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University to honor '63, '64 football teams
2/27/14

Members of the 1963 and 1964 Alfred University football teams will gather on campus this fall to relive what is one of the greatest tales of redemption in the long and storied history of AU athletics.

During Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 17-19, 2014, members of the two squads will reunite in Alfred. The teams share one thing in common: they both played national powerhouse Susquehanna University during their respective seasons. The results of those games, however, could not be more different.

In 1963, the Saxons travelled to Selinsgrove, PA, to take on Susquehanna, at the time one of the top small school football programs in the nation. The result: a 68-0 win by Susquehanna, which would go down as the worst loss in the career of legendary AU Hall of Fame Head Coach Alex Yunevich.

There was no reason to believe the following season’s rematch, played on Halloween day at Merrill Field on the AU campus, would be much different.  Susquehanna, with a 6-0 record coming in, was again one of the top teams in the country, ranked anywhere from number one to number four among small schools in the East and in the top 10 nationally. Alfred, meanwhile, came into the game with a modest 3-2-1 record.  

Susquehanna was a small school but had designs on joining bigger schools in the national spotlight. In head coach Jim Garrett’s four seasons prior to the 1964 campaign, his Crusaders had posted records of 7-1, 8-0-1, 9-0 and 8-1. The team’s motto in 1964 was “Penn State in ’68,” a reference to the school’s hopes of building a football powerhouse that in four years would rival mighty Penn State. The odds makers had installed Susquehanna as a 25-point favorite over AU.

What happened that October afternoon in 1964, even the most diehard Saxon fan couldn’t have predicted. In what became known as “The Miracle at Merrill,” AU shocked the mighty Crusaders, 18-16. After spotting Susquehanna an 8-0 first quarter lead, the Saxons went ahead, 12-8, with touchdowns in the second and third quarters. AU never trailed after that, adding a third TD in the fourth for an 18-8 advantage and hanging on despite a late Susquehanna score.

Despite the 1964 team finishing 4-4-1, the game has gone down as legendary in the annals of AU football. It kicked off a new string of success for Yunevich and the Saxons. Prior to the 1964 season, AU had suffered through four losing seasons in seven years; in the nine years following the Miracle at Merrill, the Saxons had eight winning campaigns.

For Susquehanna, on the other hand, the setback proved to be damaging. The Crusaders went 7-2 that year, but started the 1965 season with seven losses, prompting the University to fire Garrett.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Miracle at Merrill, and the University will honor members of both the 1963 and 1964 teams on Oct. 18, as part of Homecoming weekend. Prior to the football team’s game against Brockport, a pregame reception for members of the 1963 and 1964 teams will be held in the Connors Family Pavilion, adjacent to Yunevich Stadium. Players in attendance will be recognized at halftime of the game and will be special guests of the University at the Hall of Fame banquet that evening.

For more information or to make plans to attend, please call Bob Codispoti ’66 at 607.276.6651 or email him at rcodispoti@stny.rr.com