Friends of Friars Football Return

by The Cowl Editor on February 16, 2018

Friar Sports

PC Football Alumni Gather for Annual Reception

by Jack Belanger ’21

The Former Fighting Friar Logo

Sports Co-editor

This past weekend, Providence College hosted its Alumni and Family Weekend and many former Friars made their way back to campus. While many met up at the events and games on campus, one group of friends found themselves at McCormick & Schmicks, a seafood restaurant in downtown Providence. This group of friends, or brothers if you asked any of the men in attendance, make up the Friends of Friar Football.

While Providence College has not had a club football team on campus since 1988, the Friends of Friar Football is comprised of former members of PC’s club football team, known as the Fighting Friars, which started in 1967 and was active up until its last season in 1988. From Paul McGuire ’70, the team’s first QB, to Tom Allen ’88, a member of the final team, and men nicknamed Spider, Weasel, Skunk, and Bear, the gathering gave men across multiple generations time to connect and reminisce about their playing days. The group had about 100 men in attendance and was over 200 active members who stay in contact with the club.

Geno Harding ’74 who has helped organize the gathering for the past 10 years, has acted as the organization’s historian, compiling old photos and memorabilia from the Fighting Friars days. Back when he was in school, Harding was one of the main organizers for the team as he was in charge of selling tickets and lining Hendricken Field on game days.

Even though the team was not an official varsity team, the former players will be quick to tell anyone they treated every game like they were in Division I. The team competed against schools such as Marist College, Assumption College, Westchester Community College, and Stony Brook University before many of these teams moved up to Division III. Multiple alumni said that they played for the love of the game.

In 1973, the team was given money to design new uniforms and many of the players could not have been happier with the outcome. Harding and Ted Fitzgerald ’75 worked together to create a new helmet logo for the team. With the Fighting Friars already sharing the same silver and black color scheme as the Oakland Raiders, the two went the extra mile and modeled the new logo after one of the National Football League’s most popular. Harding created the black shield with “Friars” sketched in. Then Fitzgerald sketched out a Friar head over a cross to complete the logo. Any of the men who played for PC are quick to say it was the best logo in all of college football.

One of the reoccurring stories during the reception was the tale of when PC played “the champs from the west,” Chapman University in California, in the 1979 Heritage Bowl in Providence. The day before the game the temperature was well above 50 degrees. Then all of a sudden, come gameday, the temperature dropped below 30° and the players from California experienced New England weather at its finest. One player recalled that the game was so windy that on one play where Chapman was punting, the football actually went backwards on the kick. The Friars ended up winning in a blowout 34-0, in what was one of the most memorable games in the club’s history.

Despite a 21-year gap between the first and last teams, the Friends of Friar Football has been able to bring men from different eras into one brotherhood. Gerry Marzilli ’72 described the Friends of Friar Football and the club team itself as “a special group…we paid to play football, we are lucky to be together this long.” Despite only consisting of alumni that attended Providence College over about 20-year span, The Friends of Friar Football is one of the largest PC alumni groups that are still active. The club manages to raise money through donations to give a scholarship to one PC student every year.

After a few hours discussing who was the fastest or who was the toughest player, the alumni made their way outside to take their yearly group photo on the front steps of City Hall. Afterwards, Marzilli presented games to former players Mike Lee ‘79, Steve Lamendola ’79, and Bob “The Bear” Peters ’78, to recognize them for creating the Friends of Friar Football group.

Even as years pass, the gathering has not lost any of its allure for any of the men. As each former player entered the restaurant, all of them were just as excited to see their former teammates as if they were getting ready for game day. Jim Murphy ’70 said that football at PC “has forged a friendship for over 50 years.” Murphy was one of the key contributors to starting the football club back in 1967 as he oversaw raising money for the team.

Even though most of the members of the varsity team are no longer around, the club takes time to remember the men who brought football to Providence College by looking back at the old photos and share the stories of the alumni. Harding shared one story of former player Hank Soar ’37, who played nine seasons in the NFL and then went onto become an umpire for Major League Baseball from 1950 until 1972.

While the PC club football team does not have the documented history of the University of Alabama or even Boston College, every player has his own stories to share and every team had its place in the school’s history that is just as important to the College. None of these men played with future glory in the back of their heads, but rather to play their hearts out for the game they cherished.

The friends of friar football take a group photo on the front steps of city hall in Providence with a Providence Football banner in front
Photo Courtesy of Jack Belanger ’21/ The Cowl

6 thoughts on “Friends of Friars Football Return

  1. Many thanks for a great article that fully caught the essence of this brotherhood of Friars across 21 years that played for the love of the game and one another!!!!

  2. Aloha from Hawaii. Great article about about a great group of guys who had the opportunity to play four more years of the ultimate team sport-football at PC and more importantly make Lifetime friendships. As much as I enjoy New York Systems Hot Dogs and After Hours Haven Brothers, it is the friendships and camaraderie forged on the Raymond Hall Practice Field,now Parking Lot, some 40 yrs earlier that motivates me to leave the Aloha State and fly 5000+ miles to the friendly confines of Providence, RI in a the dead of Winter. Jack Marshall ‘77.

  3. To echo the sentiments of my Brother Friars, this Brotherhood was born by the sacrifices we all made to represent our college on the gridiron. During the early years the support from the administration was evident. Trainers from the Athletic Department cared for Andy Doc Baynes in particular. Years later the games moved up the street from LaSalle to Hendricken Field, now we’re talking! But years later the support waned and the Fighting Friars were no more?
    But every February with more white hair, with hugs ever stronger we suit up once again in our tales of glory and friendship, as The Friends of Friar Football come home again!
    Thanks for the memories Jack Belanger
    Gerry Marzilli ‘72

  4. Freshman year (Sep 74) we had a pre-season scrimmage against the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport. We got there by driving down in cars. We didn’t have scrimmage jerseys so we all wore whatever we had that was white. Two of our coaches taught high school in Attelboro and didn’t get there until right before our first play. Later that year we played a national club football semi-final at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. We dressed in the PawSox dressing room. But we had to take turns because the dressing room wasn’t big enough for a football team. First game junior year (76) we play New Jersey State College, a real NCAA team. Driving down on the team bus we get stopped at a toll in Connecticut to receive word that the field is unplayable because of a concert the night before. Our coach, Chet Hanewich sends word back that we’ll play on a sandlot if it has stripes because we’re not passing on the chance. Senior year (77) we’re playing SUNY Stoneybrook on Long Island. One bus won’t carry the whole team and we can’t afford a second bus. So I drive my car with four other seniors the five hours down and back. Greatest time of our lives. Its why we come back every year.

  5. During the 1970s and 1980s, some of the best events on campus were Fighting Friar games on sunny Saturday afternoons in the fall. After all, Hendricken Field was built for football in 1922. There are many photos. Villanova plays football. As do Butler and Georgetown. So do Brown, Bryant and URI. And Fordham, Holy Cross and Marist. It makes you wonder.

Comments are closed.