- College Information
- Apply & Enroll
- Services for Students
- Online Services
Max E. Houlihan
In a sports story in the Ventura College newspaper, Pirate Press, dated January 13, 1967 former V.C. football coach Robert "Pop" Gowder stated that "Max Houlihan is the finest athlete ever to attend Ventura College." Gowder certainly had ample time to observe Houlihan because prior to becoming a Pirate, Houlihan attended Ventura High School, which, up until 1955, shared its campus with Ventura College. As a high school student, Max Houlihan had already made quite a name for himself as an outstanding all-around athlete.
As the quarterback for the 1943 and 1944 Ventura High "Pirate Prep" football teams, coached by Gowder, Max led teams to consecutive perfect seasons. Max was a standout for the basketball and baseball teams and was described as an "excellent swimmer." Max was living proof that desire is more important than size and that sportsmanship was more important than either one. Max's teammates were quick to point out that, win or lose, Max was universally admired by those he played against as well as his teammates.
After high school, Max played quarterback at USC and later at San Jose State before returning to Ventura College in 1947. During the 1947 football season, Max earned all-Western State Conference honors as a quarterback. At 5'4" and 130 pounds, Max was the smallest man in the history of the conference to win that award. Former Ventura Star sportswriter Chuck Thomas said in a 1964 article that "Max was a versatile athlete, whose very presence assured any team it wouldn't run out of hustle, that Max couldn't have loafed if he wanted to because he didn't know how."
After college, Max returned to Ventura High as a teacher and coach. Max also worked as a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the Saticoy Country Club. It was here, on June 21, 1955, that Max met an untimely death. Alone that early morning, Max was checking the water temperature and pool chemicals and must have lost consciousness, which left him helpless in the water. He left behind his wife Lorraine and three daughters.
Shortly after Max's death, his friends and fellow alumni established the most revered athletic award for Ventura High and Ventura College athletes: The Max Houlihan Trophy. This award is given annually to the student athlete at Ventura High School and Ventura College who best exemplify the courage, inspiration and dedication of Max Houlihan.
Another event established in 1955 to honor Max is the Max Houlihan Memorial Swim Meet. This annual meet is held at both Ventura High and Buena High's swimming pools.
Lorraine still resides in the home overlooking Larrabee (Poli) Stadium where Max once displayed his athletic prowess.