FENCING | FOOTBALL | SQUASH | MEN'S TENNIS | TRACK & FIELD | WRESTLING
Seton Hall University's football history spans nearly a full century of ups and downs, loss and rebirth and fluctuating status as one of the University's premier intercollegiate athletic programs.
History was made in 1882 when Seton Hall University clashed with St. John's (which eventually changed its name to Fordham) in the first football game ever played between two Catholic affiliated colleges. The Setonia varsity eleven, as they were called, went on to beat Fordham twice in 1883, 2-0, and 10-0, and did not have a losing season until 1891.
The Setonia eleven surged in the latter half of the final decade of the 19th century, winning 15-straight contests from 1896-1898.
Seton Hall went on to continue its successes by going 8-0 in 1903 and 6-1 in 1904, with wins over Fordham and Manhattan, but despite the team's winning ways, football was dropped as a varsity athletic program in 1906. It was briefly resurrected in 1913, but just for one season, and the program lay dormant for 17 more years before another attempt to restore it to varsity status.
Led by former Notre Dame star Richard "Red" Smith, Seton Hall reinstated its football team in 1930. The Pirates posted three-straight 3-4 seasons before disbanding the program once again in 1932.
It was not until the mid 1960's that collegiate football made its return to the South Orange campus, although it first did so as a club program. For many Universities in the northeast the chance to bring football back as a club program proved to be an enticing opportunity. Spurred in large part by a club contest between New York University and Fordham in 1964, Seton Hall was one of many schools to reinstate football at the club level starting in 1965.
Ed Manigan was installed as the Pirates' head coach for that inaugural club season, and he guided the program for the next 16 years, through its club national championship in 1972 and its final varsity contest in 1981.
As a club sport, football was administered entirely by the students and it quickly became an important part of campus life. The Quarterback Club was created in 1968 to serve as a fundraising mechanism for the team and a way to unite SHU football families and alumni.
Prior to the 1972 season there was increasing sentiment that football should be transitioned back as a varsity program, and that push could not have come at a better time. The 1972 Pirates posted an 8-1 record and defeated Marist College, 20-18, in front of 3,000 fans at Fordham University's Jack Coffey Field to win the Eastern Club Bowl/Empire Bowl Football Championship.
The next season Seton Hall University fielded a varsity team for the first time in 41 years, and the Pirates played their first game on September 22, a 21-20 loss to Hofstra. Over the ensuing nine years as a varsity program the Pirates competed in the Metropolitan Conference and the East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC), posting a pair of winning seasons; a 7-2 mark in 1974 when The Hall won seven-straight to end the year, and 5-4 record in 1978.
With Seton Hall University aligning itself with the BIG EAST Conference in all other sports for the 1979-80 academic year, the SHU varsity football program played its final season in 1981.
The story of football at Seton Hall University is one steeped in history. From the first game against Fordham in 1882, to the club championship in 1972, there is no questioning it played an important role at the University for 100 years.