Sugar Squared

The Broncos won back-to-back Sugar Bowl titles in 1937 and 1938. For his exploits, Al Wolff ’40 was named All-American two years in a row.

The Broncos won back-to-back Sugar Bowl titles in 1937 and 1938. For his exploits, Al Wolff ’40 was named All-American two years in a row. He was offered a pro contract with the Chicago Cardinals. He declined. Mechanical engineering was what had brought him to Santa Clara: “I played football in college to get an education, not to get my brains scrambled!”

William Alvord Wolff was born in San Francisco in 1917, second of six children. As a boy he sold newspapers on street corners of San Francisco. He and his brother called it a good evening if they brought home $1 on papers sold at a profit of 1 cent apiece.

He played football his senior year of high school and was offered scholarships to Stanford and Cal. Over them he chose Santa Clara—which covered tuition, room and board, and books.

He and the Broncos finished 1936 undefeated and got a Sugar Bowl bid that pitted the smaller but quicker Bronco underdogs against powerhouse Louisiana State. But by halftime at Tulane Stadium on a drizzling New Year’s Day, they were up 14–7—sporting uniforms and boots caked with mud. Coach Buck Shaw phoned sister Jesuit school Loyola New Orleans for help.

“When we got to the dressing room,” Wolff told writer Chuck Hildebrand, “there were dozens of shoes sent over by Loyola, just scattered around the floor. The coaches said, ‘Find a pair that fits and put ’em on.’ Then we changed into our practice uniforms for the second half, and we were ready to play again.” They won 21–7.

The Broncos finished 1937 with a perfect season and came back for more Sugar: an LSU rematch, with the Tigers favored 2–1. But Wolff said the Broncos knew “we were the better team.” They won 6–0.

Wolff served as a coach for Santa Clara, helped found the Bronco Bench Foundation, and served on SCU’s Board of Regents. He worked for U.S. Steel and then Food Machinery Corporation of San Jose, where he spent the rest of his corporate life, climbing to senior vice president of FMC Technologies.

He passed away in his sleep on Sept. 6, 2014, in Santa Barbara, California, with his family at his side. His siblings predeceased him, as did his first wife of 49 years, Marcella Jensen Wolff, and his second wife of 18 years, Connie Duckworth Wolff. Those he leaves behind include children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and stories.

post-image In its second Sugar Bowl, SCU kept the Tigers from scoring on a first-and-goal at the 4. On the third down play, Wolff made a one-on-one stop. View full image. Photography courtesy of SCU archives.
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