Q&A with Penn men's soccer's Steve Baumann
Former Penn forward and coach remembers his record-setting Red and Blue days
October 7, 2013, 5:58 pm · Updated October 8, 2013, 12:11 am·
If you were to rank every athlete who has passed through the Penn men’s soccer program in terms of sheer productivity, Steve Baumann would top the list. During his time with the Quakers from 1971 to 1973, Baumann set Penn records for career points (99), points in a season (44 in 1972) and career assists (39) before playing in the North American Soccer League for the Miami Toros. We caught up with the Red and Blue legend, who is now the president and COO of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Daily Pennsylvanian: What are some of your best memories and experiences playing at Penn?
Steve Baumann: I think of the years that I was at Penn, ’70 to ’74 … and they were pretty unique in the history of Penn soccer. How everything came together in those three years. You know, we were very fortunate to have some mix of players who had great soccer skill, were great athletes as well and were also gritty kinds of characters, which is always a good combination to have on any team that you are going to have.
I think it was just really that those folks came together with a mixtures of kids from the Philly area and kids from New England and kids from New Jersey and kids from St. Louis, which is a great mix of individuals which then makes for a great team. The most valiant memories are certainly, you know, winning in two Ivy League championships during that time, having an undefeated streak of 18 games in the Ivy League over three years, going to three NCAA tournaments and certainly playing in front of the largest crowds that had ever been seen in college soccer at Penn. I don’t think anyone was fortunate enough to have that experience as a college soccer player, then or now.
DP: What are your favorite memories from Penn not playing sports?
SB: That was a very sort of dynamic time in American college life. Vietnam War era, there was a lot of transition going on, a lot of questioning what higher education should be about and I think that made for a great dynamic environment on campus. I think that Penn was probably on the cusp of … really committing itself to being in the top few universities in the world and certainly in the United States and in the Ivy League. There was a lot of change.
DP: Going back to the success the soccer team had in your time at Penn, what was it like to be part of that program?
SB: I think things were a little bit different then in the sense that everyone on that team also played other sports in high school. A couple of guys played basketball and baseball, so it was a bit different than nowadays, where athletes come in and they are recruited athletes in soccer and for the most part they have been playing soccer as their solitary sport since they were 10 years old. Soccer actually wasn’t — and hadn’t been — our whole life, we had played in lots of other sports and because the season was actually quite a bit shorter then.
I mean, now, the varsity is allowed 17 games, I think back in that time for the regular season we were only allowed 12 or 13 games. And there was really no off-season practice … so one of the things that afforded us the opportunity was that everyone on our teams at that time, when the season ended at Penn, we all played in the city for different ethnic based teams.
I played with the United German Hungarians and some of my teammates played at Little Club which was the Irish club and some other teammates played at … the Italian club. We played all through the winter in the city on teams that were composed of not just college guys, but grown men. To be honest, I think that was a key piece of not only our getting better as players, but it also created an interesting connection to the city of Philadelphia.
DP: Do you keep up with the program now? And what are your thoughts on how the team has been doing the past few years?
SB: Oh yeah, absolutely. Well I think that, you know, Ivy League sports is a very interesting place to be an athlete in the sense that not every Ivy League school can be great in every sport and each school has to be able to focus on the sports that they … want to be a little better [at] than all the other [schools]. Soccer has never been that sport at Penn — it’s always been football and basketball and wrestling and you know, a few other sports that have gotten the major emphasis at Penn… I haven’t seen [the Quakers’] win-loss record recently but they have been competitive in every game that they play.