September 19, 2000

Former Football Captain Remembers Last Sellout

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It happened it 1955, and it could happen again — this season in fact, through the Schoellkopf Sellout program. It was a scant 45 years ago that the last time this great feat was accomplished. At the time, a young man by the name of Richard Jackson ’55 led the great Cornell Big Red football team. The first black captain of the Big Red, Jackson was a two-way player as a running back and a cornerback. He remembers the day as if it were yesterday.

“It’s hard for me to realize how important that game really was. I really was in disbelief.”

As a teenager from Athens, Pennsylvania, Jackson would often come up to Ithaca to watch Cornell football games.

“Back then [the stadium] was almost always filled,” Jackson remembers.

“The biggest difference I see between then and now is that students don’t support their team as much as they used to. There are so many other things to do now days. But it really gives you an advantage [to have students there].

“It’s a special feeling,” he continued. “It’s a very unique experience. It gives you the desire to do well.”

In those days, the captain used to come out first, before all of the other players, and this provided Jackson with an extra sense of wonder.

“When you go out there, you see all the people cheering and your adrenaline is rushing, your heart is pumping, it feels great. It really is thrilling to play in front of that many people.”

At the time, Cornell played Princeton not only in front of a sellout crowd, but also a regional television audience. The game was showed all along the east coast.

That game in 1955 was the last time over 25,000 people were in Schoellkopf for a football contest. The athletic department is hoping to end that streak this weekend against Yale. It will be the Red’s home-opener, Ivy-opener as well as being Homecoming.

Currently, Jackson is an active member of the Schoellkopf Sellout Program while balancing roles on the Hall of Fame committee and the Cornell Football Association.

Archived article by Sumeet Sarin