CONFERENCES, GAMES, PLAYERS AND COACHES
A CITY (LOS ANGELES)
A SCHOOL (USC)
A GAME (THE ROSE BOWL)
A STATE (CALIFORNIA)
A REGION (THE WEST) . . .
AND A CONFERENCE (THE PACIFIC-10)
160 years after the actual ‘49ers, the greatest “gold mine” of sports talent in the world is in California; its teams, its traditions, and its conference reflect this excellence. In football, it has stiffer competition than other sports.
In recent years, supporters of various college football programs have more and more argued the merits of particular teams based as much on the conference they play in as on the individual schools. There is some validity in this, but only so much.
Conference comparisons are sometimes uneven. Some conferences have ten teams, others twelve. The Pacific-10 only had eight until they added Arizona and Arizona State in 1978. The more teams in a conference, mathematically the greater likelihood that a larger number of teams from that conference will go to a bowl game, or be ranked. Many conference schedules do not include all the teams in the conference. Some conferences have divisions and a championship game. Some do not.
However, history has a way of evening things out. Different eras create different criterias, but when you go back eighty to 100 years, there is a tendency to see equality in the numbers and statistics. For roughly fifteen or twenty years, the Southeastern Conference has increasingly shown itself to be the toughest football – and arguably the best overall athletic - conference in the nation. There is no indication that this will change soon, but the cyclical nature of sports history says that at some point it will.
In this same period of time, the Pacific-10 Conference has experienced a down period. Many have argued that it is "soft." While the Pac-10 has undoubtedly not been as strong up and down as the SEC of late, much of the disparagement of it is not particularly valid. There is a political and social edge to this criticism. Southerners in particular view the Pac-10 from a "red state versus blue state" mentality, as if support for the military and the War on Terror is indicative of better college football. There is unquestionably a jealousy factor, too. The Pacific-10 Conference includes big metropolitan areas like the Los Angeles/Orange County basin, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and fast-sprouting Phoenix metro. It is Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the “Microsoft and grunge crowd”; the "Left Coast.” It is a trendsetting region in culture and style. It is a quasi-“kingmaker” in presidential elections, electorally and financially. College football has not been big time in New York City, or really anywhere in the tri-state area, since the 1920s or 1930s at the latest (although Rutgers has been surging in recent years). The covetousness of human nature is more often then directed at the West Coast, and all it stands for; good and bad.
At the heart of all this is the University of Southern California. Athletically, they are the top dog in their conference. Academically, the Pac-10 has more heavyweights than most conferences. Stanford is considered to be as outstanding an all-around educational experience as any in the nation. California and UCLA are not far behind. Until recently, USC had the reputation of being a "jock school." No more. If there were a “top 25” rating schools in every area, USC would be a contender for the list. In fact, there is one: U.S. News & World Report ranks USC, along with more Pac-10 schools than any of the so-called “sports conferences”. USC was also rated "College of the Year" as recently as 2000 in the Time/Princeton Review.
On the football field, USC dominates. Out of this an argument arises. Much of the conference prestige emanates from the success of USC. The Trojans often appear to "carry" the Pac-10. SEC fans say that USC would not be as successful in their conference because the competition is greater. They may be right, but there is a flip side to that logic: does USC dominate the Pac-10 because the Pac-10 is a weaker conference, or is the Pac-10 a weaker conference because USC dominates it?
That is, should USC be "penalized" in the court of public opinion because they are so good? No one college dominates its conference as USC always has dominated the Pac-10. Texas was a strong team in the Southwestern Conference and in recent years has had great teams in the Big 12, but their record in these leagues does not compare with USC in the Pac-10. Nebraska and Oklahoma have fairly evenly battled in the Big 8 (now Big 12).
Alabama has been the top dog in the Southeastern Conference, but in recent years especially has taken a back seat to Florida, LSU, Auburn, Tennessee and Georgia. These teams fight each other "tooth and nail" for recruits on and off the field. Out of this fray emerges BCS national champions (Tennessee in 1998, LSU in 2003, Florida in 2006) and close contenders (Auburn in 2004).
The Big 10 is no longer considered a truly great conference. Neither Michigan nor Ohio State holds the "hammer" on each other. The conference consistently loses bowl games. The Big 10 produces national titles infrequently (two since 1968).
On the other hand, USC quite thoroughly dominates its greatest conference rival, UCLA. This makes a powerful statement, because UCLA is probably the second best overall athletic tradition in the nation. They have all the pieces in place to create one of the top football programs in the country, and in so doing to create equality with USC. They have not achieved this. The reason they have not: USC. The Trojans have not let them.
This would be like Alabama not letting Florida or LSU achieve the power they have achieved. The Bruins have always had many advantages: thorough integration since their beginning, great weather, the L.A. recruiting base, glamour, academics, good facilities, beautiful girls and the nearby attractions of Bel-Air, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Malibu beach. John Wooden demonstrated in basketball what could happen when all of these advantages are maximized. USC was a hoops power and likely would have won a few of those national titles Wooden gobbled up in the 1960s and ‘70s. In football, UCLA has been strangely enigmatic. They are usually good, often very powerful, yet only one national title has been bestowed upon the Sons of Westwood.
The fact they do not have a stadium partly explains this. They joined the PCC in 1928 and were more or less "tenants" of USC at the L.A. Coliseum. For fifty-plus years their fans had to drive to USC, park in and around the campus, then walk past Trojan shrines on their way to and from games. In 1982 they moved into the venerable Rose Bowl, but this has not turned them into the powerhouse they always threatened to be. It is problematic for students, located some forty-five minutes from campus even without traffic and parking hassles. Worse, when the Trojans play in the Rose Bowl game on January 1 it tends to place forth the discomfiting fact that, while the Bruins rent the place in the fall, it is USC’s "house" come New Year’s Day.
Nevertheless, in a city and region producing a gold mine of high school football talent; with the advantage of being able to bring in kids whose friends and family can conveniently visit the school and attend the games (plus vice versa), UCLA should do better. They do not because USC dominates them, almost (but not quite) as thoroughly as Wooden dominated USC in basketball. In this regard the Trojans tower over the city and the conference. No single SEC, Big 12 or Big 10 team comes close to creating this kind of hegemony on their own turf.
Florida State in the ACC, and Miami (an independent, then in the Big East, then in the ACC) have done this in their conferences at times, but their leagues are historically considered a notch below the "big boys" (Pac-10, SEC, et al). If Florida could dominate the SEC the way USC has for the most part dominated the Pac-10, they would separate themselves from the competition.
It therefore comes down to the question: who has the talent? Does USC get the best talent from a smaller pool of potential players, or the best of a larger pool? Since integration, there is no question the South, with the three Florida schools leading the way, created a paradigm shift in the power base of collegiate football. However, it is a myth to think the SEC was ever weak. It may have been maligned, it may not have benefited from having media centers in its midst, and its racial politics definitely engendered bad feelings; but they have always been good.
Still, this kind of thing has a tendency to be cyclical and subject to outside influences. The Big 10 has probably suffered a bit because of economic downturns, especially in the manufacturing sector. The South and the West enjoy good weather, campus populations including a plethora of pretty girls (a recruiting factor that cannot be underestimated) and, in recent years for the most part, fairly vibrant economies. The “new South” has thrived politically and financially since integration. The ultimate multi-cultural event, the Olympics, came to Atlanta in 1996. Its big cities all have major professional sports franchises now. West Coast cities, and by extension its colleges, have benefited from ties to the defense/aerospace industry, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Pacific Rim trade . . .
While the SEC holds the current bragging rights, history is always the best guide. In judging conferences by viewing the bigger picture of things, the Pacific-10 (which has been the PCC, the AAWU and the Pac-8) is arguably the best in football. They are so much better than everybody else in all sports that there simply is no debate!
In football, it is closer than the other sports. They have won nineteen legitimate national championships and ten Heisman Trophies since World War I. Prior to the Great War, Stanford, Washington, Washington State and Oregon had teams considered worthy historical national champions. Washington was the "Team of the Decade" (1910s). The best football in the country was played in the Pacific Northwest up until World War I; in northern California (California, Stanford) right after the war; and in southern California (USC) in the late 1920s and 1930s.
The "Ivy League," which was really just a loose confederation of independent teams, dominated the nineteenth and early twentieth century, but there is no way to compare that era with the modern one, or even the 1920s, when sports in America saw great advances. The Big 10 boasts sixteen national championships and fourteen Heisman Trophies. In the 1900s, the best football was played at Michigan, Minnesota and Chicago. Throughout the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, it was arguably as good if not the best conference in America, but it has not maintained that level in the ensuing decades.
The Southeastern Conference, once known as the Southern Conference, has produced sixteen national titles and eight Heismans. Its most ardent supporters argue that the SEC’s rugged schedule, topped off by a conference title game, make it difficult for the league to produce national champions. There may be years in which this is true, but overall the cream tends to rise to the top. Over the course of history, it all evens itself out one way or another. Even in the last decade-plus, there really are not any years in which some SEC team can make a legitimate claim they were actually better than some non-SEC team that won the championship. Florida could credit participation in such a rugged conference with giving them the edge, via computers and polls over Michigan when choosing who would play in the 2007 BCS title game. When the underdog Gators destroyed highly favored Ohio State, it had the effect of increasing SEC prestige while undermining that of the Big 10.
Did you know . . .
That Sports Illustrated reported in 2006 that for twenty-six years running, the Southeastern Conference led the nation in attendance, averaging 5,715,917 fans per season (74,700 per game)? They filled 97.6 percent of their stadiums to capacity. The Big 10 is second at 72,566, even though they have two of the largest stadiums (Ohio State’s "horseshoe" and Michigan’s "Big House"). The Big 12 averaged 58,397; the ACC: 52,257; the Pacific-10: 57,479; and the Big East: 39,400 during this period.
The Big 12, which started as the Missouri Valley Conference, was the Big 7 and the Big 8, then the Big 12 when they incorporated the Southwest Conference. They have thirteen national titles (including Texas in 2005) and ten Heisman winners. During the heyday of the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry (1970s and 1980s), the conference was weak outside the Cornhuskers and Sooners. When Oklahoma fell in the 1990s, the rest of the conference improved noticeably, most particular in the form of longtime weak sister Kansas State. The casual fan also might be surprised by Colorado’s history. The Buffaloes shared the 1990 national championship, but aside from that the school produced a 643-397-36 (.614) record through 2004, with one Heisman winner (Rashaan Salaam) and one of the most famous of All-Americans, Byron "Whizzer" White (1937). (President John F. Kennedy appointed White to the Supreme Court.)
In the 2000s, the Big 12 produced two national champions (Oklahoma in 2000, Texas in 2005) plus BCS championship game appearances by the Sooners following the 2003 and 2004 campaigns. The SEC, however, argued they were better than the Big 12. In the case of LSU (2003) they were. In the case of Auburn (2004) they may or may not have been.
The ACC also has roots in the Southern Conference. They have five titles with two Heismans. Miami won three as an independent and two as a member of the Big East, which they have since left to join the ACC. The old Southwest Conference boasted four titles (Texas won two from the SWC) and five Heismans. BYU gives the WAC their only one. The rest are distributed between independents Notre Dame (eleven), Army (three), Penn State (two before joining the Big 10), Pitt and Syracuse (both now in the Big East). The average fan probably has little idea how good Army was at least until the late 1950s. Pitt made a revival of its glorious past during Tony Dorsett’s magical Heisman/national championship campaign of 1976. Syracuse, like Colorado, is a sleeper; one national title (1959), one Heisman winner (Ernie Davis in 1961), a 664-435-40 (.600) record through 2004, and a fella named Jim Brown!
Just as USC holds the national championship edge, insofar as none of their titles are illegitimatized by bowl losses, or by a long list of empty championships won without playing in bowls, the Pac-10’s history is similar. Of their nineteen titles, all are legit. Other teams and conferences have any number of national championships diluted by bowl losses, no bowls, and probation. Cal’s four include three Rose Bowl wins and a tie. From 1948-1950, their national title chances went up in smoke because of Rose Bowl defeats. Nevertheless, unlike other programs, there is no misleading literature purporting the myth that any of those teams were indeed "champions" based on their unbeaten regular season records.
Stanford’s two post-World War I titles include a 1927 Rose Bowl tie with Alabama, the team they split with. Their 1940 champions beat Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. Washington’s 1991 co-national championship came on the heels of a 34-14 thumping of 10-1 Michigan at Pasadena.
The "granddaddy of ‘em all" represents the single greatest barometer of college football excellence there is. The Rose Bowl is the most prestigious of all the bowl games; the oldest, the most established, the one generating the most attention. It has more consistently than any other game pitted the two best teams in the country. It has produced more national champions and decided more titles than any other bowl by a long shot. Michigan dominated in the first Rose Bowl; the Big 10 in the first decade of the post-World War II arrangement. The overall record of this game demonstrates Pacific Coast superiority.
National champions (historical, systems, polls, BCS) produced by the Rose Bowl include (years reflect the January date of the games): Michigan (1902), Washington (1916), Oregon (1917), Harvard (1920), California (1921-1922), Notre Dame (1925), Alabama (1926-1927), Stanford (1927), Alabama (1931), USC (1932-1933), Alabama (1935), California (1938), USC (1940), Stanford (1941), Ohio State (1955), Ohio State (1958), USC (1963), USC (1968), Ohio State (1969), USC (1973), USC (1975), USC (1979), Washington (1992), Michigan (1998), Miami (2002), USC (2004), and Texas (2006).
The Rose Bowl was usually, for all practical purposes, a "national championship game" until World War II. The winner in Pasadena was assured of national championship status in one way or another in 1921 (Cal over Ohio State), 1925 (Notre Dame over Stanford), 1926 (Alabama over Washington), 1927 (Stanford tied Alabama), 1932 (USC over Tulane), and 1940 (USC over Tennessee). After the war, both teams knew ahead of time that if they won, some form of the “brass ring” would come their way in 1963 (USC over Wisconsin), 1969 (Ohio State over USC), 2002 (Miami over Nebraska), and 2006 (Texas over USC). Twice, tie games still produced national champions. In 1922, Cal tied Washington & Jefferson and won the title. As mentioned, the 1927 Stanford-Alabama tie resulted in splitting the title.
Georgia Tech’s 1929 win over Cal vaulted them to national championship status in some of the systems. Georgia argued that they should have been the national champions after beating UCLA in 1943. The Rose Bowl also had the effect of knocking teams out of the national title picture (in some cases the systems as polls were closed) when they lost to non-national championship contenders. These included Pitt (to Stanford, 1928), SMU (to Stanford, 1936), Duke (to USC, 1939 and to Oregon State, 1942), UCLA (to Illinois, 1947), Cal (to Northwestern, 1949; to Ohio State, 1950; and to Michigan, 1951), Ohio State (to Stanford, 1971), Michigan (to Stanford, 1972), Ohio State (to UCLA, 1976), Ohio State (to USC, 1980), and Arizona State (to Ohio State, 1997). In 1961 Minnesota lost to Washington. They retained the AP and UPI "titles" from before the game, but history illegitimatizes them. Michigan State’s 1966 loss to UCLA relegates their "UPI title" to the broom closet, as well.
Heisman Trophies by conference
Big 10 14
Pacific Coast-AAWU-Pacific 8/10 10
MVC-Big 6/8/12 10
Southern/Atlantic Coast 2
Big East 2
Western Athletic 1
Notre Dame: 7 (Angelo Bertelli, 1943; John Lujack, 1947; Leon Hart, 1949; John
Lattner, 1953; Paul Hornung, 1956; John Huarte, 1964; Tim Brown, 1987)
Army: 3 (Doc Blanchard, 1945; Glenn Davis, 1945; Pete Dawkins, 1958)
Navy: 2 (Joe Bellino, 1960; Roger Staubach, 1963)
Yale: 2 (Larry Kelley, 1936; Clint Frank, 1937)
Boston College: 1 (Doug Flutie, 1984)
Pittsburgh: 1 Tony Dorsett, 1976
Penn State: 1 (John Cappelletti, 1973)
Syracuse: 1 (Ernie Davis, 1961)
Princeton: 1 (Dick Kazmaier, 1951)
Chicago: 1 (Jay Berwanger, 1935)
BIG 10 14
Ohio State: 7 (Les Horvath; 1944; Vic Janowicz, 1950; Howard Cassady, 1955; Archie
Griffin, 1974-75, Eddie George, 1995, Troy Smith, 2006)
Michigan: 3 (Tom Harmon, 1940; Desmond Howard, 1941; Charles Woodson, 1997)
Wisconsin: 2 (Alan Ameche, 1954; Ron Dayne, 1999)
Minnesota: 1 (Bruce Smith, 1941)
Iowa: 1 (Nile Kinnick, 1939)
PACIFIC COAST/AAWU/PACIFIC 8/10 10
Southern California: 7 (Mike Garrett, 1965; O.J. Simpson, 1968; Charles Whites, 1979;
Marcus Allen, 1981; Carson Palmer, 2002; Matt Leinart, 2004; Reggie Bush, 2005)
Oregon State: 1 (Terry Baker, 1962)
UCLA: 1 (Gary Beban, 1967)
Stanford: 1 (Jim Plunkett, 1970)
MVC/BIG 6/8/12 10
Oklahoma: 4 (Billy Vessels, 1952; Steve Owens, 1969; Billy Sims, 1978; Jason White,
Nebraska: 3 (Johnny Rodgers, 1972; Mike Rozier, 1983; Eric Crouch, 2001)
Texas: 1 (Ricky Williams, 1998)
Oklahoma State: 1 (Barry Sanders, 1988)
Colorado: 1 (Rashaan Salaam, 1994)
Florida: 2 (Steve Spurrier, 1966; Danny Wuerffel, 1996)
Auburn: 2 (Pat Sullivan, 1971; Bo Jackson, 1985)
Georgia: 2 (Frank Sinkwich, 1942; Herschel Walker, 1982)
Louisiana State: 1 (Billy Cannon, 1959)
South Carolina: 1 (George Rogers, 1980)
Houston: 1 (Andre Ware, 1990)
Texas 1: (Earl Campbell, 1977)
Southern Methodist: 1 (Doak Walker, 1948)
Texas A&M: 1 (John David Crow, 1957)
Texas Christian: 1 (Davey O’Brien, 1938)
ATLANTIC COAST 2
Florida State: 2 (Charlie Ward, 1993; Chris Weinke, 2000)
BIG EAST 2
Miami: *2 (Vinny Testaverde, 1986; Gino Torretta, 1992)
*Independent, 1986; joined Big East, 1991
WESTERN ATHLETIC 1
Brigham Young: 1 (Ty Detmer, 1990)
On January 1, 1980, USC’s win over Ohio State (number one had they prevailed) would have given the Trojans the national championship if Alabama had lost that night to Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. In 1995 Penn State’s win over Oregon would have given the Nittany Lions the final number one ranking had Nebraska lost the Orange Bowl to Miami.
In college football there never has been a play-off. The Rose Bowl traditionally represents the greatest historical arbiter of national success. It is the closest thing the game has to a Super Bowl or a Final Four. The polls and the systems are fraught with obvious miscalculations and oversights. The Rose Bowl therefore is the best place to determine a century’s worth of superiority on the field of play.
It is not a perfect system, of course. The game tends to favor the Pac-10 team, especially USC and UCLA. It is played right next to their town. In UCLA’s case, it is played in their stadium. While the ticket distribution is as even as possible, naturally the L.A. and West Coast schools play in front of de facto "home crowds."
Call it a "historical accident," or perhaps a "self-fulfilling prophesy," but the Rose Bowl game has had the effect of elevating USC and the Pac-10 above other teams and conferences. The legend of USC is made in large part by the Rose Bowl. The legend of the Rose Bowl is made in large part by USC. It is not unlike the USC-Notre Dame rivalry. What came first? Who helps whom the most?
Sure, Notre Dame was bigger than USC when they started to play each other in 1926. The rivalry elevated USC to Notre Dame’s national level. When USC won national titles in 1928, 1931, 1932 and 1939, they helped make Notre Dame just as much as Notre Dame helped make USC. The two schools, despite beating each other up every season, are great for each other. The road to glory has often led through Los Angeles, South Bend . . . and Pasadena ever since.
It is easy to complain that the Rose Bowl game has had the effect of overglamorizing the Trojans and their conference. It is also true the superior performance of the Trojans and their conference glamorized the game, the team and the Pac-10, through their sheer display of excellence. After all, if USC lost most of the time in Pasadena; if the Pac-10’s record there were abysmal; these would be major factors in discrediting their respective historical traditions. The true nature of Michigan’s history is also revealed for what it is, and for what it is not. Over time, this tells us that USC is perhaps even a little better than a lot of people might think, and Michigan is not quite as good as their reputation suggests. This is a telling pattern, explaining much about the teams and conferences that have played in the Rose Bowl.
Big 10 teams certainly enjoyed the arrangement between 1947 and 1952 when they won the first six years. What they mostly enjoy about it now is the trip to L.A., sunning by the beach in the winter, and all the mystique of "California dreamin’." Their record of losses over the years might have them reflecting on whether they would fare better playing other teams from other conferences in other bowls. Their record in games against those other teams suggests that the other teams they play in those other bowls are not as good as the teams they play in the Rose Bowl.
Southern California’s excellent weather is an advantage for the more freewheeling West Coast offenses. The Big 10 representatives come out to L.A. after playing the last month of their season in cold climes. They must practice in inclement conditions, or in-doors. USC and UCLA enjoy generally sunny Decembers. They do not have to get on a plane and deal with a hotel (other than their normal “home game” arrangements, a staple with all college teams for regular season games). But there is no logical place for criticism of the weather. The optimum conditions for any game is always warm and dry. This is why the Super Bowl strives for that end.
Teams outside the Pacific-10 and Big 10 obviously have not played many Rose Bowls (none between January 1947 and January 2001, with BCS variation since then). Naturally, Alabama or LSU would rather be judged by their Sugar Bowl record; Oklahoma and Nebraska in the Orange Bowl; Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Or, perhaps not. None of those teams has a record in any of those games approaching USC’s record in the Rose Bowl. The competition the Trojans have faced in those games has generally been as good as any offered in any bowls. The Pac-10 has built its Rose Bowl record in fair part against unbeaten Big 10 powerhouses who, had they won, might have won national championships.
The storied tradition of this game suggests that, along with a study of national championships, Heisman Trophies, All-Americans and other criteria, the Rose Bowl provides a sweeping landscape of collegiate football history. It reveals a yearly tapestry telling us as much about the game as anything.
Because of the Pacific Coast (since 1902) and Big 10 (since 1947) nature of the game, it is of course dominated by the Western and Midwestern regions. These are two old, distinguished conferences; not the only ones, but two conferences that play a big part in defining the game. The Pacific-10 was the best Rose Bowl team in the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. In the 1940s and 1950s, the Big 10 was better. In the more modern era, which by all accounts and use of commons sense dictates should be given more weight, the Pac-10 is better by a long shot.
Based on all the empirical evidence that this game provides, along with other information and logic (records of teams in other bowls, for instance), the best conclusion available is that USC is the superior college tradition, and the Pacific-10 is the best of all the conferences.
Rose Bowl records
Pacific Coast-AAWU-Pac-8/10 45-41-3
Big 10 25-28
Big 12 3-2
Military service-academies 2-1-2
Independent-"Ivy League" 2-2-1
Big East 1-0
Southern California 22-9
Ohio State 4-7
Michigan State 3-1
Washington State 1-3
Oregon State 1-2
Arizona State 1-1
Penn State 1-1
Mare Island Marines 1-1
Georgia Tech 1-0
Notre Dame 1-0
Great Lakes 1-0
Washington & Jefferson 0-0-1
Camp Lewis 0-1
Southern Methodist 0-1
But there is other evidence pointing to Pacific-10 superiority. True, much of it is weighted on the shoulders of USC’s extraordinary record in every single category in which greatness is judged. But the rest of the schools are in the conference, that is that, and there is no apologizing over it. Any great empire has a capital. Rome was a single center of political, military and commercial empire. From London, England oversaw a world in which the “sun never set.” In America, which might be considered the "new Rome," it is in Washington.
So, too, is USC, the city of Los Angeles, the state of California – by extension the entire Pacific-10 Conference and the West – the center of the world’s professional and amateur sports empire. Its natural advantages tell part of the story: year-round fair weather combined with the biggest population. The economy is good in California. It is a state consisting of large middle class areas that take youth sports seriously; rural regions that are as excited about sports as Texas or the Deep South; and several urban centers with large populations of blacks, Latinos and Pacific Islanders. The best high school programs in almost every sport invariably are in the Golden State. California produces the most national champions in prep football, basketball and baseball, just to name the three main sports. Californians can watch more big league and big time college sports games in some of the nation’s best and most famous stadiums, in addition to first class TV and radio broadcasts. They read about athletic exploits in some of the largest, most professional metropolitan newspapers (L.A. Times, Orange County Register, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle and San Diego Union-Tribune). It is a big league state with a big league mindset explaining why, despite the fact Los Angeles has not had professional football since 1994, USC under Peter Carroll is referred as "L.A.’s pro team."
National championships by conferences/modern era, 1919-2006
Pacific Coast (10 Heismans) 19 LEGITIMATE
Independents (20 Heismans) 19 LEGITIMATE
Big 10 (14 Heismans) 16 LEGITIMATE
Southern/Southeastern (8 Heismans) 16 LEGITIMATE
MVC/Big 6/8/12 (10 Heismans) 13 LEGITIMATE
Southern/Atlantic Coast (2 Heismans) 5 LEGITIMATE
Big East (2 Heismans) 5 LEGITIMATE
Southweste (5 Heismans) 4 LEGITIMATE
Western Athletic (1 Heisman) 1 LEGITIMATE
PACIFIC COAST/AAWU/PACIFIC 8/10 19 LEGITIMATE
Southern California 11 legitimate, 6 consensus, 5 co, 5 AP, 5 UPI, 1 BCS, 10 bowl
wins, 1 no bowl
California 4 legitimate, 3 consensus, 1 co, 3 bowl wins, 1 bowl tie, 1 no bowl
Stanford 2 legitimate, 2 co, 1 bowl win, 1 bowl tie
Washington 1 legitimate, 1 co, 1 UPI, 1 USA, 1 bowl win
UCLA 1 legitimate, 1 co, I UPI, 1 no bowl
Southern California: 11 (1928-co, 1931, 1932, 1939-co, 1962 AP/UPI, 1967 AP/UPI,
1972 AP/UPI, 1974-co UPI, 1978-co UPI, 2003-co AP, 2004 AP/BCS)
California: 4 (1920, 1921, 1922, 1937-co)
Stanford: 2 (1926-co, 1940-co)
Washington: 1 (1991-co UPI/USA)
UCLA: 1 (1954-co UPI)
INDEPENDENTS 19 LEGITIMATE
Notre Dame 11 legitimate, 9 consensus, 2 co, 8 AP, 6 UPI, 1 USA, 4 bowl
wins, 7 no bowls
Penn State 2 legitimate, 2 consensus, 2 AP, 2 UPI, 2 USA, bowl wins
Pittsburgh 2 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 co, 2 AP, 1 UPI, 1 bowl win, 1 no
Army 2 legitimate, 2 consensus, 2 AP, 2 no bowls
Syracuse 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 AP, 1 UPI, 1 bowl win
Princeton 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 bowl win
Notre Dame: 11 (1924, 1929, 1930-co, 1943 AP, 1946 AP/UPI, 1947 AP/UPI, 1949
AP/UPI, 1966 AP/UPI, 1973-co AP, 1977 AP/UPI, 1988 AP/UPI/USA)
Penn State: 2 (1982 (AP/UPI/USA, 1986 AP/UPI/USA)
Pittsburgh: 2 (1937-co AP, 1976 AP/UPI)
Army: 2 (1944 AP, 1945 AP)
Syracuse: 1 (1959 AP/UPI)
Princeton: 1 (1919)
BIG 10 16 LEGITIMATE
Minnesota 5 legitimate, 1 ILLEGITIMATE, 3 consensus, 2 co, 4 AP, 1 UPI,
1 bowl loss, 4 no bowls
Ohio State 5 legitimate, 3 consensus, 2 co, 3 AP, 2 UPI, 1 BCS, 4 bowl wins,
1 no bowl
Michigan 4 legitimate, 3 consensus, 1 co, 2 AP, 1 bowl win, 3 no bowls
Michigan State 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 ILLEGITIMATE, 1 revised, 1 co, 1
AP, 2 UPI, 1 bowl loss, 1 no bowl
Illinois 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 no bowl
Minnesota: 5 (1934-co, 1935, 1936 AP, 1940-co AP, 1941 AP, 1960 AP/UPI)
Ohio State: 5 (1942, 1954-co AP, 1957-co UPI, 1968 AP/UPI, 2002 AP/BCS)
Michigan: 4 (1923, 1933, 1948 AP, 1997-co AP)
Michigan State: 1 (1952 AP/UPI, 1953 REVISED, 1965-co UPI ILLEGITIMATE)
Illinois: 1 (1927)
SOUTHERN/SOUTHEASTERN 16 LEGITIMATE
Alabama 9 legitimate, 4 consensus, 2 ILLEGITIMATE, 6 co, 5 AP, 4 UPI, 1 USA, 7 bowl
wins, 2 bowl loss, 1 bowl tie, 1 no bowl
Florida 2 legitimate, 2 consensus, 2 AP, 1 USA, 1 BCS, 2 bowl wins
Louisiana State 2 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 AP, 1 UPI, 1 BCS, 2 bowl wins
Tennessee 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 revised, 1 AP, 1 BCS, 1 bowl win, 1 bowl loss
Georgia 1 legitimate, consensus, 1 AP, 1 UPI, 1 bowl win
Auburn 1 legitimate, 1 co, 1 AP, 1 no bowl
Alabama: 9 legitimate (1925, 1926-co, 1930-co, 1934-co, 1961 AP/UPI, 1964 AP/UPI
ILLEGITIMATE, 1965-co AP, 1973-co UPI ILLEGITIMATE, 1978-co AP, 1979 AP/UPI, 1992 AP/UPI/USA)
Florida: 2 (1996 AP/USA, 2006 AP/BCS)
Louisiana State: 2 legitimate, (1958 AP/UPI, 2003-co BCS)
Tennessee: 1 legitimate (1950 REVISED, 1951 AP/UPI ILLEGITIMATE, 1998
Georgia: 1 legitimate (1980 AP/UPI)
Auburn: 1 legitimate (1957-co AP)
Mississippi: 0 legitimate (1960 REVISED)
MVC-BIG 6/8/12 13 LEGITIMATE
Oklahoma 6 legitimate, 5 consensus, 1 ILLEGITIMATE, 1 probation, 1 co,
6 AP, 5 UPI, 1 USA, 1 BCS, 4 bowl wins, 1 bowl loss, 2 no bowl
Nebraska 5 legitimate, 3 consensus, 2 co, 4 AP, 3 UPI, 3 USA, 2 HOF, 5
Texas 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 AP, 1 BCS, 1 bowl win
Colorado 1 legitimate, 1 co, 1 AP, 1 bowl win
Oklahoma: 6 legitimate (1950 AP/UPI ILLEGITIMATE, 1955 AP/UPI, 1956 AP/UPI.
1974-co AP PROBATION, 1975 AP/UPI, 1985 AP/UPI/USA, 2000 AP/BCS)
Nebraska: 5 legitimate (1970-co AP, 1971 AP/UPI, 1994 AP/UPI/USA/HOF, 1995
AP/UPI/USA/HOF, 1997-co USA)
Texas: 1 legitimate (2005 AP/BCS)
Colorado: 1 legitimate (1990-co AP)
SOUTHERN/ATLANTIC COAST 5 LEGITIMATE
Florida state 2 legitimate, 2 consensus, 1 AP, 1 UPI, 1 USA, 1 HOF, 1 BCS, 2
Georgia Tech 1 legitimate, 1 co, 1 UPI, 1 bowl win
Clemson 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 AP, 1 UPI, 1 bowl win
Maryland 0 legitimate, 1 ILLEGITIMATE, 1 revised, 1 AP, 1 UPI, 1 bowl
Florida State: 2 legitimate (1993 AP/UPI/USA/HOF, 1999 AP/BCS)
Georgia Tech: 1 legitimate (1990-co UPI)
Clemson: 1 legitimate (1981 AP/UPI)
Maryland: 0 legitimate (1951 REVISED, 1953 ILLEGITIMATE AP/UPI)
BIG EAST 5 LEGITIMATE
Miami 5 legitimate, 4 consensus, 1 co, 3/independent, 5 AP, 4 UPI, 5
Miami: 5 legitimate (1983/independent AP/UPI, 1987/independent AP/UPI/USA,
1989/independent AP/UPI/USA, 1991-co, AP/UPI/USA, 2001 AP/BCS)
SOUTHWEST 4 LEGITIMATE
Texas 2 legitimate, 2 consensus, 1 co, 1 ILLEGITIMATE, 2 AP, 3 UPI, 2 bowl wins, 1 bowl
Texas A&M 1 legitimate, 1 co, 1 AP, 1 bowl win
Texas Christian 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 AP, 1 bowl win
Texas: 2 legitimate (1963 AP/UPI, 1969 AP/UPI, 1970-co UPI ILLEGITIMATE)
Texas A&M: 1 legitimate (1939-co AP)
Texas Christian: 1 (1938 AP)
Arkansas: 0 legitimate (1964 REVISED)
WESTERN ATHLETIC 1 LEGITIMATE
Brigham Young 1 legitimate, 1 consensus, 1 AP, 1 UPI, 1 USA, 1 bowl win
USC has been the “Olympic village” of two successful Games. In the heyday of coach Dean Cromwell and Southern Cal track (twenty-six overall NCAA championships, the most of any team in any college or pro sport, men’s or women’s), the U.S. Olympic track team was called the "Trojans in red, white and blue." The Trojans in their heyday were so much better than everybody else that, for all practical purposes, there should have been rules for them and rules for all the rest; like LPGA veterans playing in a pro/am. Right up there in terms of Olympic medals? UCLA. Do not forget the University of California. Their legendary coach, Brutus Hamilton, was like Cromwell also the U.S. Olympic track coach.
In almost all areas of examination, the state of California dominates the talent field. By margins that vary from huge to solid, California has produced the most pro football players, Major League ball players, NBA basketball players, professional tennis players, trackmen, golfers, swimmers, Olympians, and women athletes. The only major sport lacking a big California contingent is ice hockey, but even other winter sports like skiing include a steady flow of Californians. The 1960 Winter Olympics were held in Squaw Valley, California.
The state of California has produced the most Hall of Famers in all the major pro and college sports. They have produced by outrageous margins the largest number of Most Valuable Players, Cy Young award winners, All-Americans, All-Pros, Super Bowl MVPs and the like. The Pacific-10 has produced twenty-six NCAA baseball champions, eleven Cy Young award winners and twelve big league MVPs. Next: the Big 12, after combining the Southwest Conference teams they brought in, have won nine NCAA baseball championships. USC and the Pac-10 are an extension of California. There are four Pac-10 universities in the state, but a review of rosters at the Arizona, Oregon and Washington schools reveal a large number of star players hailing from California.
National champions – legitimate - by states
Southern California (11), California (4), Stanford (3), UCLA (1)
Notre Dame (11)
Alabama (9), Auburn (1)
Miami (5), Florida (2), Florida State (2)
Michigan (7), Michigan State (1)
Penn State (2), Pittsburgh (2), Penn (2)
Texas (3), Texas A&M (1), Texas Christian (1)
Ohio State 5
Ohio State (5)
Washington (3), Washington State (1)
New York 4
Army (3), Syracuse (1)
Georgia Tech (2), Georgia (1)
Louisiana State (2)
Illinois (1), Chicago (1)
South Carolina 1
Brigham Young (1)
Maryland 1 ILLEGITIMATE
Maryland (1 ILLEGITIMATE)
New Jersey 20
The University of California has always lived and died on their ability to get players from southern California to Berkeley. This goes back to the "Wonder Teams," reputed to actively recruit outside their area when assistant coach Nibs Price exploited his contacts from San Diego. When Cal steals a few extra “blue chippers” away from USC and UCLA, they are able to compete. The key is to keep the many top players in northern California who might sign with the Trojans, Bruins, Ducks, or go eastward. The likes of O .J. Simpson, Gary Beban, Lynn Swann, Jerry Robinson and Gino Torretta are just a few of these examples.
The state is big enough to support a nationally-ranked baseball program at Fresno State; competitive programs at San Diego State, San Jose State and Santa Clara; and strong lower division programs such as Cal Poly Pomona and LaVerne. Pepperdine won the 1992 College World Series. Their biggest rival, Cal State Fullerton, is probably one of the three or four greatest college baseball programs in history. They sustain themselves largely with local players from the Orange Coast/Long Beach high school and junior college recruiting base. Stanford is a national power. California’s baseball team beat former President George H. W. Bush’s Yale squad to win the first College World Series (1947), the first of their two national titles. The list of big league players who have come out of these programs is tremendous. Overall, the state of California has produced twenty College Wold Series champions.
USC’s record in baseball is utterly astounding: twelve national championships, one MVP, nine Cy Young award-winners, three Rookies of the Year, the most Major League players, All-Stars, and professional players of any college. Arizona State, LSU and Texas trail USC in College World Series titles with five apiece, followed by Miami and Cal State Fullerton with four.
Top baseball traditions
1. Southern California
3. Cal State Fullerton
4. Arizona State
7. Louisiana State
8. Florida State
9. Oklahoma State
11. Oregon State
13. Mississippi State
14. Texas A&M
19. Fresno State
USC has produced Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. Mark McGwire, once considered a shoe-in, will have to wait but eventually should get in. Other Trojans include Don Buford, Ron Fairly, Dave Kingman, Fred Lynn, Rich Dauer, Roy Smalley, Steve Kemp, Steve Busby, Bill Lee, Jeff Cirillo, Bret Boone, Aaron Boone, Geoff Jenkins, Morgan Ensberg, Mark Prior and Barry Zito.
For what it is worth, an unofficial count of Sports Illustrateds by the USC sports information department reveal Trojan baseball players graced the cover twenty-seven times (as of 2005) and a Trojan athlete ninety-two times (as of 2004). Even USC’s cheerleaders are considered the "gold standard" of collegiate cheerleaders, according to Lonnie White in UCLA VS. USC: 75 Years of the Greatest Rivalry in Sports. Owner Jerry Buss, a USC graduate, modeled the Lakers Girls on USC’s song girls. In 1999-2000, New Millennium teams and lists included Rod Dedeaux ("College Baseball Coach of the Twentieth Century") and USC ("College Baseball Program of the Twentieth Century", "College Athletic Program of the Twentieth Century").
Then there is cross-town rival UCLA. They are a baseball enigma with zero College World Series championships to show for themselves, but an unofficial tally by USC in 1999 indicated that they had the second most Major League alumni. Bruin big leaguers are not just marginal guys either: Jackie Robinson, Chris Chambliss, Tim Leary, Shane Mack, Eric Karros, Todd Zeile and Troy Glaus, for starters. By comparison Texas, probably the second greatest historical baseball tradition behind USC, boasts Roger Clemens, Burt Hooton and Huston Street, but not a lot of All-Star caliber talent beyond that. The gaudy record of Longhorn pitchers in school and disappointment beyond suggests they are overpitched in Austin (think Greg Swindell).
Then there are UCLA’s eleven national championships in basketball, an unprecedented number followed by Kentucky (seven), Indiana (five), North Carolina and Duke (three each). UCLA has easily produced the most NBA number one draft picks, first round selections, total players, MVPs and Hall of Famers. Their alumni include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (known as Lew Alcindor in college), Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard, Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Henry Bibby, Keith Wilkes, Dave Meyers, Marquess Johnson, Kiki Vandeweghe and Reggie Miller. John Wooden is as much a deity as he was a coach.
Top basketball traditions
4. North Carolina
8. Ohio State
10. Michigan State
11. Nevada-Las Vegas
16. West Virginia
17. San Francisco
23. Oregon State
Overall, the Pacific-10 Conference has won the most NCAA basketball championships (fifteen). The state of California has produced fifteen. This includes two at the University of San Francisco, the first great collegiate dynasty. Led by Bill Russell and K. C. Jones, the Dons set the record for consecutive wins (sixty), a record broken by UCLA (extended to eighty-eight in 1974). While basketball might be considered the "weakest" sport in California and the Pac-10 Conference, both the state and the league have produced the highest number of NBA players. Even USC, where their lack of basketball success is enigmatic, boasts two Hall of Famers who both coached NBA champions (Bill Sharman, Alex Hannum), plus coaching successes Paul Westphal and Tex Winter.
Stanford is the king of "minor sports" and, along with UCLA, women’s athletics. John McEnroe anchored a Stanford tennis program that is the finest in all of NCAA history. Who is next? UCLA and USC. Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe played for the Bruins. Stan Smith was a Trojan. Jim Murray of the L.A. Times once wrote that UCLA volleyball coach Al Scates "is to volleyball what Napoleon was to artillery." The 2000 UCLA football media guide revealed no less than 95 Sports Illustrated covers featuring Bruin athletes.
Top athletic traditions
1. Southern California
7. Ohio State
8. Florida State
11. Louisiana State
13. Notre Dame
14. Penn State
19. Texas A&M
20. Oklahoma State
21. Arizona State
23. Duke Blue
24. North Carolina
Despite having to compete with the "big boys," the state of California provides enough resources for Fresno State and San Diego State to maintain excellent football programs. Fresno in particular travels all over the country, competitively playing and often beating ranked teams, earning Top 25 spots for themselves. They have produced quality quarterbacks such as Trent Dilfer, who led the 2000 Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title, and Houston’s David Carr. In the 1960s under coach Don Coryell, San Diego State ran off one of the longest winning streaks in college football. They produced the likes of Fred Dryer, Dennis Shaw and Haven Moses, while spawning assistant coaches John Madden, Joe Gibbs and others.
The majority of the world’s greatest athletes come from “greater” Los Angeles. The “greater” L.A. Area runs roughly 120 miles north to south from Ventura to San Clemente. It is about seventy miles east to west between the towns of San Bernardino and Riverside in the east; Santa Monica, the South Bay, Long Beach and Huntington Beach in the west. The Southland is a larger geographical area covering L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Kern and Ventura Counties. This includes the desert communities of Palm Springs and beyond. Southern California is everything south of Fresno in the central San Joaquin Valley and San Luis Obispo on the coast; covering the Tehachapi Mountain and San Gabriel Mountain ranges; the ski resorts east of Los Angeles; the deserts stretching from the Nevada, Arizona and Mexico borders; the ‘L.A. sprawl"; and all of San Diego County.
While the Southland produces the best sports talent in the world, the San Francisco Bay Area is probably in the top five, comparable with the entire states of Florida, Texas, and Ohio, respectively. The Bay Area runs roughly 100 miles north to south from Santa Rosa to San Jose, and about sixty miles east to west from the Antioch/Concord delta to Marin County, San Francisco and the peninsula (Daly City, San Mateo, Palo Alto). Sacramento encompasses a separate area approximately ninety miles east of San Francisco, and is part of the Sac-Joaquin Section of the California Interscholastic Federation, covering the Interstate 5 southward towards Fresno and Bakersfield.
San Francisco proper became a high school sports wasteland of sorts since the anti-war 1960s made families near-extinct, but at one time it was a goldmine producing talent as impressive as in Los Angeles. Galileo High School boasts athletes who in their respective primes were the best baseball player (Joe DiMaggio), basketball player (Hank Luisetti) and football player (O. J. Simpson) in the United States. The City (which it calls itself) produced the likes of Joe Cronin and Dr. Bobby Brown (both one-time presidents of the American League), Frank Crosetti, Tony Lazzerri, Dom DiMaggio, K. C. Jones and Dan Fouts.
No smaller area in the state or the country, for that matter, is as impressive as the East Bay, an area running from Pinole and Benicia in the north to Fremont in the south. Just a sampling of the superstars who have toiled on the fields and gymnasiums of the East Bay include Joe Morgan, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Curt Flood and Rickey Henderson (Oakland Castlemont), Dave Stewart (Oakland St. Elizabeth’s), Bill Russell and Paul Silas (Oakland McClymond’s), Gary Payton (Oakland Skyline), Jackie Jensen (Oakland Tech), Willie Stargell, Bobby Rollins, and Dontrelle Willis (Alameda Encinal), Jason Kidd (Alameda St. Joseph’s), John Lambert and Billy Martin (Berkeley), Gino Torretta (Pinole), Ken Dorsey (Orinda Miramonte), and Dennis Eckersley (Fremont Washington.
Ever heard of Serra High School in San Mateo? All they have produced are Barry Bonds, Tom Brady, Lynn Swann, and Jim Fregosi. Do not forget the football coaches from the Bay Area: Pete Carroll (Larkspur Redwood), John Robinson (San Mateo Serra), John Madden (Daly City Jefferson), Paul Hackett (Orinda Miramonte), Dick Vermeil (Calistoga), Bill Walsh (Fremont Washington), Norv Turner (Crockett), Bob Toledo (San Jose Lincoln), Jack Del Rio (Hayward), George Seifert (San Francisco Poly) and Mike Holmgren (San Francisco Lincoln).
Prep baseball dynasties
Centennial Higfh School (Compton, Califo.)
Clovis West High (Fresno, Calif.)
Fremont High School (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Lakewood High School (Calif.)
Rancho Bernardo High School (San Diego, Calif.)
Redwood High School (Larkspur, Calif.)
Serra High School (San Mateo, Calif.)
Sharpstown High School (Houston, Tex.)
When it comes to junior college sports, California dominates. The greatest juco baseball dynasty ever was Cerritos J.C. (L.A. County) under coach Wally Kincaid (1960s, 1970s). Fresno City College, where Tom Seaver once toiled, and one-time perennial champion L.A. Harbor are not far behind.
Compton J.C. was a basketball powerhouse between the 1940s (when Tex Winter played there) until the 1960s. Pasadena City College, Santa Monica J.C., El Camino J.C. of Torrance, Fullerton J.C. of Orange County, and Taft J.C. near Bakersfield, have all won juco national championships in football, but the greatest junior college grid dynasty of all time is the highly unlikely City College of San Francisco. San Francisco is far from a hotbed of prep football talent. It would stand to reason that the nation’s best J.C. football team would be in Texas, Mississippi, Kansas (all states with excellent juco traditions) or in the Southland. CCSF has somehow managed to overshadow all contenders, beginning with O. J. Simpson (1965-1966) and carrying on to the present day. CCSF uses the attraction of the city they are located in to recruit top players from all over America, many of whom transfer in after a year with major programs like Florida State or Texas.
Just as CCSF is an unlikely standard bearer, so to is another Bay Area school, De La Salle High of Concord. Located across the bay, about a half-hour’s drive from San Francisco and twenty minutes east of Oakland, De La Salle won 151 consecutive football games and four national championships between 1991 and 2004. In all of sports – pro, college, high school – the De La Salle record may be the single most impressive. In the late 1990s, critics complained that their great winning streak was built on second rate competition in the CIF-North Coast Section (Fremont in the south to Marin County in the west to Antioch in the east to Santa Rosa in the north bay). The best football was and is played in the vast CIF-Southern Section, covering everything from San Luis Obispo southwards and the desert communities, to San Diego County, excluding the Los Angeles City public schools (but including L.A.’s powerful private and Catholic schools).
Two giants have sat astride the Southern Section for decades. Mater Dei of Santa Ana, currently coached by Bruce Rollinson, has produced several national championships and is, along with Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas (TCU’s Davey O’Brien, 1938; Notre Dame’s Tim Brown, 1987) the only other school to boast two Heisman Trophy winners (Notre Dame’s John Huarte, 1964; USC’s Matt Leinart, 2004). Aside from their football dynasty, Mater Dei under coach Gary McKnight is among the all-time elite prep basketball traditions in American history.
Prep football dynasties
Baylor School (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
De La Salle High School (Concord, Calif.)
Clovis West High School (Fresno, Calif.)
Highland Park High School (Dallas, Texas)
Hoover High School (Alabama)
Jenks High School (Oklahoma)
Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.)
Mission Viejo High School (Calif.)
Moeller High School (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Poly High School (Long Beach, Calif.)
Punahou High School (Honolulu, Hawaii)
St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida)
Their nemesis is Long Beach Poly High School, the single greatest prep athletic program in history according to Sports Illustrated. Poly is a unique mixture of wealthy white, middle class Asian, Pacific-Islander, and African-American students who together created an unparalleled melting pot of social, academic and athletic success. This is reflected by several facts. Poly is indeed a "football factory," producing more All-Americans and NFL players than any program (the list includes Morley Drury, Southern Cal’s "noblest Trojan of them all" in 1927, and 1989 Jim Thorpe award-winner Mark Carrier of USC and the Chicago Bears). However, they have also excelled in baseball, track and so-called "upscale sports" like swimming, golf and tennis. Baseball stars include Bobby Grich and Tony Gwynn. Tennis stars include women’s pioneer Billie Jean King.
In order to live up to its national reputation, it was felt that De La Salle needed to schedule and beat the likes of Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly, Honolulu Punahou, Honolulu St. Louis, Cincinnati Moeller, Mission Viejo, Massillon of Ohio, Everett of Washington, and other national prep programs. Over the course of the next five years that is exactly what they did. When their winning streak continued to grow (until Everett ended it at 151 games in 2004), De La Salle silenced all critics. The success of this and other California prep sports powers is emblematic of the state’s dominant position in athletics, which is felt in every area of domestic and international competition.
Outside of De La Salle, Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly, Bakersfield (Frank Gifford) and Clovis West have enjoyed great high school football histories in central California. Around the nation, Florida’s Neece and St. Augustine’s High, Alabama’s Hoover High, and Carroll High in Texas have all gathered accolades.
In basketball, L.A.’s Verbum Dei and Crenshaw High Schools, and Oakland McClymonds, have rivaled such powerhouses as DeMatha High (near Washington, D.C.) and Power Memorial Academy in New York City (where Kareem Abdul-Jabbar starred as Lew Alcindor).
Prep basketball dynasties
Cardinal Gibbons High School (Baltimore, Mary.)
Crenshaw High School (Los Angeles, Calif.)
De Matha High School (Hiattsville, Mary.)
Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, Calif.)
McClymonds High School (Oakland, Calif.)
New Trier High School (Winnetka, Ill.)
Power Memorial Academy (New York, N.Y.) (closed)
Verbum Dei High School (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Baseball is "what we do here," explained Brewers’ Hall of Fame shortstop Robin Yount, who starred at Taft High School in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley (1973). L.A. Fremont High (Gene Mauch, Dick Williams, Bobby Doerr) has produced more Major League players than any school. L.A. Locke and Compton Centennial were extraordinary producers of inner city black baseball talent in the 1960s and 1970s (Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, Reggie Smith, Don Wilson, Wayne Simpson). Royals’ Hall of Famer George Brett and, before him his brother, Boston and Chicago pitcher Ken Brett, played under coach John Stevenson at El Segundo High, located between Marina Del Rey and Manhattan Beach. The 1972 El Segundo team, featuring Brett and future Oriole lefty Scott McGregor, is considered one of the best prep teams ever assembled. McGregor set the state record with 51 consecutive victories over the course of his four-year high school career.
After Brett left El Segundo, the two best high school baseball programs in the state, if not the nation, were Redwood High in northern California (coached by Al Endriss) and Lakewood High in southern California (coached by John Herbold). Lakewood, Redwood and Edgewood High in West Covina all won national championships. Two Texas programs, Spring Branch High School (Roger Clemens) and Sharpstown High School (a Houston suburb originally built for NASA employees) have rivaled the California juggernauts. In recent years, San Diego has emerged as a prep baseball capitol, with Rancho Bernardo High being the standard bearer. Prep national championships have also been won at Simi Valley (Ventura County) and Villa Park High (Orange County). West Covina and Santa Monica have won American Legion national championships. Several California cities have produced winners of the Little League World Series. The 1969 Santa Clara, California team included Carney Lansford, who later starred for the Oakland A’s. Long Beach, California won in 1991 and 1992 behind future big leaguer Sean Burroughs, the son of 1974 American League MVP Jeff Burroughs, who prepped at Long Beach Wilson High.
San Diego area athletes include the likes of Ted Williams, Cotton Warburton, Graig Nettles and Terrell Davis. Helix High in La Mesa has an extraordinary record: Bill Walton, 2005 NFL first round pick Alex Smith, and 2005 Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. San Diego seems to have a particular ability to produce Heisman winners. Aside from Bush, who won the award at USC, San Diego has produced Heisman winners Marcus Allen (USC, 1981), Rashaan Salaam (Colorado, 1994), and Ricky Williams (Texas, 1998). Additional Heisman Trophy winners who played high school football in California include the likes of Glenn Davis (Army, 1946), Mike Garrett (USC, 1965), Gary Beban (UCLA, 1967), O.J. Simpson (USC, 1968), Jim Plunkett (Stanford, 1970), Charles White (USC, 1979), Gino Torretta (Miami, 1992), Carson Palmer (USC, 2002) and Matt Leinart (USC, 2004).
Aside from these stars, all-time greats and near greats who played high school and/or college football in the Golden State include the likes of Brick Muller, Frankie Albert, Bob Waterfield, Tom Fears, Willie Wood, Jon Arnett, John Brodie, Billy Kilmer, Joe Gibbs, Ron Mix, Marlin McKeever, Jimmie Johnson, Craig Morton, Mel Farr, Ron Yary, Tim Rossovich, Ed White, Fred Dryer, Jeff Siemon, Bob Chandler, John Vella, Charles Young, Sam Cunningham, Marvin Powell, Richard "Batman" Wood, Steve Bartkowski, Mosi Tatupu, Dennis Thurman, Jerry Robinson, Darrin Nelson, James Lofton, Randy Cross, Anthony Munoz, Dennis Smith, Jeff Fisher, Ronnie Lott, Bruce Matthews, Claw Matthews, Don Mosebar, John Elway, Brad Muster, Troy Aikman, Tim McDonald, Junior Seau, John Lynch, Ken Norton Jr., Tony Boselli, Jason Sehorn, Tony Gonzalez, Willie McGinest, and Troy Polamalu.
Just a sampling of the baseball players not previously mentioned who came from California include Ernie Lombardi, Gary Carter, Frank "The Pearless Leader" Chance, Wes Parker, Ken Hubbs, Jim Lefebvre, Steve Sax, Jeff Kent, Arky Vaughn, Allen Trammell, Ken Caminiti, Harry Heilmann, Joe Rudi, George Foster, Dusty Baker, Bobby Bonds, Joe Charboneau, Willie McGee, Kevin Mitchell, Duke Snider, Rick Monday, Daryl Strawberry, Walter Johnson, Lefty Gomez, Bob Lemon, Don Larsen, Don Drysdale, Wally Bunker, Mike McCormick, Rollie Fingers, Andy Messersmith, Bert Blyleven, Randy Jones, Dave Righetti, Bret Saberhagan, Mike Scott, Mark Davis, Jack McDowell, Mike Mussina, Trevor Hoffman, John McNamera, and Sparky Anderson.
Jim Palmer grew up in Beverly Hills and took classes at USC, but went to high school in Arizona.
Kenny Washington was Jackie Robinson’s backfield partner on the UCLA football team and an Olympic sprinter. Sam Chapman, who came from Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, was an All-American football star on Cal’s 1937 national champions, then Connie Mack’s starting center fielder with the Philadelphia A’s. Jackie Jensen came out of Oakland, was an All-American football star at Cal, and the 1958 American League Most Valuable Player with the Boston Red Sox. Bob Mathias of Tulare was a football star at Stanford and one of the greatest Olympic decathletes of all time. Rafer Johnson of Kingsburg played basketball for John Wooden at UCLA before defeating his Bruin teammate, C. K. Yang in the 1960 Olympic decathlon. Mark Spitz of Carmichael is the most heralded swimmer in Olympic history. Second behind him? Maybe USC’s John Naber. Bob Seagren of USC was an Olympic pole-vault champion. Bruce Jenner trained for the 1976 Olympics at San Jose State University. Cypress’s Tiger Woods has redefined golf, just as Compton’s Williams sisters (Venus and Serena) have redefined tennis. Jack Kramer was the best tennis player in the world at one time. The Palos Verdes Peninsula produced a later version of the same, Pete Sampras, not to mention Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport and basketball enforcer Bill Laimbeer.
Even world leaders and celebrities were athletes in California. President Richard Nixon played football at Whittier College. John "Duke" Wayne played for Howard Jones at USC. Mark Harmon was UCLA’s quarterback when they ended Nebraska’s 32-game unbeaten streak in 1932. Kevin Costner was a baseball player at Cal State Fullerton and in the movies.
How about broadcasting? Frank Gifford, Pat Haden, John Naber, Bill Walton, Dan Fouts, Lynn Swann, Tim Ryan, Jason Sehorn, Randy Cross . . .
The Mission Viejo swim club is world-renowned. Many of the best ironman triathletes, bike riders and cross-country runners train in California. Then there is the sport that literally defines California above all others: surfing.
All in all, California dominates the sports landscape of the country, the West, the nation . . . and the Pacific-10 Conference. Based in no small part on this domination, there are two inescapable conclusions. One is that the Pac-10 is historically, by a relatively narrow margin, the greatest football conference in the nation. Two, the Pac-10 is by as wide a margin as the Grand Canyon, the greatest all-around sports conference in America. Within this conference, USC is easily the best football program and, by a relatively narrow margin, the best all-around athletic department (with UCLA second).
The University of Southern California has all of the greatest advantages that California and Los Angeles have to offer: weather, population, a golden recruiting base from top-notch high schools, the world’s most famous sports stadium (L.A. Memorial Coliseum), excellent academics, girls, nightlife, an exciting city, alumni networking, old money, new money, lots of money, and tradition that is second to none. They embody their city, their state and their conference. They – and the Pac-10 - are number one!
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism