Why doesn’t Drexel have a football team? It’s a question that crosses the mind of nearly every student to step foot on Drexel’s West Philadelphia campus. The question certainly weighed on my mind, and when Temple University cut seven sports for reasons unclear but most likely at least partially football’s fault, I knew the story of Drexel football was one I had to write. So, I pitched the idea to the sports editor of The Triangle, he loved it, and off I went.
While the story now lives on in the pages of The Triangle, what amazed me was how in kicking stones for the story, a much different fire was sparked and lit.
Steve Spagnolo was a junior wide receiver for the Drexel Dragons football team when the team was cut immediately following the 1973 streak. So jaded by the cut, Spagnolo had only been back to Drexel’s campus once since 1975 leading into this year. The only time was in 1994 for a football reunion. He didn’t feel the connection, and he didn’t feel like the school cared about him or football’s history.
When we met in January for an interview over lunch at the Landmark on Drexel’s campus, it was the second time he had been back since graduation. It wouldn’t be his last.
Over lunch, I told Spagnolo and his former teammate/current good friend, Barry Cole, about what the Drexel Football Team is today. It’s an improvisational comedy group. They thought it was really funny, which in hindsight further proves the group’s effectiveness. The comedy group serves at a constant reminder that Drexel and football was not always nonexistent. It lives more as a myth now.
Spagnolo and Cole decided that the comedy group would carry the Drexel football torch. They bear the name, and since it seems that actual athletic competition in the sport of football is far beyond any odds, it looked to be time. The two attended the Drexel Football Team’s Jan. 31 show, donated old Drexel football shirts to further the jokes, gave them a “game” ball, and pledged possible further donation for the current group of Drexel footballers who do not receive financial support. It’s not the Drexel football team they envisioned supporting post-graduation, but it’s Drexel football nonetheless.
And that’s not all.
Part III of the story published in The Triangle touched on it very briefly, but there is a new Drexel football reunion in the works. It’s not sponsored by Drexel, and it’s not on-campus. It’s not even in the state. Former Drexel quarterback, Al Checcio, works in university advancement at the University of Southern California (USC), where they do play football and the football is played at quite a high level. He invited a group of former players out to USC in the fall for a game, a couple of rounds of golf, and some time to reminisce.
With the story rekindling some bonds once formed by shared experiences on the gridiron, the Drexel football team looks to keep their legacy alive. They want their story to live on. They have been brought back together, back into contact, some after years of disconnect.
I would be lying if I said that this was the goal of my story. Maybe I underestimated sports still hold on people after 40 years. Maybe I thought I would end up writing a quick history report with a few quotes sprinkled in and hand in my “special” project with a big smile on my face. It turned into so much more. Those roughly 4,200 words bridged a 40 year gap of Drexel history, and I was fortunate enough that some of 1973 walked that bridge to the Drexel of today. The Drexel football team may not be playing any longer, but their story lives on.
The Triangle 3-Part Series on Drexel Football: