It’s hard to do anything for 100 years. Companies like Pan Am that once dominated their industry have fallen without even getting close to 100. This year, Wildcat football has found itself in its 100th season.
This is an anniversary worth celebrating as ACU joins a growing list of college football programs that have competed in 100 seasons. With this many seasons, the Wildcats have a very rich history full of key moments.
Now that the Wildcats centennial season is here, it’s important to look at some of the key points in Wildcat football history.
First, a quick note: Although ACU began to play in 1919, the Wildcats didn’t field a team for three seasons during World War II. This results in 2021 being the Wildcats’ 100th season.
The first major wave in ACU football history was the Wildcats 1973 NAIA National championship. After an 11-1 regular season with one loss to season opener Arkansas State, the Wildcats faced off against the then Elon University Fighting Christians in the Championship bowl.
They would win the national championship game 42-14, this would be the Wildcat’s first national championship. This would spark the future of Wildcats football and be a highlight of longtime coach Wally Bullington’s career.
The Wildcats would win another NAIA national championship in 1977 versus Southwestern Oklahoma State. But first, the Wildcats would have to break history in 1976.
To set the scene: It’s October 16, 1976. The Wildcats are playing conference rival East Texas State, the now Texas A&M Commerce Lions in a homecoming matchup. The Wildcats’ Swedish-born kicker and former soccer player Ove Johansson comes out to attempt a world-record 69-yard field goal.
Johansson hit the field goal while making it look almost effortless in the process. Johansson would go on to be drafted in the twelfth round of the 1977 NFL draft by the Houston Oilers, though he would only play in 2 games for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the fall of 1982, the Wildcats would make the move to NCAA Div. II, for several seasons following the Wildcats would struggle to find footing in their new home.
But in 1996 the great teams of the 1970s found themselves at the forefront again. Wildcat great Wilbert Montgomery would be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
This would be a fitting honor as Montgomery was an All-American and national champion for the Wildcats. Montgomery would be drafted in the sixth round of the 1977 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He would go on to play nine seasons in the NFL being selected twice for the pro bowl and would play in Super Bowl XV.
The early 2000s would be a return to glory for the Wildcats, having multiple winning seasons and Div. II playoff runs. But ACU would find itself in the spotlight again on Nov. 22, 2008, in a matchup versus rival West Texas A&M.
The Wildcats won the game 93-68, accompanied by a record seven touchdowns from running back Bernard Scott. This game broke six NCAA Div. II playoff records and stands out as a fixture of the Wildcats high scoring offenses in their late days in Div. II.
On Aug. 25, 2012, the biggest moment in ACU sports history happened as the university announced its move to NCAA Div. I. While the adjustment has been hard for the team, this move sparked the greatest advancement in university history.
Sept. 16, 2017, would be another historical mark in the Wildcat’s early Div. I life. On this day the Wildcats would play their first game at Wildcat Stadium beating Houston Baptist 24-3.
The stadium which sits 12,000 people would be a landmark for ACU athletics and grow a connection between the student population and team. Though the record may not show it now, the future for Wildcat football is bright, and maybe 100 years from now people will look back on these days.