Spartan Football Alums Reunite

1956 Moroccan

The retirees file in, one after another, slowly, but with excitement and happiness in their steps. It’s Saturday afternoon, and they’re preparing to sit down for an enjoyable lunch. To any observer, they look fragile and a picture of innocence. The men, in their 70s and 80s, are gentle in their voice and affectionate in their embraces of friends and loved ones. Few would know that these men are actually members of a gang.

The Rat Hole Gang

The name refers to a group of University of Tampa graduates who made up the football team the university once boasted years ago. The origin of the name is a testament to the close-knit and easy-going relationship the team had. Living in the second floor of Plant Hall while attending school, the team had some uninvited guests.

For tight end Bob Bowen, these guests would be the catalysts to the formation of life-long friendships.

“At night there’d be rats running around the ceiling,” he said. “Sometimes they’d fall down in rooms. We’d find one that had passed away. We’d get together and have a ceremony, a sort of burial.”

And with that the Rat Hole Gang was born. Ever since then, they have met each other every year at an annual banquet in Crystal Park. They would exchange pleasantries and share stories of memorable moments from playing Spartan football.

But as time passed, the gatherings became less and less. With members slowly passing away, the annual gathering seemed to be at an end.

Now, three years after the last gathering, the boys are back again.

Meeting close to the school where football reigned supreme, the gang got reacquainted at Valencia Gardens on Thursday, April 19. For halfback Stanley Moore, the anticipation of seeing everyone was exciting.

“It feels great to see them all,” he said. “There’s not too many of us left.”

Great memories were swapped back and forth between the members who attended. Such memories like the defeat of the University of Miami, 14-7, or when Moore scored the only touchdown against the University of Florida.

Playing during times of the Depression, the game was vastly different than it is now. For one, the team was considerably smaller. Endurance and versatility were required to play.

“The players played 60 minutes,” said Bowen. “Once they finished playing offense, they got right back on defense. There weren’t too many substitutions.”

It was a much tougher game, as well. Athletic protective gear provided little protection. Today’s game has made vast improvements. But back then it was a different story.

“It was more like an old motorcycle helmet. It didn’t have any padding in it,” Bowen said. “As a matter of fact, they didn’t require you to wear a helmet.”

UT’s football team may have disappeared years ago, but for the Rat Hole Gang, those playing days are a big part of their lives.

“It’s something to be proud of since it’s kept us together all these years,” said Moore.

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