Maybe the annual Yellowjacket’s football game during Meliora Weekend. Or the Eddie Meath Section V All Star game played for decades at the Stadium. Or in 1987 when UR’s women’s soccer won its second consecutive national championship with a 1-0 win over William Smith.
Or this summer during the Section V field hockey all star game. My friend and I have even played a decades long fungo game on Fauver’s artificial turf field.
This year big changes are taking place at the Stadium first opened in 1930. The press box, which has undergone several renovations over its time, has been demolished. A new press box, with more seating and better climate control, is planned to open before Labor Day.
Construction has started on a new dormitory, being built into the hill adjacent to Susan B. Anthony Hall (the end zone farthest from the Genesee River). Once completed, it will provide locker room space for Rochester’s teams as well as a new athletic training room, and an equipment room. The space beneath Fauver Stadium will be used for visiting teams.
As this new chapter opens, we can look back at two signature seasons in the rich tradition of Yellowjacket football: the school’s only two unbeaten teams: ’52 and ’58.
To learn more about the teams. I visited Dennis O’Donnell, UR’s Director of Athletic Communications, in his office in the Robert Goergen Athletic Center.
As Dennis noted, it’s important that someone at a University be fairly well versed in the school’s athletic history. While he modestly doesn’t call himself the leading expert, that man is Dennis. The photograph with Dennis next to some of the records kept in his office can be titled: Walking archive next to sitting archives.
UR emphasizes actively preserving, honoring and carrying forward its past. For example, the ’52 and ’58 team are prominently featured in the lobby of the Robert Goergen Athletic Center. Both teams have been written about extensively.
Dennis offers just some of the history of Fauver and the the ’52 and ’58 teams:
Fauver Stadium has been the home for numerous Section V football playoff games as well as the first games of the Rochester Rhinos soccer team. Area sports fans, however, know it best for the premier tenant: the University’s football team.
The Stadium was dedicated in the name of Dr. Edwin Fauver on October 18, 1930 at halftime of a game between Rochester and Wesleyan (CT) University. Dr. Fauver and his brother, Edgar (of Wesleyan) served their respective universities as directors of physical education.
Rochester is celebrated most for its two unbeaten, untied teams. Both the 1952 and 1958 elevens finished 8-0. Rochester nearly had its first unbeaten team in 1951: the Yellowjackets won their first seven games, but lost the season finale to St. Lawrence in Canton, NY. The 1952 season began with a 20-7 victory over the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Fauver Stadium. Seven weeks later, the Yellowjackets capped it with a 38-0 victory over Allegheny College – also at Fauver.
The 1958 squad shut out its first five opponents. The team’s signature win that year came on November 8 at Fauver against Tufts University. Naysayers scoffed at Rochester’s 6-0 start. The Yellowjackets quickly quieted the critics by rolling past Tufts, 46-6. A week later, the 8-0 record was sealed with a 34-7 victory at RPI. Rochester outscored its foes 257-19.
The coach of both of those teams was Elmer Burnham. In 17 seasons (1944-1960), Burnham led Rochester to a record of 82 wins, 48 losses, and six ties. The 1952 team was honored on Meliora Weekend in 2002 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its achievement. In 2008, the 1958 team was feted in the same manner. The 1958 squad, called “…a perfect football machine…” by Burnham was featured in the September 2008 issue of Rochester Review (Rochester Review story on the ’58 team) and then honored on Meliora Weekend that year. The 1952 team was also featured in Ralph Hyman’s ’52 article in the 2002 Meliora Weekend football game program titled A Golden Anniversary for an Unbeaten Season.
Set against the backdrop of its historic stadium built during the Hoover Administration, UR fall football games have a special flavor. You can almost imagine those 1950s celebrations on fraternity and sorority rows when the Yellowjackets never lost.
Whether an alum or not, you’ll have rah-rah time. Catch the game during a Meliora Weekend campus visit. The tailgating food for Homecoming and Meliora is lavish. And there might even be some beer: win or lose.
ALSO ON THE UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER