San Francisco Dons

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San Francisco Dons
UniversityUniversity of San Francisco
ConferenceWCC (primary)
Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (women's indoor track & field)
NCAADivision I
Athletic directorLarry Williams
LocationSan Francisco, California
Varsity teams17 (15 in 2024–25)
Basketball arenaWar Memorial at the Sobrato Center and Chase Center
Baseball stadiumDante Benedetti Diamond at Max Ulrich Field
Soccer stadiumNegoesco Stadium
Other venuesCalifornia Tennis Club
Crissy Field
Kezar Stadium
Peacock Gap Golf Club
The Olympic Club
MascotThe Don
Fight song"Victory Song"
ColorsGreen and gold[1]

The San Francisco Dons is the nickname of the athletic teams at the University of San Francisco (USF). The Dons compete in NCAA Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as members of the West Coast Conference (WCC), of which USF is a charter member.


Athletics at USF dates back to its founding in 1855, when founder Anthony Maraschi, S.J. organized ball games as recreation for the first students. However, intercollegiate competition only dates back to 1907, when then-Saint Ignatius College began playing organized baseball, basketball, and rugby against other local colleges and high schools. Rivalries with neighboring Santa Clara University and Saint Mary's College of California have their origins in this early period.

Teams were originally known as the "Grey Fog", and red and blue were Saint Ignatius College's colors. However, as the college began to develop an identity distinct from the high school—the college became the University of San Francisco in 1930—it adopted green and gold as its colors in 1927 and chose the Don as its mascot in 1932. The old Saint Ignatius High School later became Saint Ignatius College Preparatory and retained the red and blue colors.

Three USF alumni participated in the 2016 Summer Olympics - Israeli long-distance runner Maor Tiyouri, basketball player John Cox and synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva.[2] Tiyouri also competed in the marathon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021.[3]

Sports sponsored[edit]

Men's sports Women's sports
Baseball Basketball
Basketball Beach volleyball
Cross country Cross country
Golf Golf
Soccer Soccer
Tennis[a] Tennis[a]
Track and field Track and field
† – Track and field includes both indoor and outdoor


2005 was a banner year for the baseball program, as the Diamond Dons finished with a 38–18 record (the best in team history), placed eight players in the all-conference team and earned Nino Giarrantano coach of the year honors. This was followed in 2006 with a 38–21 record, the WCC conference regular season championship, and a Top 25 ranking. However, USF lost in the WCC conference championship to Pepperdine but still was given an at large berth into their first ever postseason. USF did not advance in the tournament as they were beaten by the University of Miami, and Manhattan College.

A Dons baseball player is congratulated by a teammate after scoring a run in a 2010 game

Future major leaguer Aaron Poreda pitched for the Diamond Dons, finishing his freshman 2005 season with a 2.16 ERA, the fifth-lowest in team history and third-best in the WCC, and his hits-per-9-innings ratio of 6.48 was second-best in the conference.[5][6][7] In 2006 he posted a WCC-best 2.49 ERA.[5][7] In the NCAA regional he pitched the team to a 5–1 victory over No. 6 national seed Nebraska.[7] Poreda was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the first round (25th overall) in the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft; at the time, he was throwing a 97 miles per hour fastball.[8][9]

Nino Giarrantano became head coach in 1998, previously serving as hitting coach at Arizona State University. Giarrantano was named 3-time JC National Coach of the Year and 2005–2006 WCC Coach of the Year. Since arriving at USF, the team has had its best four-year stretch in its program's history, 104-69 overall since 2004.[citation needed]

USF began receiving reports of sexual misconduct and psychological abuse from the baseball team in late 2021, attributing these allegations eventually to assistant coach Troy Nakamura and firing him in January 2023. Two months later, it was reported that Nakamura was permitted access to the baseball facilities by Giarrantano, and a class action was filed against both Nakamura and Giarrantano the following March by three anonymous players. Two days after the suit was filed, Giarrantano was fired with assistant coach Mat Keplinger becoming interim head coach.[10] The following season, Rob DiToma, then head coach of the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights baseball team, was hired as new head baseball coach.[11]

San Francisco Dons baseball
Conference Titles (2)
NCAA postseason

Dante Benedetti Diamond at Max Ulrich Field[edit]

The Dons' home field is named after Dante Benedetti, USF's head coach from 1962 to 1980. Benedetti attended then-Saint Ignatius College from 1937 to 1940, during which he lettered in Baseball, Football, and Boxing. During his tenure as head coach, he accumulated 373 career wins, and has been inducted into the university's athletic hall of fame. Also during his tenure as head coach, the university wanted to cut the program for financial reasons. However to keep the program alive Benedetti agreed to lower his salary. For the remaining 16 years of his coaching career he was paid $1 a year.

The field is also named after Max Ulrich, a benefactor of the University of San Francisco.

Drafted players[edit]

Over the years of USF's baseball tradition, a number of players have been drafted into professional baseball. Of these players, a few have had debuts in the Major Leagues:

Diamond Dons in Major League Baseball
Player Years at USF MLB Debut
Joe Giannini 1908–1911 July 8, 1911
Clarence Fieber 1932–1932 May 18, 1932
Ernie Sulik 1929–1955 April 15, 1936
Jake Caulfield 1937–1940 April 24, 1946
Neill Sheridan 1940–1944 September 19, 1948
Con Dempsey 1942–1944 April 28, 1951
Paul Schramka 1947–1950 April 14, 1953
Stan Johnson 1956–1960 August 18, 1960
Aaron Pointer 1960–1961 September 22, 1963
Mike Buskey 1968–1971 September 5, 1977
Justin Speier 1992–1993 May 27, 1998
Jermaine Clark 1995–1997 April 3, 2001
Joe Nelson 1993–1996 June 13, 2001
Jesse Foppert 1999–2001 April 14, 2003
Jeff Harris 1995–1995 April 2, 2005
Aaron Poreda 2005–2007 June 12, 2009
Scott Cousins 2004–2006 September 3, 2010
Kyle Zimmer 2010–2012 March 31, 2019
Bradley Zimmer 2012–2014 May 16, 2017
Adam Cimber 2013-2013 March 29, 2018

Men's basketball[edit]

Former interior of War Memorial Gym

USF is best known for its basketball program. The men's basketball team have won three national titles: the 1949 NIT under Pete Newell and the 1955 and 1956 NCAA championships under Phil Woolpert. The latter two were led by future National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame members Bill Russell and K.C. Jones.

USF retained its status as a basketball powerhouse into the 1970s and early 80s, holding the distinction of being a "major" program in a "mid-major" conference (the WCC having declined somewhat in stature since the 1960s). It held the number-one spot in the polls on numerous occasions. In 1977, led by All-American center Bill Cartwright, the Dons went 29–0 and were regarded as the #1 team in the nation in both major polls before dropping their last two games.


The Dons' prominence in the 1970s came at a price, however. The NCAA placed the Dons on probation two times in the late 1970s. Head coach Bob Gaillard was fired after the first, and an in-house inquiry after the second resulted in the firing of his successor, Dan Belluomini. It was also well known that basketball players got special treatment; many of them were marginal students at best, and at least one instance where a player threatened another student was swept under the rug by school officials.[12] It was also common for "tutors" to take tests and write papers for players.[13]

The situation came to a head in December 1981, when All-American guard Quintin Dailey assaulted a female student. During the subsequent investigation, Dailey admitted taking a no-show job at a business owned by a prominent non-sports USF donor. The donor had also paid Dailey $5,000 since 1980. Combined with other revelations, school president Rev. John Lo Schiavo announced on July 29, 1982, that he was suspending the basketball program—the first time a school had shut down a major sport under such circumstances. The move was applauded by several members of the coaching fraternity,[12] as the Dailey matter revealed a program that was, in the words of San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Glenn Dickey, "totally out of control."[13]

LoSchiavo resurrected the program in 1985 under former star Jim Brovelli, who quickly returned the program to respectability. He was not able to reach postseason play, however, and resigned in 1995. The program has only reached the postseason twice since its revival—an NCAA berth in 1998 under Phil Mathews and a 2005 NIT berth under former coach Jessie Evans.

The program regressed the next few years, and Jessie Evans was granted a request for a 'leave of absence' on December 27, 2007. Basketball coach Eddie Sutton took over on an interim basis, needing two wins for a personal milestone of 800 career coaching victories. At the time, Bob Knight was the only other Division I men's coach to have accomplished the feat. After months of speculation, Evans was finally officially fired by USF on March 20, 2008, and a national coaching search was launched, including the use of an executive search consultant company, DHR International.

Rex Walters was named as the Dons' head coach on April 14, 2008. On March 9, 2016, after eight seasons during which the Dons were unable to do more than break even (127-127), athletic director Scott Sidwell fired Walters.[14]

On March 30, 2016, Kyle Smith was named as the new head coach. Prior to joining USF, Smith had spent the prior six years as head coach of the Columbia University basketball team. For nine years prior to that, he was assistant coach at Saint Mary's College of California, which went to the Sweet 16 in his final year.[15]

Women's basketball[edit]

Women's basketball also experienced recent successes, including appearances in the NCAA women's tournament in 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2016 and a WNIT berth in 2002. The 1996 season represented their best ever, as the women's team made it into the tournament's Sweet Sixteen. The team is presently coached by Molly Goodenbour.[16]


San Francisco Dons basketball
Men's NCAA Championships (2)
NIT Championships (1)
Men's Conference Titles (17)
* WCC Tournament title
Men's NCAA Tournament

*Final Four appearance
Women's Conference Titles (4)
Women's NCAA Tournament
*Sweet Sixteen appearance
1949 San Francisco Dons men's basketball
NIT Champions
Head coach
1954–55 & 1955–56 San Francisco Dons men's basketball
NCAA Champions
Head coach


Compared to local rivals Santa Clara and Saint Mary's, USF's football teams were historically not as strong. However, the Dons entered college football lore by going undefeated in 1951 and producing three NFL hall of famers (Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, and Bob St. Clair). However, they did not receive a bowl invitation, as the team turned down any suggestions that they leave their two black teammates at home at the expense of a much-needed bowl bid. Due to the associated financial burden on the school that a bowl bid would have alleviated, USF's finest football team ever was its last at the major college level (now Division I FBS). Though football made a brief comeback as a Division II sport during the 1960s and 1970s, USF has not fielded a varsity team since.

Kuharich, at times, would delegate recruiting responsibilities to his freshman coach, Brad Lynn, who had little to offer prospective players in the way of scholarship inducements beyond tuition and room and board in an old ROTC barracks. However, Lynn would take recruits to the highest hill on campus, and would gesture out towards the sweeping panorama of San Francisco saying, "THIS is your campus." Only a handful of players from that 1951 team had been considered blue-ribbon prospects in high school. Two of the team's best players, Toler and guard Louis (Red) Stephens, had not even played high school football. Future Hall of Famer Marchetti was a high school dropout who had played only sparingly when he was in school.

The 1951 Dons were honored during the Fiesta Bowl in January 2008.

1951 San Francisco Dons football
9-0-0 (Final AP Poll ranking: 14)
Head coach
Assistant coaches
Brad Lynn, Ryan, Kerr, Daly, Zanazzi
Arenivar • Arnoldy • Becker • Boggan • Brown • Bruna • Carley

Chess • Colombini • Conte • Cronan • Dando • Dawson • DeBernardi
Dwyer • Giorgi • Henneberry • Hillig • Holm • Huxley • Kearney
Madden • MarchettiMatson • McLaughlin • McMahon • Mergen • Montero
Monti • Moriarity • Peacock • Retzloff • Roland • Sachs • Sakowski
Scudero • Schaeffer • Skalla • Slajchert • Springer • St. Clair • Stephens
Thiel • Thomas • Toler • Tringali • Weibel • Welsh • Whitney • Wilwerding

Sports information officer

Men's golf[edit]

The men's golf team has won 11 West Coast Conference championships: 1970–71, 1981–84, 1986, 1988, 1990, 2009, 2011.[17]

Men's soccer[edit]

Men's soccer is USF's most successful program, earning five national titles, including a co-championship with Penn State in 1949. The program's successes came under alumnus Stephen Negoesco, who coached from 1962 to 2000 and led the team to 540 wins and four national championships (1966, 1975, 1976, 1980). Under Negoesco's successor, alumnus Erik Visser, the men's team earned the 2004, 2005 and 2008 WCC titles.

Alejandro Toledo, the former president of Peru, played for USF on a partial scholarship.

San Francisco Dons soccer
Men's NCAA Championships (4)
1966 • 1975 • 1976 • 1980
Men's Conference Titles (32)
1948 • 1949 • 1950 • 1951 • 1952 • 1953 • 1954
1955 • 1956 • 1957 • 1958 • 1963 • 1965 • 1966

1971 • 1973 • 1974 • 1975 • 1976 • 1978 • 1980

1981 • 1982 • 1984 • 1987 • 1988 • 1991 • 1993

1994 • 2004 • 2005 • 2008

Women's cross country[edit]

Maor Tiyouri

The Women's cross country team won four consecutive WCC championships in 2009–2012, and in 2011 made an NCAA Championship appearance. They maintained national rankings in both 2011–2012. Israeli Olympian Maor Tiyouri, who went on to run the marathon in the 2016 and 2020 Olympics, competed for the team.[18]

Men's tennis[edit]

The men's tennis team, led by Harry Likas, Harry Roche and Arthur Larsen, won the 1949 NCAA Men's Tennis Championship. Likas also won the 1948 individual men's title.

USF announced it would drop men's and women's tennis at the end of the 2023–24 school year.

San Francisco Dons tennis
Men's NCAA Team Titles (1)
Men's NCAA Individual Titles (1)

Women's volleyball[edit]

The women's volleyball team has made two NCAA tournament appearances: in 2003, under former coach Jeff Nelson, and in 2008 under current coach Gilad Doron. The 2008 season saw the Dons finish with a Top 25 national ranking, a 22–8 record, and five all-WCC players.

San Francisco Dons volleyball
Women's NCAA
Tournament appearances

Club teams[edit]

USF participates in the following club sports: golf, fencing, boxing, rifle, tennis, karate, soccer and lacrosse. Rugby, which was one of the first varsity sports in school history, is currently a club sport. Football is played on the intramural level.

In 2013, USF hosted the inaugural championships of the United States Intercollegiate Boxing Association, the first national collegiate tournament in the US to include women's boxing.[19]


  1. ^ a b USF will drop men's and women's tennis at the end of the 2023–24 school year.[4]


  1. ^ "Graphics Resources | University of San Francisco Marketing Communications". Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  2. ^ "Dons Represented in Rio - University of San Francisco". University of San Francisco.
  3. ^ "Summer Olympics Bio - Maor Tiyouri". ESPN.
  4. ^ "San Francisco Athletics to Discontinue Men's and Women's Division I Tennis Programs" (Press release). San Francisco Dons. April 5, 2024. Retrieved April 19, 2024.
  5. ^ a b "Aaron Poreda Baseball Statistics (2005–2014)". The Baseball Cube. Archived from the original on April 19, 2014. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  6. ^ ""Quality Starting Pitching Leads Team,", January 31, 2006, accessed August 19, 2009". Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved March 26, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c "University of San Francisco Athletics – Aaron Poreda – 2006–07 Baseball". October 1, 1986. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  8. ^ "Aaron Poreda". Jewish Baseball News. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  9. ^ "Draft: Aaron Poreda, lhp, White Sox". June 7, 2007. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  10. ^ Flores, Jessica (March 13, 2022). "USF baseball coach fired after ex-players' lawsuit alleges 'intolerable sexualized environment'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  11. ^ "Knights' DiToma Moves On, Roman Named Head Coach". FDU Knights Athletics. Retrieved May 11, 2023.
  12. ^ a b Boyle, Robert; and Roger Jackson.Bringing Down the Curtain Archived January 2, 2013, at Sports Illustrated, August 9, 1982.
  13. ^ a b Dickey, Glenn. Winning the Right Way Delights USF Chancellor. San Francisco Chronicle, March 11, 1998.
  14. ^ "Rex Walters out as USF basketball coach".
  15. ^ "USF hires Columbia's Kyle Smith as head basketball coach".
  16. ^ "Molly Goodenbour named USF women's basketball coach". Retrieved September 29, 2016.
  17. ^ "West Coast Conference Golf" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 1, 2014. Retrieved June 21, 2013.
  18. ^ "Summer Olympics Bio - Maor Tiyouri". ESPN.
  19. ^ "Unknown". Retrieved July 17, 2020.[dead link] website. Retrieved 2019-08-24.

Further reading[edit]

  • Alan Ziajka, Ph.D. (2005) Legacy & Promise: 150 Years of Jesuit Education at the University of San Francisco. San Francisco: USF Office of Publications
  • University of San Francisco (2005) Legends of the Hilltop
  • Beano Cook (2005) "Ten Days that Shook the Sport (from:The College Football Encyclopedia)." Copyright ESPN Books
  • Kristine Setting Clark (2002) Undefeated, Untied, and Uninvited: A Documentary of the 1951 University of San Francisco Dons Football Team. Irvine, CA: Griffin Publishing Group
  • John D. Lukacs (2003) "Waiting for the perfect ending." USA Today, Sports, June 24, 2003.
  • Steve Kroner (2006) "USF, Cal in Benedetti Classic at Giants' park." San Francisco Chronicle, Sports, April 24, 2006, pg. D7
  • USFdons Baseball

External links[edit]