Building the Program - The 1920s
During the mid 1920s there had been a couple significant changes for St. Thomas athletics. First, the college had been accredited as a degree granting four-year college. Second, Jack Harding, a Scranton native and University of Pittsburgh graduate, had become football and basketball coach in 1926. Hiring Harding was a major move for the college, if only because the school would have to pay him. Harding, who had only graduated in 1926, had the option of a baseball career as well as offers to be assistant coach at larger schools.
During the next decade Harding, reportedly a student of Pop Warner but certainly a student of a Warner disciple, raised the level of athletics at the college. No longer would the football team contend against high schools and 2-year colleges. St. Thomas would compete against other small four-year colleges.
Harding was not instantly successful in revamping the St. Thomas football squad. In 1927 an extended editorial in The Aquinas criticized the college and the student body for not supporting the team properly. The team had started by winning its first four games, tying its next game, then losing its next four. Apparently most of the teams St. Thomas was playing, and specifically those it was losing to, had training quarters dedicated to the football team. According to the editorial St. Thomas players suffered from not spending enough time together, not eating together, and not bunking together. According to a survey conducted by the editorial's author many of the players lived outside of Scranton, some commuting more than 20 miles to school. All this commuting took a toll on the team's stamina which showed during the second half of the season. Coach Harding echoed this desire for a training camp during the annual awards banquet in April 1928.
The 1928 season opened at Camp Coffee, the new football training camp, at Lake Lodore near Carbondale. The team lost its first two games, including a narrow loss in its opener to powerhouse Temple. The team won its third game but followed this with three consecutive scoreless ties and ended the season with three victories for a 4-2-3 record.
St. Thomas scheduled a nine game season in 1929 featuring all strong teams and eliminating its weaker opponents from previous seasons. The football team paid a price for its boldness by starting the season with three consecutive losses. But the team rebounded with five consecutive victories before losing its final game of the season and ending with a 5-4-0 record.