Know Your Syracuse Football Foe: Villanova Wildcats

Drew Hallowell

Since I don't have school anymore I actually have time to make these. I'm going to try and make as many as I can BEFORE the season starts so I don't feel rushed. So let's start with our opening game against a foe who is familiar to us on the hardwood, but not the gridiron. The Villanova Wildcats.




Most Catholic schools around the world were founded as Jesuit schools. But if you think Nova is Jesuit, you'd be wrong. It was founded in 1841 by two Augustinian monks from Philly who bought a parcel of land to start a school. They called it, well, the Augustinian College of Villanova. It graduated its first class in 1847 and had several setbacks such as the 1844 Philadelphia riots that hit St. Augustine Church hard and again in 1857 due to economic crisis and lack of a demand for new priests. It remained closed until the end of the Civil War. In 1883, construction began on Villanova's most prominent building: the Saint Thomas of Villanova Church.

The school was all male until 1918, when it began admitting nuns (the first laywoman did not receive a degree until 1938 and did not become completely coed until 1968). Around this time, it established a pre-med program in order to help feed local hospitals. This expanded into biology and even greater sciences. As will most colleges, enrollment after World War II swelled. It worked to become nationally recognized after this point and established many new departments such as law, nursing, international studies, and more.



Villanova is officially located in the community of "Villanova, Pennsylvania, but in actuality it was founded in Radnor Township. It was founded in 1682 as a land grant from William Penn and the Welsh Quakers settled there, building the Radnor Friends Meetinghouse. It was named after Radnorshire in Wales by the settlers, who were mainly Welsh. The Welsh left in the late 18th century and new people moved in. George Washington sheltered his men here during his Valley Forge-Delaware crossing-Morristown adventures. The oldest toll road in the US, the Lancaster Pike, passes through here, as does the Pennsylvania Railroad former main line.




Villanova is divided into five schools: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Nursing, and the School of Law.

Villanova is ranked first by US News in a list of northeast schools with limited PHD options, and the engineering school is ranked 9th in the same list nationally. The business school is ranked 69th nationally by US News and 24th nationally by BusinessWeek.

Villanova is a small school with only 6,394 undergrads and 3,200 graduates. The school is the fourth most selective Catholic school in the country behind Boston College, Notre Lame, and a school somewhere in the nation's capital that only allows in children of sibling couples who went to that school in order to "keep the blood-line pure."

(Ironically, I think a plurality of my high school went to Nova)

Notable Alumni





Joe Biden may be one of ours, but his wife is one of theirs. Jill Biden went to Nova. The only other current politician who went there is Kelly Ayoette, a senator from New Hampshire. The former archbishop of New York (Cardinal O'Connor) went to Nova. In stuff that actually matters though, the guy who discovered Neptune's rings went to Nova. His name is Edward Guinan. On the business side, a former Chase CEO went there. And then we come to the arts. Big names include Don McLean, Toby Keith, and Tim Hauser, who founded a doo-wop band called "Manhattan Transfer." As for our babelicious babes, it's ladies night! We have Maria Bello, a Golden Globe nominee who happens to be LGBTQ, and some guy named Bradley Cooper (note: I'm going to try and mix the genders of "babelicious babes" because I don't want the women reading these to feel like I'm only catering to guys, something I would never do; I want EVERYONE to read these).



Villanova's nickname is the Wildcats. The name was picked in 1926 by Edward Hussinger, a former defensive end for Notre Lame and Villanova's assistant coach at the time. According to Nova's website, the "Wildcat" refers to not a specific kind of cat, but a variety of wild felines, particularly the lynx and bobcat, but not big cats. Ironically, they're on the wrong corner of the US to find bobcats.

There are a total of 32 schools in the US to use the Wildcat mascot. Since Villanova doesn't compete in FBS, I'm going to list all D1 schools together. So of these schools, 10 D1 schools use the mascot:

  • Abeline Christian
  • Arizona
  • Bethune Cookman
  • Davidson
  • Kansas State
  • Kentucky
  • New Hampshire
  • Northwestern
  • Weber State
  • And, of course, Villanova

Other schools with the mascot include Baker, Bay Path, Bethel, Chico State, Cazenovia, Central Washington, Culver-Stockton, Daemen, Fort Valley State, Indiana Wesleyan, Littlefield, Louisiana, Northern Michigan, Randolph, St. Catherine's, SUNY IT, Wayne State, Western Nevada, Wheelock, Wilmington, and Wiley.


Villanova used a live mascot for football games named Count Villan until 1950, when they realized cold weather doesn't suit bobcats well. Today they use Will D. Cat, a costumed mascot.

Until Villanova became coed, the women's teams were called the "Wildkittens." In the 1970s and 1980s, individual teams added "-cats" to the end of their names (ie Trackcats. I still think Laxcat sounds cool).

Nova's official colors are navy and white, and light blue is used as an accent color (by rule, it can't make up more than 10% of a uniform).

Searching for Nova logos was hard; I only found two: one from 1996-2004 which used a cartoon wildcat superimposed on a red "V," The current V logo was established in 2004 (surprisingly late).


Nova's helmet history is pretty lackluster, mostly using navy or silver helmets (NOT AN ACCENT COLOR!). Two of my favorites are from 1974 with a cat inside a V, and an orange V on a navy background in use from 1998 to 2002.

Villanova's fight song is called "V for Villanova" and it goes like-a-this-a:

"V" for Villanova, "V" for Victory
"B" for Blue and "W" for White
For the Blue and the White we will fight!
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Fight for Villanova, Fight for Victory

1. For we're out to win the frey;
Villanova leads the way,
With a capital "V" for Victory.

2. For we're out to beat the foe
Show the en-e-my we know
how to win with a "V" for Victory.

"V" for Vic-tor-y
It's a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye,
and a "V" for a

A funny tradition is that Nova basketball enters the Pavilion through the student section.


Villanova was a founder of the Eastern 8 Conference in 1976 (which went on to become the Atlantic 10), but their membership there didn't last long. In 1980 they left this conference in all sports except football for the one-year old Big East conference to bring that conference up to 8 members (Contrary to what Ken says, Nova is NOT a founding Big East member). They remain there to this day, although their football program remained in the A-10/Yankee Conference until it effectively turned into the Colonial Athletic Conference.


Nova has played football since 1894 and competed as an independent for many years, making five bowl games: they tied Auburn in the 1936 Bacardi Bowl (yes, sponsorships did exist back then), lost to Kentucky in the 1947 Great Lakes Bowl, beat Nevada in the 1948 Harbor Bowl, beat Wichita State in the 1961 Sun Bowl, and lost to Oregon State in the 1962 Liberty Bowl. Since 1924 it has played in the tiny Villanova Stadium.

The football program briefly disbanded in 1981 due to low attendance but was brought back as a D3 program in 1985. They moved back to the FCS in 1987. The second incarnation of Villanova football has been coached by Andy Talley since its inception. They made the playoffs every so often and even won a I-AA national championship in 2009 over Montana. Most of their I-AA playoff losses were to the team that would eventually win the title. There was talk about making Villanova football an FBS program but the board of trustees decided it would be too costly, especially because of Title IX and facility costs.

Notable Nova alumni in football include legendary defensive end Howie Long. In recent years John Robertson won the Jerry Rice Award and Brian Westbrook won the Walter Payton Award.


Villanova's basketball program is renowned far and wide, having been founded in 1920. They have made a whopping 34 NCAA tournaments, including every tournament in the 1980s except one. They have made 16 Sweet 16s, 12 Elite 8s, the Final Four four times, including the first Final Four in 1939, 1971, 1985 (title winners), and 2009. They won the title in 1985 as an 8 seed, the lowest seed to do so to this date, over a heavily favored - and evil - Georgetown team (guess who was the only other team to beat G*****town that year?). Ed Pinckney was the star of that team....and the game was played on April Fool's Day. This was also the first national championship of the modern era.




Under legendary coach Rollie Massimino, the Cats went 20-10 in the NCAA tournament and competed with basketball royalty in the Golden Age of Big East Basketball. Under Massimino, they won the regular season conference 5 times (3 times in the A10, twice with the Big East) and won the Big East tournament three more times after his tenure. Massimino won two A10 toruneys, and the Cats won one BET after he left.

But they've had other successful coaches besides Rollie. Al Severance who coached from 1936-1961 made Nova a national power and Jack Kraft did so for the next 12 years (Kraft has to this day the best record).

Notable alumni include Howard Porter, Ed Pinckney, Kerry Kittles (one of my brother's favorites), Randy Foye, and 7-year-redshirter Scottie Reynolds. The current coach is, of course, Jay Wright.

Nova plays most of its home games in "The Pavilion" on campus. High profile games are played in whatever the Sixers play in these days.

Villanova has a lacrosse team which was founded in 1981. They've competed in the Colonial until the Big East began play. They've been on the rise in recent years having made two NCAA tournaments in the last five years, with many feeling they've been snubbed this past year.


It depends on the sport. Ask Nova fans who they hate most, and most will cite the Holy War against crosstown rival St. Joe's, which is the most prominent of the "Philadelphia Big 5" mini-conference in basketball. There have been some memorable games, including a matchup in the 1971 NCAA tournament at the Palestra, won by Nova. The series is pretty lopsided with Nova being 46-25 having been played most years since 1921.

In football, their biggest rivalry is probably Delaware, with the two being the best CAA schools. Nova leads the series 24-21-1.


For once, we start the year with a team from not the B1G! We should win this, but FCS teams have beaten FBS teams before....good FBS teams at that. Nonetheless, Terrell Hunt knows what he has to do and he's surrounded by PTG, Brisley Estime, Ashton, Sean, and all the rest. We will win this game. GO ORANGE!