LOCAL LORE: Some Old Time Football

Remember when football was great here in Washington? It seems like a long time ago now. And there was a time when our local university team, the CUA Cardinals, was one of the best in the nation. That was back in 1936, when the Cardinals (often known as the Flying Cardinals) played in only the second Orange Bowl. They represented the North, and the University of Mississippi represented the South.  CUA jumped out to a 20-6 lead, but then Ole Miss came back strong, scoring 13 points late in the game.  A missed point after touchdown for Mississippi was the critical difference.  Three thousand fans awaited the victorious Flying Cardinals when they arrived at Union Station, followed by a victory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.  The Washington Post reported that President Roosevelt unwittingly joined the parade when it jammed traffic in front of the White House as he was going to church.  Here the team poses on the steps of Mullen Library.

 Catholic University Orange Bowl team. Courtesy Catholic University of America Archives. 

Coach Arthur "Dutch” Bergman (seated at far right in top row), in addition to a good reputation within the college ranks, also knew a good number of pro players, especially those with the ‘Skins. In 1939 he brought two of them to CUA to work with his squad during the season. Both of them turned out to be future hall of famers. 

CUA coaches, 1939. Courtesy Catholic University of America Archives.

That’s Dutch Bergman on the left, standing next to quarterback “Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh wearing the CUA t-shirt. Baugh’s importance to the game is hard to overestimate. 

"He was the first to play the position of quarterback as it is played today, the first to make of the forward pass an effective weapon rather than an act of desperation.”

         — Michael Wilbon, Washington Post

Next to Baugh is Wayne Millner, Redskins end and one of Baugh’s favorite receivers. Like Baugh, Millner played both sides of the ball, offense and defense. Those guys were tough. After retiring from the NFL, Millner became an assistant coach at CUA for a few seasons. Next to Millner is assistant coach Forrest Cotton, who also coached the CUA basketball team. 

After his term at CUA, Bergman joined the NFL to coach the ‘Skins for a single season -- 1943. Although the team started strong, they lost their last three games, then lost in the National Football League championship, and Bergman was dismissed.

In 1963, Sammy Baugh was one of the 17 charter inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Wayne Millner was inducted in 1968.

© Robert Malesky 2016