There was a time when the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had a college football team. Their origins go back to when the “Milwaukee State Normal School” put together a team in 1899 made up of just enough players whose parents gave consent to participate. The program ran for a mere three years before it was terminated in 1901. Due to growing student interest, the program started back up in 1911. For the next 64 years, UWM sustained a football team. There were highs and lows during that span, unfortunately there were more of the latter. This put the UWM athletic board into a tough situation.
In January of 1975, roughly 39 years ago, the board voted 7–6 to terminate the football program due to a lack of success, funding, and the emergence of Title IX, which requires an equal number of men’s and women’s athletic teams. Many thought that Panther football would never return. However, 29 years after their second termination, UW-Milwaukee has a team once again.
In 2003, the UWM Panthers club football team emerged. It’s not the Wisconsin Badgers or the Whitewater Warhawks, but it’s not exactly flag football either. The current head coach of the Milwaukee Panthers, Dave Mogensen, says that is a common misconception the public has when it comes to club football.
“Everyone thinks it’s just intramurals with pads,” said Mogensen. “This roster is littered with All-State players.”
In 2012, his first season as coach for the Panthers, Mogensen backed up his claim by turning around the struggling program and bringing them into prominence with a 5-2 record along with being ranked club football’s 7th best team in the nation.
However, 2013 has been a struggle. The Panthers lost 12 starters this season, three to academics and nine to season ending injury. This played a significant role in the projected national title contender’s season.
“It’s been tough and really unfortunate” said running back Shawn McKenzie. “We just need to play hard, win out and hopefully get into a bowl game”
Sam Clark, starting quarterback for the Panthers, agrees it’s been a season of ups and downs.
“We just hope to finish the season on a high note,” said Clark.
Clark currently leads the National Club Football Association (NCFA) in passing yards with 926 with 219 of that coming in their recent 42-17 win over Loyola Chicago at Don Forti Stadium.
Located at the University School of Milwaukee, it is UWM’s inagural year playing at Don Forti Stadium. The private school in northern Milwaukee is a 15-20 minute drive from campus. Featuring a brand new turf field, the stadium is much nicer than the Panthers previous home at Shorewood High School.
“At least these facilities have locker rooms,” said Mogensen. “Before players came, got dressed on the sidelines, played and left.”
With a new field, a good volunteer coaching staff and a talented squad, Mogensen believes this team rivals private Division III schools and is one of the best club programs in the country.
Many believed after losing 12 of their starters for the season, that the Panthers would be fortunate to win just one game. Luckily their players have been stepping up and playing at a high level, leading the Panthers to a 2-2 overall record.
Offensive lineman Mike Dhein expressed what needs to be done in order to have success the rest of the way.
“We need to show our toughness and dedication by coming out and playing at the first whistle”
The Panthers did just that in their most recent blowout win at home over the Loyola Chicago Ramblers. The Panthers are now set to host Southern Illinois University–Edwardsville November 9th at Don Forti Stadium.
The winner will claim outright second place in their division, with both teams sharing the same record in the Great Lakes Conference at 2-1. With a potential win, the Panthers would be on their way to another successful season, and could see themselves playing postseason football.