Tailgate parties had been the backdrop on ESPN's College Gameday for about a decade before it hit the Bluff. Duquesne football was in its second epoch after its discontinuation in 1950.
Duquesne was a power program prior to WWII, going 72-21-2 in the 10 seasons before Pearl Harbor. The Dukes won two New Year's Day bowls in that decade -- back when there were just five postseason contests each year.
Football came back to Duquesne in 1969 as a club program. The sport was upgraded to NCAA Division III in 1979 and then moved to Div. I-AA (now Football Champsionhip Subduvision) in 1991 when the NCAA ruled that Division I programs could no longer play football in non-scholarship Division III -- the so-called Dayton rule.
Duquesne the four-time defending champion in the non-scholarship I-AA mid-major Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Football League, added a very important person for the 2003 season -- ex-Fairfield head coach Joe Bernard -- as the defensive coordinator. The Stags and St. John's had disbanded their football programs that offseason, dropping the MAACFL from nine to seven schools.
Bernard coached at Bethlehem and Nazareth High Schools in eastern Pa. from 1983 through 1995 and has been instrumental in Duquesne's recruiting solid players from the Pennsylvania Lehigh Valley, including All-MAACFL safety Todd Mills and running back Jeremy McCullough from the class of 2003.
Among the family and friends from Lehigh Valley was Rich Coppock. Mr. Coppock spearheaded the organizing and publicizing efforts that resulted in DU's first tailgate, at an away game no less, prior to the Dukes' August 2003 opener at Bucknell.
MAACFL dropped to five football teams in 2007, it's final season.
Duquesne is now in the limited-scholarship Northeast Conference. St. Peter's and La Salle dropped following last season. Marist, which will join Dayton in the Pioneer Football League in 2009, and Iona are FCS independents this season.
Duquesne has added improvements to Rooney Field which includes a new pregame and halftime tailgating experience. Cost for each home game festivity is $15, which includes hamburgers, hot sausages, hot dogs, baked beans, chips and beverages available an hour before kickoff, and at halftime.
- The Lehigh Valley includes Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton in its 730 square miles.
- Bucknell is site of Duquesne's first game on Saturday, September 6, 2008.