Win One for the Fibber: Football Legend Joe Biden (Updated)
During a speech at Ohio University in Athens, OH on September 8, Vice President Joe Biden led his audience to believe he had been a college football player for his alma mater -- Delaware University -- and had played against Ohio University in a 1963 football game.
His words contradicted his own memoir, in which he wrote he gave up playing football while at Delaware, and Internet records of past Delaware football team rosters, on which he is not listed.
In addition, an almunus interview with Joe Biden in the 1984 University of Delaware yearbook suggests that he may have only played intramural football, as he describes himself as having played "football and baseball intramurals."
On fanbase.com, a site that archives college football rosters, Biden is not listed on Delaware's 1961, 1962, 1963, or 1964 football rosters. Biden attended Delaware University from 1961 to 1965 and graduated in 1965 with a double major in history and political science.
In his September 8 speech, Biden, to set up a story about how he was almost arrested on Ohio University’s campus in 1963, said he came to Ohio University then because “my football team, the University of Delaware, came to avenge a loss” from 1961.
“I came ... I was a football player ... I came here in 1963 ... and we beat you Bobcats, 29-12,” Biden said.
Clearly, Biden was making the audience believe he had played football against Ohio University in 1963.
Reporters at the event thought so as well.
ABC News reported:
On this football Saturday, Biden recounted his first trip to Athens in 1963 when he was playing football at the University of Delaware, declaring, “I still am a football nut.”
Biden said he “went back in the Internet and I just want you to know I came here on October 19, 1963 and we beat you Bobcats 29-12." Internet records do show that Delaware did play and defeat Ohio on October 19, 1963--but that Biden was not on the roster.
He told the audience he was happy when Ohio University defeated Penn State in the first week of the 2012 college football season because “now I got bragging rights. Y’all beat Penn State, I can say, ‘Well, they beat Penn State and 500 years ago we beat them once.’”
Biden told a similar story during the 2008 campaign at an appearance at Ohio University on October 15, 2008.
The problem is, the story is not quite true -- by Biden's own admission -- and is another example of Biden’s exaggerations or embellishments.
In his memoir, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, which was released on August 25, 2008, Biden, on page 26 of the book, writes: “When my first semester grades came out, my mom and dad told me I wouldn’t be playing football."
Biden wrote that in the first semester of his junior year, which was in 1963, he decided to take “another run at the football team” even though he “hadn’t played for two years.”
On page 27, Biden claims he “surprised his coaches by moving up the depth chart fast” and, after the annual spring game that April, it looked like I had a shot to start at defensive back.”
He wrote he “couldn’t wait for next September” and “could almost see the fall season unfold in my head” until he headed to Florida for spring break “after our last practice.”
During spring break, Biden met Neilia Hunter, who would later become his first wife, and “fell ass over tin cup in love -- at first sight.”
On pages 32-33, Biden writes he was so in love with Hunter he had to decide “about football.”
Biden wrote he “realized that if I played football, my weekends were taken” and he wouldn’t see “much of Neilia in September, October, November ... into December if we made the playoffs":
I called the coach a few weeks before preseason started. “Coach, I’m not coming.”
“Who is this?”
"It’s Joe Biden, Coach. I’m not going to play this season.”
“Biden!? You realize you’ve got a shot to play this year?”
“I know, Coach, but I’m not coming. I'm not playing.... See, I met this girl, and she’s at Syracuse--”
Bzzzzzzzzzz was all I could hear. He’d hung up.
The only reference to Biden ever having played college football in any formal capacity is a September 5, 2008 article in the University of Delaware’s online news service, UDaily, in which Biden is the lone source:
Joe Biden once said he came to the University of Delaware in 1961 as a “half-baked halfback,” playing on the freshman football team that year under the late Scotty Duncan, and the Democratic vice presidential candidate remains a big fan of the Fightin' Blue Hens.
But even this account is doubtful, because on page 162 in the sports section of Delaware University’s 1961 yearbook, Biden is not listed on the freshman football team’s roster.
Biden has exaggerated other aspects of his college record in the past, misstating the number of degrees he obtained and how well he did in law school. He has admitted to plagiarizing a paper while attending Syracuse University College of Law.
Biden also withdrew from his 1988 campaign for president when he was caught plagiarizing British politician Neil Kinnock’s words and ideas on the stump during the Democratic primary.
The Obama campaign has attempted to set the stage for the vice presidential debate between Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan by calling Ryan a liar and referring to a mistake he made in exaggerating his marathon time.
Unlike Biden, however, Ryan corrected himself and apologized for the error--and faced media criticism for it. When Football Legend Joe Biden does it, "that's just Joe being Joe."
Photo: Biden in Virginia; wire services