[Lineman and linebacker Lucian “Ace” Waddell, Haverford College ’62, missed the advent of female cheerleaders by one year. Peppy, pom-pom-wielding cheerleaders at Haverford? You betcha! The troupe pictured here is made up of Bryn Mawr College gals who answered a call from Haverford to cheer at football games. Clad in letter sweaters borrowed from the team and skirts they purchased themselves, the group, according to a 1965 Philadelphia Inquirer article about them, was first launched in 1963, had 20 cheerleading routines, and distributed mimeographed sheets of the cheers before games, which included this “Erudite incitement to ferocity”/Circumvent the tacklers!/Pass when ’tis propitious!/Run with great celerity/But most of all, be vicious! (haver.blog)]
Recently, I learned that my friend Lucian Waddell Professor emeritus of English (Monroe Community College, 1970-2005) played four seasons of football at Haverford College, 1958 – 1961, as a lineman and linebacker.
While Lucian is an athletic guy, I never picture him as a jock per se. Maybe a tennis player but not a footballer. I also learned from Lucian that Haverford ended intercollegiate football in 1972, despite being one of the very first colleges to play the sport.
With the aid of Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, PhD (College Archivist and Records Manager, Haverford College Libraries), I found Harverford’s now-digitalized yearbook, The Record from 1959 – 1962. The analog version of the yearbook from Lucian’s senior year (1962), as well as his Haverford Football Varsity Letter — both perhaps not looked at in many, many decades — remains buried somewhere in his attic.
The yearbooks prompted in Lucian a bit of that Proustian wave of memory, perhaps made more poignant by the absence of Haverford football for fifty years now. Lucian offers a few recollection on his football career.
Football began at Haverford in 1879, commencing one of the fiercest rivalries in college football history: the Haverford Fords vs. the Swarthmore Garnets in which, since 1941, the winner gained points towards the Hood Trophy. By 1972, however, Haverford football was in sharp decline, cancelled its season and never played again.
In“Gridiron Woes: In 1973, Haverford College considered reviving its football program—and passed.” (MainlineToday,7/10/08) Mark Nixon reviews the demise of Haverford football.
First, the program was handicapped when college football rule changes in the 1960s established the two-platoon system and the coach’s right to substitute players at will. College rosters ballooned, but Haverford was unable to recruit more players. The undermanned team tired over the course of a game, while their opponents—by sending in substitutes—always seemed to remain fresh. From 1959 through 1971, Haverford football never won more than one or two games per year, dampening enthusiasm.
Furthermore, when Haverford admitted female transfer students in the 1970s and created women’s sports teams, some of the amenities provided to the football team were cut and funneled to the women’s programs.
Significantly, the decline of the team coincided with protests against the Vietnam War, especially on college campuses. Given that Haverford is a Quaker institution with a pacifist tradition, anti-war activity was common. Haverford President John Coleman’s (1967 – 1977) activism included recruiting dozens of other college and university presidents to sign an antiwar statement and organizing buses to take hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni to a May 1970 Washington, D.C. protest following the shootings at Kent State.
Some students were turned off by football, equating the violence of football with the violence of war.
The end came meekly in September 1972. In the last game of the 1971 season, the Fords had gone out with a bang by beating arch rival Swarthmore 22-21. In the fall of 1972, however, just 21 players turned up at training camp. Head football coach Dana Swan had expected 29 players, but eight dropped out over the summer—five for unhealed injuries. Of the rest, five were freshmen including one had never before played football.
Then, in a preseason scrimmage against less-than-powerhouse Cheyney State University (a Pennsylvania HBCU), Swan lost three of his better players to injuries. The team was down to two guards, both of whom would have to play both ways, and lacked a defensive end. After the Cheyney game, Swan was left with thirteen able bodies. Ten days before the regular season was to start, Swan — realizing he could not field a healthy squad — mercifully pulled the plug and cancelled the rest of the season.
According to a 1972 Philadelphia Inquirer article, most of the Haverford community responded with indifference.
Two years later, a movement to resuscitate the Fords failed.
Swarthmore disbanded its football team in 2000.
In many ways, the yearbooks, like the long lost football team, hearken back to a gone, more innocent era. Lucian played his ball during the American post-war prosperity boom, and in his junior and senior seasons, against the backdrop of JFK’s New Frontier.
Of course, the players — like all American young men — could not know that in just a few years, they would face the Vietnam Question.
Stephen H. Miller, who graduated with Lucian in 1962, was killed in Vietnam in February 1968.
To give a flavor of the era, I include timepiece images from the Timeline of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial of Greater Rochester in Highland Park inscribed with events occurring right after and during the 1958 – 1961 seasons.
Recalling his four seasons as a Haverford Ford, Lucian writes:
When I saw the yearbooks, that chapter in my life feels like eons ago. After the team disbanded in 1972, Haverford football drifted out of my consciousness. I did look for my varsity letter, unsuccessfully. Like Haverford football, that laurel seems lost to history.
At Haverford, academics were far more important than sports. Haverford did not offer athletic scholarships nor had separate admission standards for athletes nor treated athletes differently if they fell behind in their studies. Our practices were limited and our season short, only seven games. The only concession I recall was that during the football season, faculty refrained from scheduling classes during prime practice and game hours.
David pointed to a 1972 manual for incoming Haverford students that characterized the athletic program as “relaxed.”
The manual pretty much sums up my experience. Football was just another social activity, like joining a foreign language club or a musical group or even the required Thursday Quaker meeting.
My freshman year was certainly memorable when we trounced Swarthmore 28 – 0 and won four of seven games. For most of the Haverford community, the annual grudge match against Swarthmore was the only game on the schedule that mattered.
The next seasons were not so favorable, a harbinger of a decade of decline culminating in demise. In 1959, our scoreless tie against Swarthmore felt like a victory. David explained that new rule changes around 1960 handicapped our undermanned team. We tired over the course of a game, while our opponents always seemed to remain fresh. I guess I’ll accept that alibi.
When I looked at the action shots, I recalled that I was actually a pretty decent player who could hold his own. I was bigger than some of the guys so I was made a lineman who, on occasion, successfully opened holes for our running backs. It’s funny, while I played a good game, inwardly I struggled with existential dread about taking a massive hit. I tended to linger on the periphery of the pile, not particularly desiring to get mangled in the melee.
Until now, I did not know that Stephen Miller was killed in Vietnam while teaching reading and hygiene in villages around Hue. Stephen’s tragic death is a grim reminder of the upheavals just around the corner after my graduation.
While I was not at Haverford during the Vietnam War era, I think students were almost preternaturally conscious of Haverford’s historic commitment to non-violence, and this aversion no doubt contributed to the waning interest in football.
In winter 1960, Lucian also joined the Wrestling Team.