Gonzaga's first intercollegiate teams were simply called the Blue and White since the two colors represented the school's official colors. After the start of football in 1892, Gonzaga's teams of the early 1910's were also called 'Fighting Irish,' thought to be used on the desire for the school to become the Notre Dame of the West. Gonzaga's first football team had been formed in 1892 with Dr. Henry Luhn forming the team to play on Thanksgiving Day against the Spokane Amateur Athletic Club. Luhn had been a member of Notre Dame's very first football team. Gonzaga's most famous football coach was also a Notre Dame alumnus. Former Notre Dame player Gus Dorais became the first full-time Gonzaga football coach when he took the program reigns in 1920.
In 1921 plans for a new football stadium were underway in Spokane as the team was entering its glory years. Following the regular season Gonzaga was invited to play in a Christmas Day bowl in San Diego against West Virginia University. Even though Gonzaga lost the game 24-0, a San Diego sportswriter was impressed with Gonzaga's Bulldog like tenacity and that moniker was adapted for Gonzaga's athletic teams and has been used ever since that December 25, 1921 game. For the next year a combination of Fighting Irish Bulldogs and Fighting Bulldogs was used, but those nickames were quickly dropped.
Due to a budget crisis with the football stadium and football program, Gonzaga officially dropped football following the 1941 season. The stadium was torn down in 1949.
WHY THE ZAGS?
While Bulldogs has always been the offical athletic nickname for Gonzaga, the term Zags has long been used as an alternative nickname when referring to Gonzaga teams. The name has enjoyed great popularity and was even used on basketball jerseys in the 1960's and 70's.