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Franklin Field played host to national championship final 40 years ago today

The University of San Francisco defeated Indiana 1-0 to claim a second straight national title on December 5, 1976

The University of San Francisco celebrates the 1976 national championship at Franklin Field
University of San Francisco Athletics

Franklin Field has seen plenty of football and track and field in its 121-year history, but one of its few claims to fame as a soccer venue took place 40 years ago today in sub-freezing temperatures.

With the bicentennial celebration long over and the Philadelphia Atoms’ one North American Soccer League season at the venue in the rear view, defending college champs University of San Francisco took to the Franklin Field turf and defeated Indiana 1-0 on 20-yard strike in the 36th minute from Nigerian star Andy Atuegbu.

Despite being the title holders, the Dons entered what we now call the College Cup as underdogs with the likes of three unbeaten teams in 18-0-1 Clemson, 17-0-1 Indiana and 15-0-1 Hartwick.

They took care of top-ranked Clemson 1-0 on a goal by defensive midfielder John Brooks in the semis to advance to the title game, which drew a respectable 5,981 fans, the largest to an NCAA final since 8,000 turned out to Edwardsville, Illinois in 1970.

The crowd was also respectable considering both teams were from out of town. Philadelphia Textile (now Philadelphia University) came close but were edged 3-2 by Clemson in the quarterfinal. Current Temple head coach David MacWilliams still ended up the leading goal-scorer of the tournament with five goals.

Writer Roger Alloway recapped the final in an article for the 1977 NCAA Soccer Guide.

“The key men for San Francisco were goalkeeper Peter Arnautoff and defensive midfielder John Brooks,” Alloway wrote. “Neither had been an absolute regular during the season; but each was in the lineup at Franklin Field for a specific reason, and each filled his role to near perfection. Arnautoff was there because Negoesco wanted his team to force its opponents’ attack to the wings and knew that Arnautoff was the right man to handle the high crosses that strategy would produce. And Brooks was there to mark whichever man was the key to the opposition’s offense.”

Photo from the University of San Francisco 1977 Don Soccer Yearbook
Courtesy of Peter Arnautoff

Brooks’ responsibility in the final was Indiana forward Angelo DiBernardo, who would go on to win the MAC Hermann Trophy in 1978 and play professionally for the New York Cosmos and with the U.S. team in the 1984 Olympics.

Head coach Steve Negoesco told John, “Never let him have the ball. It’s a simple assignment. If he goes to the bathroom you go with him,” according to an account of the game from San Francisco’s athletic website.

Arnautoff had clean sheets in both games at Franklin Field, but was fortunate to not give up the equalizer on a penalty kick attempt just before halftime.

“Charlie Fajkus missed the penalty,” Arnautoff recalled in a phone interview. “I leaned to my right and he hit it left and hit it off the crossbar.”

Arnautoff would go on to play in Philadelphia with the indoor Philadelphia Fever from 1979-81 and make four appearances with the NASL’s Philadelphia Fury during the 1979 season.

“Obviously it was a big deal at the time and I still think it was a pretty exceptional run we had with an exceptional group of people,” Arnautoff said. “We went on to finish second in 1977 and won it in 1978 so we were one win away from four in a row.”