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1973 Men’s Soccer: 50 Years Later

Photo Credit: Kevin Gannon

This year marks five decades since the Brockport men’s soccer team had an opportunity to play in the NCAA Division II Tournament but was wrongfully dismissed from it. However, it was the place they called home that kept them away from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Players were crushed by this news. At the time, one of the seniors, John McCrudden, remembers the moment vividly.

“We were excited,” McCrudden said. “We heard about the bid at the same time we heard that we were denied. I remember we were in a hotel after one of our games, and we had a meeting. Our coach had a good news, bad news type presentation and it was brutal. The idea that we were ranked number one in the state, but on top of that we would be hosting it, the cost of something like that was reduced considerably.”

In 1973 Brockport finished the season 10-1. They played against nationally ranked teams like Cornell and Hartwick. Brockport was ranked first in the state and fourth in the NCAA. These rankings would have given them a home game in the first round of the tournament and potentially more.

Being denied from the tournament had nothing to do with the ranking the team received. The college rejected the bid because it didn’t want to fund the tournament.

McCrudden recalls the moment, and what made the decision by the college so heartbreaking both for him and the rest of the team.

“It was just the culmination of a tough year,” McCrudden said. “We had a tough year. We had injuries to players like Scotty Moore. We beat Cornell for nothing, we played Oneonta for nothing, we went down to West Point and beat Army 6-0 for nothing. The team was probably one of the best teams Brockport ever had. But nothing was as bad as the news of denying participation.”

McCrudden along with the other members of the team all have their speculations as to why the bid was rejected.

“I believe at the time there was a philosophy of egalitarianism that competitive sports should not be the feature of a college like Brockport,” McCrudden said. “I believe you knew it was not money, and that was never really put up as an excuse because money would always be available. Brockport was known as a physical education school. I think they were caught up in this terrible conflict that they had about featuring talented athletes because they obviously didn’t think they could do both.”

McCrudden talks about what the college can do to try and right its wrongs.

“My feeling at least is if not an apology because the people that are responsible for this aren’t there anymore, is some sort of recognition that this was probably one of the best teams Brockport ever fielded, and we were never really able to showcase that talent,” McCrudden said.

Monroe Community College men’s soccer coach and Brockport Hall of Famer Nelson Cupello was a member of the ‘73 team as a junior after transferring from MCC. He still remembers his thoughts when he found out about the team receiving the bid.

“We were elated because being number one in the state we thought we had a very good chance of winning the region and the Nationals, we were that good,” Cupello said. “Hosting a game is what we were playing for the whole season.”

Cupello also found out the college rejected the bid at the same time he heard they had received one.

“Everyone was excited about hosting, and you’re on that high and then all of a sudden you have it pulled from under us without ever really giving us a reason why,” Cupello said. “Recently we’ve heard a lot of different stories about why it happened, but we had tons of people who were willing to put money up and fund us and told us the whole town was behind us.”

Cupello gave what he believed the reasoning was for the college rejecting the bid.

“My guess is that there was a lot of infighting between the department and student government,” Cupello said. “We want support from the student government because they’re the ones who make the decisions that affect us. They’re the ultimate decision makers and they didn’t back us the way we thought they should.” Since Cupello was a first-year player at Brockport, he didn’t have connections with the players right away. Cupello considered leaving due to being promised things he wasn’t receiving such as playing time. He does credit his teammates for being the reason he stuck around his senior year, where the Brockport men’s team would go on to win the 1974 National Championship. 

Mal Roche was a member of Brockport soccer in ‘72 and ‘73. He decided to leave Brockport after the ‘73 season and went to the University of San Francisco due to his family. He ended up playing a significant role in the Dons’ 1975 and 76 National Championship teams. Roche later played professionally from 1977-1984. He was devasted when he found out about the news.

“It was an empty feeling,” Roche said. “We deservedly were chosen as hosts to the NCAA tournament. We were obviously excited about it. We were shell-shocked to be denied the opportunity. Why couldn’t we play if not at Brockport then elsewhere? The management, players and supporters had worked really hard to achieve our goals on and off the field. The college soccer games were very popular and well-supported at the time, then because of a political and ideological difference between the student administration and the soccer program it was canceled. One day we were training for some big games and the next the season was over.”

While it may be 50 years later, time has no bounds for the disappointment the 1973 team has for what happened. They can only hope the legacy they left will carry on.

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