The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

September 13, 2013

The man who saved Selinsgrove football

Daily Item

---- — I thoroughly enjoyed Harold Raker's column on Selinsgrove's milestone 500th football victory. Nice job!

I would like to add a P.S. regarding Tom Dean. He's rightly been called "the man who saved Selinsgrove football."

After the Seals experienced a 1-9 season in 1952, Tom, who was just one year removed from a Hall of Fame career as a Bucknell quarterback, was hired for the 1953 season. He was greeted by just 15 candidates on Aug. 18 (then the first day of practice).

Fearing injuries, due to so few players, the Selinsgrove Athletic Association favored dropping football and playing soccer instead.

Tom lobbied for a let's-wait-and-see-how-the-kids-hold-up attitude before making a decision. Showing amazing maturity for a 23-year-old, Dean convinced the association to give it a try.

With not enough players for a full intra-squad scrimmage, the "few, the proud" traveled to Mount Carmel and Shamokin to go against those Coal Region powerhouses.

Proving quite durable and using essentially just 13 players seeing the bulk of the playing time, the Seals fashioned a 6-4 record -- the first winning season in a decade and only the second in 18 years.

One of the victories was a 14-0 shutout of river rival Sunbury (now Shikellamy). This was another Selinsgrove "first." The over-achieving (but usually out-manned) Seals scored first on every opponent, and when they did come up short they never lost by more than a touchdown.

With 52 candidates showing up for the 1954 season and a 7-3-1 record, there was no longer talk of Selinsgrove becoming a "soccer school."

Coach Dean left Selinsgrove to breathe life into a moribund William Penn (Harrisburg) program and then established a perennial power at East Orange, N.J. He is an inductee in both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Scholastic Coaches Halls of Fame, and has authored "On Coaching Football: A Resource and Guide for Coaches."

Jim Campbell, Shamokin Dam