The Harvard Varsity Club was the scene of some unusual activity yesterday at noontime. Reporters were milling about in the lobby; some were playing pool with the Crimson football coaches. Technicians were setting up lighting equipment for the TV cameras, waiting patiently while the Harvard football team, sequestered upstairs, elected its new captain.
At 12:30 the team came rumbling down the staircase en masse, with head coach Joe Restic in the middle of the throng. He held a Crimson jersey rolled up in his hands, and, smiling broadly, proclaimed, "This is it. This is it!"
Then Restic unfolded the shirt and held it high over his head. Its white numerals read "23," meaning that cornerback Billy Emper '77 was the 102nd Harvard football captain.
A speechless Emper emerged from the crowd amidst the thunderous applause and cheering of his teammates. A few even threw in some gratuitous wisecracks about Emper's Italian heritage.
Emper posed for the obligatory photos with coach Restic, and then with outgoing captain Dan Jiggetts '76. When the 6-ft. 5-in. Jiggetts placed his massive arm around the shoulder of the 5 ft. 11 in. Emper, it prompted someone to joke, "We had a bigger captain last year." Emper quickly rejoined, "Yeah, this does look like a picture for a Big Brother poster."
Although Emper has been mentioned prominently of late as one of the top candidates for the position, undoubtedly his fine performances in the last two outings against Brown and Yale solidified his chances of receiving the distinction.
"I really didn't expect it," Emper said afterwards. "There were at least ten other guys who just as easily could have made it. I thought I had some chance when we were voting, but when we came downstairs I didn't think it was going to happen. I was really surprised when coach Restic pulled out my jersey."
"It's a tremendous honor," he continued. "It lets you know how the other guys on the team feel about you. It shows that they have a great amount of respect for you, and that's as much of a thrill as you can get."
Emper's teammates were unanimous in their praise of the star cornerback.
Said departing captain Jiggetts, "I was really happy to see Bill elected. The team couldn't have made a better choice."
Defensive backfield-mate Jon Judge added, "Billy will be a great captain. He has an extroverted personality, but he's serious when he needs to be. He's a leader not so much because he jumps up and down or pats everybody on the back, but because he's consistent in his performance on the field."
So as the season's first snow fell outside the Varsity Club, symbolically ushering out a glorious autumn of Harvard football, William D. Emper of Wallingford, Pa., was ushered in as next year's captain.