Despite the lack of fan support for the varsity hockey team during its existence, Andy Geiger's announcement 20 years ago this week that hockey would lose its funding drew an amazing response. Friday February 24, 1978, was the day that Geiger told the public that hockey, along with gymnastics, badminton and golf, were getting cut from the varsity program. Coincidently, the Quakers had two home hockey games that weekend. Penn hosted St. Lawrence and Clarkson with 1,400 and 1,600 people attending each game, respectively. Not only were Penn students in attendance, but reporters from Philadelphia's major newspapers, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, covered that weekend's games. "No one in the press box this weekend could recollect the last time they had seen any of Philly's major sportswriters at the rink," Danny Rosenbaum wrote in the Daily Pennsylvanian 20 years ago. The irony of the weekend following the announcement was that Penn had never received strong fan support in the past. In its final weekend, however, the 3,000 fans that crossed the turnstiles at the Class of '23 rink showed immense support for the team. Goalie Bob Sutton received a standing ovation after every great save. Moreover, the fans continuously chanted "Let's Keep Hockey"or "Keep Penn Hockey" during both contests. The basketball team was also home that weekend and Geiger was in attendance at Saturday's game. During warm-ups he walked across the court, causing thousands of the 8,152 fans in attendance to boo. Athletics was not the only department to fall under the axe of budget cutbacks. The $75,000 the termination of the hockey program would save only moved the school partway toward erasing its $500,000 debt. Due to increased costs, the University would also be unable to continue the professional theater series. The Annenberg Center was sustaining itself via a $250,000 grant from a Trustee which was schedule to expire at the end of 1978. Therefore, the fund-strapped Annenberg Center would go back to producing only student productions. The cutbacks of the hockey program and the professional theater at Annenberg created a campus-wide movement. On Thursday March 2, 1978, college students took over College Hall in protest of the cutbacks. It was the first takeover of College Hall since 1973, when there was an anti-rape movement. Students sat in College Hall while negotiations went on with University President Martin Meyerson, administrators and trustees. The protest lasted until 3:35 a.m. Monday morning -- almost four entire days. During the protests, students held banners, for example, "Arts and pucks deserve bucks." The agreement that was finally reached included a reinstatement of the gymnastics, badminton and golf programs and also promised an effort to raise money to keep the professional theater productions. Friday March 3, 1978, while the protest was going on, Penn hockey played its final varsity home game in school history. The game was sold out and the fans flooded the ice at the conclusion of the game. Unfortunately, the hockey program could not be salvaged by the protest. The administration promised to assist the players in transferring to other schools with varsity hockey programs. The entire incident might have been avoidable had students not waited until after the announcement of the program's demise to start supporting the team. If the hockey team played in front of 1,500 people throughout its history, one can only wonder if there would still be a varsity program today.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.