From Bo Jackson to Deion Sanders, dual-sport athletes are commonly understood concept in the sports world. However, dual-sport coaches practically don't exist anymore in high-level collegiate or professional athletics. For Bob Seddon, this unconventional concept was his reality for 14 years.
Bob Seddon was hired in 1968 as the head men’s soccer coach by former Athletics Director Fred Shabel. He held this position for four years and in 1972, Shabel approached Seddon about becoming the head coach of the baseball team as well, an opportunity Seddon jumped on. He coached the men’s soccer team until 1986, and he coached the baseball team until 2005, leading each team to a great deal of success during his tenure at Penn.
Prior to taking the reins at Penn, Bob Seddon had been the head baseball and soccer coach at Hackensack High School in N.J. for 10 years. He impressed the Penn brass enough that they allowed him to interview for head coach of the soccer team against 49 other candidates, including household names at the time such as Joe Morrone and David Haase. He then got the job which, according to Seddon, came about because of his relationships with the people at Penn as well as his ability to coach two sports and recruit well.
“They were trying to build all the programs up and were hiring coaches that wanted to recruit because it became a real recruiting time,” Seddon said. “They were looking for someone who would help build the program, and they had to get into the recruiting war. That’s the true story of the whole deal.”
Seddon found the recruiting war to be the biggest adjustment from the high school level that he had to make, but he also believed he was well-adjusted for the position.
“I didn’t really have a problem with the recruiting because I am a people person to begin with, so I enjoyed that part of my job,” Seddon said. “I never had a full-time coach in both sports, so it was really on me to get out and travel.”
His recruiting skills were a major factor in acquiring players that would go down in Penn Athletics lore as legendary athletes, like former MLB player and Penn alum Doug Glanville.
"I think part of the reason I went to Penn was because of [Seddon's] recruiting skills," Glanville said in 2001. "We clicked, so I came and visited and loved the campus."
Early on in his tenure, Seddon's recruiting skills combined with his overall coaching ability led him and his teams to many victories. Before Seddon took over baseball, he led the 1971 and 1972 men’s soccer teams to undefeated seasons. At the time, the team had a huge following, with over 10,000 people coming in droves to Franklin Field to root on the Quakers.
Over the 19-year period he coached soccer, Seddon led the team to three Ivy League Championships, six NCAA tournament appearances, and a 163-84-30 record, and he is still regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, soccer coaches Penn has ever had.
Eventually though, the concept of a dual-sport coach went out of style, despite its previous prevalence in schools all along the east coast. With more emphasis being placed on off-season recruiting, Penn administration felt it best if Seddon would just coach baseball, despite his desire to continue coaching both sports.
“I was called in, and they wanted me to change,” Seddon said. “They used the excuse that ‘we’ll give you some administrative work over at Hutch Gym, and you can overlook that.’ I made sure to check the gym and all that, but that wasn’t really much of a position. They felt they needed something all year-round in every sport.”
Despite his removal from the soccer head coaching position in 1986, Seddon remained as the head coach of baseball for roughly another two decades. During his time coaching baseball, Seddon won 634 games, which is the most of any Ivy League baseball coach in history. Penn also had 14 campaigns with 20 or more wins, including six seasons with 25 or more wins.
When Seddon looks back on his time coaching, he remembers most fondly the ‘88, ‘89, and ‘90 seasons, which was when Penn won three straight Eastern Intercollegiate Baseball League (EIBL) titles. Two of those teams included Glanville, who has nothing but positive things to say about his time under Seddon.
"Coach is great," Glanville said in 2001. "He's a lot of fun. He had some absent minded moments, which were fun, and also some championship moments. I was always compelled by his ability to communicate well with people. He knew how to reach people."
In 2005, Seddon finally decided to retire after spending 37 years with Penn. Now 15 years removed from the program, he hopes that his legacy is an incrementally positive one.
“So I would hope that when we got involved, we really made the program serious, and I think we did,” Seddon said. “We had some really great years, and we had about 15 kids that were drafted into minor league baseball.”
It would be difficult to argue against the fact that he made both the soccer and baseball programs serious. As an almost real-life Ted Lasso, Bob Seddon stands as tall as anyone in the history of Penn athletics.
“Penn was a great experience for me — it really was.”
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