Santa Clara of the Midwest

The Vice President tells of his Bronco ties in his Laetare Address.
Santa Clara of the Midwest
View full image. Photo by Matt Cashore / University of Notre Dame
The Vice President tells of his Bronco ties in his Laetare Address.

When Vice President Joseph Biden spoke to graduates at the University of Notre Dame this spring, he recalled that his grandfather, Ambrose Finnegan, played football for Santa Clara at the turn of the century before heading back east. And he always resented Notre Dame.

Why? “Because Santa Clara had a football team, particularly in the teens and ’20s and ’30s, referred to as the Notre Dame of the west,” Biden explained. His grandfather thought that was a little backward. Speaking of Notre Dame, Finnegan said, “‘Hell, they’re the Santa Clara of the Midwest.’”

In his year studying in the commercial course in 1901–02, archivist Sheila Conway recounts, “Ambrose Finnegan won a Distinguished Premium for the 3rd Class Bookkeeping, and a Premium for 3rd Class for the Best Kept Set of Books.”

The Santa Clara Football Team, circa 1900. Photo courtesy SCU Archives and Special Collections

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