History comes full circle for IU soccer in Philly #iums

CHESTER, Pa. — Philadelphia is often called the birthplace of America.

For those willing to cast a slightly wider net, it’s also the birthplace of Indiana University soccer.

With the Hoosiers in Philly for the 2017 College Cup this weekend, history has come full circle.

No one feels the completion of that circuit so completely as Jerry Yeagley, the founder of IU soccer.

It was over four decades ago that he brought his Hoosiers to venerable Franklin Field for the first trip to the College Cup in school history.

This Friday morning Yeagley will return to Franklin Field to relive the past.

“This trip to Philadelphia brought back some fond memories,” he said. “For it to have been 41 years doesn’t seem possible.”

That 1976 IU squad won its semifinal game over Hartwick but fell 1-0 to San Francisco in a heartbreaking championship game. In Yeagley’s mind, that was one that got away.

“The surface is completely different now,” he said. “Then we played on hard, hard AstroTurf. It was basically carpet on top of concrete.

“It was cold, similar to this weekend’s weather, and I’ll never forget we missed a penalty kick that could’ve won it.”

It wasn’t just that Indiana missed the PK right before halftime, but it was that the ball smacked the crossbar and stayed out to Yeagley’s chagrin.

“The field was slightly crowned to the ends,” he said. “The PK hit the bar and would’ve gone in had it not been for (the crown).”

That was the first of three championship game losses to San Francisco, which doled out disappointment to the Hoosiers again in 1978 and ’80.

“I’ve always heard about this particular game in the past and how it was tough for my father in this city,” current IU coach Todd Yeagley said.

With the Hoosiers back in town, Jerry Yeagley is taking part in filming a documentary on the history of the Indiana soccer program, prompting his return visit to Franklin Field this morning, along with one of the players from that team, David Shelton.

Yeagley still marvels that Indiana was so close to winning a national title with the program still in its infancy.

“We’d only been varsity since ’73, so to get to a final four in four years, it was sort of a crowning achievement,” he said. “I never dreamed we’d be back in the final four what was for me 16 of 31 years. It became a semi-annual affair, but it was much easier then. Not that it was easy, but the parity wasn’t there like it is today.”

For a man who was born in Lebanon, Pa., less than two hours away, and won a collegiate national championship at then-West Chester State College (now West Chester University) just 30 minutes away, the fact that the College Cup is back in Philly at a professional soccer stadium is also unbelievable.

“When I was going to school, in high school and college, I never dreamed there’d be a beautiful stadium close by and a pro team,” Yeagley said. “(Soccer)’s really come a long way.”

Many of Yeagley’s former college teammates and members of his family will be on hand to see Indiana make another run at a national title in Philadelphia, all of them hoping the outcome more closely parallels the ’76 and ’81 basketball seasons.

The currently unbeaten soccer Hoosiers (17-0-6) are more than aware of the potential connection, having kicked off the NCAA Tournament by watching the dra from the Spirt of ’76 Club at Assembly Hall.

“That ’76 team, we had our first meeting in that room this year and now this team’s doing some special things and here we are in Philly,” Todd Yeagley said. “It’s interesting how things have interesting parallels. But all in all, you have to go win these games and if we’re able to do that, there will be some cool parallels that connect the programs and histories of IU.”

No matter how it turns out this time, Jerry Yeagley has already found out that you can go home again.

“All the College Cups are special in their own way, but that one being the first, that made it extra special,” he said.

3 comments

  1. JP, such a well written article man. Thanks.

    I’ve spent a few hours at Franklin Field. I remember the hard turf they used to have there. I can’t imagine playing soccer on it. Played a football game there once and we might as well have been playing the parking lot. Came out of that game with a few twisted ankles and knees. Lucky it wasn’t worse.

    Also, I didn’t know that Yeags was born and raised in Eastern, PA, nor that he won a national championship as a player. West Chester was very close to where I went to HS. Awesome stuff.

    Harv has Mitch McGary, I have Kobe Bryant and Jerry Yeagley. Winning.

  2. I have:

    ■ Mitch “Took the NCAA Tournament by Storm” McGary
    ■ Matt Nover (!992 Final Four / cast member of “Blue Chips” starring Nick Nolte / 1:00 mark)
    ■ Jim Gaffigan (World-renowned comedian/writer/producer)
    ■ Ron Kittle (Chicago White Sox / 1983 MLB Rookie of the Year)
    ■ Jay Cutler (Miami Dolphins / personally responsible for bankrupting the Chicago Bears)
    ■ Zack Novak (Quintessential ‘Working Man’s Baller’ / aided in the process to bring Mitch to Michigan…and, thus, Beilein’s Final Four)
    ■ Blake Pieroni (2016 Olympic gold medalist @ Rio Summer games / currently/ holds the IU record in the 100-meter freestyle)
    ■ Harvard for Hillbillies (Storied ‘ghost court’ basketball career / won the coveted “Two-tone Blue & Gold Ball” in a 3-point shooting contest @ Busch Gardens, Tampa)

    Not too shabby for a town that has struggled to maintain a population above 10,000 over the last 75 years.
    Also, keep this in mind…
    Chesterton: 2 Final Fours (one tied to IU)
    Crean : 1 Final Four (Zilch tied to IU)

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