Posted: Oct 26, 2012
In college athletics 43 years can feel like centuries. Coaches and administrators come and go. Players flow on and off the roster in four-year waves. Somehow, two schools located over 3,000 miles apart have found a way to bridge the gap.
In 1969, the Sacramento State football team dedicated the season to Holy Cross after its year was cut short due to a hepatitis A breakout. Now it's the Crusaders who will pay tribute by wearing's number 43 on the back of their helmets in honor of Sacramento State defensive end and co-captain who passed away on Oct. 21.
What connected the Hornets and Holy Cross in 1969 is not known. The Crusaders played just two games that season before 90 of the 97 players and coaches on the team contracted hepatitis A.
A contaminated drinking fountain during the second day of training camp caused the illness. However, the effects did not begin to show until a month later. During the second game of the season, eight Holy Cross players were unable to travel with the team and several more fell sick during a loss to Dartmouth.
The Crusaders returned and were tested for hepatitis. After nearly all had positive results, the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the season and quarantine the team.
National media picked up the story with articles in the The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. Eventually, the story travelled to the West Coast where Sacramento State decided to dedicate its season to Holy Cross.
That season the Hornets finished 8-2 and were 5-1 in the Far Western Conference. For the final game of the year, Sacramento State donned Holy Cross jerseys and invited co-captains Tom Lamb and Bill Mocevicz to attend the contest against Puget Sound.
Following a Hornet victory, Moncevicz had a game ball signed by each member of the team with an inscription that read: Holy Cross 49, Puget Sound 24.
"The guys from Sacramento State were wonderful," Moncevicz told Holy Cross Magazine in a 2004 interview. "We felt they were a part of the team. That game was our gift from the California boys."
Holy Cross honored Sacramento State receiver Mike Carter following the 1969 season by presenting him with an honorary O'Melia Award which was given to the Most Valuable Player in the Holy Cross-Boston College game until the series ended in 1986.
As news broke this week regarding the passing of Bloomfield, memorial posts began appearing on various Football Championship Subdivision chat sites. One Holy Cross supporter mentioned that it would be a fitting tribute to repay the favor and the University quickly agreed.
In a strange coincidence, Holy Cross will wear John's 43 inside a green circle, 43 years after Sacramento State made the first gesture of kindness.