A Dynasty Still Burning for Respect

First of two parts

Sheldon Hackney became president of the University of Pennsylvania in 1980. Jerry Berndt became its head football coach, in 1981.

One year later, Penn became the most feared team of the Ivy League.

And many believe it's more than a happy coincidence that the Quakers' arrival as the Ivy Team of the '80s coincided with the arrival of Hackney and Berndt.

In fact, many Ancient Eight observers point directly to Hackney's unprecedented commitment to athletics--and football, in particular--to explain the Quakers' meteoric rise to gridiron prominence.

Harvard Director of Athletics John P. Reardon, Jr. '60 says he's "sure they're going after people who can play better football than they've had in the past."


Others point to the signing of the 47-year-old Berndt to explain how a program that compiled a 1-18 mark in the two years prior to his arrival has won three consecutive Ivy League championships and is currently closing in on a fourth.

Penn's success is attributable to both, Hackney's new emphasis on athletics as well as Berndt, Yale football Coach Carm Cozza says.

"Their president has made a commitment to excellence in athletics, especially football," says Cozza, the dean of Ivy League coaches. "That has allowed them to go after good athletes" in a way that other Ivy League schools cannot because of academic standards, Cozza says.

And the Yale mentor adds, "Coach Berndt has done an excellent job."

In the five years since Berndt inherited the second-losingest Ivy program in history, Penn-which this weekend will meet Harvard in the Stadium--has assaulted the Ivy League record book. Consider that the Quakers:

* are 22-3-1 in Ivy games in the last four years and haven't lost a league contest in two years;

* are 15-0-1 in Division I-AA games in the last two years;

* last year won their first outright title since 1959 by posting the first 7-0 league mark since 1970;

* and last year won their third straight league crown, boasted their first eight-win season since 1928, set a league scoring record of 254 points, and defeated every Ivy opponent by at least 10 points.

The Quakers--who this year have as many league wins as Dartmouth, Brown, Cornell and Columbia combined--are currently off to a 5-0 league start for the second time in history, are one win shy of an Ivy record for consecutive victories, and one win from becoming only the second team in Ancient Eight history to claim four straight league crowns.