Historic Football Team Honored

Updated: May 20, 2006



There is too much History

we forget or worse

never knew

The University of San Francisco football team of 1951 is one of the great sports stories of all time. Here in 2006 almost no one has a Clue. Both in their performance on the Gridiron that fateful year and in their heroic decision off it makes this team and these players one of the American sports legends of all time.

The San Francisco University Dons as the team was known went Undefeated in 1951 with their 9-0 record the best college football team in the country and unlike most teams of the day featuring 2 African American players. The greatest running back in the nation in 1951, Ollie Matson, and notable formidable Defensive Linebacker Burt Toler.

The entire team included an impressive 9 players who would go on to NFL careers including Ollie Matson elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1976. In addition the ’51 team’s information director the young Pete Rozelle would go on to become the outstanding NFL Commissioner in his later years.

But all this is not half

of what made the Dons

Great ….. Legendary

The San Francisco Dons were assumed to be the certain choice to play in the most important bowl game of all the Orange Bowl on New Year’s Day 1952. Or to have enthusiastic invitations to play in the other premier bowl games of the Era if they preferred. The Rose Bowl and the Gator Bowl foremost after the Orange Bowl.

Except this Great Team

never played in any Bowl Game


All the Bowl Committees decided to enforce a policy that NO team that would bring African American players to a Bowl Game would be invited to play in any of these Bowl games including the Orange, Rose and Gator Bowls.

This is not 1921

this is 1951 and

after World War II

and Black blood spilled

all over Europe and the Pacific

Yet the entire nation and elected officials across the country North, South, East and West did nothing to prevent these prestigious football organizations from practicing blatant virulent Racism against African Americans in a major American sport, and before the ascension of the NFL the most important football games annually the New Year’s Day Bowl Games. Virtual sectarian religious rituals in America.

The administration and the coaching staff decided to allow the University of San Francisco football players to decide themselves whether to accept an invitation to the bowl games but leave Ollie Matson and Burt Toler behind.

Or refuse to play

without their 2 Black teammates

To Their Eternal Glory

the Team said NO


That ended the college football careers for everyone on the team without playing in the Orange Bowl, seniors and all the others as San Francisco University eliminated football after the 1951 season.

Finally the Heroes of 1951 received some of the Recognition they deserve when honored Friday at the University’s 2006 Commencement Ceremonies each member of the team awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degrees richly deserved. Burt Toler at 72 was there and received his Degree to the applause of the 2006 graduating class. Ollie Matson was not his useful life over confined to an assisted living facility.

Remember them All

all 48 of them

Sports Heroes of 1951

The Football Dons of

San Francisco University

may they live Forever

in our Hearts & Minds and

throughout History

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