Turn Back The Clock: Jan. 17, 1979

Hall of Fame RB Gale Sayers interviews for vacant Athletic Director position
January 17, 1979

Just before one of the most iconic moments in Penn sports history, the university found itself without an athletic director. In the midst of a run to the men's basketball team's first and only Final Four appearance, the athletic department was in turmoil.

On to campus stepped Gale Sayers.

Throughout his NFL career with the Chicago Bears, Sayers compiled 4,956 yards rushing and 1,307 yards receiving in seven seasons. He also scored 56 touchdowns.

While his time playing professional football was cut short due to various knee injuries. After his retirement in 1972, Sayers spent time as athletic director at Southern Illinois University. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

In January 1979, a university search committee attempted to fill the AD position left vacant by Andy Geiger, who had accepted the same position at Stanford three months before.

Though university officials attempted to keep his visit to campus a secret, Sayers was the sixth candidate to be interviewed by the search committee.

The former running back was only 36 at the time of the interview.

In the end, Sayers was considered a finalist for the position. However, Charles Harris, an associate athletic director at the University of Michigan, was hired in September as the next Director of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics at Penn.

3 thoughts on “Turn Back The Clock: Jan. 17, 1979

  1. I remember that well. I recall the feeling was that hiring Sayers would make Penn look too "big time" and wasn't consistent with the Ivy League image of academics first.

    I also recall around the same time future NBA great and West Philly native Gene Banks rejected Penn (reputed to be his first choice) because at the time Ivy rules did not permit freshman to play varsity ball. He would have been a formidable member of Penn"s '79 Final Four team.

  2. The "BigTime" approach is quite ironic given the enormous ego of the current holder of the AD seat.

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