Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Hoyas Still Searching for Home-Field Advantage

Courtesy University Archives When men’s basketball came to campus in 1915, the Hilltoppers first called Ryan Gymnasium home. Ryan was their court until 1927 when the facility became too small.

Every year construction workers and student rumors create a buzz on campus about new structures being built and facilities that should be torn down.

In recent years, the Georgetown community has watched as abandoned buildings begin to turn into performing arts centers, quadrangles rise out of huge holes in the earth and renovations clean up even its dirtiest dorms.

Its athletic facilities have proved especially transitional, with new buildings constructed over the last century and other facilities disappearing off the Georgetown campus map.

Hoya File Photo When MCI Center opened in 1997, the Hoyas again moved and continue to play at MCI today.

The story of basketball on – and off – the Georgetown campus begins with the hiring of Maurice Joyce, who became the university’s director of physical education in 1906. From that position he also oversaw the school’s newest athletic facility, the Ryan Gymnasium, and the tryouts for the school’s first basketball team.

Until it began playing home games on campus in 1915, the team played at a variety of sites downtown and only practiced at Ryan Gymnasium. From 1915-1927, however, the Georgetown squad was able to take advantage of playing on its home court, a privilege foreign to the current basketball program.

During a five-year period in the early 20s, Georgetown accumulated a 52-0 record at its home gym.

The eventual problem with Ryan Gymnasium sounds eerily familiar to its successor’s fate. Despite the cost benefits that came with playing at home, the gym was simply too small to host the growing number of fans. The balcony was standing room only, and ticket sales could not grow if there were no seats. The team needed a larger gymnasium.

Courtesy University Archives In the 1920s Copley Lawn served as a football and baseball field, as well as a track, and the grandstand could accomodate thousands of fans.

The GU squad – then known as the Hilltoppers – was forced to play its home games downtown for the next 24 years. “Home games” were played at Arcadia Arena, Catholic University, American University, McKinley Tech High School, Uline Arena, Riverside Stadium and the National Guard Armory.

It was in 1927 that Athletic Director (and former standout running back) Lou Little suggested the construction of a comprehensive athletic facility not unlike the multi-sport facility envisioned today. Little actually proposed two facilities: a 25,000-seat football stadium where Lot T currently stands and a 7,500-seat gymnasium at 37th and N Streets. The Great Depression and Little’s move to Columbia University prevented this proposal from happening.

Hoya File Photo In the early 1990s the basball field stood where Lot T is today, and the football field and track were located on top of Yates Field House.

It was not until 1951 that McDonough Gymnasium was constructed. Ryan was then turned into offices for Riggs National Bank until its most recent conversion to a performing arts center – seven decades after it playing host to its last intercollegiate game.

But as with Ryan, McDonough, too, became obsolete for NCAA men’s basketball. Its 3,000 seats do not meet capacity regulations set by the Big East and the men’s basketball team found itself again downtown, this time at MCI Center when it opened in 1997.

The football team, while not as vagrant as the basketball program, has also seen its share of travels around the District, beginning with the infamous Blue and Gray tour version of the story: the team taking to Copley Field and the fans cheering “Hoya Saxa” from the stone walls.

The team actually did not play for long on what was then referred to as “Varsity Field.” Instead, Little moved the team downtown to play games at Griffith Stadium, which held as many as 35,000 fans. With that many seats and fewer than 6,200 fans, however, cost again became an issue. By 1950 the team was in the red by about $100,000 and, on March 22, 1951, the program was dropped.

By 1964, however, the campus was itching to have the gridiron back on campus. An exhibition game against NYU saw 8,000 fans turn out, and the football team returned to Georgetown, this time taking Kehoe Field as its home site.

Since its move to the Patriot League, the team has left its past on the now-turf Kehoe to take the field on Harbin Field.

While the football and basketball teams have bounced on and off campus, other teams have completely disappeared off the map. The track team no longer has a track, as the makeshift one surrounding Kehoe Field was covered over during the recent resurfacing. The baseball team can only be spotted on campus in a tiny batting cage or on a scoreboard keeping track of no innings in Lot T.

Carcasses of buildings and remnants of the past tell a story about Georgetown athletic facilities that seems to have barely changed at all – a history of undersized buildings, nomadic teams and limitations that come with a city campus.

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