About the Program

About the Program

Football has a long and proud tradition at Pomona College and Pitzer College. Established in 1892 - five years after the founding of Pomona College - the football program has flourished for over a century.

The Sagehens are a founding member of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), and play conference members Redlands, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Occidental, Whittier, Chapman. California Lutheran and La Verne. The winner of the conference receives an automatic birth in the NCAA Division III Playoffs.

The football program boasts long-standing rivalries with several conference opponents. For example, Pomona College first met Whittier College in 1907, Redlands in 1910 and La Verne in 1926. The longest-standing rivalry however is against Occidental College which started in 1895, and the yearly battle for the Drum is now one of the oldest college football rivalry west of the Mississippi and one of the ten oldest in the country. Throughout their long football history, the Sagehens hold an impressive record of 6-5-1 versus UCLA from the 1920's. From 1897 until 1925, Pomona College played USC on a yearly basis, including the 1923 Dedication Game of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The team plays on Merritt Field, a beautifully well-maintained natural turf surface recently renovated. The 4,000 seat stadium was named for the legendary Sagehen coach Earl "Fuzz" Merritt ('25), who headed the program from 1925 to 1958.

There are many team and individual highlights and achievements in this storied football program's history. The Sagehens rank on the NCAA team list for all-time victories. The 1895 team was led by Byron Van Leuven, who served as the team's coach, trainer, and star halfback. The 1900 team was undefeated and not scored upon in seven games. In 1925, the Sagehens shutout UCLA 26-0. From 1954-1956, Pomona swept the conference title. Leeroy Sweeney kicked a 93 yard punt in 1960, and in 1968, Alan McCall connected on a 50 yard field goal. Quarterback Larry Cenotto was the 1974 NCAA Champion in total offense and passing yards. Nate Kirtman (selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL draft) returned a kickoff for an NCAA record 100 yards and a touchdown.

In 1997, the Sagehen offense broke the team record, and were ranked #3 in the country in yards per game (504), points per game (46.6), and James Regan won the Division III scoring title (21.0 per game). The 1998 program was ranked #4 in Total Defense (192 yards per game), #3 in Rush Defense (66 yards per game), #11 in Scoring Defense (9.5 points per game), and #2 in Turnover Margin (+15). In 1999, Pomona-Pitzer, with a 7-1 record, was ranked #33 in the first-ever Division III Coaches' Poll. In 2003, the Sagehens defeated #3 Trinity University on the way to another winning season. Jonathan Samples ('04) was named SCIAC Player of the Year while leading the conference in rushing. Matt Barbour ('07) led the conference in tackles and was named SCIAC Defensive Player of the Year while at the same time excelling in the classroom.

In 2010, quarterback Jake Caron and wide receiver R.J. Maki set school records for passing yards and receiving yards, respectively, while Caron was named the MVP of the Division III All-Star game. In 2011, Luke Sweeney led the nation in rushing, including a school-record 265 yards against Occidental, while James Lambert was a first-team Academic All-American. In 2013, Duncan Hussey set a school record with four touchdown receptions against MIT on his way to earning first-team Academic All-America honors as well. 

There are but a handful of football-playing schools in the United States that can boast of the academic standing of Pomona and Pitzer Colleges. It is a testament that strong academics and athletics can co-exist. Students who value an educated mind and appreciate the vitality that comes from physical and mental competition can gain a complete college education at Pomona College or Pitzer College.