San Francisco Dons

San Francisco Dons
University University of San Francisco
Conference West Coast Conference
NCAA Division I
Athletic director Scott Sidwell
Location San Francisco, California
Varsity teams 14
Basketball arena War Memorial Gymnasium
Baseball stadium Dante Benedetti Diamond at Max Ulrich Field
Soccer stadium Negoesco Stadium
Mascot The Don
Nickname Dons
Fight song "Victory Song"
Colors Green and Gold[1]

The San Francisco Dons is the nickname of the athletic teams at the University of San Francisco (USF).[2] 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.[3]


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, soccer player John Cox and synchronized swimmer Mariya Koroleva.[4]

Varsity teams

The University of San Francisco sponsors teams in eight men's and nine women's NCAA sanctioned sports:[5]


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.

Former USF pitcher, Aaron Poreda

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.[7][8][9] In 2006 he posted a WCC-best 2.49 ERA.[7][9] In the NCAA regional he pitched the team to a 5–1 victory over No. 6 national seed Nebraska.[9] 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.[10][11]

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.

San Francisco Dons baseball
Conference Titles (2) 2006, 2011
NCAA postseason
2006, 2011

Dante Benedetti Diamond at Max Ulrich Field

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.

Dante Benedetti Classic

Since 2006, USF has played one game a season at the San Francisco Giants' Stadium, AT&T Park. The proceeds of the game go to the Dante Benedetti Foundation, a charity that helps under-privileged youth in San Francisco play and learn the game of baseball.

Drafted players

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
Giannini, JoeJoe Giannini 1908–1911 July 8, 1911
Fieber, ClarenceClarence Fieber 1932–1932 May 18, 1932
Sulik, ErnieErnie Sulik 1929–1955 April 15, 1936
Caulfield, JakeJake Caulfield 1937–1940 April 24, 1946
Sheridan, NeillNeill Sheridan 1940–1944 September 19, 1948
Dempsey, ConCon Dempsey 1942–1944 April 28, 1951
Schramka, PaulPaul Schramka 1947–1950 April 14, 1953
Johnson, StanStan Johnson 1956–1960 August 18, 1960
Pointer, AaronAaron Pointer 1960–1961 September 22, 1963
Buskey, MikeMike Buskey 1968–1971 February 9, 1977
Speier, JustinJustin Speier 1992–1993 May 27, 1998
Clark, JermaineJermaine Clark 1995–1997 March 4, 2001
Nelson, JoeJoe Nelson 1993–1996 June 13, 2001
Foppert, JesseJesse Foppert 1999–2001 April 14, 2003
Harris, JeffJeff Harris 1995–1995 February 8, 2005
Poreda, AaronAaron Poreda 2005–2007 December 6, 2009
Cousins, ScottScott Cousins 2004–2006 February 9, 2010

Men's basketball

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.

Women's basketball

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.[14]


San Francisco Dons basketball
Men's NCAA Championships (2) 1955 • 1956
NIT Championships (1) 1949
Men's Conference Titles (17)
* WCC Tournament title
1955  1956  1957  1958  1963  1964  1965
1972  1973  1974  1977  1978  1979  1980
1981  1982  1998*
Men's NCAA Tournament

*Final Four appearance
1955*  1956*  1957*  1963  1964  1965  1972
1973  1974  1977  1978  1979  1981  1982
Women's Conference Titles (3) 1995  1996  1997
Women's NCAA Tournament
*Sweet Sixteen appearance
1995  1996*  1997
1949 San Francisco Dons men's basketball
NIT Champions
Record 25-5
Head coach Newell
Players Lofgran • Bennington • Kuzara • Herrerias • McNamee
Giesen • Guidice • Sobek • Hanley • de Julio
1954–55 & 1955–56 San Francisco Dons men's basketball
NCAA Champions
Record 28-1 (1954–55)
29-0 (1955–56)
Head coach Woolpert
Players Russell • Brown • Boldt • Baxter • Farmer
Perry • Jones • Mullen • Buchanan • Wiesbusch • Bush


Compared to local rivals Santa Clara and Saint Mary's, USF's football teams were historically not as strong. However, the 1951 Dons entered college football lore by fielding a team that would go undefeated and produce three NFL hall of famers (Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, and Bob St. Clair). However, they did not receive any bowl invitations, 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 to be its last in Division I. 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. Lynn 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 2008 Fiesta Bowl.

1951 San Francisco Dons football
Record 9-0-0 (Final AP Poll ranking: 14)
Head coach Kuharich
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 Rozelle

Men's golf

The men's golf team has won 11 West Coast Conference championships: 1970–71, 1981–84, 1986, 1988, 1990, 2009, 2011.[15]

Men's soccer

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

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 competed for the team.

Men's tennis

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.

San Francisco Dons tennis
Men's NCAA Team Titles (1) 1949
Men's NCAA Individual Titles (1) 1948 (Harry Likas)

Women's volleyball

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
2003 • 2008

Club teams

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


  1. "University of San Francisco Graphic Standards Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  2. "University of San Francisco (USF)". Retrieved August 14, 2014.
  3. "The West Coast Conference Official Athletic Site". Retrieved August 14, 2014.
  4. "NCAA DII, DIII membership approves Sand Volleyball as 90th championship". NCAA. January 17, 2015. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  5. 1 2 "Aaron Poreda Baseball Statistics (2005–2014)". The Baseball Cube. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  6. ""Quality Starting Pitching Leads Team," '''', January 31, 2006, accessed August 19, 2009". Retrieved March 26, 2010.
  7. 1 2 3 "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. 1 2 Boyle, Robert; and Roger Jackson.Bringing Down the Curtain. Sports Illustrated, August 9, 1982.
  11. 1 2 Dickey, Glenn. Winning the Right Way Delights USF Chancellor. San Francisco Chronicle, March 11, 1998.
  12. "Molly Goodenbour named USF women's basketball coach". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  13. "West Coast Conference Golf" (PDF). Retrieved June 21, 2013.

Further reading

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