Football at DePaul?

Dec. 13, 1948. That was the last time a blue and white “DePaul” would ever cover a set of football pads. It’s been 65 years and counting since DePaul last played a football game. However, one DePaul student hopes to change this and bring football back to Lincoln Park.

Riley Halligan, former high school football player and current junior at DePaul, is behind the charge to start a club football team at the university. He is working with administrators to create the team and is looking for a rise in support among the student community.

The idea started after Halligan encountered one problem many high school football players face when coming to DePaul. “When I was a freshman I was disappointed there was no tackle football; flag football wasn’t the same. I wanted to start it freshman and sophomore year, but I thought it would just be swept under the rug,” he said.

Halligan’s efforts are far from being swept under the rug, however. The club’s Facebook page has 65 “likes” and an abundance of buzz amongst many former high school football players attending DePaul, such as Devin Miller.

“I would play for the team in a heartbeat,” Miller said. “That would make my college experience great. A football team would be tremendous for this school because it will give the students another sport to cheer for, and could possibly get some more recognition for to DePaul. I think the community would support it.”

The team would not be part of the NCAA and it’s not a yet a club either; however, once it joins the National Club Football Association, it would play other club football teams such as George Mason, Ohio State and Loyola University- Chicago. Loyola hasn’t had a football team since 1929.

“The Loyola rivalry selling point has a lot of history even from back to the day when both teams did have football teams. It could really involve the alums because Loyola’s alums really supported the teams,” Halligan said. “Overall, the history of this school and our rivalry with Loyola could have a huge effect.”

Tevin Harris, another club football prospect, is very interested in playing football, but also thinks the city could be interested as well. “The city would be able to get pumped up to play a game against Loyola. It could be a sort of crosstown rivalry,” Harris said. “Chicago has really lacked a college rivalry that happens within the city.”

However, Halligan has plenty of challenges facing him if he is to bring football to DePaul. One of the biggest challenges is something that plagues the other sports here as well – free space for games and practices. Soccer and softball have to share a spot, the track team practices at the Ray Meyer Fitness and Recreation Center and men’s basketball has to go all the way to the Allstate Arena to play.

“The Loyola club team plays in Evanston, so I would talk to the local high schools,” said Halligan. “There’s not enough space in the Ray for practice. We would probably just practice at a park or something.”

Halligan also recognizes that student support is an issue, a problem that affects the current men’s basketball team and was one of the reasons the original football team disbanded. According to DePaul’s Newsline Online, less than 30 percent of the student body attended a DePaul football game in the program’s final four seasons, despite the team winning 65 percent of its games.

“I think one of the biggest problems is that most of the teams don’t play on campus,” said Halligan. “There’s just no way for us to play on campus, but we can counteract that with having a huge presence on campus. We would have a lot more people to network with the students.”

Harris said that a lack of training for football may negatively impact the team at first.

“The biggest thing for us would be getting back into ‘football shape.’ I can’t speak for anybody else but I’m two, almost three years removed from serious football practice and play,” said Harris. “I’m still in the same physical condition that I was in HS but it’s not enough to play competitive football. Players would need to get into workouts and put some serious work in.”

Miller also recognizes that a problem would be “finding enough players to want to play and recruiting other players from high school.”

Since the team would take so much money to get off the ground, the team would have to connect with students for things like fundraisers and for attendance purposes. Halligan is also planning to talk with alumni and speak with the athletics department for connections and planning. However, with all his efforts, he still needs all of his supporters to show the same dedication.

“If we really want a team going, we really have to show DePaul that we want this,” said Halligan. “I really think DePaul doesn’t recognize how bad this school wants a team, and we really have to show how serious we are about the club.”

While Halligan and company still have plenty of ground to cover before playing in front of DePaul students on Saturdays, they believe their dream is attainable.

“I really want to see DePaul have a football team in the NCAA. I don’t think that’s something I can do, but it’d be nice for my kids to look at a DI team at DePaul,” said Halligan. “When I’m old, I want to watch a DI game at DePaul and think that I wore a jersey as well.”