Nov. 2, 2004
WORCESTER, Mass. - Holy Cross has been playing football for 109 years. In that time, the Crusaders have been to a bowl game, posted undefeated seasons, won conference championships and had a slew of players who received individual accolades. But what has always made Holy Cross football so special, is the people.
And when two members of the class of 1977, Dan Lucey and Frank Matasavage, realized that many of their former teammates had not set foot on Fitton field in nearly 20 years, they thought it was time to rectify that situation.
"We had talked about doing this for some time, "Lucey said. "And it was great to see some guys I hadn't seen in about 30 years. Some of the defensive backs looked like lineman, and some of the lineman looked like defensive backs."
The game at San Diego in September of 2003 got the ball rolling. More than a dozen former football players from the mid-to-late 70's attended, many of whom had not seen each other in years.
At the Florida International game in Miami the following month, another mini-reunion took place, both Lucey and Matasavage spoke to Athletic Director Dick Regan.
Regan was sold on it, immediately.
"This was a great idea," he said. "Personally, I know about half of these guys, and it was great to see them all back on Fitton Field."
The athletic department then pulled together the contact information for Lucey and Matasavage's classmates. But as word spread of the reunion, it quickly expanded beyond the classes of 1976 and 1977, and a letter was eventually sent to those players who were primarily coached by Ed Doherty and Neil Wheelwright in the 1970's and early 1980's.
As the number of those set to come neared 50, the event took on a life of its own. The athletic department provided a tailgate tent for the group on the baseball field, and then brought all the returnees back onto Fitton Field to be introduced to the crowd at the San Diego game.
"For us fans who go way back," Regan said. "It was great to unite Eddie Jenkins and Joe Wilson on Fitton Field again."
"The hope was," Lucey said. "That we could get some guys back who hadn't been here in some time. We wanted them to see that the program has promise, but that it can certainly use our help and support."
There were 13 members of the class of 1977 in attendance, the most of any one group. The classes of 1976, 1978 and 1980 were also well represented.
Paul Anastasi '77 thought the event was a great success. "It was a lot of fun to see all my old teammates. The best thing I noticed is that they hadn't changed - they're still the same great guys they were thirty years ago," said "the Stas."
After the game, head coach Tom Gilmore visited with the group. "He was great," Lucey said. "He was very upbeat about the direction of the program. Everyone knows he needs time, but we were certainly impressed."
"It was great to meet some alumni from that era, " said Gilmore. "We're trying to reconnect those former players to the program, and this was a tremendous opportunity to do so. I spoke to them about my hopes for the future of Holy Cross football, and explained to them how important their support, and the support of all our former players, is to that future.
According to Regan, the success of the event led all who participated to conclude that they should not wait another 20 years before doing this again.
"The jury is still split among those who attended," said Regan. "as to whether this get together should be an annual event, or an every two or three years thing."
Regan has already heard from other groups of former Crusaders who are interested in their own reunions.
"Some members of teams from the '80s would like to do something similar, and it would be great if some from the 90's felt the same way," he said.
Events such as these speak volumes as to how special their time as members of the Holy Cross football team is to those who spent four years "banging heads" down on Fitton Field. Coupled with the newly formed Crusader Gridiron Club, these events show that those who wore Purple do not stop caring about their teammates, and the program, upon graduation from Holy Cross.
For more information on the Crusader Gridiron Club, contact Phil Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2004 Holy Cross Football Reunion Attendees
1972: Eddie Jenkins; 1973: Kevin Frawley, Joe Wilson; 1974: Mike Guilfoile 1975: John Provost 1976: Kevin Connolly, Gene Cullen, Jim Grogan, Jerry Kelley, Jack Landers, Larry Prior, Steve Sczylvian; 1977: Paul Anastasi, Bill Campbell, Mark Cannon, Bob Fitzsimmons, Dave Frenette, H.R. Haldeman, Grant Keith, Joe Kelleher, Dan Lucey, Frank Matasavage, Dan O'Brien, Mike Pizzotti, John Trimbach; 1978: Steve Hunt, Mike McDonnell, Bob Morton, Chuck Mullen, Jim Pendergast, Bill Wright; 1979: Steve Freeman; 1980: Curt Bletzer, Brian Doherty, Dave Frechette, Kevin Harrington, Steve Hiorns, Glenn Verrette; 1981: Peter George, Joe LeMay, Paul Matasavage, Matt Michaud; 1982: John Andreoli, Dave Murphy, Wayne Thornton; 1991: Jim Grady; Former Coaches: Phil Vandersea, Pat Sgambati.