Category Archives: This Day in Penn History

On This Date – 2003

I still remember back in November of 2002 when I asked every basketball coach in the city who the favorite was to win the Big 5. I was a reporter for the Daily Pennsylvanian then, and I wasn’t sure how they would respond. But all of the coaches practically laughed at my face because the answer was so obvious.

It was Penn. Of course it was Penn.

(Imagine that being the case today.)

Returning everyone from a 2001-02 team that went 4-0 in the Big 5 and battled back from three early league losses to win the Ivy title, expectations were certainly soaring for the Quakers heading into the 2002-03 campaign. And the excitement on campus was palpable, with some people predicting that the team could be the best one since the Jerome Allen-Matt Maloney days in the early 1990s – or maybe even before then.

Today, the players on Fran Dunphy’s 2002-03 squad – a group led by point guard Andy Toole C’03, forwards Ugonna Onyekwe W’03 and Koko Archibong C’03, sharpshooters Tim Begley W’05 and Jeff Schiffner C’04, and sixth man Dave Klatsky W’03 – will probably tell you they underachieved because they didn’t win a game in the NCAA tournament.

But that’s not entirely fair.

The team still boasted a sterling 22-6 overall record, dismantled USC by 38 points by shooting a school-record 72 percent from the field, and raced through the Ivy League unbeaten to earn a second straight 11 seed in the NCAA tournament.

How hard is it go 14-0 in the Ivy League? The 2002-03 squad is the last team at Penn to do it and only the seventh in program history to accomplish the feat (with the others being the 1969-70, 1970-71, 1992-93, 1993-94, 1994-95 and 1999-2000 teams).

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2002-03 Ivy champs, I decided to take a look back at one of that season’s most memorable wins – a 73-66 win over Brown on this date in 2003. And I decided to do so with the help of Klatsky, who buried probably the biggest three-pointer of his career with 40 seconds left to turn a two-point lead into a five-point lead and sent the Palestra crowd into frenzy.

You can watch the shot here.

Now let’s turn it over to Klatksy – an assistant coach at Colgate – who was kind enough to offer his thoughts of that game, the unlikely rivalry with Brown and the season in general…

Klatsky

After starting as the team’s point guard as a sophomore, Klatsky became an effective bench player during his junior and senior years.

On what he was thinking before making the shot:

“Koko, what are you doing – why are you passing me the ball with three seconds on the shot clock?  Oh, you’re passing it to me? OK, I’ll shoot it – thank god Forte is letting me shoot it.”

On his reaction after making the shot:

“I had just hit one of two threes so that third one really was make or break. If I make it, I finish the last couple minutes hitting two huge threes. But if I miss it, then I took two huge threes and missed both of them. I loved taking huge shots but I sure am glad I hit two of three and didn’t miss two of three.”

On the rivalry with Brown:

“We knew the Ivies were going to be really strong that year. Yale was still a great team but they lost some close ones early, Princeton was very solid that year and we knew Brown had a chance to be good in the preseason because they returned the nucleus of their team. By the time the first meeting rolled around we knew they were a legitimate threat. They had really good players and had a lot of experience. Both of the Brown games that year were unforgettable. I’ll never forget going to play at their place later that year which was basically for the championship (since it would put us two games up) and having their fans line the sidewalks when our bus arrived. If that wasn’t enough, they had Chris Berman announce the starting lineups. You couldn’t ask for a more electric atmosphere for a college basketball game.”

[Editor’s note: Then-Brown coach Glen Miller added flames to the rivalry when, shortly after Klatsky’s shot and Penn’s win at the Palestra, he told reporters that his team “got jammed up our asses by three officials” and that they “outplayed [Penn] the whole freakin’ game.” Those unsportsmanlike comments made his hiring at Penn three years later troublesome to some fans and alumni.]

On going 14-0 in the league:

“We had a lot of expectations coming in to the year and that caught up with us early as we dropped two of three to start the season and then got smoked at Colorado. I don’t think anyone truthfully expected a 14-0 Ivy season with as good as the Ivies were that season. It helped that we were a veteran team and knew how to win games. Unless you’ve played in the Ivies, it’s hard to explain how tough it is to play and win on the road in those back-to-back games.”

On some of his best memories of the season:

  • Going to California and having Koko’s family take care of us all and then having what seemed like everyone he ever talked to come support us at the Forum for what is arguably the best Penn game in history when we shot 80 percent in the first half and beat USC by 40.
  • Playing that season with NB on our shorts in tribute to Tim Begley’s father Neil who passed away before the season.
  • Playing a tough Oklahoma State team in the first round of the tourney and loving the matchup when it showed up on TV and hating it when we realized how good their guards were – i.e. Tony Allen.
  • Being disappointed that we didn’t make noise in the NCAA tourney because I had such confidence in our team and truly believed we had the capabilities to make a run. In that respect, as well as we did, it still seems like we underachieved.
  • In the last game of the season, we already clinched the Ivies but we still had our game at Princeton left. It’s Penn-Princeton, so records don’t really matter. As we got to Jadwin, Andy Toole realized he didn’t pack his shoes. As Toole warmed up in running shoes, our managers were on the horn trying to get a hold of a friend who was coming to the game. Luckily for us, our friend Matt Mezvinsky was able to bring the shoes to Andy ten minutes before game time.  I’m pretty sure Coach Dunph never knew about this.”

Many thanks to Klatsky for sharing such great memories from such a special season – and a special shot.

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On This Date — 1921

Leading up to the Penn football team’s home opener Saturday, some Penn players got the chance to pose with the Heisman Trophy, one of the most prestigious prizes in sports (see above). Even better, the Heisman Trophy, which is given to the nation’s best college football player every year, was also on display for Saturday’s game (a 24-8 loss to Villanova), as it will be all season.

This all makes sense because Penn is the rightful home to the man who the award is named after: John Heisman L’1892, a player, coach and legendary innovator. Heisman – who played for the Quakers in 1890 and 1891 (after earlier playing for Brown) and then coached at his alma mater from 1920-1922, among many other stops, including Auburn, Clemson and Georgia Tech – is credited with promoting the sport across the nation during its infancy.

And even though he only coached at Penn for three seasons, where he owned a relatively modest 16-10-2 record, Heisman still produced some memorable moments. Here’s one: On this date in 1921, Heisman coached Penn to an 89-0 rout of Delaware, which to this day remains one of the two most lopsided wins in the program’s 136-year history.

Heisman in his Penn uniform, circa 1891

That 89-0 shellacking was the first game of Heisman’s second year and captain Rex Wray C’22, a 139-pound quarterback, made the most of it with the New York Times calling him the “scintillating hero of the slaughter.” Ray finished with four touchdowns and nine goals for a total of 33 points and, according to the Times’ game report, scored TDs twice on kickoffs, the first player to accomplish such a feat at Franklin Field.

Remarkably, Penn scored 41 of its 89 points in the third quarter. And the Times also recognized other players for getting in on the scoring, including tailbacks Mike Whitehill and Jimmy Lukas.

Delaware did not get a first down all game (while Penn got 19) and only tried two forward passes, both of which failed. Meanwhile, Heisman – who helped legalize the forward pass, one of his most important contributions to the sport – had Penn throw the ball nine times, with three being successful. That was a lot back then and surely helped contribute to the 89-point victory (which was only matched two years earlier when the Quakers, then coached by Bob Folwell, beat Delaware by the same score).

And if you think winning by 89 points is running up the score, then you might not want to look at what Heisman did five years earlier, when the famed coach led Georgia Tech to a 222-0 victory over Cumberland College, the most lopsided game in college football history.

According to a Daily Pennsylvanian article written by my friend Dan McQuade in 2003, Heisman told his players at halftime, “Men, we’re in front, but you never know what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. So in the second half, go out and hit ‘em clean and hit ‘em hard. Don’t let up.”

They were up 126-0 at the time.

The man knew how to win, and win big.

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This Day in Penn History – 1974

Last spring Adolph “Beep Beep” Bellizeare Jr. C’75 – one of the best football players in Penn history – died at the age of 58.

In what amounted to a brilliant career during something of a down period (Penn didn’t win an Ivy League title throughout the 1970s), Bellizeare amassed a school-record 4,004 all-purpose yards. He also ranks near the top of Penn’s all-time list in career rushing touchdowns (30) and career rushing yards (2,155).

By all accounts, however, statistics alone don’t do the man justice. Perhaps the ex-player – who, in addition to his terrific ball-carrying abilities, was among the premier punt returners in the nation during his time at Penn – was best described in this excerpt from an old Harvard Crimson article:

Ivy League followers know Bellizeare. They recognize the Braintree High product not by his number but by his streak–the streak a 4.4 second 40-yard runner leaves when he departs from the backfield or blasts off from deep in his own ground transforming normally fair-caught punts for 60 yards and a t.d.

Sportswriters know everything about Bellizeare from the confident fist thrust in the air before he crosses the 50 yard line to his colorful nickname, Beep-Beep, an epithet so often said that you tend to forget that it was the Roadrunner who originally claimed the title and not Bellizeare himself.

And most importantly, the coaches know Bellizeare. It didn’t take long for Coach Joe Restic to notice the 170-pound running back two years ago when Bellizeare ate up 203 yards and pulled down two touchdown passes. “He’s the most explosive running back that you’ll see on the Stadium this season,” Restic said after he made Bellizeare’s acquaintance.

Cornell coach Jack Musick is familiar with Penn’s Super Gnat. “You can spend 15 minutes with him in a phone booth and never touch him,” the Big Red authority acknowledged.

High praise, indeed.

And on this day in Penn history – Oct. 12, 1974 – Bellizeare showed why he was so highly regarded, gaining a total of 174 yards and scoring two touchdowns in a 28-28 tie against Cornell. Trailing 21-14 late in the first half, Bellizeare, who at the time was the nation’s leading punt returner, tied the game with a 57-yard touchdown burst after fielding a punt in heavy traffic. Watch the clip of the play above (courtesy of the great letsgoquakers.com) to see how absurdly fast the man nicknamed after the Road Runner once was.

And may he rest in peace.

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On This Date – 1980

Just in case you needed any more proof that former college hoops broadcaster Billy Packer doesn’t care for mid-majors, Michael Brown C’83 has some.

Twenty-four years before Packer’s famous on-air spat with St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli over the Hawks’ No. 1 NCAA tournament seed, Packer was apparently just as critical as another Philadelphia team’s place in the Big Dance.

Brown, a freshman on the Quakers’ 1979-80 team, remembers overhearing some negative comments from Packer as Penn warmed up prior to its first-round NCAA game against Washington State – on this date 31 years ago.

Penn came into the NCAA tourney that season as a No. 12 seed after going a modest 17-12 overall and 11-3 in the Ivy League. It was a year after the Quakers’ epic run to the Final Four.

“I overheard him saying that Penn’s year was last year and they have no business being on this court,” Brown told me during an interview I conducted with him for my Fran McCaffery C’82 alumni profile. “He said lightning struck once and it’s not going to strike again.”

The Quakers didn’t return to the Final Four that year but they did make Packer eat his words. Led by Brown, fellow freshman Paul Little and senior James “Boony” Salters – who, just two days earlier hit the game-winning shot to beat Princeton in an Ivy League playoff and earn the conference’s automatic NCAA berth – Penn upset fifth-seeded Washington State, 62-55, on the campus of Purdue University. (Duke ended the Quakers’ run in the next round.)

Billy Packer: once a curmudgeon, always a curmudgeon

The win was especially meaningful to Brown, a Las Vegas native who said Washington State started to recruit him and then stopped. But as happy as he was following the win, Brown still refused to talk to Packer, who was then with NBC.

“He didn’t give us a chance at all,” said Brown, who went on to become a first-team All-Ivy player in 1983 before returning to Las Vegas, where he works today as a casino executive. “We might have been from Penn but we could compete with anyone. I still don’t event want to recognize him.”

Brown, of course, is not the first to get annoyed by Packer’s perceived bias against smaller basketball schools. A year before that, the broadcaster ridiculed Indiana State’s credentials as a No. 1 seed – you know, the Larry Bird-led team that made it to the national title game. And in 2006, he opined that too many mid-majors were getting NCAA bids – the same year Bradley and Wichita State made the Sweet 16 and George Mason advanced all the way to the Final Four.

The man has eaten a lot of crow over the years. And even though he is now retired from the business of calling NCAA tournament games, don’t expect Michael Brown to forgive him.

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On This Date – 1971

The 2010-11 Harvard basketball team is in prime position to win the first Ivy League championship in school history.

But what some people may not know is that 40 years ago the Crimson also thought they had the team that would achieve Ancient Eight glory.

With former NBA star and then-Harvard assistant coach K.C. Jones reeling in top recruits, the Crimson were led by sophomore stars Floyd Lewis and James Brown. (Lewis rejected more than 100 scholarship offers to play for the Crimson, and Brown, of course, is now a famous football sportscaster.)

According to some former Penn players, though, Harvard was a little too cocky.

“Harvard shot their mouth off in the paper and I think that got us a little excited,” ex-Penn center Jim Wolf C’71 told me for a story on the 1970-71 Penn basketball team that will soon appear in the Gazette.

What happened next could have probably been predicted.

The Crimson came into the Palestra on Feb. 19, 1971, looking for their eighth straight victory, but the mighty Quakers blew the doors off them, 103-72. The following night – on this date, 40 years ago – Penn enjoyed another demolition, cruising by a strong Dartmouth team, 102-75 team. (If only Penn fans got free cheesesteaks for 100-point games back then!)

During his Harvard playing days, James Brown never beat Penn

“They thought they had finally put together the team to beat us,” Wolf said of Harvard, “and we just ran them out of the gym.”

Those two routs were not entirely shocking considering the 1970-71 Quakers won every game they played in the regular season. But there were still some elements of surprise because, according to Wolf, Penn was famous with the bettors for doing just enough to win and not covering the spread. The Quakers’ Corky Calhoun was also not a huge scorer that season (he averaged 10.1 points per game), but showed some of his enormous potential by torching Harvard for a career-high 28 points.

“We knew what they were going to do; we prepared for it all week. We just couldn’t stop it,” Harvard coach Bob Harrison said in the New York Times game story written by Murray Chass. “They have a pride that’s worth a million bucks. … They deserve to be champions.”

The Quakers, of course, would go on to be Ivy League champs that season (and the next four), and the Brown/Lewis Harvard teams would never beat Penn.

But the Crimson did have one thing going for them that night 40 years ago: Chass, in his game story, wrote, “Harvard displayed better looking hairdos … with many of the players wearing long, bushy hair, long sideburns and well-cultivated mustaches.”

Picture James Brown like that.

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On This Date – 1950

By today’s standards, he would be too little to play football. Throw in the fact that his name was Francis, he had red hair and he used to be a water boy and what happened exactly 60 years ago today seems even more implausible.

But on this day (Oct. 14) in 1950, a University of Pennsylvania tailback named Francis “Reds” Bagnell enjoyed one of the greatest performances ever at Franklin Field, amassing 490 yards of total offense all by himself in a 42-26 win over the “Dartmouth Indians.” That remains a Penn record, even though former quarterback Gavin Hoffman came close to breaking it (with 476 yards) at the 50-year anniversary in 2000.

In his account of the game for The New York Times, Joseph M. Sheehan wrote, “Bagnell put on what indubitably is the greatest one-man show Franklin Field has ever witnessed.” Former teammate Glenn Adams told my co-editor Jason Bodnar at the Daily Pennsylvanian 10 years ago, “Reds had one of the greatest days of any athlete or any one football player.” And in the awesome video above, the cliché-happy announcer declared Reds a “one-man commando unit.”

If you watch the video of the highlights provided by Telesports Digest, you’ll see much of the yardage was accumulated due to short passes (he also set a national record with 14 straight completions) and some truly horrendous Dartmouth defense. But there’s one run (which starts at the 30-second mark) that is positively Michael Vick-like. Go ahead and watch it. The block at the end of the run (at the 48-second mark) is also pretty awesome.

Reds, who died in 1995 at the age of 66, finished the game with 214 yards on 18 rushes and 276 yards on 20-for-29 passing. He also had three touchdowns, and was later named the first-string quarterback on The Daily Pennsylvanian’s All-Century Team despite the fact that his position was not called quarterback when he played.

To take a line from the video: “Congrats, Reds. We salute you!”

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This Day in Penn History – 1920

Your 1920 national champion Penn Quakers

Next Monday, the NCAA tournament will end, “One Shining Moment” will be sung, and one team will be left standing as national champions of the college basketball world. 

Exactly 90 years ago today, there was no such hoopla when the University of Pennsylvania played the University of Chicago in the final college basketball game of the season.

But in the last game of a three-game “Intersectional Series” held at Princeton University, the Quakers defeated Chicago, 23-21, in what one newspaper called “one of the most spectacular ever played on the Princeton floor.”

Penn, which finished with a 22-1 record, beating such powers as Ursinus, Washington & Jefferson and Swarthmore, also won the Eastern Intercollegiate League title that season, being led by All-American captain H. Raymond “Dutch” Peck throughout the year. The Quakers were coached by former player Lon Jourdet.

Although there were no official national tournaments at the time, a group called the Helms Foundation later named national champions for every year starting in 1901 with Penn being chosen in 1920 (and then again the following season).

So, yeah, at one point Penn was two-time national champs! Kind of.

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This Day in Penn History – 1985

Twenty-five years ago, the Penn men’s basketball team lost more games than it won. But that 1984-85 Quakers team, which was honored at the Palestra earlier this year, also captured an Ivy League championship and nearly derailed a team’s Final Four run before it began.

On this date in 1985, Penn led a loaded Memphis State squad by eight with eight minutes remaining in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling, 67-55.

“I remember playing well and not being that impressed based on everything I heard about them,” said Perry Bromwell, a sophomore on that Quakers team. “They were taking us lightly.”

Bromwell, playing his first year at Penn after transferring from Manhattan College, led the Quakers with 16 points. Fellow sophomore Bruce Lefkowitz had eight rebounds as 15th-seeded Penn nearly pulled off a huge upset in Houston.

Memphis State coach Dana Kirk and star player Keith Lee had their hands full with Penn in '85.

“I don’t think they ever played anyone who shot faked about five times before they shot like Bruce did,” Bromwell said. “If I remember correctly, I think he got their entire frontline in foul trouble. And they were huge.”

Memphis State’s best player, Keith Lee, indeed played sparingly after picking up a few fouls, but the talented Tigers still pulled away in the second half. They ended up winning 31 games and crashing the all-Big East Final Four party before losing to eventual national champion Villanova in the national semifinals.

“They looked on paper like an NBA team,” Bromwell said.

And they pretty much were as their entire starting five was drafted into the NBA. But those Tigers eventually fell from grace, and their Final Four appearance was later vacated due to the use of ineligible players.

A couple of other notes of interest:

– That game was head coach Craig Littlepage’s final one at Penn.

– That was the first year 64 teams were invited to the NCAA tournament. It expanded from 53 the previous year.

– Penn played two Final Four teams that season, falling to Villanova, 80-67, back in December.

Since I was only 3 then, I’d be curious to hear from any Penn fans that remember this game. What stands out most? Was it a great March Madness moment or just another case of the big guy taking the little guy for granted before “deciding” it was time to win?

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This Day in Penn History … 1992

Another feature I hope to add to this blog on a regular or semi-regular basis are “This Day in Penn History” posts, which are – well you can figure out what they are. The terrific letsgoquakers.com has recaps and videos of many of the best basketball moments, so I’m hoping to spice up some of them with commentary from players, coaches or anyone, really, who happened to be there for the particular game I choose to highlight.

To kick things off, I talked to current Penn assistant coach Vince Curran W’92, SEAS’92, who helped lead the Quakers to one of the most bizarre wins in program history on this date in 1992.

Playing against Penn State in Hershey, Penn thought it had pulled off a one-point upset over a Nittany Lions squad that had made the Sweet 16 a year before and began celebrating in the locker room. But then the Quakers got word that the referee decided freshman Shawn Trice fouled Penn State’s DeRon Hayes at the buzzer, giving Hayes two shots to win the game or send it into overtime. Having no choice but to return to the floor – and in some cases, get dressed – the Quakers watched as Hayes made one foul shot to extend the game into an extra session. Another freshman by the name of Jerome Allen opened up overtime with a big 3-pointer and Penn never trailed again on the way to an 87-86 victory – which was, in the Quakers’ minds, the second time they had beaten Penn State that night.

Here’s a recap of the game from the Daily Pennsylvanian and some video on the closing moments of regulation from letsgoquakers.com. And even better, here are some comments from Curran, who was a perfect 7-for-7 in the field in that game:

“The biggest benefit of having to come out of the locker room was Paul Chambers having to put his clothes back on. He was running around like a naked reveler on New Year’s Eve! That game was really the coming out party for Shawn Trice. I think we went 10-3 or 10-4 the rest of the way after that (losing three Friday Ivy road games). Jerome and Shawn made such a huge difference for us once they settled into their starting spots. We already knew Jerome was special by what he showed us in practice every day. It was around that time that everyone else started to find out what we were shown every day.”

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Many thanks go out to Curran, who is preparing the Quakers to take on St. Joe’s tonight in Penn’s last Big 5 game of the season and its final non-conference game before heading to Yale to open Ivy League play Friday. The Quakers are looking to avoid its third straight winless Big 5 campaign. You can read the DP’s advance of the game here.

And if you’re going to the Paletra, please try to bring an extra pair of sneakers to donate to Penn’s “Hoops for Haiti” program.

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