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Old Lions Recall the Passing Years : In 1949, three years before football ended for good at Loyola, Coaches Jordan Olivar and Jerry Neri arrived to lead the school to its last gridiron glory with an aerial attack ahead of the times.

September 17, 1989|BARRY MICHAEL

"I was very fortunate to have played under their leadership and in their system," said Klosterman, who went on to serve as general manager of the Baltimore Colts and the Los Angeles Rams after his playing career ended. "We (Loyola) were doing things that no one else was doing at that time. We were the forerunners of the passing game used today."

The Lions' top receiver in 1950 was 6-2 junior Fred Snyder, whose nine touchdown catches ranked him second in the nation in that category and whose 36 total receptions for 596 yards ranked him second on the coast and ninth nationally. Musacco again anchored the running game, rushing for 866 yards, an average of 4.6 yards a carry.

While Loyola may have missed that Orange Bowl game, little more than nine months later, Olivar had his team playing the University of Florida in the Rose Bowl, although not on New Year's Day.

After Gilmore Stadium was leveled in 1950, the Lions, buoyed by that season's success and the underwriting of opponent guarantees by Chevrolet, moved their home football games to the 100,000-seat stadium in Pasadena.

Chevrolet paid the guarantees to the visitors while commercially sponsoring each of the home games for telecast in Southern California on KNBH-TV, Channel 4 (now KNBC-TV). Thus there was no need for fans to drive across town to watch the Lions' exciting offense, and the team played in front of a relative handful of fans. An estimated 6,000 in the Rose Bowl, plus an unknown number of TV viewers, watched Loyola fall to Florida, 40-7.

After a disappointing '51 season that saw the Lions slip to 3-6 with victories over only San Jose State (13-12), Pepperdine (46-7) and Hardin-Simmons (14-13), Loyola dropped the football program.

With Chevrolet's financial backing apparently no longer available, the program was no longer viewed as financially viable. Although the finger of blame was pointed in many directions, it apparently was the Jesuit hierarchy that oversaw the schools that dropped football not only at Loyola but also at the University of San Francisco, whose powerful team went undefeated in '51. Within a few years, Santa Clara's program was dropped as well.

"Although he got blamed by everyone, it was not Father (Loyola President Charles S.) Casassa's decision," Olivar said. "The provincial of the diocese just decided that it was not profitable to play football at Loyola and USF. It was a financial thing. Loyola was fair enough. They gave us a year's pay."

"They (the Loyola administration) were great," Neri remembers.

"All the Jesuit schools throughout the United States (dropped football), except for Boston College. Georgetown gave it up, Detroit gave it up, Marquette gave it up. Santa Clara gave it up a year after Loyola."

Thirty-eight years ago, Olivar and Neri were not ready to give up their coaching careers, and they found no trouble resuming them again after another transcontinental move.

Olivar went to the Ivy League as head coach at Yale the next season. Neri, after a short stint with the Washington Redskins, rejoined his longtime friend and coaching partner at Yale in time for the '52 campaign.

They remained there through the 1962 season, leading Yale to a 61-32-6 record through 11 seasons.

The names of Jordan Olivar and Jerry Neri may not be as familiar to today's fans as Knute Rockne's, for their tenure in college coaching was relatively brief. But their influence on the passing game had a lot do to with shaping the game of football as it is played today.

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