Holy Cross Crusaders

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Holy Cross Crusaders
University College of the Holy Cross
Conference Patriot League
NCAA Division I
Athletic director Nathan Pine
Location Worcester, Massachusetts
Varsity teams 25
Football stadium Fitton Field
Basketball arena Hart Recreation Center
Baseball stadium Fitton Field
Soccer stadium Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium
Mascot Iggy the Crusader
Nickname Crusaders
Fight song Chu! Chu! Rah! Rah!
Colors Royal Purple[1]
Website goholycross.com

The Holy Cross Crusaders are the athletic teams representing the College of the Holy Cross. They compete in NCAA Division I as members of the Patriot League. The men's ice hockey team competes in Atlantic Hockey Association and women's ice hockey in the Division III New England Hockey Conference. Of its 27 varsity teams, Holy Cross supports 13 men's and 14 women's sports.[2] The carrying of 26 Division I varsity programs gives Holy Cross the largest ratio of teams-per-enrollment in the country. Holy Cross's athletic teams for both men and women are known as the Crusaders.

Holy Cross is a founding member of the Patriot League, and boasts that one-quarter of its student body participates in its varsity athletic programs. Principal facilities include Fitton Field for football (capacity: 23,500), the Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex for basketball (3,600) and ice hockey (1,400), Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium (1,320), and the Smith Wellness Center, located inside the Luth Athletic Complex.[3]

The College is one of eight schools to have won an NCAA championship in both baseball (1952) and basketball (1947).



The Holy Cross baseball team won the NCAA National Championship in 1952 and remains the only team from the northeastern part of the United States to have won the College World Series.[4] The Crusaders also reached the College World Series in 1958, 1962, and 1963. In the last two of these seasons, the team featured pitcher Dick Joyce, who briefly made the major leagues, and third baseman John Peterman, who after a short minor-league career went on to become a successful entrepreneur who was parodied on Seinfeld.


Men's basketball[edit]

The Holy Cross men's basketball team claims two national championships having won the NCAA Tournament in 1947 and the National Invitational Tournament in 1954 at a time when the NIT was considered to be equal to if not more prestigious than the NCAA Tournament. The team also has reached the Final Four in 1948 and the Elite Eight in 1950 and 1953. In 2016, the team captured its first win in an NCAA Tournament game since the 1953 season. Notable former players include Boston Celtics legends and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductees Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn.

Women's basketball[edit]

The Holy Cross women's basketball team has also made several appearances in the postseason including 12 trips to the NCAA Tournament as well as one appearance in both the Women's National Invitation Tournament and the Women's Basketball Invitational. They are 1-12 in the NCAA Tournament with the lone win coming in 1991 as an upset over the 6th seeded Maryland. This is the only victory in the NCAA Tournament for any team from the Patriot League. Six-time Patriot League Coach of the Year Bill Gibbons recorded his 500th win early in the 2011–2012 campaign.


Visitor side of football stadium (2008)

The Holy Cross football team played in the 1946 Orange Bowl. The team has since made the FCS postseason in 1983 and 2009. In 1987, the team went undefeated and finished first in the national polls despite the Patriot League not allowing its teams to participate in the NCAA Tournament. Notable former players include Bill Osmanski who went on to win four NFL Championships with the Chicago Bears and two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Gordie Lockbaum.

Ice hockey[edit]

On March 24, 2006, the Holy Cross men's hockey team made history by defeating the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Tournament by the score of 4–3, in overtime. Coined as one of the biggest upsets in NCAA ice hockey history, never since the NCAA tourney expanded to sixteen teams had a sixteen seed beat a number one seed until again in 2015 when the 16th seeded RIT Tigers defeated the first seeded Minnesota State Mavericks by a score of 2–1.[5] In its history, the Holy Cross ice hockey program has seen two NCAA appearances, and has won the Atlantic Hockey and MAAC three times (1999, 2004, 2006).[6] The ice hockey program competes in the Atlantic Hockey Association in men's hockey and the Division III New England Hockey Conference in women's ice hockey.[7]

Other sports[edit]

In 2006, the women's lacrosse team made its first NCAA Tournament appearance, defeating Colgate in the Patriot League championship game prior to beating LeMoyne in the NCAA play-in game.[8]

The Holy Cross "Goodtime" Marching Band in the familiar HC formation

In addition, the Holy Cross rowing teams, both men and women, have enjoyed success over the years. Key highlights include the women's team winning the ECAC National Championship in 2002, and the men's team being ranked within the national top 20 (out of 34 total D1 teams ~41st percentile) every season beginning in 2004. In 2000 the Women's Varsity Lightweight 8 won a New England championship. As of 2007, the men's crew is the reigning Patriot League Champion and has won the league championship several times (2001,2002,2003, and 2005). Similarly, the women's team has enjoyed similar success within the conference and won continuous league championships from 1998 to 2003.

Both teams compete in the Patriot League, with the women's team also holding membership in the New England Rowing Conference (NERC), and the Eastern College Athletic Conference. In 2007, the men's crew was granted a two-year provisional acceptance into the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges (EARC), which is composed of the traditional Ivy League schools plus other select universities.[9]

The Holy Cross golf team has also produced some exceptional golfers including Willie Turnesa who won two US Amateur titles and a British Amateur, and Paul Harney who won six PGA Tour events and was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame.


Holy Cross student-athletes are among the most academically successful in the nation. In 2016, the Crusaders’ overall Graduation Success Rate of 97 percent for all student-athletes tied for the 17th best mark in the country out of 351 Division I schools. That marked the 10th straight year in which Holy Cross posted a Graduation Success Rate of at least 97 percent.[10]

Also in 2016, 14 Holy Cross varsity athletic teams received Division I Academic Progress Rate (APR) public recognition awards from the NCAA. These teams posted multi-year APR scores in the top 10 percent of all squads in their respective sports. The 14 total teams earning public recognition awards put Holy Cross in the top 10 among all Division I athletic programs. The Crusaders finished tied for eighth in the nation out of 356 schools, placing them in the top three percent of all of Division I.[11]


NCAA Team Championships[edit]

Holy Cross has won two NCAA team national championships:

Other national team championships[edit]

Holy Cross also claims two national championships not recognized by the NCAA:

* – The Patriot League did not allow its members to participate in the 1AA football playoffs during its early years, but the undefeated Crusaders finished first in the national polls and the Sporting News declared them National Champions.

Conference Championships[edit]

Holy Cross has won a total of 57 regular season and/or postseason conference championships throughout its history.[12] The majority of these have come in the Patriot League, where it currently competes for most sports.

  • Patriot League Champions
    • Baseball - 2013
    • Men’s Basketball – 1993, 1994, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2016
    • Women’s Basketball – 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007
    • Field Hockey – 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001
    • Football – 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991, 2009
    • Women’s Lacrosse – 2006, 2007
    • Men’s Soccer – 1995, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007
    • Women’s Soccer – 2000
    • Softball – 1998
  • Atlantic Hockey Champions
    • Men’s Ice Hockey – 2004, 2006
  • Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Champions
    • Baseball – 1986
    • Men’s Basketball – 1990
    • Women’s Basketball – 1984, 1985, 1989
    • Women’s Cross Country – 1983, 1984, 1985
    • Men’s Ice Hockey – 1999
    • Women’s Tennis – 1986, 1988
  • Eastern College Athletic Conference Champions
    • Men’s Basketball – 1977, 1980
    • Women’s Ice Hockey – 2009, 2010, 2011
  • New England Hockey Conference Open Tournament Champions
    • Women's Ice hockey – 2015, 2016


It is reported that the name "Crusader" was first associated with Holy Cross in 1884 at an alumni banquet in Boston, where an engraved Crusader mounted on an armored horse appeared at the head of the menu.[13]

The name was rediscovered by Stanley Woodward, a sports reporter for the Boston Herald, when he used the term "Crusader" to describe the Holy Cross baseball team in a story written in 1925. The name appealed to the Holy Cross student body, which held a vote later in that year to decide whether this cognomen or one of the other two currently in use – "Chiefs" and "Sagamores"- would be adopted. On October 6, 1925, The Tomahawk, an earlier name of the student newspaper, reported that the results of the ballot were: Crusaders 143, Chiefs 17, Sagamores 7.[13]

Owing to the Post-9/11 controversy over the “Crusaders” nickname,[14] only Holy Cross and Valparaiso University maintain Crusaders at the NCAA Division I level.

School colors[edit]

The school color is royal purple.[15] There are two theories of how Holy Cross chose purple as its official color. One suggests it was derived from the royal purple used by King Constantine the Great (born about 275 A.D., died in 337 AD) as displayed on his labarum (military standard) and on those of later Christian emperors of Rome.[13]

The other version is attributed to Walter J. Connors, an 1887 graduate, and was printed in the October 1940 issue of the Alumnus. According to the account, there was a disagreement during the 1870s between Holy Cross students from Massachusetts and Connecticut concerning the schools' baseball uniform colors. Those from Massachusetts purportedly favored the crimson of Harvard, while those from Connecticut favored the deep blue of Yale. Legend has it that a fellow student with a sense of diplomacy resolved the dispute in the chemistry lab, where he mixed copper sulphate (blue) with iron oxide (red) to produce the color of deep purple.[13]

Boston College rivalry[edit]

Historically, Holy Cross' major rival has been the Eagles of Boston College, especially in football. Boston College does not share this view as far as Holy Cross being a "rival". In 1896, Holy Cross and Boston College played the first football game between the two schools.

To accommodate larger crowds, the Holy Cross game was routinely held at larger venues off campus, with the 1916 matchup taking place at the newly constructed Fenway Park. A record 54,000 attended the 1922 game at Braves Field, home of the Boston Braves baseball team. On November 28, 1942, Holy Cross beat BC in a huge upset by a score of 55-12, a result that proved fortunate for the losing Eagles. The BC team had booked their victory party for a popular Boston nightclub, but canceled after the upset loss. As a result, the Eagles were not among the nearly 500 who died or the hundreds more who were injured when the nightclub caught fire that night.

By the late 1970s the Holy Cross game had become more of a tradition than a rivalry, as Holy Cross football began to cease to be a major power. By 1980, the game was no longer part of the student ticket package, and was mostly attended by alumni. In 1986 Holy Cross changed the direction of its football program, joining the Division 1-AA Patriot League, and terminated the series. BC had won 17 of the last 20 games.

The last basketball game between the two schools was played on January 17, 2006, a 63-53 win for Boston College at Worcester's DCU Center. Later that year, BC's athletic director, Gene DeFilippo, caused a minor controversy when he announced that the school would not schedule any more basketball games against Holy Cross, claiming that it was not beneficial for BC.[16]

The two schools renewed their rivalry in basketball on November 22, 2010 as part of the Jesuit Basketball Spotlight, a national effort to bring attention to Jesuit education. In a game held at BC's Conte Forum, Boston College posted a 69-56 victory, the Eagles' 16th in their last 17 games against Holy Cross.[17] On November 18, 2011, the Crusaders defeated the Eagles 86-64 in Worcester.


The Holy Cross Crusaders have a group of loyal fans, sometimes called the "Mount St. James Faithful" or the "Hart Center Faithful", the nickname coming from the athletic stadium at The College of the Holy Cross.


External links[edit]