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A Witness to History

The Voice of IUP Sports could well answer to another moniker: The Forrest Gump of IUP Sports. Just like that cinematic hero, Jack Benedict has been an ever-present witness to historic moments spanning more than three decades.

Jack Benedict interviewing Carl Davis

Jack Benedict interviews retired faculty member and coach Carl Davis, left, at halftime of an IUP basketball game.

Since broadcasting his first IUP game on Sept. 20, 1969—Chuck Klausing’s football team defeated Northwood Institute 27-6 that afternoon—Benedict has chronicled some 1,500 university athletic events.

“There are so many memories,” he says. “Let’s put it this way: There are a heckuva lot more highlights than lowlights.”

Here are some moments Benedict figures he’ll never forget:

Rocked at home

Before Slippery Rock staggered the IUP football team 23-21 on October 25, 1969, the Indians had reeled off fifteen consecutive regular-season victories. “That’s the game I remember most about my first season—the only loss,” Benedict says. “There had been this long winning streak. I remember leaving Miller Stadium that day and it was like, we lost—we don’t lose.”

Call of the wild

Benedict won one of his four Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters awards for his call of the 1985 barnburner between the IUP and Lehigh football teams, won 49-41 by the Engineers. “That’s the game where Rich Ingold was 34-for-49 for 460 yards and four touchdowns,” he points out. “Their quarterback, Marty Horn, threw for five touchdowns. The game went back and forth and the outcome was up in the air until the end.”

Lightning strikes twice

Benedict cringes at the recollection of two basketball trips prolonged by unscheduled stops—along the side of the road. “Once we were coming back from Lock Haven and once from Shippensburg,” he says. “We got stuck in the ice and had to spend the night on the bus. The first time I thought, ‘Oh, God, I hope this never happens again.’ Three years ago it did.”

A heartbreaking setback

North Alabama beat IUP 41-34 for the NCAA Division II football championship in 1993 when Cody Gross marched the Lions the length of the field in the final minute and scored on a quarterback sneak with ten seconds remaining. “That game had a lot of similarities to the Boardwalk Bowl,” Benedict says. “You figure when Mike Geary kicks the field goal [with 1:07 left] to tie the score, the worst it could be is overtime, right? Wrong. That was just a tremendous game, one of the most exciting championship games ever.”

The miracle comeback

When the IUP basketball team fell behind 58-31 with 16:23 remaining at Edinboro on Jan. 24, 1996, its fate was seemingly sealed. But that was before the Indians caught fire and scorched the Scots. “That was our greatest comeback ever,” Benedict notes. “We were down twenty-seven early in the second half. A few people who were listening, I’m sure, turned us off.” Those who did kicked themselves later when they tuned in to catch the final score: 75-74, IUP.

Collapse in Connecticut

The IUP football team lost 43-14 at New Haven in 1997, but the numbers on the scoreboard accounted for only part of Benedict’s misery. “We’re sitting out in front of the press box, it’s a windy day, and my notes get blown under the bleachers,” he says. “Then I realized I forgot my wireless mike for the sideline reports. We had to rent a wireless mike for the day. That’s also the day a section of stands collapsed [injuring four members of the IUP band]. On top of that, we got demolished. It was one of those days you’d like to forget.”

The silent partner

Bill Betts, the other half of the IUP broadcast team, was in fine form during a basketball doubleheader at Edinboro a number of years back. Benedict wasn’t. “It was the only time I ever lost my voice,” he explains. “I had a pretty heavy cold going in. I started out OK, but as the first game wore on, it began to crack. By the end of the second game, I’m almost whispering. Going home, I couldn’t say anything. It totally shut off on me. I think that was the most pleasant trip Bill ever had.”