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."
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.
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.
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
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."