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Ten biggest stories in Seton Hall sports history

10. Pirates win first Men’s NIT Championship (1953)

In a season where the Seton Hall basketball program won 27 straight games, it was almost expected by the student body and fans alike that the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) Championship would take its place in a South Orange trophy case.

In the last few games, though, Seton Hall suffered consecutive losses to Dayton and Louisville to shatter the hearts of the record-breaking Pirates. The losses didn’t halt the Pirates’ cause, though, as Seton Hall defeated Niagara, Manhattan, and current BIG EAST rival St. John’s en route to their first collegiate basketball championship.

9. The Blue and White gets a new name (April 24, 1931)

Prior to the donning of the Pirate name, intercollegiate sports simply used the “White and Blue,” as we still hear in the Alma Mater that was written by Charles A. Byrne in 1936 and adopted in 1937 by the University.

The name came to be in an interesting way, and though the pirate was thrown around in prior publications, it wasn’t until a Newark News sportswriter exclaimed it during a Seton Hall-Holy Cross baseball game. The then Blue and White saw a five-run deficit and strung together a comeback to seal an 11-10 victory, to which a writer shouted:

“That Seton Hall team is a gang of Pirates!”

The Pirates’ new identity was taken in by students in the first edition of the Setonian following the game, in which Rev. Thomas J. Gilhooly wrote a poem about the moment.

“THE PIRATES – Our teams are known as Pirates, / In the world where sport holds sway; / And like their honored forbears, / Nothing stands in their way.  /  On the football field, the Pirates / Fight for every gain; / And though they do not always win, / The enemy earns the game. / In the realm of basketball, / The Pirates stand supreme; For her is their initial charge, / Their booty . . . so it seems. / Then baseball calls them to the helm, / And bold and brave they stand; / Now they justify their name, / They are heroes of the land. / So onward, ye brave Pirates. / On, on to worlds of crowns; / Onward to “runs” and “baskets”, / Onward to many “touchdowns.” / on, onward to greater heights, / In the world where sports holds sway; / And where your honored forbears, / Pridefully bless your day.”

It was not until the early 1950s that the Pirates brand was used for merchandising and advertising, but it gave students an opportunity to invest themselves in the school’s passion for sports.

8. Seton Hall beats Rutgers…in football? (Oct. 17, 1905)

Football at Seton Hall sounds unheard of, and that’s due to the discontinuation of the program in 1981 following its third re-institution in 1972. The Hall saw great success with its football program in the early 1900s, seeing an undefeated season in 1903 and a 7-2 record in 1904.

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The Pirates were then “The Alerts,” and saw an early 10-0 deficit to the rival Rutgers Queensmen, as they were known at the time. Fans were unhappy and urged its players to step it up.

“Play rough Seton,” they yelled, and the team flipped a switch.

The Home News claims there “was a man knocked out, or a fist fight,” after every play. Seton Hall literally fought to a 22-10 victory against Rutgers. Unfortunately for the Alerts, though, the bishop of the Newark Archdiocese, John J. O’Connor, did not approve of the rough play and banned the sport the next year. It saw stints in 1913, briefly in the 1930s, and became a club sport in the 1960s before transitioning into a varsity sport once again.

7. Three ranked men’s basketball wins in four games (Dec. 20, 2023 - Jan. 6, 2024)

It’s difficult to put into words how exciting of a two-and-a-half-week period this was for fans, though it all happened while students were home for winter break.

On Dec. 20, the men’s basketball team returned to Newark to host No. 5 ranked Connecticut after defeating the Missouri Tigers. In shocking fashion, the Pirates dismantled the Huskies behind 23 points, six rebounds, and five assists from senior guard Kadary Richmond in a game where the Pirates once trailed by ten points. The 75-60 victory reinvigorated Seton Hall fans after an array of losses to ranked opponents and in-state rival Rutgers.

The Pirates sailed again to start the new year, defeating No. 23 ranked Providence on the road, 61-57. Four Pirates notched double-digit scoring, led by 17 points from senior forward Dre Davis and a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double from Dylan Addae-Wusu.

Returning home again, Seton Hall hosted No. 7 ranked Marquette and battled until the very end. A crucial 25-7 run before halftime turned a double-digit deficit into an eventual one-point lead headed into halftime.

The Pirates sparked a 10-0 run late in the game, and despite the Golden Eagles’ attempts at a comeback, Dre Davis delivered the dagger to seal the Hall’s third ranked victory in just four games. A historic run to many, though it could not get the team nationally ranked.

6. Seton Hall helps charter the BIG EAST conference (May 29, 1979)

Though it feels like the BIG EAST is synonymous with Seton Hall, the Pirates weren’t always in the conference. The BIG EAST was born out of Providence, as the Friars’ athletic director Dave Gavitt led six other schools to create the beloved Power Six conference.

Upon its formation, the seven founding members included Boston College, Connecticut, Georgetown, St. John’s, Syracuse, Providence, and of course, Seton Hall. Gavitt transitioned into the league’s commissioner and resigned from Providence. One year later, Villanova joined the conference.

The conference had already shown its strength, having multiple NCAA tournament appearances, though Georgetown’s signing of Knicks’s great Patrick Ewing changed the landscape of the conference. As a whole, the BIG EAST made eight Final Four appearances in the first decade, including Seton Hall’s NCAA Tournament Championship appearance.

5. Gus Johnson’s call on a Myles Powell three vs. Villanova (March 9, 2019)

What is seemingly just a highlight play had bigger implications for the men’s basketball team in 2019. Coming off a huge win against No. 16 Marquette, Seton Hall looked to stay in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid and fend off No. 23 Villanova, who expected to clinch the BIG EAST regular season title.

A block by former Hall and current San Antonio Spurs center Sandro Mamukelashvili put the ball in the hands of then-freshman guard Anthony Nelson, who took the ball up the court, and found Myles Powell behind him for a 35-foot heave. All fans at home heard next were the words of Fox Sports’ Gus Johnson through the burst of the crowd.

“Powell; from Trenton! Woo! What Trenton makes; the world takes!”

The Wildcats never inched closer than three points for the rest of the game. NCAA and BIG EAST tournament ramifications aside, this is easily my favorite sports call of all time. As a junior in high school at the time, it played a huge factor in wanting to be a part of the Blue Beard Army.

4. Horns Down! Men’s basketball shocks Texas      

Four Pirates notched double figures in a heroic 64-60 win over No. 7 Texas, coming less than a month after its statement victory over No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Similar to Seton Hall’s current mindset, defense was the x-factor in the upset, as the Pirates held Texas scoreless for 7:40 in the second half and to 1-for-13 shooting from beyond-the-arc. Current Detroit Pistons’ wing Jared Rhoden led The Hall with 18 points, followed by Alexis Yetna’s 12 points and 11 boards, and 10 points from Myles Cale and Bryce Aiken.

The win helped strengthen the Pirates’ out of conference performance, which was followed by a thrilling victory over Rutgers, and eventually led to an NCAA tournament appearance.

3. Men’s soccer wins 2020 BIG EAST Championship

The men’s soccer program lost a single game through the regular season in 2020, falling only to the No. 5 ranked conference rival Georgetown in overtime. The two teams met again at Owen T. Carroll Field in South Orange, but Georgetown was ranked as the No. 3 ranked team in the nation. Seton Hall didn’t step away from the fight, though, forcing one of the best teams in collegiate soccer to double overtime and ending with a 1-1 tie.

In one of the best Pirates’ soccer seasons in recent history, Seton Hall went 6-0-1 at home and made the BIG EAST tournament for the first time since 2012. A huge win over No. 17 Marquette led to their first BIG EAST championship appearance since 2004.

The Pirates went on to face, you guessed it, the Georgetown Hoyas for the third time that season. The Hoyas had won four of the previous five conference titles, but The Hall stepped it up again.

No. 11 ranked Seton Hall struck first, though the two teams went into the half tied. In the 63rd minute, then-junior CJ Tibbling knocked in the leading goal to take a 2-1 advantage and eventually give the Pirates their first BIG EAST title since 1991. Most Outstanding Defensive and Offensive Players were awarded to junior defenseman Maurice Williams and freshman midfielder Mattias Sundell respectively.

The win also secured the Hall’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2005. They entered as a sixth seed in the tournament, though they fell in the quarterfinals to No. 3 Indiana.

2. Softball captures the 2023 BIG EAST Championship

Led by BIG EAST Pitcher of the year Kelsey Carr and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player in Shelby Smith, the Pirates’ softball program encapsulated a program-record 42-win season with the conference championship.

Just a season before, the softball program won a mere 20 games: a +22 win differential between the 2022 campaign and 2023 campaign, which is also a program record (+21 win differential from 1998 to 1999). The win marked Seton Hall’s first BIG EAST title since the 2005 season after The Hall capped off back-to-back championship wins. Along with Shelby Smith and Kelsey Carr, sophomores Taylor Hill and Olivia Gilbert joined their teammates on the BIG EAST All-Tournament team.

It also marked Seton Hall’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament in nearly 20 years, as their last was in 2005.

1. Familiar face leads men’s basketball to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16… (2000)

Before coaching his alma mater, a 5’10” guard by the name of Shaheen Holloway led the Seton Hall Pirates to the Sweet 16 over a decade after the heartbreaking events of the 1989 NCAA Tournament Championship.

Then No. 10 Seton Hall, sitting at 20-9 and coming off a conference tournament loss to Connecticut, looked to make their run in the tournament, especially to seniors Shaheen Holloway and Rimas Kaukenas.

Holloway fell on his wrist early on, which led to him icing it during every time out, though he still managed to play a team-high 42 minutes in an impressive two-way performance. Down one with under 10 seconds remaining, Holloway found his way to the rim to give Seton Hall a one-point advantage with two seconds left.

The Queens, NY product then made the game-saving defensive stop to send the Pirates to the round of 32.

No. 2 seeded Temple was the Pirates’ second round matchup, and similar to the first round, Holloway saw himself hurt again; this time, a rolled ankle from a Temple defender. Many believed this game could not be played without Holloway, and as he returned from the locker room in a wheelchair, Seton Hall had a chip on their shoulder.

In a game that went to overtime, the Hall snuck a 67-65 victory from the hands of Temple and went on to face No. 3 Oklahoma State. The Pirates were resilient without the presence of Holloway on the floor, though they fell, 68-66, and crushed the teams’ tournament hopes. Despite the outcome, Holloway received the senior send-off that was deserved.

Thomas Donnelly is the head editor of the Sports section. He can be reached at


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