Gonzaga University basketball may have gained the school national attention, but did you know that GU had a football team?
Fr. Joseph Cataldo, Jesuit Superior of the Rocky Mountain Missions, purchased land in Spokane Falls in hopes to build a school for the Native American tribes in the area. In 1881, Spokane Falls was approved to become a city and put on the map. The city had a telegraph line put in and the Northern Pacific Railroad built tracks lining the north side of the Spokane River. The small town grew to be a city, although that was not the original plan.
“By October, 1883, a stone foundation was laid out for a brick building that would measure one hundred feet long and fifty feet wide, with a full basement,” says GU’s website. “It would contain living quarters for the students, classrooms, a kitchen and dining room, library, chapel and living quarters for the Jesuits.”
Only seven students attended GU in 1887. They were from all over the coast like Spokane Falls hoped for. By the end of the century, seven grew to 224 enrolled students.
In 1948, the first women were admitted to GU, finally marking it a coed college. As well as classical and commercial classes, schools of specialty opened up.
“Reflecting the spirit of the times, a School of Economics and Business Education was opened in 1921. Also reflecting a national trend toward more standardized educational criteria, classes in education were added to the curriculum,” the GU website says. “Summer courses for teachers began in 1924, and in 1928 the Board of Trustees established a School of Education.”
GU was granted legal status by the Washington State Legislature, opening the GU School of Law. Gonzaga-in-Florence was started in the 1960s added to the possibilities for GU students.
As GU developed as a school, sports became a huge part of the schools’ identity. GU football gained national attention before basketball did. Unfortunately, the football team was cut from athletics when World War II started and the campus was left deserted as men left to go fight in the war.
As you walk through campus, some of the names of these iconic and historic people may sound familiar. Foley Library, Crosby Center, St. Aloysius Church and Cataldo dining hall. These are people who have helped shape GU and make it the school it is today.
GU surely has grown since the beginning of its history. Spokane and GU have advanced together.