The team also routed La Salle and the University of Baltimore. But the sweetest victory came on Thanksgiving day when St. Thomas defeated Canisius 26-0 snapping a six-year jinx whose bright spot had been a tie in 1927. The students celebrated by parading a Canisius casket through town. The successful season was capped by the selection of tackle Lea Ratomess to play in the North-South game under coach Jock Sutherland of Pitt. This was the first St. Thomas player to be selected for an all-star team.
Nineteen thirty-three turned out to be Jack Harding's best year as coach. The team had a 7-1 record losing only to Davis-Elkins in their last game by one point. The team only allowed 21 points in the entire season and 13 of those points were scored by Davis-Elkins on Thanksgiving day. Canisius had been dropped from the schedule and Davis-Elkins took over the Thanksgiving slot. The West Virginia team came into the game undefeated but was out-played by the Tomcats. Nonetheless the visitors squeaked by with a one point victory.
Harding began the 1934 season stating that he was fielding a tough squad but that he doubted it could match the record of the previous year. The team had lost too many starting players to maintain the same high quality of performance on the field. Harding was right and team struggled to a 3-4-1 record with a notable romp over Brooklyn City College 42-0 and a Thanksgiving day 14-0 victory over Davis-Elkins providing the season's only highlights. The most unusual game of the season was a 2-0 loss to North Dakota at home. North Dakota may have been the most distant opponent St. Thomas ever faced.
A .500 season was all the Tomcats could manage in 1935 during an injury plagued season. Another Western opponent appeared. This year the University of San Antonio handed the Tomcats a 7-6 defeat. The Aquinas complained about poor student turnout for home games and encouraged the cheerleaders to come up with some new cheers that might rev up the student body.
The 1936 squad started slowly with a sluggish victory then a scoreless tie and two losses, the last coming to San Antonio. The Aquinas published a somewhat critical editorial on the team's performance in its October 16th issue. The October 23rd Aquinas featured a dogged defense of Coach Harding signed by the football team. This little joust with the school newspaper may have increased the team's determination because the second half of the season found the team undefeated, suffering only a scoreless tie during the Thanksgiving day game with LaSalle. The Purple and White ended the season with a 5-2-2 record. The November 1st victory against Mount St. Mary's became a newsreel feature. Fox News filmed the game and showed the highlights in Fox theaters around the country. Another first for the school arrived when students were allowed to bring their girlfriends into the student section of the stands for games.
St. Thomas college was stunned when Jack Harding resigned his position in February 1937 to become head coach at Miami University. Harding stated "this is an opportunity that I can't afford to miss" about leaving for Florida. He had however been offered the position before and had turned it down. The Aquinas speculated that continuing financial problems in the athletic department may have been the cause. Harding completed his tenure at St. Thomas with a football record of 53 victories, 36 defeats, and 8 ties. Tom Davies became the new had football coach and Robert "Pop" Jones became his assistant, moving up from his position as freshman coach.
The groundwork established by Jack Harding in turning St. Thomas into a real college football team was built upon by his successor. Tom Davies was a University of Pittsburgh graduate who came to St. Thomas with 15 years of coaching experience including nine years as head coach at the University of Rochester.
Davies started the 1937 season by closing training camp to visitors. He also started the season with a substantial core of veteran players from previous year. Davies was cautious however and he stated that he only found the team's prospects fair. The season proved that Davies was being overly cautious as the Tomcats marched to a 6-1-1 record including, finally, a victory over San Antonio. The team suffered one tragedy during the season when team physician and professor of anatomy, Charles Thomson, died from a heart attack shortly after the St. Joseph game in Philadelphia. He complained of indigestion the night before but had performed his duties during the game then collapsed outside the players' dressing room after the contest.
A major change had occurred for St. Thomas college prior to the start of the 1938 season. St. Thomas college was no more, the school would now be referred to as the University of Scranton. This had little impact on the football team which would continue to go by its traditional variety of names, Tomcats, Tommies, and Purple and White.
Davies had reason for concern at the start of the 1938 season. Twelve seniors had left the team after the 37 season. But the team came roaring out of the gate and defeated St. Francis 32-0. Davies however was concerned about the quality of play in the opening victory and warned that the team would have to perform at a higher level to beat perennial nemesis Canisius. The team beat that old rival but lost to St. Bonaventure, another team that often spoiled Tomcat seasons. The Purple and White did turn in a 7-2 season in spite of continuing complaints about the lack of school spirit and poor cheering during games. School spirit did increase during the course of season; perhaps the students sensed something.
The 1939 team once again suffered from a lack of veterans. Nine starting players had graduated, including the center and both starting guards. Davies provided a typically cautious, if not to say pessimistic, assessment of his teams prospects. "We hope to win half our games this year, but...I don't know. Our best bet is to build for the future, next year and the year after, and not expect too much from the squad this season." If Davies truly believed this he was in for the surprise of his career.
The Tommies began the season, playing a night game, with a 33-0 rout of St. Francis, but followed that with a 0-0 tie with Canisius. The team defeated Lasalle and then went to New York for a novelty. When the University of Scranton met the City College of New York on Oct. 14 the game would be televised by NBC. According to the Aquinas this was only the third football game ever televised. Fortunately for the Tommies, although perhaps not so fortunately for most television viewers, the University of Scranton squad overwhelmed CCNY 31-0. The team squeaked by Toledo then roundly defeated Marshall 20-0. Snow, a muddy field, and the stubborn St. Vincent team-who had lost to the Tomcats in each of the past five years-almost derailed the University of Scranton's try for an undefeated season. The Tommies hung on to a 7-7 tie in a game characterized as a punting duel. The Purple and White rounded out the season with a 28-0 rout of St. Bonaventure, an old jinx team, and a 21-20 victory over Niagara. The Tommies had finally completed an undefeated 7-0-2 season and the student body celebrated by skipping class on the following Monday. Walter Stascavage proved to be the high scorer of the season even though he had missed two games due to injury. He was also honored by being placed on the second team of the All-Lithuanian team picked by Tiesa, the newspaper of the Association of Lithuanian Workers, Inc. Carl Tomasello and John Rogalla were signed by the New York Giants.