The History of the Bruce Mahoney


Rowan Medina '24

Fans in the Irish student section at the football Bruce-Mahoney.

The classic Bruce-Mahoney is a long-standing tradition between rival high schools Sacred Heart Cathedral and Saint Ignatius. The Bruce-Mahoney games consist of a best-of-five series made up of girls’ volleyball, football, boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, and boys’ baseball. Whichever school wins the majority of the five sports games keeps the historic Bruce-Mahoney trophy on their campus for the next school year. The iconic San Francisco rivalry began with an 1893 rugby game in the heart of the city at 8th and Market. The trophy has been around since 1947 and is famously named in remembrance of Sacred Heart graduate Jerry Mahoney and Saint Ignatius graduate Bill Bruce. The name and trophy were created to honor these alumni and their legacies after they passed away in World War II. The Bruce-Mahoney has been a staple of San Francisco sports ever since and continues to unite thousands of students and alumni each year. 

Jerry Mahoney graduated from Sacred Heart in 1944, and Bill Bruce graduated from Saint Ignatius in 1935. They were both standout student-athletes in football, basketball, and boxing. The former SI student body president, Bill Bruce attended Santa Clara University and later enlisted in the Navy. He was killed in an airplane crash at the Naval Air Station in Pasco, Washington during WWII. As reported by SHC Athletics, Mahoney “was aboard the SS Henry B. Plant when the ship was sunk by a German submarine in the English Channel on February 5, 1945.” Mahoney was inducted into the San Francisco Prep Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Bruce-Mahoney games continue to honor both of their legacies. 

In 2021, the Fighting Irish and Wildcats joined together to make a change in the Bruce-Mahoney tradition. Girls at Saint-Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral could now participate in the trophy through volleyball and basketball games. The sentiment for current and former students could be captured in a text that Mr. Sazo received from his daughter replying to the news, “About time.” The idea of having the girls as part of the Bruce-Mahoney games has been long discussed but implemented just recently. SHC’s former Girls’ Volleyball coach and current athletic director Ms. Beima told the Emerald, “I was always against an all-girls trophy because I felt like it would be second class and nobody would care about it. Now everybody cares about girls’ sports because it matters for the whole trophy, I was all for it.” Saint-Ignatius has won both of the first Girls’ Volleyball games, but SHC hopes to win their first Girls’ Basketball game this winter. 

The SHC student section at the Girls Volleyball Bruce-Mahoney. (Courtney Mar-Lew ’24)

When asked how she would describe the Bruce-Mahoney and its community impact, Ms. Beima said, “It’s a community event, not just a sporting event. It’s a great opportunity for the entire community to show their spirit, and root for the Irish as a school.” The five Bruce-Mahoney games are always marked by celebrations, rallies, and school spirit throughout the SHC campus. The student-athletes who compete in the games also feel the pride and community that goes into the Bruce-Mahoney events. Kendric Sanders ‘23, who played in this year’s Bruce-Mahoney, told the Emerald, “Playing in the Bruce-Mahoney meant everything to me. The environment of the game, the community around supporting the game. It’s definitely a lifetime memory for me.” The Emerald asked Mr.Sazo about his perspective on the school spirit surrounding the games, “It’s almost like something out of the movies. Everyone is united under one big window to support their team and classmates.” To the SHC student body, that unity separates the Bruce-Mahoney from other western high school rivalries, going beyond the students to include alumni, parents, and teachers.

The SHC cheer squad during the football Bruce-Mahoney at Kezar stadium. (Rowan Medina ’24)

The most recent Bruce-Mahoney game was on October 14th, as a sold-out crowd nearing 10,000 gathered at Kezar Stadium for some crisp Friday night football. Students, faculty, and alumni of both schools joined together for a storied rivalry in which the Irish took home their second Bruce-Mahoney football win in a row. The Irish defense shined under the bright lights and shut out the Wildcats in a 10-0 win. The game was a continuation of a historic high school rivalry that honors two excellent scholars and heroes who gave their lives for their country in the greatest conflict it has ever faced. The best of five Bruce-Mahoney games will continue in the winter with Boys’  and Girls’ Basketball and wrap up with Baseball on March 18th, 2023. The series is currently tied 1-1.