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In 1951, the University of San Francisco football team was living out a Cinderella season the school had never seen in its history.

This small all-male school’s success was as unlikely as it was unexpected. Finishing the regular season undefeated, the team was poised to make a run at the national championship.

But despite its success on the field, the football team struggled to cover its mounting expenses. Keeping up with teams from bigger schools wasn’t cheap — USF’s football team had tallied a $70,000 deficit that year alone. USF’s ability to save not just its season, but the team’s future, hinged on the type of financial windfall that only a bowl game provides.

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