Thursday, July 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Saluting the voice of Franklin Field

For the last 50 years, C.T. Alexander has served as the public address announcer for Penn football games at Franklin Field.

Saluting the voice of Franklin Field

C.T. Alexander watches the action at Franklin Field. (Jonathan Tannenwald/Philly.com)
C.T. Alexander watches the action at Franklin Field. (Jonathan Tannenwald/Philly.com)

There has been plenty written already about the action we will see on the feild today, especially regarding Villanova and Penn state. So I wanted to take a bit of a different tack.

Last Saturday marked the end of a significant era. For the last 50 years, C.T. Alexander has served as the public address announcer for Penn football games at Franklin Field. Alexander might not have ben in the limelight as often as John McAdams, who announced games at the Palestra from 1981 to 2005, but think about how much football Alexander has seen.

In 1956, Alexander's first year at the mic, Penn's season-ending game against Cornell was broadcast on NBC. A year later, Penn played No. 19-ranked Penn State and No. 16 Navy at Franklin Field. In 1963, Alexander watched the Qukaers beat Rutgers, 7-6.

Obviously, the college football landscape was very different back then. Penn was not a national powerhouse as such anymore, in part because of the Ivy Group Agreement in 1945 that removed athletic scholarships from varsity football. But Penn football remained an important part of the local sports landscape.

Penn did not have many winning seasons in Alexander's early years at Franklin Field. Between 1956 and the split between I-A and I-AA football in 1978, Penn only finished above .500 in Ivy League play seven times. The Quakers only won the Ivy League title once, in 1978.

But in 1982, Alexander - a Penn alum, it should be said - and the rest of Penn football's long-suffering fan base finally got its reward. In perhaps the most famous game in Quakers history, they beat Harvard at Franklin Field to win the Ivy League.

That game is known well beyond Penn circles because of its dramatic ending. Penn kicker Dave Shulman missed his first attempt, but was roughed by Harvard's defense. The second attempt was true, and Penn had its first championship in 23 years. You can watch the play here, including Merrill Reese's radio commentary.

A decade later, Al Bagnolit took the helm. From there, we know what happened: historic success for the program. Penn has won eight Ivy League titles under Bagnoli, including this season's championship.

I spoke with Alexander before his Franklin Field finale last Saturday to get his perspective on all that history. Perhaps it was fitting that Alexander went out on a high, with Penn beating Harvard yet again to win the Ancient Eight.

Q. Is it hard to believe that this is your last game as the public address announcer at Franklin Field?

A. It is, when you look back. I never thought that I would go 50 years with only missing three games.

Q. Probably the biggest thing that has changed for Penn football over that time is the move down to I-AA. Other than that, what do you think the biggest change has been?

A. I think the biggest change has been consistent success in the Ivy League. When I took over, we were in the doldrums. It was a really difficult set of years.

Q. A lot of people talk about that 1982 game between Penn and Harvard as one of the biggest games in Penn football history. What are your memories of it?

A. I remember it well. I remember [Penn quarterback] Gary Vura, I think it was on the 38-yard line, he had one minute and 14 seconds left in the game. With his passes to Rich Cirik - who comes from where I went to school, Conestoga High School - he drove the team down to the field, to within field goal range.

And of course, I remember distinctly [kicker] Dave Shulman being pummeled by the Harvard linemen, and getting the kick-over. The final thing I remember is, while I lost a little emotion - normally I'm very disciplined with the mic - the fans just came right down onto the field and tore down the aluminum goalposts, and threw them in the Schuylkill River.

Q. You talked about the fans. Will we see a day again when Penn football is capable of drawing 20,000 or 30,000 on a regular basis?

A. I don't think so, unfortunately. You've got a couple of things at work here. Number one is that we have a great preponderance of foreign students, who come here without [American college sports] in their background.

Second, the intensity of the academics is such - and also the spread of activities and other sports - that this is secondary. Whereas when I was going to school, it was primary.

You can read more about C.T. Alexander in the Daily News, the Daily Pennsylvanian and the Penn Gazette.


Now let's turn to today's local football action. There are a lot of big games today. Here's the rundown.

Local Sagarin rankings

Each team's ranking progression through the season is listed from left to right.


47. Penn State (43-43-54-62-66-32-22-22-27-24-10)
53. Delaware (57-62-59-56-35-48-66-92-65-106-112)
55. Temple (50-51-57-70-65-56-50-46-60-59-99)
76. Villanova (65-55-64-79-95-77-72-69-71-104-64)
87. Rutgers (88-87-88-82-107-86-67-53-57-39-60)
120. Penn (125-130-140-163-199-140-131-131-128-130-135)
138. Lehigh (140-142-162-168-197-168-162-168-143-146)
216. Lafayette (216-223-229-1232-236-207-198-204-220-141-156)
227. Princeton (231-229-233-233-234-201-181-208-187-189-187)
235. Bucknell (235-238-247-240-244-237-238-235-235-230-213)
239. Delaware State (240-241-241-241-241-230-227-221-222-220-204)

Delaware is the top-ranked I-AA team in Sagarin, William & Mary is second at No. 68, Applachian State is third at No. 74 and Villanova is fourth.

Texas is ranked No. 57. That is more than enough.

Sagarin predictions for selected games

I-A rankings are by the BCS standings, I-AA rankings are by The Sports Network. The current Sagarin home-field advantage factor is 2.94 points.


Villanova at Delaware (12:00 p.m., Comcast Network/WPEN 950-AM): Delaware by 8 (73.41 + 2.94 to 68.31)
Penn at Cornell (12:30 p.m., WFIL 560-AM): Penn by 22 (59.59 to 34.44)
Penn State vs. Indiana at FedEx Field, Landover, Md. (12:00 p.m., Big Ten Network/WNTP 990-AM): Penn State by 13 (74.87 to 61.49)
Temple at Miami of Ohio (7:00 p.m. Tuesday, ESPN2/WPHT 1210-AM): Temple by 8 (73.30 to 61.90 + 2.94)

Yale at Harvard (12:00 p.m., Versus): Harvard by 5 (52.64 + 5.11 to 50.47)
Lehigh at Lafayette (12:00 p.m., WBPH-60/WFMZ-69/ESPN3.com): Lehigh by 16 (57.03 to 37.60 + 2.94)
Stanford at California (3:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet): Stanford by 9 (93.60 to 81.36 + 2.94)

Ohio State at Iowa (3:30 p.m., ABC): Ohio State by 1 (85.96 to 82.87 + 2.94)
Army vs. Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium, New York, N.Y. (7:00 p.m., NBC): Notre Dame by 8 (75.78 to 67.47)
No. 25 Florida State at Maryland (8:00 p.m., ABC): Florida State by 3 (80.73 to 74.91 + 2.94)

The top five teams in Sagarin overall are Oregon, Stanford, TCU, Auburn and Alabama.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
Soft Pretzel Logic is Philly.com's college sports blog, with a primary focus on the University of Pennsylvania. You'll also see coverage of the Big 5, other major college sports events in the region, and the annual Penn Relays track and field meet.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected