Oops! Biden did it again

Unlike Britney Spears, Joe Biden didn't fall in love again.  In his case, once again, he repeated the same defrocked family lie that he has told in the past about his maternal grandfather allegedly being an All-American football player at Santa Clara University in California shortly after the dawn of the 20th century.

The occasion was a hybrid face-to-face/remote conference that Biden had on Thursday, July 28 with some members of his own administration, meeting with several CEO Masters of the Universe business tycoons, to chatter away about the general state of the American economy.  In the course of the conference Biden said,

28:32 — ... My grandfather was an All-America football player at Santa Clarwa (sic) in the turn of the (20th) century ...

This isn't the first time Brandon has stated this whopper.  Biden originally stated this false claim on February 10 during a speech given at Germanna Community College in Culpeper, Virginia about lowering health costs. 

35:43 — ... Every time I'd walk out of my grandpop's house up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, his name was Ambrose Finnegan HE WAS AN ALL-AMERICAN FOOTBALL PLAYER in at uh Santa Clara, when he was a, kid ...

I wrote about this on these pages on February 15.  Now that Brandon revisited this family lie the other day, I too now revisit it.

Biden's maternal grandfather was Ambrose Finnegan.  He was born either in 1883 or 1884; some of the records conflict.

I said in my article that it was inconceivable that Finnegan attended Santa Clara at the turn of the 20th century.  I didn't believe he'd attended university at all — and in that, I took Biden's own word for it, for in his speech at the Iowa State Fair in 2017, he said, "I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?"  Silly me for knowing that these words were plagiarized from Neil Kinnock and nevertheless still believing them.

Not only was this plagiarism; it was also mendacious if Biden's maternal grandfather did in fact ever go to Santa Clara, even if only for a short time.  Santa Clara Magazine has reprinted a letter Ambrose Finnegan sent to the University in 1930 requesting "a subscription renewal" to an unnamed Santa Clara publication, and implying his appreciation to Dear Old Alma Mater Santa Clara.

In the same hyperlink above, Santa Clara Magazine also published a photo showing a ledger from 1901 that stated the grades of a number of students, including an Ambrose Finnegan.  Assuming this is Biden's grandfather, the apple didn't fall far from the tree; Ambrose's grades were the lowest of all the students listed in the ledger.

SCM also said that Ambrose returned to Pennsylvania after the great San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906.  All this is a bit strange if Ambrose enrolled at SCU as a 17-year-old in 1901 (or even 1900? when he was 16?), since he should have gone home at least the year before.

And maybe he should have returned home much sooner than 1906.  I visited the Santa Clara University alumni archives — in other words, its list of all its graduates — and searched for "Ambrose Finnegan," any year.  At the bottom, the page read, "No directory entries were found that match your search. Please try using broader search criteria."

In summary, it appears that Ambrose Finnegan may have enrolled at Santa Clara University but never graduated; at some unknown point, he dropped out.  All alumni are enrollees, but not all enrollees become alumni.

Let's assume that Ambrose was born in 1884, which is what his obituary says.  If he enrolled in 1901, he'd have been about 17 years old, which is a bit too young.  But assuming Ambrose enrolled at SCU in 1901, he should have graduated in 1905.

The next questions are, did Ambrose ever play football while at the school, and was he ever an All-American?  I can find no roster lists from that period, but I did find this summary of the history of the vaunted Santa Clara Broncos.

The Santa Clara Broncos commenced intercollegiate varsity play in 1902.  In their first four seasons, they played an average of fewer than four games a year — not enough for consideration for All-America.  They didn't play at all in 1906–1907.

If Ambrose left SCU after the earthquake, he could have played in autumn 1905, but not 1906.

For most of collegiate football history, underclassmen never became All-Americans, but let's be generous and suppose that Ambrose could have played in any or all of the four football seasons 1902 to  1905 and could have been eligible for All-America designation in all those years.

The American Football Database lists all the All-American selections for over the past 120+ years.  I have consulted their lists for each football season from 1902 to 1905 — four years total.

This is what I found: all All-Americans played either in the Northeast or in the upper Midwest, in what now corresponds to the old, pre-expansion Big 10.  There were no SEC, no PAC-10 All-Americans — nothing.  No All-Americans came from schools in the American South or West in those times.

From 1901 to 1905 inclusive, there were some 156 named All-Americans.

  • 1902 — 26
  • 1903 — 42
  • 1904 — 45
  • 1905 — 43

In those years, about two thirds of all All-Americans came from the Ivy League.  This is the breakdown according to the nature and region of the schools where those All-Americans played:

  • The Ivy League — 103
  • Navy — 1  
  • Army — 14
  • Miscellaneous eastern colleges (Swarthmore, Carlisle, Holy Cross, Lafayette) — 5
  • The Upper Midwest (more or less the old Big 10, plus 1 from Notre Dame and 1 from Nebraska) — 33

In summary, even if Ambrose Finnegan played college football at SCU, he could not possibly have been named an All-American, because no All-Americans were ever selected from any college west of the Rocky Mountains.

But the clincher: The first Santa Clara Bronco who was ever named All-America was quarterback Tom Calcagno, who made All-America in 1963Sixty years after Ambrose Finnegan possibly attended the school!

I here am reposting the link to the Broncos' I already posted above: this summary.

Go to Page 8 of this history of the Santa Clara Broncos.  It lists all the All-Americans who ever played at Santa Clara.  Tom Calcagno's name of 1963 tops the list.

In short, oops, Brandon did it again.  He's still a liar.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

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