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History of Creighton football: Its involvement in WWII and the war's impact on the program's collapse

Posted at 7:04 PM, Aug 29, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Husker football team is about to kick off the 2023 season. Eighty-one years ago, another university in the Cornhusker State was kicking off its season, which turned out to be its last.

“Come look at this team that sort of paused during WWII, right? It’s sort of like a little time capsule,” Pete Brink said.

Brink is the Head of Archives and Special Collections at Creighton Libraries. He served as 3 News Now Anchor Zach Williamson’s tour guide through 52 years of Creighton football. The two flipped through several old programs.

“So, this is Creighton versus Marquette. They did play Oklahoma in 1928. I don’t know the outcome of that game — let’s hope Creighton won,” he shared.

Another collection that caught Zach’s eye was a 1939 pamphlet advertising season tickets to Creighton home games: six home games for $6.60.

The home games in 1939, along with 16 other seasons, took place at Creighton Stadium.

“In the middle of a real residential neighborhood; so, it’s neat to see those older photos and imagine what it looked like then,” Brink said.

The stadium was south of Burt Street; located by where the Eppley Building, Criss Complex and parking lot now stand. It was one of Omaha’s largest structures at the time and could hold up to 15,000 fans.

“Pretty amazing to picture that big of a stadium down here.”

The stadium opened on Nov. 21, 1925. It would host Creighton’s final game on the gridiron 17 years later.

“This is the football and the game program from the 1942 Creighton versus Tulsa game,” Brink showed Zach. “Which was the last football game ever played by the Creighton Bluejays.”

The move came as war efforts were ramping up.

“They didn’t want to occupy trains and other things during the war effort, so they just called it after this game, and paused it, they said temporarily, but the football program never came back,” Brink recounts.

The Jays played a role in World War II as well.

“In this Tulsa program they talk about the players that aren’t playing, but are in the service in different places — and some former coaches as well,” Brinks said. “For the players playing, listed right next to height and weight, was their military status. Whether they were underage, already served or were part of the reserves.”

Some players on the team made the ultimate sacrifice.

“A lot of these guys wouldn’t come back either. So, you would have one of your best players, your captain, leave one year and then you never see him again. That had to have a traumatic effect on teams, campus, and coaches. What a tough time for sure.”

One of the artifacts the university has on hand is the letter sweater, similar to a letterman’s jacket, of former player George Lynch.

“He ended up in the Marines and died during WWII in 1945,” Brink said. “One of many Creighton players who served in WWII.”

Once the war concluded, bringing back the football team was easier said than done.

“I think it would’ve been a steep climb to get back into football, kind of from ground zero,” Brink explained. “It’s expensive, and then are you going to fill your stadium, and then can you compete with Oklahoma or Tulsa or anyone else really.”

However, a Creighton football renaissance was still on the top of mind for some in the area.

“Even up to the late 1940’s there was hope that it would happen as things kind of picked up and got back to normal. I think when it was ultimately decided there wouldn’t be a football team, there were some people who were upset.”

Creighton’s football program finished with an overall record of 183-139, along with 27 ties.

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