A new chapter in the tradition of Troy
In 1962, the Trojans would ascend to the heights of glory. McKay would be vindicated. Hollywood front-runners would show up to cheer them on. The season certainly did not hold high hopes in the beginning, though. A mere 26,400 fans showed up at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for the season opener against eighth-ranked Duke. A national TV audience was surprised to see the Trojans prevail, 14-7.
The team was just that, a team. There were no huge superstars, no Heisman hopefuls. Terry Baker, a quarterback from the L.A. area, would win it that year for Oregon State.
The captain of the team was Marv Marinovich, and out of this the Trojan family would expand. Marinovich would go on to marry sophomore quarterback Craig Fertig's sister. Marinovich's brother would become the football coach at Bishop Amat High School, where his star players would be McKay's sons, J.K. and Richie, quarterback Pat Haden, and future UCLA Rose Bowl MVP John Sciarra. Marinovich and Fertig's sister would have a son, Todd, who would break all of Haden's California state passing records, and then all of USC's hearts - but not until after he would lead USC to victory in the 1990 Rose Bowl over Michigan.
Fertig was part of a talented trio of signal-callers: Beathard and Bill Nelsen were the others. Somehow, they were able to work together as a unit without problems.
"I remember Pete Beathard and I were the first two quarterbacks he recruited, and he told us we could play baseball," Fertig recalled in The History of USC Football DVD. "He's a catcher and I'm a pitcher and like I said, his first year didn't go so well. But his freshman team went undefeated.
"So one day we're on the baseball field and McKay's secretary comes out and says to Coach Dedeaux, 'Coach McKay'd like to see Beathard and Fertig.'
"Well I just looked at Beathard and said, 'What'd you do?' And he said, 'I'm your roommate, I haven’t left your sight.' So we go on up to McKay's office and he's reading the sports section, and all you can see is the cigar smoke comin' from behind it, and he says, 'You guys aren’t real good at either sport, make a decision.' I cleaned that up for you, too. That's when we decided to be football players."
USC brought an integrated team to Dallas for game two. A mere 14,000 showed up to see them defeat Southern Methodist, 33-3. Ranked number six, they won a defensive struggle over Iowa, 7-0. Cal came to L.A. and lost, 32-6. After winning at Illinois and beating number nine Washington, the peculiar fandom of Los Angeles was aroused.
Ticket manager John Morley found himself rising at three in the morning to meet the demands of alumni he had not heard from "in 10 years." Typical L.A. The Trojans realized they had something good going on when they made all three columns of the Los Angeles Times in one day.
"We knew we had a good football team," said All-American end Hal Bedsole, "but no one felt that it was a national championship caliber team - you don't think of things like that before a season, anyway."
The Washington victory vaulted them to number two. Wins over Stanford, then Roger Staubach and Navy, had them thinking about it. They were number one heading into the UCLA game. McKay did it in an unusual way, alternating Beathard and Nelsen. Fertig was number three but considered part of the mix, too. As the season wore on, though, Fertig asked and received permission to play some at wide receiver, just so he could get in games.
Both Beathard and Nelsen would achieve success in professional football, Beathard at Houston and Nelsen with Cleveland.
"Beathard was as fine an athlete as played college football," said Bedsole.
The team did not approach games with the expectation of putting a lot of points on the board, although as the offense synchronized, they became much more potent than they had been at the beginning of the year.
"I know we’re playing a lot better defense," McKay told the press. "I feel our defense against Iowa forced them into a good many errors. You've got to be stubborn to win against top competition, and stubbornness should begin on defense."
"We beat the Bruins for the Rose Bowl 14-3 with a great comeback," Bedsole said. "They were ahead 3-0 in the last five minutes, and then Brown made a miraculous catch near the goal line and they turned the ball over and we scored again."
86,740 watched Troy earn a trip to Pasadena. Of course, beating Notre Dame was still a task that lay ahead.
"It's like the poker player," McKay told his team. "He's won all the money, and then somebody challenges him to a showdown, all or nothing."
On the game's third play, Beathard swung a pass to Willie Brown who gained 34 yards to the Irish 18. 228-pound fullback Ben Wilson went for eight, then three plays later leaped over the pile to make it 7-0. John Underwood of Sports Illustrated wrote that the game was USC's from that moment forward. Whenever Notre Dame made an adjustment, USC countered. Notre Dame coach Joe Kuharich's squad kept shooting themselves in the foot with penalties and mistakes. McKay went conservative in the second half.
The shootout with VanderKelen
The 25-0 win set up one of the greatest Rose Bowl shootouts of all time. It would be a game against Wisconsin that totally went against the ebb and flow of USC's season. They would be outplayed, according to some, but they would survive and leave with the national championship.
The number two Badgers came in talkin' loud, full of Big 10 bravado. The press was with them, too. Quarterback Ron VanderKelen was the best in the country. It was not a typical bulldozing Big 10 bunch. Wisconsin played pro-style passing football. McKay was scared to death of them, although nobody knew it at the time.
98,698 packed the Rose Bowl to se two 10-0 teams. According to Bedsole, McKay's approach to the game was quite extraordinary by today's standards. The team approached the contest "like it was an exhibition. That was the atmosphere…a kind of picnic." The team did not use their allotted practice day. McKay, possibly using psychology, said that the honor was just to be there.
After the Tournament of Roses honored America's recent breakthrough in the "Space Race" with the Soviets, USC exploded like a rocket ship. Bedsole made two touchdown catches, including a leaping grab in the corner of the end zone. He also was called for three personal fouls.
"You were supposed to get thrown out after two," he recalled. "For some reason the officials blew it."
Wisconsin was screaming bloody murder as Troy built up a 42-14 lead. On the sidelines, the team was celebrating early.
"Everybody just wanted to know where the party was after the game," said McKay,
Penalties piled up. Marv Marinovich punched a Badger player and was thrown out. Wisconsin got fired up. McKay, a class act who never ran it up on opponents, wanted to lay off. He went to the ground, choosing to let the clock win down.
"He didn't want to embarrass these people," Bedsole said.
The game would take three hours and five minutes, a long one in those days, and end in darkness. The Trojans had sustained a series of strange injuries prior to the game. While none of that appeared to make a difference in the first half, it all came to roost in the second half.
The defensive line and the secondary were depleted, allowing VanderKelen to make adjustments and pick them apart.
"We had an interior line with no experience, no pass rush, and VanderKelen had all day to throw," said Bedsole. "We got tired…and it got dark."
In the fourth quarter, VanderKelen completed eight of 10 passes to orchestrate a long drive, resulting in a 13-yard strike to Lou Holland. A Wilson fumble gave Wisconsin the ball on the USC 29. VanderKelen followed with another quick scoring strike. Suddenly 42-14 was 42-28 and nerves were twitching.
Wisconsin held. VanderKelen struck again, only to have Willie Brown intercept him in the end zone. It looked to be over, but USC got thrown for a safety. Two points to the Badgers and their ball, trailing 42-30. VanderKelen led them back, hitting Pat Richter to make it 42-37. Two minutes remained.
The Trojans just barely managed to hold onto the football and run out the clock. Afterwards, there was some accusation about Big 10 officials failing to call Wisconsin for holding during VanderKelen's drives. As it was, the game was marred by penalties throughout, as well as fistfights and general bad sportsmanship.
In the locker room, USC filed in silently, with their heads down. It was quite an unreal scene for a team that had just finished a perfect season, clinching the national title.
"Get your heads up," McKay told them.
When Bedsole teamed with VanderKelen on the Minnesota Vikings, the former Badger star confessed that it was only because McKay had called off the dogs that Wisconsin had a chance to get back in it.
"You could have scored 50 or 60 points on our defense," he told Bedsole.
When a reporter asked Brown what happened, the Trojan star replied testily, "We won, that's what happened."
"We came in number one," McKay assessed. "They came in number two and lost. That makes us number one."
The 1963 Rose Bowl was a turning point in the modern development of football. The NFL was still playing a ground-oriented game, resulting in low-scoring defensive struggles. The new AFL was opening up the game, led by genius offensive minds like Oakland's Al Davis, Dallas's (then Kansas City's) Hank Stram, and San Diego's Sid Gilman.
The USC-Wisconsin shootout was the college version of the AFL long before anybody called it the "West Coast offense." While Wisconsin's passing schemes were new, so too were McKay's formations on both sides of the ball.
"John started the I formation and made it popular; he revolutionized the game," said former Arkansas coach Frank Broyles on The History of USC Football DVD.
"The 'monster defense' was made up by Frank Broyles at the University of Arkansas," said McKay, "and it always had what we call in the terminology a 'strong safety' up one side or the other on the wide side of field. I said we should get a formation shift away from it and run to the weak side of the defense, which we did in 1962. We won 11 games and won the national championship. In all honesty our guys taught me more about it than anybody else. Our tailback said, 'Put me farther back, I can see better.' "
"Almost everybody on that team was from California," said Levy. "We spent almost no money on recruiting. No one was from out of state, but that group was a pleasure and we had some super athletes, it wasn't by accident."
"We weren't in the Top 20, we were unrated," said Fertig. "We beat Duke 14-0, beat Hayden Fry, I scored my first touchdown against a young Hayden Fry. We beat UCLA 14-3 to set ourselves up and we still have one other game against Notre Dame, and we beat 'em 25-0, and what a thrill it was to go to the Rose Bowl."
"We had given up 54 points in 11 games," said McKay. "So I said after we scored three or four touchdowns, I said, 'This game's over.' We get ahead 42-14."
"John calls me over to the sideline," said Bedsole. "He said, 'Go and tell Pete to run the ball and let's just run the clock out and not embarrass their coach. Milt Groom was a nice guy he'd known a long time. It backfired and before we know it, they were throwing on every down. They abandoned their offense and we're chasing 'em down."
"One thing that disturbs me is that you'd think from reading articles that Wisconsin won the game, but we beat 'em up for three quarters and totally controlled the game," Beathard said. "But yes, in the fourth quarter we were trying to get on the bus and go to the post-game party."
"For 40 years I had to live with the fact that we won but people remember Wisconsin coming back, but we in fact won," said Bedsole. "If we did to them what we were capable of, I think the '62 team would be considered one of the best of all time, not just the team that started the John McKay era."
The oddity of the game was its juxtaposition with the rest of the season. Here was a team that had played conservatively, winning low-scoring games with great defense. Suddenly, they found themselves opening up on offense, but their defense (albeit beset by injuries, penalties and ejections) was a sieve.
The press made a big deal over USC's first national championship since 1939, and first unbeaten season since 1932, especially in light of the fact that Dr. Topping had upgraded the admissions standards. After the "payola" scandals of the 1950s, a decision had been made to increase USC's academic prestige and not place so much emphasis on sports. Interestingly, this decision would presage the school's all-time greatest sports era, which was a nice testament to college athletics, or at least to the way USC handles it.
McKay had struggled with Clark's recruits. He had fully integrated his program with black players, earning the nation's respect as a recruiter and tactician. He also earned himself a nice contract renewal with a raise. Furthermore, McKay's jaunty personality, which fell on deaf ears when the team struggled, now made him a quipster and press favorite.
McKay was lauded for finding position for his players; for recruiting for athleticism, not by position. Washington and UCLA also were strong. The scandal was now a thing of the distant past. UCLA had beaten Ohio State earlier in the season. Three West Coast teams ranked in the top eight at one point in the season. Wisconsin held the number two position in the final polls. Bedsole and linebacker Damon Bame made All-American.
The junior Bedsole had come to SC out of Pierce J.C. in the Valley. Nicknamed "Prince Hal," Bedsole played for the Minnesota Vikings. Bame was another junior college transfer, from Glendale Community College. He was a two-time All-American left guard-linebacker at 5-11, 192 pounds.
Jim Bates was picked by the Bears, Wilson to the Rams, Mike Bundra to the Lions and Marinovich to the Rams in the NFL Draft. In the AFL Draft, Frank Buncom, Bates and Wilson went to the Chargers, and Ben Charles to the Bills.
1962 was an interesting year in sports and history. Aside from the successful rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, Florida, which included John Glenn's multiple revolutions around the Earth followed by a harrowing return through the atmosphere with a damaged heat shield. The Cuban Missile Crisis had made sports seem unimportant for a couple of October weeks, while elevating President John F. Kennedy to heroic status. The man he had beaten in 1960, Richard Nixon, lost the California gubernatorial election to Pat Brown. Afterwards, Nixon told a press briefing at the Beverly Hills Hotel, "Gentlemen, this is my last press conference."
The Green Bay Packers dominated the NFL with a 13-1 record under Vince Lombardi and quarterback Bart Starr. Los Angeles was baseball-crazy that year. The Dodgers moved into Chavez Ravine, breaking the all-time attendance record previously held by the 1948 Cleveland Indians.
The Dodgers looked to be surefire winners, but suffered a bad last week, allowing San Francisco to catch them in a best-of-three play-off. After a come-from-behind victory at Dodger Stadium, the Giants lost a thrilling seven-game World Series to the New York Yankees.
The expansion Los Angeles Angels had come into the league in 1961, playing their games at the minor league facility, Wrigley Field. In 1962, the Angels rented Dodger Stadium from the Dodgers (they would move to Anaheim in 1966). The Angels were led by a colorful cast of Hollywood characters, led by the irrepressible playboy southpaw, Bo Belinsky. They made a run at the Yankees until September.
Local sportswriters like Jim Murray, Mal Florence, Alan Malamud, Bob Oates, John Hall and Bud "The Steamer" Furillo made the L.A. Times and other papers fun to read. The nature of sports in Los Angeles had taken a turn for the better. Certainly, USC was no longer the only game in town. The city was now a world class venue, billing itself as the "sports capitol of the world" with two big league clubs, plus the Lakers joining the Rams, USC and UCLA in competition for what appeared to be inexhaustible sports dollars. Los Angelenos may be front runners, but when their teams are in front they run to the ballparks in record fashion.
Fertig-to-Sherman adds to the tradition of Troy
The 1963 Trojans entered the season ranked number one. They were up to their old tricks again on defense in a 14-0 shutout at Colorado. An embarrassing Coliseum crowd of 39,354 saw Bud Wilkinson, fielding a great Oklahoma Sooner team again, bring USC's winning streak to an end, 17-12. McKay's desire to play soft schedules never came about. No season exemplified this more than in 1963. After beating Michigan State, Southern California traveled to South Bend. Coach Hugh Devore's Irish were down, but they scored a huge upset of the defending national champs, 17-14, Number four Ohio State came to town and lost 32-3 before the conference schedule opened up.
UCLA came into the 1963 City Game with a 2-7 record. They were no match for Trojan sophomore tailback Mike Garrett, who rushed for 119 yards in a 26-6 rout. USC finished the year 7-3, second in league play. Texas won the national championship under Darrel Royal. USC finished 16th.
In 1963, Bill Nelsen was drafted by Pittsburgh and Lynn Reade by Cleveland. Nelsen eventually ended up at Cleveland, too, where he had a creditable professional career. He took the Browns to the 1969 NFL Play-Offs, where they succumbed to Joe Kapp and Minnesota. He was forced to retire early because he had what were described as "glass knees."
In 1965, Beathard was a first round selection of the Detroit Lions, followed by Bedsole (second round, Minnesota), Willie Brown (third round, Los Angeles) and Theo Viltz (Dallas). In the AFL Draft, Beathard was the first round pick of the Houston Oilers, who he signed with. Beathard was a top quarterback on good Oilers teams in the 1960s. Gary Kilmer and Brown were selected by San Diego. The Chiefs picked Bedsole. Oakland selected Mike Giers.
A couple of miles from USC, the Dodgers made history when thy swept the 1963 World Series from the Yankees behind Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. The football season was marred by the terrible tragedy of President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas on November 22. The odd role of sports in society came into focus again. On the one hand, it is a "just a game," trivial of pursuit in light of wars and tragedy. On the other hand, it is a great escape from those realities.
1964 would prove to be memorable, yet bittersweet. The Trojan quarterback was Craig Fertig, a senior out of Huntington Park High School. Fertig is a colorful figure in Trojan history who would go on to become an assistant coach under McKay; a head coach at Oregon State; a longtime Fox Sports football analyst with Tom Kelly; a fixture on the alumni banquet circuit; and the host of USC campus tours. He is, in many ways, the "face" of USC.
Fertig was always a guy who liked to have fun, enjoyed partying, and had an eye for the ladies.
"Lemme tell ya the difference between the Cal quarterback and the SC quarterback," Fertig remarked, referencing All-American Golden Bear signal caller Craig Morton, a contemporary who also enjoyed a good time. "Well, he had a girlfriend, a really beautiful girl from Santa Monica, a cheerleader. Well lemme tell ya, the SC quarterback was takin' care of that, if ya know what I mean."
Fertig had waited his turn while Beathard and Nelsen were draped in the glory of a national title. The 1964 schedule was grueling again. A disappointing 39,173 showed up at the Coliseum to see Southern California beat Colorado, 21-0, but USC shocked number two Oklahoma, 40-14 at Tinker Field in Norman. Elevated from unranked to number two, the Trojans could not figure out who they were. Michigan State beat them, 17-7 at East Lansing. Texas A&M fell, 31-7, but number two Ohio State dominated them, 17-0 at Columbus.
They beat Cal but lost to Washington. After beating Stanford they went into the last two games with a shot at the Rose Bowl. Garrett rushed for 181 yards, and Fertig passed for three scores to lead Southern California over UCLA, 34-13.
The stage was set for the anointing of Notre Dame's expected national championship on November 28. The Irish had not captured the crown since 1949. The 1950s and early '60s had been down years in South Bend, although they had given USC all they could handle. But Northwestern's Ara Parseghian took over that year. At first, little was expected of him.
The Irish quarterback was an unknown senior who had not started. John Huarte and his favorite receiver, Jack Snow, had grown up in Orange County, which is "Trojan country," but they had gone to Notre Dame. In the summers they had worked on pass routes on Orange County's beaches. In 1964 they put the practice to good use.
Notre Dame surprisingly went through their first nine games undefeated, earning them the number one ranking. Huarte was just dripping with Notre Dame polish. The best quarterback in America that year was Alabama senior Joe Willie Namath, but Namath injured his knee in the seventh game of the season. That gave Huarte the inside track to become Notre Dame's sixth Heisman Trophy winner.
Up until 1964, USC had not yet won any Heismans. By 2004, Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart would be his school's sixth Heisman winner. He would also be the second from Mater Dei High School in Orange County. Huarte was Mater Dei's first. There are only two high schools in the country that have produced two Heisman winners (the other: Woodrow Wilson High of Dallas with Davey O'Brien, Tim Brown). When Leinart won the 2004 Heisman Huarte, a Southern California businessman donated his Heisman to Mater Dei for display. When Leinart won his third (and USC's seventh) in 2005, it made Mater Dei the only school with three. Coach Bruce Rollinson was delighted to have the unbelievable recruiting tool of multiple Heismans associated with the Monarch program. Fertig probably was hoping his nephew, Todd, would be one of those Heisman winners, but he transferred out of Mater Dei after his freshman year and never earned the trophy in his star-crossed USC career.
Huarte would also be paid an enormous bonus by the New York Titans (later Jets) of the American Football League. He would not make it in New York. The Titans would pay even more bonus dollars ($400,000) to Namath, who would make it.
But on that November day of 1964, the best quarterback in America was not Huarte, Namath, Craig Morton, or any of the other more-heralded signal callers of the year. It certainly did not look that way at first.
McKay had played it cool with the press, deferring to Parseghian, making pessimistic statements like, "Notre Dame can't be beat," that the best they could hope was to "definitely make a first down."
Notre Dame's 262-pound and 245-pound tackles could not be blocked. A pre-game steak dinner was his "last meal." It went on like that. Parshegian would not have any of it. Neither did Fertig, who was just itching to get at these guys. All that Notre Dame glamour was giving the Trojans a bad taste in their mouths.
With his team safely removed from the press, McKay outlined to his team a seemingly-odd strategy, based on using Mike Garrett between the tackles. He hoped to block down the tackles and take it to their linebackers, who he saw as their weak links. If Garrett could establish the run, then Fertig would be able to take to the air. If, if, if…
USC advance scout Mel Hein had the Irish thoroughly scouted. The unspoken understanding at USC was that the Irish were good, but a little overrated. Just being Notre Dame, they were subject to this kind of adulation. They were 14-point road favorites, a very high prediction against a good Trojan club, their biggest rival, only two years removed from a national title of their own.
McKay also knew that his reputation would be cemented on this day. Either he could beat Notre Dame or he could not. Beating them when they were ranked number one would prove his place. He had an open date after the UCLA game to prepare.
None of USC's plans or hopes appeared to amount to a hill of beans when Huarte started to shred the USC defense. He hit on 11 of 15 attempts for 176 yards in the first half. He spotted Snow for a touchdown, a field goal was good, and another drive ended with Bill Worski's run into the end zone.
Despite the 17-0 halftime deficit, Garrett had run well against Notre Dame on the inside. In the history of college football, the greatest halftime coach may well be McKay. He had a serene confidence, an ability to make adjustments, a way of conveying calmness to his team that is not matched.
"Our game plan is working," he told the Trojans. "Keep doing your stuff, and we'll get some points."
In the other locker room, Parseghian told the Irish, "Just 30 minutes of football separates you from a national championship." While true, the words conveyed a sense of "running out the clock." Parseghian was one of the best coaches ever, but this kind of thinking, which was exemplified on several high-profile occasions, costs him legacy points.
What McKay wanted was an early third quarter score. Notre Dame had run their schedule with ease. McKay felt that "if we can make this thing close, they might not know how to react."
Garrett was just the tonic USC needed, opening up nice gains behind good blocking, then allowing Fertig to hit wide receiver Rod Sherman over the middle. When Garrett ran it in, the 17-7 score looked a lot different to Notre Dame than 17-0. With 83,840 Coliseum faithful exploding with pent-up emotion, they found their plans taking a turn.
It all may have gone for naught but-for a fumble by Notre Dame on the Southern California nine. Notre Dame started to press after that. Penalties went against them, including a touchdown-nullifying flag. Suddenly, they were in "prevent" mode, just hoping to hold on.
Fertig lit up the Los Angeles sky on an 82-yard drive. Fred Hill's catch made it 17-14.
"I knew we had 'em," McKay later said of his attitude at that point. "The momentum was all ours. In a situation like that, the number one rating is a fairly suffocating thing."
Huarte was unable to sustain a drive. Jack Snow's punt to Mike Garrett was returned 18 yards to the Notre Dame 35. Two minutes and 10 seconds remained. The Coliseum was awash in noise and emotion, a cacophony of sound. There are many large stadiums in America. Ohio Stadium. Michigan Stadium. South Bend, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park. Crowds in these cities are boisterous and crazy. L.A. fans have a well-deserved reputation for being laid back. USC's backers, while loyal and among the best alumni in the world, are often well heeled and quiet compared to the crazies at Florida State, LSU or any of two dozen other venues. However, with that being said, those who have experienced the Coliseum at full throttle, when all is on the line usually against Notre Dame or UCLA; these people describe a tidal wave of sound and excitement that matches if not exceeds any atmosphere in America. So it was that day in '64.
A field goal, of course, would tie. Many coaches in the days before overtime play were rightfully criticized for "playing it safe." Two years later, Parseghian would do just that against Michigan State. His career is tarnished by it. McKay never thought about ties. On this day, he further calculated that he needed a win, even though the game was not conference action, in order to sway the league into choosing his team to represent them in the Rose Bowl.
Garrett carried for nothing. Fertig called "time." McKay called Craig the "best pure passer in college football," a huge compliment for a man whose contemporaries included Morton, Huarte, Namath and Roger Staubach. Maybe McKay was a little biased, but the point is that he had confidence in the guy who was "like a son" to him.
When action resumed, Fertig nailed Fred Hill on a down-and-out pattern for 23 yards. With a first down at the Irish 17, anything could happen. For the Trojans, a field goal was not an option.
After another timeout, Fertig hit Garrett, who stopped the clock when he went out of bounds at the 15. Fertig then went for broke, appearing to have Hill in the end zone, but the receiver was ruled to have caught it out of bounds. A third down try missed, so now the world was on Fertig's shoulders. 43 seconds remained. The field goal unit was no place to be found.
Sherman told McKay he wanted to try "84-Z delay." He would split wide to the left, delay one second after the snap, sprint ahead for five steps, fake outside, then cut sharply down and across the middle. Fertig would just have to avoid a sack, trusting that his man would be where he was supposed to be.
"I watched the way their halfback reacted and I figured that I could beat him," Sherman said.
Sherman juked Tony Carey and Fertig hit him chest high. 15 yards. Touchdown. The Coliseum exploded. Sherman and Fertig would live off this moment for time immemorial.
"Beat Michigan" in the Rose Bowl was scrawled on the locker room blackboard when the team returned full of triumph. USC and Oregon State had identical conference records of 3-1.
"We beat the number one team in the country," Fertig said, "and Oregon State, God bless 'em, beat Idaho, 7-6, so they went."
News of the decision hit McKay at a post-game celebratory dinner. Silence ensued, until Jess Hill announced, "As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the rankest injustices ever perpetrated in the field of intercollegiate athletics."
Fertig the witticist tried to get up a pool so the Trojans could go to Oregon and play the Beavers.
Right guard Bill Fisk from San Gabriel High School made the 1964 All-American team. He played professional football before becoming a USC assistant coach. In the 1964 NFL Draft, Fred Hill was drafted by Philadelphia; Bob Svihus by Dallas; John Thomas by Minnesota; Mike Geirs by the New York Giants; Ed Blecksmith by Los Angeles; and Fertig by Pittsburgh.
In the 1965 AFL Draft, Oakland picked Svihus and Hill. In what was known as the AFL "red-shirt" draft, Thomas was chosen by Kansas City.
1964-65 would be a period of unrest and social change in America. Even the 1964 World Series had implications beyond the playing of the games. The St. Louis Cardinals were made up of a large group of black and Latino players. Their minority players tended to be well educated, articulate, proud and hard-nosed. Among them were Bob Gibson, Curt Flood and Bill White. They would beat the New York Yankees, who still represented the country club, pinstriped Republican Wall Street crowd of yesteryear.
John Wooden won his first two NCAA basketball championships at UCLA, ushering in a golden era in Bruin sports, and with it, the escalation of the city rivalry.
The Vietnam War started in 1964 and escalated in 1965. President Lyndon B. Johnson oversaw history-making laws, embodied by what came to be known as the "Great Society." Black America, emboldened by Dr. Martin Luther King, demanded justice in the South. The last vestige of segregation was in Dixie, where Southern colleges still fielded all-white football teams.
All was not right in the City of Angels, either. In the summer of 1965, an incident involving a white L.A.P.D. officer and a black citizen sparked a race riot on the burning hot, mean streets of Watts, an underprivileged black neighborhood just south of the Coliseum.
It would ignite a firestorm in the city, but USC would remain unscathed.
"There've been two riots in Los Angeles," John McKay said in 2000. "USC's never been damaged, because they are a major employer in the community, and have always enjoyed good relations with their neighbors."
McKay's successor, John Robinson, echoed this sentiment in a 2005 interview.
"I'd be driving in the black neighborhoods and get nothing but waves and smiles," Robinson recalled. "USC is the 'people's school' in L.A. Crowds at the Coliseum are a politician's dream: rich white alumni, local Hispanics, and blacks, all rooting for the Trojans."
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism