Back when Drexel University was still an institute, a couple of students united to create what would become the most infamous piece of the school’s sports history: the Drexel football team.
The former Dragons were a student-run organization unofficially established in 1892. By 1895, the team was playing against other universities as part of an independent conference.
By 1973, the football team had been officially active for 54 years. It was then discontinued by the University’s Board of Trustees and the funding for the team was redistributed to other Drexel sports teams.
A memo released by the Faculty-Student Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics shortly after the Board’s decision states, “We note that our Physical Education-Athletics Building will open before mid-year of 1974. This factor accentuates a projected increase in costs in a budget that has remained constant in an era of sky-rocketing expenses. We conclude, therefore, that, if the income for intercollegiate athletics cannot be increased, a portion of the program must be eliminated.”
“Drexel does not have alumni that are interested in football,” Murray C. Miller, a former member of the committee, shared in an article published by the Triangle on Nov. 30th, 1973.
The article continued, “He suggested that while other schools can depend on their alumni for sizable contributions, Drexel cannot.”
The former football team used to practice and play their home games on what we now know as the Vidas Athletic Complex.
It’s no coincidence that Vidas Field and former Drexel football player Vince Vidas share the same name.
Vidas was formerly the co-captain for the ‘56 football season and was named to two All-American teams in ‘55 and ‘56. He later went on to graduate from Drexel twice, earning a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering and co-founding the successful company SEMCOR, Inc.
Vidas and his wife, Judy, contributed greatly to the upgrade of the field. That field now stands as Vidas Athletic Complex and houses Drexel’s field hockey team, lacrosse teams, soccer teams and tennis teams.
Vidas was recognized for his significance as a football player and contributor to Drexel Athletics. He was inducted into the Drexel Athletics Hall of Fame the same year the school decided to discontinue the football team.
Triangle editions from the ‘70s published articles that dissected Drexel’s football games to a T. Bob Conlon, a former Triangle sports writer, thoroughly broke down the plays against Pennsylvania Military College (PMC) on Oct. 31, 1970.
In an edition published on Nov. 6, 1970, Conlon wrote, “…in the fourth quarter, when the game looked like it would end in a stalemate, Lynn Ferguson was punting to Bruce Eveleth. The PMC receiver called for a fair catch at his own 27-yard line. He misjudged the boot and dropped it, at which time Pat Frederick fell on the ball. Dan Miller then carried for another four yards, on his way to 128 yards for the day. Two plays later Jody Brelsford, after getting through the line, showed some excellent open field running, eluding two defenders in this race to the goal line. Score: Drexel 6 — PMC 0.”
The battle against PMC led to the Dragon’s fourth win of the season, though the week following would turn out to be opposite.
Paul Autenrieth, also a former sports writer, covered an article on the Drexel v. Hampden-Sydney game in Virginia.
Autenrieth wrote in his article, featured in the Nov. 20, 1970 edition, that “Neither team could penetrate the other’s defense when it counted, and it looked for a long while as if the ballgame would end up as a scoreless stalemate, which couldn’t have pleased anybody.”
The Dragons were able to score a touchdown after their opponent was up by seven points, however, not able to secure the extra point to match it seven-seven even.
Their efforts did not go unseen, as Autenrieth mentioned, “Drexel took the ensuing kick-off and mounted a strange drive downfield that led to our touch down. It seemed like it was always third down and long yardage, but the Dragons just would not be denied.”
Three years after the 1970 season, the student-run football then met its end with the Board of Trustees’ decision and the rest is history.
The former Drexel sports team’s memory was resurrected again in a later edition of the Triangle in 1987.
Jim Bruno released a piece on Sept. 25, 1987 reassuring the university made the right call. Bruno’s article, “Drexel better off without football” unpacks the university football team discontinuation.
Bruno states that the reason for the disbanding of the team was obvious.
“Building the new Physical Education Center would add a great expense to the sports budget, plus expenses for all parts of the University’s budget were rising fast,” Bruno writes. “Football consisted of 45% of the athletic budget. The options were to either drop football or drop six other sports.”
So, after over 54 years of football history, did Drexel make the right decision to defund the team? Who knows, maybe history is bound to repeat itself…
Find out more about the university’s former football team by visiting Hagerty Library’s archives or use the link to the Triangle archives. http://sets.library.drexel.edu/triangle