Athletics | As a student Jim Miller W’83 played defensive tackle on the Quakers’ 1982 championship football team. As an alumnus he takes his family to several Penn games each fall.
So when he heard that he could bid on a rather large Franklin Field souvenir, he thought, Why not? As a result, Miller is now the proud owner of a 20-by-20 foot swatch of AstroTurf bearing Penn’s split-P logo. The piece was cut from the 50-yard line when the 10-year-old turf was replaced this summer.
“I guess I got interested in the novelty of it,” said Miller, a corporate bond analyst in Boston, during a phone conversation in July. “To have the split P means something to a fair number of people, especially myself. I thought it would be something fun to have.”
Thanks to alumni like Miller, Penn’s athletics department raised about $20,000 to fund the football team’s trip to California to compete against UC-San Diego on September 18. The online auction, which included pieces of old turf and other football memorabilia, “seemed to be a valuable first-time experiment,” says Martin Dean, associate director of development for athletics. The bidding “got kind of heated at the last minute,” he noted. “A lot of recent athletes were bidding on old jerseys, trying to get their numbers.”
Chief on Miller’s mind after acquiring the turf was how to get the piece to his home. At last report, he was planning to fly down to Philadelphia and drive it back in a U-Haul.
“I’m not sure exactly what to do with it,” he admitted with a laugh. “I could use it to basically carpet the downstairs basement playroom. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll have to trim it and maintain the old P. Or I could put it on our patio and have turf instead of bluestone, I suppose.”
While a small group of alumni are deciding how to display Penn’s old playing surface, Quaker athletes will be reveling in the new field. The replacement surface, called Sprinturf, is “phenomenal,” and contains a rubber-composite infill, which has been shown to be safer for athletes, Dean says. “It’s far more similar to real grass than AstroTurf was—with all the advantages of not having to mulch and feed.”—S.F.