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Dartmouth was a seven-point favorite, and halfway through the first quarter it had seven points. "Well, here we go again," the Penn rooters in the stands said to each other. The Dartmouth coach, Bob Blackman, must have been of the same mind for he removed his varsity and put in his second team. A few minutes later, one of Sebo's big sophomores, a back named John Wright, took the ball and ran 56 yards to the Dartmouth 20. Senior Neil Hyland, the right half, made the touchdown. Senior Dick Schafer, the left end and the team's best pass-catcher, caught one for Penn's second touchdown, and at the end of the half Penn led 14-7. Senior Charley Gill, the co-captain and right end, worried about the smiling he saw in the dressing room, the first between-halves smiles in any Penn player's memory. "Don't smile now," he kept saying. "Let's smile after the game." Senior Joe Callahan's good punting helped keep Dartmouth in its own terrain during most of the next period, and when it ended, Neil Hyland looked at the scoreboard and said, choking, "Never in my life have we been leading at the end of the third quarter."
Meantime, in dormitories and fraternity houses and eating joints on the campus, students were gathered around TV and radio sets while the Yankees were taking the third game of the World Series. Whitey Ford had just made a bum out of Roger Craig when suddenly a strange and intoxicating cry rang out: "Hey! Penn's winning!" There was a rush from all compass points to Franklin Field. Dartmouth had the ball and was moving it dangerously forward, but then Frank Riepl, a junior Phi Beta Kappa and Penn's best back (who should be terrific this year), intercepted a pass and ran it deep into Dartmouth territory, sewing up the game. Penn's victory-maddened rooters, starved after 19 straight defeats, tore down both goalposts a minute before the final gun went off. The roaring Penn players, some of them weeping, picked up Sebo and John Wright and ran them around the field, while campus chimes played Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!. The United Press chose "Stick-to-it-Steve Sebo" as Coach of the Week. The Daily Pennsylvanian continued to withhold its thunder.
Penn lost every alternate Saturday last season and won on the Saturdays in between, also beating Brown, Harvard and Columbia. It played its worst games against the best teams it met, as teams dominated by inexperienced sophomores often do. It was, however, a seven-point favorite to beat Cornell on Thanksgiving; the Big Red hadn't won a game the entire season, and had been beaten by all four of the Ivies that Penn had beaten. But the Penn squad last year had minimum team speed; the Cornell backfield, especially Art Boland and Irv Roberson, had speed to burn, so they burnt Penn, which was flat that day, 20-7.
Ironically, had the Cornell game been won, Penn would have tied for second place in the Ivy League, because two days later a hot Dartmouth team gave Princeton a thrashing. Certainly Penn was not one of the two second-best teams in the Ivy League (it was sixth on defense, next to last on offense); but beating Cornell would have taken the heat off Sebo. Penn lost, however, and the Daily Pennsylvanian just couldn't stand it any more.
Plenty of undergraduate newspapers in the past have attacked losing football coaches. But what happened at Penn seems unprecedented in the annals of football. President Harnwell had announced that on Dec. 6 he would give his decision on whether or not Sebo would have a coaching future at Penn. On Nov. 26, four days after the Cornell game, the Daily Pennsylvanian sent a one-question questionnaire to the team's junior and sophomore letter-winners: "Do you think Steve Sebo's contract should be renewed?" Questionees were requested to return their answers unsigned to the sports editor.
Early in the evening of Nov. 29 Sebo was hanged in effigy on the Penn campus near fraternity row; a placard on the effigy read: "Heave Steve." The kind of stuff that goes on in cow and corn-pone institutions, it made outsiders wonder if Penn was really in the Ivy League after all, and it hurt Sebo's feelings deeply. But investigation by authorities revealed that it was by no means a popular measure: only nine lynchers attended the hanging, and no crowd gathered. After an hour, cops cut the effigy down. Curiously, however, somebody had tipped off the Philadelphia press, whose reporters and photographers covered the story on the button.
The next day there was a secret meeting of the junior and sophomore lettermen. The team's co-captains-elect had not considered the D.P.'s one-question questionnaire the proper way to poll player sentiment and asked the players not to answer it. A number of them did, though, and, according to the D.P., Sebo got only two votes out of 22. The co-captains-elect, Guard Pete Keblish and End Dave Weixelbaum, had meant to promote harmony; but, with the pictures of the effigy-hanging revolving in the players' minds, and one thing and another, the meeting somehow got out of hand and, again according to the D.P., the anti-Sebo vote was unanimous this time and a list of 11 reasons why was drawn up. Sample reasons: "Sebo lacks knowledge of individual talent on the team.... Players feel that they have been subjected to insincerity and false statements from the coaches in an effort to influence their thinking." The election returns and the 11-plank anti-Sebo platform were solemnly given to Athletic Director Ford to give to President Harnwell.
The results of the D.P.'s "secret" ballot were leaked by somebody ( Jim Brown?) to the downtown newspapers. Permission to run an editorial on the ballot's results was denied the Daily Pennsylvanian by the university authorities. So the D.P. next day simply said: "On Football. We firmly believe, and you'll probably agree, that due to the fallout, the atomic bomb is an unwise weapon to use against such a small object." Presumably the small object was Sebo, and the fallout a metaphor for the horrendous side effects which the D.P.'s atomic-caliber editorial would have had, had it been printed.
But the D.P. could have confidence in its arrogance. The great American pastime of coach-lynching is by no means confined to the young. By this time the adult anti-Seboites in Philadelphia had blown up such a storm that Sebo's friends would have been pleased to see him get a one-year contract, and Dr. Harnwell postponed announcing his decision until he had weighed the evidence from all factions.
He announced it on the evening of Dec. 17. First he assembled the players who had voted against Sebo and told them in a closed meeting what it was; then he made it public. Sebo was to be given another three-year contract. "May I also publicly thank Mr. Sebo," the president added, "for his example of maturity, stability and perseverance during a period of Pennsylvania football when the satisfactions were few and the disappointments many." Queried about the players' plebiscite, he replied with dignified disdain: "We don't ask our students what they think of their instructors."