Just as sports in the 1920s reflected American hubris and self-celebration, in the 1930s a social edge played itself out in the athletic world. The 1932 L.A. Olympic Games, coming on the heels of USC’s 1931 national championship and preceding their repeat of the same in 1932, was replete with a host of Trojan trackmen and swimmers winning Gold medals. It galvanized Los Angeles and California as the “new Greece,” where feats of physical greatness reached their zenith in the L.A. Coliseum.
1.Michigan (1879-2006) 860-282-36
2. Notre Dame (1887-2006) 821-269-42
3. Texas (1893-2006) 810-313-33
4. Oklahoma (1895-2006) 768-292-53
5. Ohio State (1890-2006) 787-301-53
6. Alabama (1892-2006) 780-307-43
7. Nebraska (1890-2006) 801-327-41
8. Southern California (1888-2006) 743-300-54
9. Tennessee (1891-2006) 760-312-53
10. Penn State (1887-2006) 780-343-41
11. Florida State (1947-2006) 442-201-30
12. Georgia (1892-2006) 702-379-54
13. Miami (1926-2006) 533-291-19
14. Louisiana State (1893-2006) 680-376-47
15. Auburn (1892-2006) 667-384-47
16. Washington (1889-2006) 646-379-54
17. Florida (1906-2006) 619-368-40
18. Miami (Ohio) (1888-2005) 639-352-44
19. Arizona State (1897-2005) 523-318-24
20. Colorado (1890-2005) 650-402-36
21. Central Michigan (1896-2005) 532-338-36
22. UCLA (1919-2006) 528-346-37
23. Texas A&M (1894-2005) 639-415-48
24. Syracuse (1889-2004) 664-435-49
25. Army (1890-2004) 631-427-51
25. Michigan State (1896-2006) 599-403-44
27. Georgia Tech (1892-2006) 646-436-43
28. Arkansas (1894-2004) 621-422-40
29. Clemson (1896-2004) 600-413-45
30. Minnesota (1882-2006) 626-439-44
31. Pittsburgh (1890-2004) 639-464-42
32. Stanford (1891-2006) 543-412-49
33. Mississippi (1893-2004) 583-439-35
34. California (1882-2006) 602-459-51
35. Brigham Young (1922-2004) 456-359-26
36. Maryland (1892-2004) 573-498-43
37. Illinois (1890-2004) 542-485-50
38. Texas Christian (1896-2004) 515-502-57
Twice in the 1930s, the black American boxer, Joe Louis fought the symbol of Aryan “superiority,” Germany’s Max Schmelling. When Louis beat Schmelling in 1938, he was viewed as the first black hero by a white America concerned with Nazi military preparations and Jewish persecution. In 1936, Adolph Hitler used the Olympics as a propagandistic springboard for his racial theories, but Jesse Owens, a black sprinter-long jumper from Ohio State, won four Golds to dismantle the Hitler concept.
Heisman Trophies - by school
1. Southern California 7
1. Ohio State 7
1. Notre Dame 7
4. Oklahoma 4
5. Nebraska 3
6. Michigan 3
6. Texas 3
6. Army 3
9. Florida State 2
10. Wisconsin 2
10. Florida 2
10. Miami 2
10. Auburn 2
10. Navy 2
10. Georgia 2
10. Yale 2
California had always been a land of cutting edge societal trends. Blacks and whites were classmates, teammates and worthy opponents, years and decades before it was acceptable in other regions of the country. USC and UCLA were leaders in the area of progress for minorities on the field and in the classroom. The integrated USC-UCLA football games of the 1930s had a major impact on social progress. The star of those games, Bruin halfback Jackie Robinson, was chosen to break baseball’s “color barrier,” which he ultimately did in 1947 largely on the strength of his gridiron exploits.
USC & UCLA: Hollywood’s schools
Marion Morrison (John “Duke” Wayne), Southern California (True Grit, The Sands of Iwo Jima, The Quiet Man, Red River, et al); Marv Goux, Southern California (Spartacus): O. J. Simpson, Southern California (Naked Gun, et al): Woody Strode, UCLA (Spartacus): Mark Harmon, UCLA (The Presidio, The Deliberate Stranger, et al) . . .
. . . also check out Ed Marinaro, Cornell (Hill Street Blues) and Carl Weathers, San Diego State (Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Action Jackson).
By the end of 1939, collegiate football had been played for seventy years. Historians of the sport now had an abundance of knowledge with which to formulate the concept of tradition. In viewing the sweep of the game, it was by 1940 obvious major changes had occurred. Up until the turn of the century, Princeton was the undisputed king of the hill with Yale their closest competitors. Most colleges started playing football in the 1890s, but Ivy League schools were the only ones considered truly worthy.
In the 1900s, Michigan, Minnesota, Chicago, Stanford and Washington joined Princeton, Yale and Harvard. The “Team of the Decade” was Michigan. It all turned around in the 1910s. Washington’s 63-game unbeaten streak made them the best of the best. Army, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech were worthy competitors.
In the 1920s, Notre Dame put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack, although Cal’s dominance in the first four years of the decade was extraordinary. Stanford, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Michigan and Illinois were all outstanding. As great as Notre Dame was, a look at the raw statistics reveals that, surprisingly, the best record between 1920 and 1929 was USC’s 88-13-2 over Notre Dame’s 81-12-4. The Irish nevertheless rate as the “Team of the Decade.”
USC could not be denied the appellation “Team of the Decade” for the 1930s, although Minnesota and Alabama had dominant runs. If one were asked in 1940 to rank the greatest of all collegiate traditions, the answer would have not have been a cut ‘n’ dried one. Notre Dame, USC, Alabama, Michigan and California would have thrown their hats in the ring.
In 1940, coach Bernie Bierman’s Minnesota Golden Gophers were awarded the national championship by the Associated Press. However, they played no bowl game. Stanford’s 21-13 triumph over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl gave coach Clark Shaughnessy’s Indians the co-national championship, courtesy of the systems.
In 1942, Ohio State won the AP title. Georgia’s shutout victory over UCLA in the Rose Bowl gave them some consideration from the systems, but not enough to grant them co-national championship status. Army and Notre Dame dominated the next few years. By the end of 1949, the Fighting Irish had won four national championships in the decade and were firmly ensconced as college football’s all-time best tradition. USC had a solid decade, but fell far below the standards set by Howard Jones. The battle for “second place” would have been between the Trojans, Alabama, Minnesota, Michigan and Army.
The war effort
On December 2, 1944, Army coach Earl “Red” Blaik received a telegram after his Black Knights defeated Navy to complete a perfect season: “THE GREATEST OF ALL ARMY TEAMS. WE HAVE STOPPED THE WAR TO CELEBRATE YOUR MAGNIFICENT SUCCESS. MaCARTHUR.” This is perhaps as telling a statement about the greatness of America as any single fact. Consider the following information about the United States entering World War II on December 7, 1941:
· We were unprepared for the war.
· America was still recovering from the Great Depression.
· We were swept by pacifism.
· American Communism was on the rise.
· President Franklin Roosevelt’s Administration was dotted with actual Soviet agents.
· Our stated, popular policy was isolationism.
· Ambassador to Great Britain Joseph P. Kennedy (father of JFK) stated, “Let’s do business with Hitler, we can’t beat him.”
· The Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor left half the U.S. Pacific fleet destroyed.
· The U.S. was immediately beaten in a series of battles with Germany’s “Desert Fox,” Erwin Rommel.
Despite this, America utterly, totally and without question conquered the greatest military power ever assembled up until that time (Hitler’s Wehrmacht), who was in league with totalitarian Japan, in a two-front war continually shifting from North Africa, Sicily, Italy, the skies of Europe, France, Belgium, and Germany in the West, and Hawaii, the Philippines, the Pacific-Asian Islands, Australia, and Japan in the Pacific Theatre, all the while . . .
. . . continuing the Hollywood film industry, Broadway, Wall Street, all education from grammar school to high school to colleges, post-graduate, public and private; maintaining police departments, civil engineering, city, county, state and federal governments in normal operation . .
. . . all while playing a full Major League baseball schedule that never missed a game or canceled the World Series; an uninterrupted National Football League complete with the annual draft; all NCAA sports, including a full slate of collegiate football. There were sports concessions to the war, but probably less in collegiate football than any other. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson plainly advised college students to graduate first so they could enter the military as officers. The 1942 Rose Bowl was moved from Pasadena to Durham, North Carolina, where Oregon State beat Duke, 20-16. There was a reduction of inter-sectional games, resulting in the temporary cancellation of the USC-Notre Dame rivalry. As if to thumb their nose at the Japanese threat, in 1942 USC and UCLA played a full schedule to large crowds in the L.A. Coliseum, with UCLA capturing the conference title before losing to Georgia in the Rose Bowl’s return to Pasadena. In January 1944, USC played Washington in the Rose Bowl. Three of the best “college teams” in the nation were Great Lakes Naval Air Station, Iowa Pre-Flight, and Randolph Field. In January 1945, Tennessee traveled to the Rose Bowl and lost to USC. In 1944 Army fielded one of the greatest college football teams of all time, which thrilled cheering throngs. In 1945 the war was over when the college football season started. Army again dominated, while Alabama beat USC in the Rose Bowl.
There seems to be little doubt that, while the continuation of major sports in America was a morale-booster, its greatest contribution was in the demoralization of our enemies. Jimmie Doolittle’s “Raiders” were bombing Japan. Chester Nimitz’s Navy was dealing blow after blow to their Imperial Navy. George Patton, Omar Bradley and Mark Clark’s forces were blowing through the Germans from one continent to another in the manner of Red Blaik’s offense. Typical “buddy” talk revolved around personal allegiance to Ohio State or Michigan; Stanford or Cal, Notre Dame or . . . Everybody felt like they were part of West Point or Navy, with a lifetime of kindred spirit for those schools long after the fighting ended. The German and Japanese leadership, living in bunkers, dealing with bomb alerts, their respective countries’ societies one hundred percent mobilized to support the war, had to observe the fact that America was winning the war while continuing to “play games,” concluding therefore that we were unstoppable.
In 1950 the United Press International poll began. If it was supposed to alleviate the problem of co-national championships and illegitimacy, it did nothing of the sort. Their decision to vote before the bowls, as the AP already did, was utterly foolish. Thus were we given Oklahoma (1950), Tennessee (1951) and Maryland (1953), “consensus” winners all (each losers of their respective bowls). The legitimate national champions should have been Tennessee in 1950 (11-1, beat Texas, 20-14 in the Cotton Bowl), Maryland in 1951 (10-0, beat Tennessee, 28-13 in the Sugar Bowl), and Michigan State in 1953 (9-1, beat UCLA 28-20 in the Rose Bowl). Ohio State (AP) and UCLA (UPI) were co-national champions of 1954.
Oklahoma dominated the 1950s like no team before or since, running off a 47-game winning streak and consecutive consensus titles in 1955-1956. Ohio State (UPI) and Auburn (AP) split the 1957 national championship after Notre Dame ended OU’s winning streak, 7-0 in Norman (it had started after the Irish beat the Sooners, 28-21 in 1953).
The South dipped slightly in the early part of the decade. Their segregationist racial policies were increasingly problematic. The University of San Francisco was disinvited from the Sugar Bowl because they had black players, who by now regularly dotted rosters in the North and the West. A number of small schools in California became strong in football using black players. Little St. Mary’s had beaten Oklahoma State in the 1946 Sugar Bowl.
UCLA built themselves into a powerhouse largely on the strength of the great black high school stars they recruited from in and around Los Angeles. The Bruin basketball team under John Wooden, in particular, can attribute much of their dominant success to this practice.
USC did not quite match UCLA in the area of social progress but was still ahead of the rest of the country. In 1956 the Trojans brought a black running back named C. R. Roberts back to Austin. Roberts responded with one of the greatest – albeit little known – games in history: 251 yards in the first half to lead Troy to a 44-20 smashing of all white Texas. Roberts’s presence forced coach Jess Hill’s team to find separate hotel digs the night before, at great expense and disruption to plans. It galvanized the Trojans into a fighting force. According to reports, the Texas fans were unmerciful in their treatment of Roberts right until the end, although the Longhorn players – venomous at first but pacified by the athlete’s respect of an opponent’s performance - reached out to extend handshakes and compliments when it was over. Fourteen years before Sam “Bam” Cunningham’s game at Birmingham in 1970, however, the time was not right for a football game to change America. Other games had an impact: Pittsburgh, Navy and Penn State, among others, venturing South for bowl games with integrated teams.
Auburn and LSU helped return the Southeastern Conference to prominence in 1957 and 1958, but it was the hiring of Paul “Bear” Bryant that changed everything in every way. By the end of the 1950s, Notre Dame – who had fallen on some hard times, at least by their standards – still hung on to the mythical number one position in history.
The 1960s totally and completely changed the face of college football. It started inauspiciously, however. Minnesota won the AP and UPI championship but failed to defend it with a 17-7 loss to Washington in the Rose Bowl. 10-0-1 Mississippi, a 14-6 winner over Rice in the Sugar Bowl, should have been the champion.
Alabama, USC and Texas won impressive national championships in the next three years. Each represented the glorious, glamorous new wave overtaking the game. ‘Bama of course was now coached by Bryant, who stamped his greatness on the program.
His good friend, John McKay did the same at USC. Each took a great tradition that had not become mediocre, but surely was less than it had been. Each restored it to levels of glory greater than any it had known before. These schools would usher in enormous changes to the game. To some extent, so too did Darrell Royal at Texas. His 1963 Longhorns helped to turn them into a storied program.
The well-chronicled 1964 and 1965 fiascoes (Alabama’s and Michigan State’s bowl losses after wire service national titles had already been awarded) could not completely overshadow exciting new developments. Television ratings were sky high as by now each home had a set. Color TV became the norm. Further integration gave America a whole new cast of stars to root for. Equipment changed drastically. Recruiting, money, national exposure, coaching techniques, training methods; all served to modernize the game in the 1960s. Three old names – USC, Alabama, Notre Dame – would take the reigns of the modern era and make history.
Until 1964, the only thing lacking in the new decade was greatness at Notre Dame. That situation was alleviated when Ara Parseghian took over. He immediately led the Irish to a 9-0 record. The Fighting Irish arrived at the Los Angeles Coliseum one win away from the school’s eighth national championship. Alabama fans became Trojan fans. They were jumping for joy when Southern California rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Irish, 20-17. Notre Dame was out, Alabama was in. The wire services went for the Tide over unbeaten Arkansas. ‘Bama lost their bowl game, Arkansas won theirs: chaos ensued.
The 1965 Michigan State/UPI imbroglio further clouded the situation. The AP’s one-year reversal gave Alabama that year’s championship but may have denied them in 1966. Their Ken Stabler-led victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl was impressive enough that it might have swayed some voters over the “no bowl” Irish. When the AP finally went to a post-bowl vote in 1968 for good, it meant the USC-Ohio State Rose Bowl game took on “Game of the Century” overtones. The Buckeyes won in convincing manner. It did not match other earth-shaking games (1931 USC-Notre Dame, 1946 Notre Dame-Army, 1963 USC-Wisconsin Rose Bowl, 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State, 1969 Texas-Arkansas, 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma, 1973 Notre Dame-Alabama Sugar Bowl, 1988 Notre Dame-Miami, 2006 USC-Texas Rose Bowl).
Texas (1970) and Alabama (1973) were the last two illegitimate UPI “national champions.” The subsequent decision to change the vote to after the bowls certainly did not end controversy or co-national championships, but there have been no illegitimate champs since then.
In 1974, USC rallied from a 24-0 deficit, scoring fifty-five points in seventeen minutes to beat Notre Dame, 55-24. The game represented the height of the rivalry. In 1964 USC knocked Notre Dame out. In 1965 USC was 4-0-1 and Notre Dame was 4-0. In 1966 Notre Dame’s shutout win over USC won it for them. In 1967 O. J. Simpson’s Trojan win at South Bend made them the frontrunner, and they held from there. In 1968 USC’s tie with Notre Dame kept them in the hunt. In 1969 their tie with the Irish probably cost them the national championship. In 1970 USC’s 38-28 win over Joe Theismann in a driving rainstorm at the Coliseum knocked the Irish out. In 1971 a 2-4 Trojan squad held an Athlete’s in Action Christian “demonstration” the week of the South Bend trip.
“A lot of guys accepted Christ that day,” recalled lineman Dave Brown, who organized it.
They beat Notre Dame, 28-14, ending Notre Dame’s unbeaten season and bid for number one. 1972: Anthony Davis’s six touchdowns and USC’s 45-23 whipping propelled USC to the title. 1973: Notre Dame ended USC’s 23-game unbeaten streak and went on to win it. 1974: USC’s beyond belief blowout gave them the championship after they won an almost-as-exciting Rose Bowl, 18-17 on a last-minute two-point conversion over Ohio State.
In 1975 USC’s 24-17 win at Notre Dame left them 7-0 and in the driver’s seat. In 1976 USC beat Notre Dame and finished second; had Pitt lost their bowl game the Trojans would have won. In 1977 Joe Montana and the green jersey Irish rode their upset of Troy to the championship. In 1978, a two-seconds-left field goal by Frank Jordan gave USC victory and, after their Rose Bowl win over Michigan, the national championship. In 1979 USC beat Notre Dame and knocked number one, unbeaten Ohio State out of the number one slot in the Rose Bowl. Had Alabama not beaten Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, Troy would have been a champion again. In 1980, USC’s 20-3 victory over Notre Dame ended Irish hopes in the last regular season game. In 1981 USC’s defeat of Notre Dame at South Bend left them at 6-1, in the driver’s seat for the national championship in a year of upsets. Subsequent Trojan losses ended their dream but Marcus Allen’s performance at South Bend led him to the Heisman Trophy.
Finally, in 1982 (when USC rallied to win, 17-13), the game had no national title implications before or after. After drubbing the Trojans, 51-0 in 1966, Notre Dame only beat their biggest rivals twice in the succeeding sixteen seasons. Both times they won the national championship. USC won four titles in that time frame. It could be argued that if these two storied programs did not schedule the annual bloodletting with each other, USC and Notre Dame could have won several more.
The 1978 co-national championship was split between the two dominant powers of Bear Bryant’s career; his Tide and McKay’s Trojans. It all came to a head in 1978. Ranked number one, Alabama met USC at Birmingham’s Legion Field. Trojan tailback Charlie White ran for 199 yards. USC ran away from ‘Bama, 24-14. USC’s subsequent loss to Arizona State set them back. Penn State looked to be the champions, but once-beaten Alabama defeated Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions in the Sugar Bowl. USC beat Michigan, 17-10 in the Rose Bowl.
Now, the same voters who denied Alabama in 1966 for “political” reasons, had the Tide’s fate in their hands again. Common sense dictated who the rightful champion was. In that rare pre-BCS year in which the two teams in question played, and one had defeated the other on the losing team’s home turf, the obvious pick was Southern California. But Bryant had rightfully been credited with skillfully integrating his, and by proxy the entire SEC’s, football rosters. The AP showered him with love and their vote. The UPI stuck with Troy.
The next year it looked to be a repeat. It was an incredible season in which the 1979 Crimson Tide, Trojans and Ohio State Buckeyes all rank among the finest teams in history. But USC tied Stanford, then beat the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. Alabama, the last unbeaten, untied team standing, was the AP’s sixth repeat champion.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism