Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at Creighton’s Attic. We have a special Christmas gift for you with this post, our last for 2015. Guest writer Patrick Murray (Class of 2012) tells of Creighton football in the early 1980s. At his suggestion, we added a couple of photos, taken from our online archives of Creightonian issues.
In the years preceding the Second World War, the Creighton football program was regarded as a regional football power, frequently overpowering rivals like the Drake Bulldogs, Marquette Warriors, and Haskell Indians. In the decades after its discontinuation in 1942, students and boosters launched several attempts to revive the football program, but as they were unsuccessful the Bluejays’ final season on the gridiron ended with a middling record of 5-4.
One piece of pigskin legend remains popular on the Hilltop today. You may recognize the “Creighton Football: Still Undefeated” shirts sold through the University Bookstore. Few people realize that the origins of this joke actually come from the mythical yet little-known 1983-84 football squad.
In the fall of 1983, Heileman’s Old Style Beer released promotional posters with the “Creighton football schedule” for students returning to campus. (The legal drinking age was still 18 at that time.) The Jays’ fictional schedule pitted them against the very best teams in the country: Nebraska, Notre Dame, Alabama, and Miami, to name a few. Senior Bob McDonald, an enterprising Creightonian journalist, took the idea and ran with it, penning articles each week about the football team’s “results.”
The Football Jays were an instant hit. It was totally zany, college-kid stuff. The 1984 Bluejay yearbook provides a charming synopsis of the season:
“The Jays, who played their home games on a nearby stretch of Interstate 480, were scheduled to end the year with a game against Nebraska in the Orange Bowl in Miami. However, the request that the City of Miami be delivered to the Interstate so local fans would not have to travel too far to view their favorite teams was misinterpreted and the City of Tampa, Fla., was delivered instead. Since the Super Bowl was scheduled for Tampa later in January, the CU coach, the Rev. Michael J. Morrison, S.J. (who also served as university president), asked Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis for permission to let the Jays meet the Washington Redskins in the game. Davis agreed and the Bluejays, dressed as the Raiders, trounced Washington 38-9. A Super Bowl victory and a university president as coach weren’t the only oddities on the team as McDonald took poetic license to its furthest extreme. The Jays boasted the only female football player in the country in Kristi Swanson Palaschak and had one of the first players to sign after the United States Football League draft in Walter Tomasino, who signed a three-year, $500,000 contract with the Chicago Blitz. Psychology instructors Gary Leak and Rich Millard served as assistant coaches.”
Fr. Michael Morrison, S.J., Creighton’s head coach (and president), runs for a touchdown.
The team and its hijinks became sensations on campus and across the country. The Sigma Nu fraternity threw a rally and parade before the Bluejays’ homecoming matchup against Penn State. CBS did a Saturday morning broadcast live from in front of Kiewit Hall and filmed a portion of a Jays football “practice,” hastily arranged on 24 hours’ notice. This got the attention of Sporting News magazine, who ran an article in their Nov. 21, 1983, issue. Paul Harvey’s popular radio program, The Rest of the Story, even inquired about airing a segment about the team The Creighton athletics department received offers from three other non-football universities (Point Park University in Pittsburgh, University of Arkansas-Little Rock, and notably Seattle University, who challenged the Jays to a game in the Kingdome) for a matchup. Wide receiver Kristi Swanson Palaschak even received a congratulatory fan letter and autograph request from a Massachusetts man. (She happily obliged.)
The Bluejays ended that legendary 1983-84 season with a record of 12 wins and no losses, adding a delightful post-script to the Creighton football legacy and remaining “undefeated” since 1942.
Patrick was kind enough to compile the text of all of the Creightonian coverage of the 1983-1984 Jays football team into one easy-to-read document: Creightonian Football 1983-1984 Articles. If you want to see the original stories, and more pictures, you can browse* our online Creightonian issues.
- September 9, 1983 Schedule in ad on page 7
- September 30, 1983 “Record now 3-0 Jays stage second-half rally, storm past Wolverines, 20-17″ by Bob McDonald
- October 14, 1983 “Jays rated 17th after defeating Penn State 31-14″ by Bob McDonald & “A Bluejay football history”
- October 28, 1983 “Unbeaten Jays ranked 8th in polls — Defeat USC, Notre Dame” by Bob McDonald
- November 4, 1983 “Jays roll over Illinois 63-0″by Bob McDonald
- November 11, 1983 “Bluejays arouse bowl game controversy” by Bob McDonald & “Football players stage show that won’t soon be forgotten”by Bob McDonald & “CU football team materializes for CBS”by Cheryl Horton
- December 2, 1983 “Bluejays bound for two bowl games on Jan. 2″ by Bob McDonald
- December 9, 1983 “Bluejay football generates national publicity”
- February 3, 1984 “Bluejays capture national championship — Also win Super Bowl”by Bob McDonald
* Click on the “Browse” tab (upper right). Scroll left on the timeline at top and select “1983.” Along the left side of the webpage, click on the month you want. That month’s issues will appear in the center panel, so click the date you desire.