The official birth of football at St. Joe’s dates back to October 24, 1958, when the first intercollegiate football game was played at Finnesey Field.
In this inaugural game, St. Joe’s College beat Rutgers University-Camden 6-0. The game ball is now in a case in the collection of St. Joe’s Archives, located in the Drexel Library.
Despite its dull yellow color and slight deflation, the balloon remains in good condition. The vintage-style ball is made of leather, resembling a volleyball more than a modern football. The center seam is held together by five white laces which break up the pale green ink lettering reading “St. Joes versus Rutgers.
Prior to the inaugural game, St. Joe’s College had no intramural or club football program on campus. In fact, it wasn’t until 1996, nearly 40 years after that first men’s game, that a women’s soccer team appeared on campus.
Finnesey Field, now Sweeney Field, is currently home to the men’s and women’s football and lacrosse programs.
During the historic match, Jack Walls ’62 scored three goals while co-captain Jay Crawford ’61 scored two goals and Alex Tali ’61 contributed one to the points tally, all under coach- chef and former Olympian Jack Dunn. This information is highlighted in thick green lettering on the ball itself, along with the date and venue of the match.
Crawford, now 83, told The Hawk that Dunn’s connection to Northeast Philadelphia helped him recruit different players for the inaugural team, including athletes from other sports such as water. -polo and athletics.
“I had a scholarship for athletics, but I had played football all my life,” Crawford said. “I was the first to come and join me”
Dunn was the first head coach in the history of the St. Joe men’s soccer program and coached the Hawks from 1958 to 1975. During his career at St. Joe’s, Dunn led the program to more than 120 wins for a .658 winning percentage, and even guided three of his teams to the NCAA Tournament in 1966, 1971 and 1972. Dunn also produced a host of firsts for St. Joe men’s soccer, including nine All- Americans.
While Crawford said he can’t remember the details of that winning match, he does remember the players’ relationship with Dunn, some of whom remain close to their now 91-year-old coach.
“Coach Dunn was absolutely perfect,” Crawford said. “Everyone loved him.”