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The USC Trojans: College Football's All-Time Greatest Dynasty
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Steven gives an overview of the book:

In 2000, the University of Southern California Trojans were named Collegiate Athletic Department of the 20th Century, Baseball Program of the Century, while coach Rod Dedeaux was the Baseball Coach of the Century. However, it was still felt that the greatest historical football program was USC's biggest rival, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In this lively history of Southern California football, Steven Travers makes the case that under the guidance of coach Pete Carroll (54-10), the Trojans have overtaken Notre Dame as the greatest ever collegiate tradition. USC has produced such legendary gridiron coaches and stars as Howard Jones, Frank Gifford, John McKay, O.J. Simpson, Anthony Davis, Lynn Swann, Ronnie Lott, Anthony Munoz, and Marcus Allen. They have tied Notre Dame for the most national championships (11) and Heisman Trophy winners (seven); have the best bowl...
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In 2000, the University of Southern California Trojans were named Collegiate Athletic Department of the 20th Century, Baseball Program of the Century, while coach Rod Dedeaux was the Baseball Coach of the Century. However, it was still felt that the greatest historical football program was USC's biggest rival, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In this lively history of Southern California football, Steven Travers makes the case that under the guidance of coach Pete Carroll (54-10), the Trojans have overtaken Notre Dame as the greatest ever collegiate tradition. USC has produced such legendary gridiron coaches and stars as Howard Jones, Frank Gifford, John McKay, O.J. Simpson, Anthony Davis, Lynn Swann, Ronnie Lott, Anthony Munoz, and Marcus Allen. They have tied Notre Dame for the most national championships (11) and Heisman Trophy winners (seven); have the best bowl record, the most Rose Bowl victories, the most All-Americans, the most pro players, the most first round draft picks, the most number one draft picks, the most Pro Bowlers, the most Super Bowlers, and the most Hall of Famers. In the years to come, the Trojan-Irish rivalry promises to be a titanic battle for continued supremacy. Their most recent stars, back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, are giants standing on the shoulders of giants. Illustrated with both historic and contemporary photos, this book celebrates college football's best, providing a blow-by-blow account of the greatest game ever played: the 2006 USC-Texas Rose Bowl.

Read an excerpt »

 

 

 

FRONT INSIDE COVER

 

Praise for Steven Travers

 

 

FRONT AND BACK DUSTCOVER

 

On the morning of January 1, 2000, the dawn of the New Millennium, an Associated Press-style "Top 25" of the all-time greatest collegiate football programs of the 20th Century ranked the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the top. Six football seasons have passed since then. A monumental, heretofore never-seen-before dynasty has taken shape, altering the very historical structure of the college grid landscape.

This book argues in convincing and meticulously researched fashion that now, at the beginning of the 2006 season, the University of Southern California Trojans have surpassed Notre Dame as "history's greatest all-time collegiate football program." Named "Collegiate Athletic Department of the 20th Century," USC continues to hold off cross-town rival UCLA for the top spot in that category. The Trojans under John McKay and John Robinson (1962-81) represent the most dominant 20-year period. In addition, Pete Carroll's Trojans of the 2000s have also surpassed Bud Wilkinson's 1950s Oklahoma Sooners as the greatest dynasty ever. The case is herein made that the 2005 Trojans have replaced the 1972 Trojans as the greatest single-season team of all time. Additionally, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush represent the finest same-team combo since Army's "Mr. Inside" and "Mr. Outside," Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard. Lastly, the two-time Heisman winner Leinart is hereby anointed "best college football player who ever lived."

 There is no doubt that author Steven Travers's premise will spur lively debate from fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Alabama Crimson Tide, Oklahoma Sooners, and other storied programs. While there is no "answer" to the question of, "Whose number one?" the author nevertheless uses statistics, analysis, common-sense and drama to arrive at a conclusion that may be disputed but is not without considerable merit.

"FIGHT ON!" USC's Trojans, College Football's All-Time Greatest Dynasty details the fabulous record of Southern California football from its inception in 1888 right on up to Travers's eyewitness account of its third straight national championship in 2005, followed by their present attempt to break Oklahoma's record 47-game winning streak of the 1950s. Within these pages, read about USC's most-ever 12 national championships and (tied-for-most-with-Notre Dame) seven Heisman Trophy winners. Written in the non-narrative, reads-like-a-novel style of Tom Wolfe-meets-Jim Murray, Travers brings to vivid life the fabulous moments that make Trojan football the most exciting, dramatic and glamorous of them all.

Read all about the nation-shaping 77-year rivalry with Notre Dame and its ageless, titanic struggle for national supremacy. Herein is the story of the incredible series with UCLA, which has captivated a country, excited a great city, and formed a backdrop for social change. The history of the Rose Bowl is the history of USC and a country through two World Wars and beyond. This books tells the inside details of Sam "Bam" Cunningham and the mythic 1970 USC-Alabama game in Birmingham, which paved the way for the ending of segregation in the American South. It proudly tells the tale of a school and a football program that provided equal opportunities for African-American athletes long before most of the country did. 

Here are the great legends, All-Americans, colorful and controversial figures: Brice Taylor, Morley Drury, Erny Pinckert, Cotton Warburton, Ron Yary, Tim Rossovich, Mike Battle, the "Wild Bunch" and the "Cardiac Kids," Charles Young, Richard "Batman" Wood, Lynn Swann, J.K. McKay, Pat Haden, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, Brad Budde, Paul McDonald, Ronnie Lott, Junior Seau, Tony Boselli, Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams, "Wild Bunch II," and "The Four Horsemen of Southern California": Leinart, Bush, LenDale White, and Dwayne Jarrett.

Heisman winners: Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White, Marcus Allen, Carson Palmer, and the incredible Leinart. The iconic coaches: Howard "Head Man" Jones, McKay, Robinson, Pete Carroll. Dark days: the O.J. case, losing streaks to Notre Dame and UCLA, the "curse of Marv Goux" and the "fall of the Trojan Empire." Highlights: Johnny Baker's 1931 field goal to beat Notre Dame; Doyle Nave's pass to "Antelope Al" Kreuger to upset unbeaten, untied, unscored upon Duke in the 1939 Rose Bowl; Frank Gifford leading the 1951 upset of Cal at Berkeley; C.R. Roberts' 251 yards in a racially hostile environment at Texas in 1956; beating Wisconsin's Ron VanderKelen in the 1963 Rose Bowl; Craig Fertig-to-Rod Sherman to upset Notre Dame in 1964; O.J.'s mad dash to beat UCLA in 1967 with a national title on the line; Anthony Davis's two superhuman games against the Irish, including 55 straight points to beat Notre Dame in 1974; Pat Haden-to-J.K. McKay to beat Ohio State in the 1975 Rose Bowl; Frank Jordan's field goal to beat Joe Montana's Irish in 1978; Fred Cornwell's catch to defeat Oklahoma in 1981; and Todd Marinovich-to-Johnny Morton to beat UCLA in 1990. 

The "greatest football game ever played": a miracle comeback at South Bend in 2005. The "resurrection" of the Trojan Empire: routing Oklahoma in the 2005 BCS Orange Bowl and beating Texas in the 2006 national championship Rose Bowl game.

In addition to the stirring memory- and quote-filled details of this most storied history, Travers ends each 20-year period with a summary of USC's dominance in other sports: Rod Dedeaux, named "College Baseball Coach of the 20th Century" and the Trojans' 12 NCAA championships, earning them the title "College Baseball Program of the Century"; Dean Cromwell and a track program with 26 NCAA titles; along with UCLA, the most Olympic gold medals of any university.

"FIGHT ON!" USC's Trojans, College Football's All-Time Greatest Dynasty, is the most thorough, comprehensive, dramatic telling of the Southern California football story yet told, filled with Hollwood endings that are a must-read for all Trojans and football fans alike! 

 

 

BACK COVER

 

ABOUT STEVEN TRAVERS

 

Steven Travers is a USC graduate and college football historian. He has written for the Los Angeles Times, was the lead sports columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, and is the author of the best seller Barry Bonds: Baseball's Superman ( HYPERLINK http://www.sportspublishingllc.com)www.sportspublishingllc.com), which went into multiple re-print and is now available in paperback. It was nominated for a Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of 2002. He also was the beat writer for Trojan athletics and was the star columnist for StreetZebra magazine in L.A., where he specialized in a monthly "distant replay" of great events in Southern California sports history. 

           Travers attended the same suburban California high school as USC head football Pete Carroll. After helping to lead his prep baseball team to the mythical national championship in his senior year, he attended college on a baseball scholarship, where he was an all-conference pitcher. The 6-6, 225-pound Travers played professionally for the St. Louis Cardinals, where he was a teammate of Danny Cox. Travers once struck out 1989 National League Most Valuable Player Kevin Mitchell five times in one game (he K’d 14 that night). With the Oakland Athletics organization, he played alongside Jose Canseco. Steve later coached at USC, Cal-Berkeley and managed a team in Berlin, Germany.  

             Travers interned in the USC sports information department and studied in the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications. At USC, he was a classmate of Mark McGwire and Randy Johnson. Travers also went to law school and is a product of the UCLA Writers' Program. He served in the U.S. Army during the Persian Gulf War. 

            Steve also authored September 1970: Two Teams, One Night and the Game That Changed A Nation, the true tale of how Sam "Bam" Cunningham and USC's 1970 victory over Alabama at Birmingham helped pave the way for the ending of segregation in the American South. That story is also soon to be a major motion picture. 

          He wrote a novel, Angry White Male; a compilation of his work over the years, The Writer’s Life; and God's CountyA Three-Volume Conservative,Christian Worldview of How History Formed the United States Empire and America's Manifest Destiny for the 21st CenturyTravers is currently making efforts to write a book with Pete Carroll that would detail the inside story of modern USC football, titled "It's A Good Day to Be A Trojan!" This has also been the subject of discussions with ESPN for a reality series.  He covered prep football for the Los Angeles Daily News and was a sports stringer on San Diego’s XTRA 690 AM radio station.

           "I have encyclopedic knowledge of history,” Steve says. "I am truly versatile as a writer, able to use my knowledge of the past to understand the present.”  Steve was a political consultant and also a sports agent, before embarking on a full-time writing career in 1994.

             Steve has also written screenplays, including The Lost BattalionWicked and Baja California. His writing awards are for Bandit, an America’s Best quarterfinalist; Once He Was An Angel (the story of ex-Angel pitcher Bo Belinsky), a Quantum Leap quarterfinalist; Rock 'n' Roll Heaven was a Writers Network Screenplay & Fiction quarterfinalist. He appeared in the film The Californians, starring Noah Wylie and Illeana Douglas.

A fifth-generation Californian, Travers still resides in the Golden State. He has one daughter, Elizabeth Travers.

 

 

 

 

 

September 1970: One Night, Two Teams, and the Game That Changed A Nation (soon to be a major motion picture)

Barry Bonds: Baseball’s Superman

"It's A Good Day to Be A Trojan!" (soon to be a reality TV series)

God's Country: A Conservative, Christian Worldview of How History Formed the United States Empire and America's Manifest Destiny for the 21stCentury

 Angry White Male

The Writer’s Life

 

To Terry Marks,

who recited the Lord's Prayer

and became a noble Trojan! 

 

 

Fight on and win

For ol’ SC.

Fight on to victory.

Fight On!

- "Fight On!” USC’s official fight song

 

 

" 'Fight On!' meant no matter the conditions, no matter the opponent, you always played your best."

- Mike Garrett, speaking at the Marv Goux Memorial, August 2, 2002

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

Foreword By Charles "Tree" Young 13

Introduction THE UNIVERSITY OF THE 21ST CENTURY 14

1     DYNASTY: THE NEW CENTURIONS OF TROY 35

All-Time Greatest College Football Teams 84

 

PART ONE THE WILD, WILD WEST 1880-1918 94

                               THE METHODISTS LEARN TO "FIGHT LIKE TROJANS" 95

 

PART TWO A NATIONAL GAME 1919-1940 113

                                  THERE IS A THERE THERE 114

4                                   THE THUNDERING HERD 140 

The "noblest Trojan of them all" 158

                The Greatest College Football Team of All Time (1928 edition) 

166

            Nate Barrager 176

             The Duke 179

                         USC and UCLA: a tradition of equal opportunity 193

                         Johnny Baker and the comeback at South Bend 209

       1932: unbeaten, untied, back-to-back national champs 224 

5                       THE FALL AND RISE OF TROY 230

Other sports 1900-1939: Like Troy taking Athens, the Trojans take 

the Olympics 272

 

PART THREE  A BLOOMING ROSE 1941-1959 281

6                              THE WAR YEARS 277

                               MIDWESTERN DOMINATION 290

The Giffer: everybody's All-American 308

8                                  MR. TROJAN 316

                                    Out of The Giffer's shadow: Jim Sears 341

                                    Here come the Bruins 350

                        "Jaguar Jon" Arnett: local kid makes good 358

                        C.R. Roberts make a statement at Austin 369

                        Scandal 375

9                                  DON CLARK AND AL DAVIS 380

                        Other sports 1940-1959: the College World Series and Hall of 

Fame Trojan Hoopsters 391 

 

PART FOUR  CONQUEST! 1960-69 387

10                                THE "LITTLE WHITE-HAIRED MAN" 388

                                    "I want to beat Stanford by two thousand points." 409

                                     Legend: A Conversation With John McKay By Steven Travers 

410

He Was A Legend Of the Old School Variety By Steven Travers 

422

                         Rich McKay By Steven Travers 427

                                     USC Loses One of Its Legends With the Death of McKay By Jim 

  Perry 430

Cast a giant shadow 437

11                                THE PERFECT SEASON 443

                                    The shootout with VanderKelen 447

                                    Fertig-to-Sherman adds to the Trojan heritage 471

MIKE GARRETT: POET-WARRIOR 483

13                              "1966: A BILLION CHINAMEN COULD CARE LESS WHO 

WON…" 499

14                                JUICE 528

                                    South Bend 1967: slaying the dragon 542

                                    "The USC-UCLA game is not a matter of life or death. It's more 

important than that." 558

                                    The Promised Land 576

AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY 590

16                                THE "CARDIAC KIDS" WERE A "WILD BUNCH" 610

 

PART FIVE               THE TURNING OF THE CRIMSON TIDE SEPTEMBER 1970 612

17                                THE UNIVERSITY OF SPOILED CHIDLREN VS. DIRT POOR 

613

18                                 ORANGE COUNTIFICATION 664

                         A press box Shakespeare and L.A.s "Knights of the Keyboard" 665

                                     Pattonesque 671

19                                 THE WAR OF NORTHERN AGGRESSION 678

                                     "Black is beautiful." 680

20                                 CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS 686

21                                 STUDENT BODY RIGHT 695

22                                THE TIPPING POINT 708

                              "THIS HERE'S WHAT A FOOTBALL PLAYER LOOKS LIKE." 

710

24                                 THE SOUTH RISES AGAIN 715

                                     Other Voices: John Mitchell 754

Other Voices: Art Spander 759

Other Voices: Clarence Davis 764

Other Voices: Pat Haden 766

Other Voices: Rod Martin 769

Other Voices: Dwight Chapin 772

Other Voices: John Robinson 773

Other Voices: John Sciarra 778

Other Voices: Sam Dickerson 783

Other Voices: Coach Dave Levy 789

Other Voices: Bud "The Steamer" Furillo 794

Other Voices: Winston Groom 798

Other Voices: Tom Kelly 799

Other Voices: Mike Walden 803

Other Voices: Dave Brown 811

Other Voices: Manfred Moore 815

Other Voices: Coach Clem Gryska 817

Other Voices: John Vella 822

Other Voices: Dr. Culpepper Clark 828

Other Voices: Keith Dunnavant 832

Other Voices: Coach Jack Rutledge 838

Other Voices: Allen Barra 845

Other Voices: John Hannah 848

Other Voices: Jim Perry 855

Other Voices: Coach Craig Fertig 862

Other Voices: Coach Christ Vagotis 867

Other Voices: Scott Hunter 870

Other Voices: Wilbur Jackson 873

Other Voices: Sylvester Croom 876

Other Voices: Jeff Prugh 881

Other Voices: Wendell Hudson 885

Other Voices: John Mitchell 890

Other Voices: Rod McNeill 895

Other Voices: Coach Willie Brown 898

Other voices: J.K. McKay 900

Other Voices: Charles “Tree” Young 903

                        Additional articles and excerpts about the 1970 USC-Alabama 

game 911 

The Eternal Trojan By Steven Travers 911

The Traditon of Troy By Steven Travers 914

Alabama Goes Black 'N White By Jim Perry 918

Two Black Students Had Enrolled Before Wallace Showdown By 

Jeff Prugh 922

Excerpt from The Herschel Walker Story By Jeff Prugh 929

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down By Jeff Prugh 933

George Wallace Was America's Merchant of Venon By Jeff Prugh 

936

Anger boiled within Gerald Ford Before This Football Game By 

Jeff Prugh 940

 

PART SIX                  HERITAGE 1970-82 1

25  TEAM OF DESTINY 2

                                     The Hallowed Shrine 2

                              THE GREATEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAM OF ALL 

TIME (1972 EDITION) 16

27                                 A.D. 1973 48

28                                 THE MOST EXCITING TEAM EVER 68

                                     It Wasn't A Football Game. It Was A Sighting! By Steven Travers 

78

29                                 TAILBACK U. 91

                                     The Tradition of Troy 101

                                     The green jerseys 117

30                                 "CAMELOT" 121

                                    Alabama redux: When Legends Played By Steven Travers 123

                                    The best football game ever played (1978 edition) 130

                                    1979: the best team ever not to win the national championship 138

31                                LEGENDS: RONNIE LOTT AND MARCUS ALLEN 150

                                    1981 vs. Oklahoma: Mazur-to-Cornwell 161

                                    "Young Juice" 164

32                                1982: THE LAST HURRAH 172

                                    Other Sports 1960-79: Jess Hill presides over the greatest athletic 

department of all time 180

 

PART SEVEN          THE FALL OF THE TROJAN EMPIRE 1983-2000  195

33                                PRIDE GOETH BEFORE THE FALL 196

                                    The "curse of Marv Goux" 205

34                                FALSE GLORY 228

                                   1987 UCLA game: Peete chases down Turner 229

                                   1988: Almost a Heisman, almost a national title; "close but no 

cigar" 231

35                                BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR 240

                                    1990 vs. UCLA: Marinovich-to-Morton beats Tommy Maddox 

251

                                     Problem child 248

36                                 YESTERDAY U. 251

37                                 J.R. REDUX 258

38                                THE PAUL HACKETT ERA

                                    Other sports 1980-2006: "Big Mac," the "Big Unit," the Boone 

Brothers, and the legendary Dedeaux retires 287

 

PART EIGHT           RESURRECTION 304

39                                "WIN ONE FOR THE GOUX." 305

40                                SAVIOUR 325

                                    Turning point: 2001 at Arizona 356

Shutting out the Bruins 357

41  TRADITION RESTORED 360

2002: no longer too early to hype Palmer for the Heisman 379

42        "IT'S A GOOD DAY TO BE A TROJAN!" 382

43  KINGS OF L.A. 392

Leinart goes into the desert and emerges a man 423

At the Rose Bowl: 2003 national champions 429

44  "LEAVE NO DOUBT!" 455

Goin' Hollywood: believe the hype 481

45  DYNASTY! 491

Dominating Notre Dame: "Thunder and Lightning," Leinart 

secures the Heisman 507

USC 55, Oklahoma 19: "It's the greatest performance I've ever 

seen." - Lee  Corso 511

Glory days 523

Re-Pete 541

46  THREE-PETE 556

                                    "The greatest college football player who ever lived." 561

                                    "You don't know Matt." 571

"The President" 576

Mr. White: future Heisman winner? 585

                               THE GREATEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAM OF ALL 

TIME (2005 EDITION) 588

Empire 623

America's team: the Trojan Nation 632

                               THE GREATEST COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME EVER 

PLAYED (2005 EDITION) 650

49  THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 683

Lion heart 685

"GO FOR IT, MATT!!" 691

Trojan men 693

The tall grass of autumn 699

"It's like USC vs America." 719

50                                 TEAM OF THE CENTURY 730

MAKING HISTORY: THE MIGHTY EMPIRE OF TROY REACHES 

                            THE HEIGHT OF ITS POWER 732

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FOREWORD

By  CHARLES "TREE" YOUNG

Marv Goux and the University of Southern California recruited Charles "Tree" Young out of Fresno's Edison High School in 1969. He was a member of USC's famed 1970 team, which traveled to Birmingham, defeated all white Alabama, and thus helped to effectuate integration in the American South. He was a consensus All-American on USC's 1972 national champions, considered by many to be the greatest collegiate football team of all time. A member of the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame, Young was a first round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles. He played in the 1980 Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams, and was a member of the 1981 World Champion San Francisco 49ers. Young's three daughters ("Charle's angels") all ran track at USC. He is an ordained minister in the Seattle, Washington area.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left page title: "FIGHT ON!" USC's Trojans, College Football's All-Time Greatest Dynasty

Right page title: Steven Travers

 

INTRODUCTION

 

THE UNIVERSITY OF THE 21ST CENTURY

"You're a Bruin for four years. You're a Trojan for life!"

 

When I entered the University of Southern California, my next-door neighbor remarked that I "would be able to call my own shots," a reference not only to the first-class education I would receive at USC, but also to the fact I would have access to the school's legendary "old boy" alumni network. 

Opportunity is what we make of it, and USC's extraordinary recent success in football, which has made the school hotter and more glamorous than ever, has increased the opportunity for me to write a trilogy of books about my alma mater.

Following "FIGHT ON!" USC's Trojans, College Football's's All-Time Greatest Dynasty, will be September 1970: Two Teams, One Night and the Game That Changed A Nation. This is the true story of Sam "Bam" Cunningham and the 1970 USC-Alabama game, which helped pave the way for the end to segregation in the South. USC alums Ron Howard and Brian Grazer of Imagine Entertainment entered into discussions regarding the development of the story into a motion picture.

Allan Graf, a lineman on that 1970 USC team, became a second unit director, well respected for his action sequences on football movies such as The ProgramAny Given Sunday and Friday Night Lights. A screenplay was written, and Graf has been working to develop it.

In addition, discussions have begun with ESPN to tell the story of the 1970 USC-Alabama game in a Sports Century feature. 

I am also working on writing a book with Pete Carroll, modeled on Michael Lewis's Moneyball, that will dissect how Carroll's approach to coaching is creating a paradigm shift in college football. ESPN Hollywood has been in discussions regarding the turning of the book into a reality TV show called "It's A Good Day to Be A Trojan!"  

The publication of "FIGHT ON!" USC's Trojans, College Football's All-Time Greatest Dynasty kicks off USC's unprecedented 2006 effort at a fourth straight national championship, as well as its quest to match Oklahoma's record 47-game winning streak of the mid-1950s. Ranked number one in the pre-season polls, the Trojans can attain the record by winning all 12 regular season games in 2006.

My old neighbor was certainly right. My USC connections have paid off, but my love of USC and appreciation for its history had been implanted long before I was a student. The seeds for this book started when I was eight years old.

I was a USC fan from the time I was old enough to be a fan. My father, Donald E. Travers, taught business law at City College of San Francisco when O.J. Simpson set all the California junior college rushing records there from 1965-66. After his freshman year, Simpson wanted to play at a four-year school, but his grades were inadequate for admission to USC. Arizona State and Utah would let him in, and he was ready to go when USC assistant coach Marv Goux flew to San Francisco. Goux told Simpson that "great things are worth waiting for." This story is a well known one in Trojan circles, but what is not known is that a coterie of "wise men" at CCSF also counseled Simpson to stay and hold out for Southern California. The group included school president Louis "Dutch" Conlan and my father.

O.J. went to USC, and my dad followed him closely. When "came of age," it was the age of the Trojans; national champions, Heisman Trophy winners, All-Americans. To borrow a Rick Pitino phrase, USC was "the Roman Empire of college football."

My dad gave me Don Pierson's book, The Trojans: Southern California Football for Christmas. I read it until I had committed all of it to memory. I was an older student at USC. I had wanted to play baseball for Rod Dedeaux's Trojans, but despite helping to pitch my high school team to a mythical national championship my senior year, the scholarship was not offered. I was ready to walk on, but another college offered me a baseball scholarship. I set a number of pitching records and earned all-conference honors, then played a few years professionally in the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland A's organizations. I still needed two more years to earn a Bachelor's degree in communications. I decided to transfer to the school of my hopes and dreams, USC. 

My grades were not quite up to SC standards, but with the help of two great counselors, Dr. Arthur Verge and Delores Homisak, I was admitted under the proviso that I maintain a B average. Ms. Homisak heard in my voice the conviction and love I had for the school. She knew how much I wanted to be a part of the Trojan Family, and she took a chance on me. I am eternally grateful. I was able to skip the kind of "red tape" that is wrapped around most public institutions. I strove for excellence and found a home where I could achieve just that.

By the time I finally matriculated at the University, I felt like those old-time war vets going to school on the G.I. Bill. I also felt like an art student walking around the Louvre. Strolling the tree-lined lanes of the USC campus; studying in Doheny Library; attending events at Bovard Auditorium; and sitting in class, surrounded by fellow Trojans, being taught by top-notch USC professors; all of it was extraordinary. I had to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming. It was an honor and a privilege to be there. To this day, it is a thrill just to walk on that beautiful campus. Driving on the Santa Monica or Harbor Freeways through downtown L.A., getting off at the USC exit; each time I approach USC and see its architecture hovering in the distance, I get a sense of anticipation. I love less USC less than my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but He does have an apartment on West Adams Boulevard!

I made lasting friendships at USC, and have all kinds of wild memories from the times I spent at a dilapidated sports bar. Located at the corner of Jefferson and McClintock, next to the Bank of America in the University Village shopping center, the California Pizza & Pasta Company, also known by the unfortunate moniker 502 Club, was a hangout for athletes and beautiful Trojan girls. It is only a memory now. A Yoshinoya Beef Bowl sits where the "Five-Oh" once raged.

Being at USC was very exciting. The actress Ally Sheedy was on campus. I was a classmate of Jennie Nicholson, the daughter of Jack Nicholson, as well as James Garner's daughter. Laker owners Jerry Buss, a Trojan, had his daughter, Jeannie, on campus around this time. One rumor had it that Tom Cruise was enrolled at USC. Then Risky Business became a big hit. Supposedly Cruise withdrew from school to pursue his now-red hot acting career on a full time basis.

There were many exotic students from faraway lands at USC. I befriended one fellow who claimed to be a member of Sudan's royal family; a crown prince, I believe. 

Having played professionally, I naturally gravitated to the USC baseball team. When I graduated, I went to work for a company located in the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Los Angeles. My friends Phil Smith and Terry Marks were coaching USC's junior varsity baseball team, known as the Spartans. They asked me to be a volunteer coach. What a treat!

Every day, I could not wait to make the five-minute drive from the 7th and Flower office to the USC campus. I would change from my suit and tie and wear the glorious Cardinal and Gold baseball uniform that I had wanted to don since high school. I got to know legendary former coach Rod Dedeaux, who just called me "Tiger" as he did everybody else, as well as his replacement, Mike Gillespie, who I stay in regular contact with. Afterwards Terry, Phil and sometimes other baseball Trojans would knock it all off with a couple of beers at the Five-Oh. Great days!  

****

Football, particularly the rivalry with Notre Dame, is what put USC on the national map after World War I. There is so much more to USC than just gridiron greatness, however. Hollywood and USC have always had a symbiotic relationship. The school has produced countless actors, directors, screenwriters, producers and agents.

The University itself has long been used for many scenes of campus life. The 1967 classic, The Graduate, was supposed to feature Dustin Hoffman pursuing Katharine Ross up at Cal-Berkeley. In truth, it was shot at USC. Ironically, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was filmed not at Notre Dame (either the Paris or South Bend versions), but at USC. The Academy Awards have been held at various locations throughout Los Angeles, often at the Shrine Auditorium, located across the street from USC. On a clear day, the Hollywood sign can be seen from the SC campus.

Famous show biz Trojans include ex-Trojan football player John "Duke" Wayne; Star Wars director George Lucas; actor-director Ron Howard; formerThree's Company star John Ritter; The Breakfast Club co-star Ally Sheedy; Boyz N the Hood director John Singleton; former All-American Aaron Rosenberg, producer of countless 1960s and '70s television shows; ex-Magnum P.I. star Tom Selleck, who played baseball, basketball and volleyball at SC; That Girl! star Marlo Thomas; producer David L. Wolper; Forrest Gump  director Robert Zemeckis; Dirty Harry and Magnum Force screenwriter John Milius; musicians Herb Alpert and Lionel Hampton; and opera star Marilyn Horne.

Many Trojan sports heroes have made their mark in broadcasting. They include: Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, a former Baseball Game of the Weekpartner of Vin Scully as well as the voice of the Yankees and Mets; Hall of Fame running back Frank Gifford of Monday Night Football fame; Trojan and Ram quarterback, Rhodes Scholar, attorney and national college football announcer Pat Haden; Hall of Famer-turned-sideline-analyst (and possible political candidate) Lynn Swann; Olympic Gold Medallist John Naber, a national swimming broadcaster; ex-big leaguer Ron Fairly, who became an Angels and Giants broadcaster; quarterback and Fox Sports football analyst Craig Fertig. 

Legendary sportswriters from USC include John Hall and Mal Florence of the Los Angeles Times. National media figures: Kathleen Sullivan and Sam Donaldson of ABC News. Leading politicians, jurists and statesmen are former Secretary of State Warren Christopher; ex-Congressman and current Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Christopher Cox; former California Assembly Speaker Jesse "Big Daddy" Unruh, whose name graces USC's political science school; Congressman and former California Attorney General Dan Lungren; U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher; All-American John Ferraro, a longtime Los Angeles City Councilman; and California Supreme Court Chief Justice Justice Malcolm M. Lucas.

In the 1960s, NASA created what came to be known as "The Bubble," a device that tested the manufactured atmosphere of space. Because of this, many well-known astronauts of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs earned advanced degrees at USC. The most famed of these American heroes is Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. 

Other distinguished alumni include architect Frank Gehry; Persian Gulf War commander General Norman Schwarzkopf; syndicated columnist Art Buchwald; as well as top-ranking executives, including Coca-Cola's Terry Marks and Guy Carpenter & Companies' Peter Cooper. 

Just like the Trojans of Homer's The Iliad and the Odyssey, the modern day version fights harder, has more moral fiber and better character than representatives of most colleges. USC has always been a traditional school that has extolled the patriotic values of God and country. Countless Trojans have fought with valor, and many have died for our freedom, on the fields of our nation's battles. 

From its earliest days, USC has been a place of equal opportunity. The first black professionals in medicine, architecture and other fields were trained at USC prior to World War I. Women have prepared for meaningful careers at USC since its earliest days in the 19th Century. The ridiculous moniker "University of Spoiled Children" was given to a great, conservative university that was opening its doors to all when those hypocritically deriding it were still cloistered all-white boys clubs.  

USC was once falsely described by its jealous detractors as a "football school," despite the fact that the ranks of judges, lawyers, doctors, dentists, and other professions in Greater Los Angeles have long been been dominated by "Southern California men and women." At USC the famous phrase, "There are two kinds of people; those who are Trojans and those who wish they were Trojans," may have been uttered with a touch of arrogance but also with a touch of truth. 

Current President Steven Sample carried forth the work done by previous chancellors. Already considered the leading film school and dental school, and among the top business schools, MBA programs, law schools and medical schools in America, USC under Sample has become one of the top 20 academic institutions in the nation. USC was named  "College of the Year 2000" by the Time/Princeton Review College Guide, and America's "Hot School 2001" by theNewsweek/Kaplan College Guide.

"More institutions might do well to emulate USC's enlightened self-interest," read the Time/Princeton Review. "For not only has the 'hood dramatically improved, but so has the University…" 

"Just as East Coast students go for New York and NYU, the West Coast is gravitating to USC in Los Angeles," wrote the Newsweek/Kaplan College Guide. "USC has morphed from a jock school to a serious contender for top students."

From the 1960s until the early 1990s, the top four film schools in America were NYU and Columbia in New York, and UCLA and USC in California. Over the past 15 years, the USC School of Cinema-Television has emerged head and shoulders above the competition. One of the ways they have achieved this is by instituting a producer's division into their curriculum. Instead of simply educating writers, directors and actors in the art of film (but not the business of it), USC has created a real-world model for Hollywood success. 

Directors, writers and actors network and connect with fellow-Trojan producers and agents. The result is that USC alumni at every level of the business now dominate the film industry.

The School of Cinema-Television has benefited tremendously from its many successful alumni. George Lucas has donated countless millions to the program he graduated from in 1966, and one of the school's buildings bears his name. Johnny Carson donated money and has a building housing the study of television production in his name. Steven Spielberg actually was turned down for admission to USC, but he bears no hard feelings. He has contributed his time, money and name to numerous causes benefiting the film school.

The music school and the drama school have reaped natural ancillary benefits of a great film school. Former Ambassador to the Court of St. James Walter Annenberg donated $120 million establishment for a world class communications program, which has produced graduates skilled in advertising, public relations, political campaigns, and Hollywood publicity, just to name a few areas of expertise.       

Undergraduate applications doubled over the last few years, as the school led a citywide revival following the 1992 riots and a large 1994 earthquake. Bold political leadership under Mayor Richard Riordan helped decrease crime and clean up the streets. Enlightened corporate and auto industry responsibility resulted in a major decrease in L.A. Basin air pollution from the 1970s and '80s to the 2000s.

USC has made a fabulous, bold outreach to its community. Located in one of Los Angeles' oldest (once one of its best) neighborhoods, the University never ignored its responsibilities as that South-Central neighborhood deteriorated. They have been the driving force behind gentrification projects that have created new housing and shopping in the area. Faculty housing has invested USC professors in the neighborhood many of them now live in. New schools and day care centers have been built and run by USC. Excellent outreach programs have provided deserving African-American, Latino and other minority students from L.A.'s inner city a chance to matriculate at a school that otherwise would only be a "so close and yet so far" dream. Freshmen in local high schools enter a program in which, if they maintain high grades in academic coursework, they are given full scholarships to USC.

USC has one of the highest tuition, is among the richest colleges in the nation in terms of private endowments, and among the top three in athletic financial donations. It is a university that has managed to seamlessly combine social responsibility with American capitalistic principles, in a manner not unlike the way Olympic President Peter Ueberroth was able to make the 1984 L.A. Games the most successful before or since.      

Trojan football reached an 82 percent graduation rate, an all-time high, and more than 20 percentage points higher than the average Division I college football average. In 2001, 14 members of the team had 3.00 G.P.A.'s. USC ranks in the top 10 in the number of NCAA post-graduate scholarship recipients (49 as of 2004) and has had 26 first team Academic All-Americans. Three Trojans have earned Rhodes Scholarships. USC athletes are universally recognized for their approachable, media-savvy demeanors. They are considered unusually articulate and intelligent by sports journalists in Los Angeles and nationally. Sportstalk host Jim Rome has repeatedly expressed amazement at how outstanding interviews with USC athletes on his program are.

The University reached 29,000 students, including the Health Sciences Campus to the northeast of downtown L.A., known to soap fans as General Hospital. It is the West's oldest private university, with a student-to-faculty ration of 13 to 1. The USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer is among the finest of its kin in the world. 

In 1994, the most academically talented class in USC history entered the University; the same year that professor George Olah won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Academic standards and achievements of students and faculty alike have only gotten more impressive in the decade-plus that followed. 

40,000 people work for USC, making it the largest private employer in Los Angeles. It has one of the most substantial foreign enrollments of any college in America. Because so many USC students hail from the Pacific Rim, the Middle East, Africa and other exotic locales, it proudly claims the largest non-white population in U.S. higher education. Countless foreign dignitaries - political figures, statesmen, business leaders - learned to love California and America at USC. In turn they have helped foster this nation's international friendships with its global partners.

In its early days, USC offered Methodist religious instruction, but quickly became a private, non-denominational institution serving the needs of the broader world community. In 1912, its athletic nickname was switched from the Methodists to the Trojans. In 1929, a statue dubbed "Tommy Trojan": "faithful, scholarly, skillful, courageous, and ambitious," was erected and stands as a campus landmark for time immemorial.

In the late 1940s, bandleader Tommy Walker also kicked field goals for the football team, leading the music in between! According to legend, he may or may not be one of the inspirations for The Who's rock opera, "Tommy." In the 1950s, the band began the tradition of playing the stirring battle cry, "Conquest," originally heard in the 1947 motion picture, Captain from Castile. In 1961, Traveler I, a magnificent white horse, made his first appearance. Traveler I's progeny have been riding the sidelines at USC football games ever since. 

The fabulous Heritage Hall, housing USC's countless trophies and the offices of its athletic department and sports teams, was built in 1971: half office building, half museum. In 1974, Dedeaux Field became the state-of-the-art collegiate baseball stadium in the country. Cromwell Athletic Field, a first-rate track and field facility, was built next to Heritage Hall. The McDonald's Swim Center was created for the 1984 Olympics. 

In 1923, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was built, along with the adjacent Rose Garden, in Exposition Park across the street from USC. The Coliseum and the University have together hosted the 1932 and 1984 Games. TheColiseum has been home to USC football ever since. In 1959, the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena was built next to the Coliseum. It was used for the 1984 Olympics, has hosted national political conventions, Final Fours, professional basketball, and Trojan hoops for over 45 years. A new on-campus basketball facility is scheduled to open for the 2006-07 season.  

****

While I majored in communications at USC, and put those skills to work in political public relations, I had also taken a number of classes in USC's famed School of Cinema-Television, including fabulous courses taught by the legendary Andrew Casper. I learned the fine art of screenwriting, and after a number of years pursuing politics, the law and sports representation, I decided to pursue my first passion: writing.

This led to the UCLA Writers' Program and several years working in Hollywood. I also started covering prep football for the Los Angeles Daily News and the Los Angeles Times.  Trojan football and the phraseology of "conquest" inculcated my thoughts, my speech and my writings. At a meeting of prep stringers at the Times' Orange County offices, however, assistant sports editor Bob Rohwer, a Trojan in his own right, warned us not to use flowery language.

"Just give it to us straight," said Rohwer. " 'Mater Dei High defeated Long Beach Poly last night at Veteran's Stadium in Long Beach, 30-something to 20-something, behind the passing of Matt Leinart, who completed 20-something passes in 30-something attempts for 300-something yards.' "

"You mean," I piped up, "if I see any 'Thundering Herds' outlined against a 'blue, gray October sky,' I'm not supposed to report what I see?" 

Rohwer laughed because he understood the reference to Howard Jones's dynasty and Grantland Rice's 1924 classic about the "Four Horsemen of Notre Dame." The rest of the 20-somethings in the room looked at each other like Dumbellionites.

I mostly covered Villa Park High School, and would sometimes call in reports of Redondo Union and Mira Costa High games to downtown main sports editor Gary Klein, who later became USC's football beat writer.

That was 2000. Paul Hackett was in charge at USC. Carson Palmer was a disappointing, overrated quarterback from Orange County. There was no threat of any "Thundering Herds" at USC. However, on the horizon was the future of the University of Southern California. Like Palmer, he was another quarterback from Orange County.

That year, I saw Mater Dei High School of Santa Ana take on De La Salle High School of Concord, California. This was a battle of titans, played at Edison International Field of Anaheim (now known as Angels Stadium) before approximately 20,000 fans. De La Salle was at the height of their glory, which all things considered may be the greatest dynasty in sports history; pro, college or high school. They would go undefeated from 1991 to 2003, 151 comes, good for four national championships. De La Salle had taken some criticism from "experts" who said they played a "soft" schedule, so in the late 1990s and early 2000s they decided to show everybody. They scheduled games against major powerhouses: Long Beach Poly, Honolulu Punahou, Cincinnati Moeller…and Santa Ana Mater Dei.

The 2000 De La Salle-Mater Dei game has been described as the "greatest high school football game ever played." I could not disagree. De La Salle upheld their streak (they would not lose until 2004), 31-28, but Mater Dei's quarterback put on the finest prep performance I have ever witnessed. He was 31-of-47 for 447 yards and four touchdowns. He rallied Mater Dei from a huge fourth quarter deficit, and it was only a failed field goal attempt after he had led the Monarchs down the field with no time left that saved De La Salle.

Those who saw Joe Montana lead Notre Dame in a desperate fourth quarter comeback that fell just short against USC at the L.A. Coliseum in 1978 walked away saying, "I don't care where he is drafted, he's going to be one of the greatest quarterbacks who has ever played the game." 

Just as Southern California football fans had seen the future in 1978, and his name was Joe Montana, I had seen the future in the 2000 Mater Dei-De La Salle game, and his name was Matt Leinart. The "disappointing, overrated quarterback from Orange County," Carson Palmer, would come under the tutelage of new coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Norm Chow and win the Heisman Trophy two years later. Carroll had observed the prep landscape in 2000. There were other quarterbacks rated as highly as Leinart, despite his performance against the national champions from Northern California. It was Leinart, however, along with Shaun Cody of Los Altos, who was the centerpiece of Carroll's first recruiting class. He got Leinart to join his Mater Dei teammate, linebacker Matt Grootegoed, and they would form the nucleus of the greatest dynasty in college football history.

In the context of Trojan football lore, he was stepping into a situation whereby any glory or accolades that might come his way had been paved for him by decades of legendary athletes. 

My father had been watching USC football since Howard Jones's "Thundering Herd." As a child, he enjoyed playing the "Howard Jones Football Board Game." 

"What a great, great legend are the Trojans of yesterday I remember so well. Enjoy them all," my dad had inscribed to me in Pierson's book The Trojans: Southern California Football. This is USC football in a nutshell. It is a history of excellence, passed down from generation to generation; stories of winners, tales of legendary games that shaped America. In the years since my dad had written those words, USC has added countless more stories and tales to their legend. This book chronicles what they have done leading into the 2006 season, but I am entirely confident that they will add many, many more chapters to their glorious history. Future scribes will no doubt always be kept busy describing those chapters to many more generation of people who know that the University of Southern California is synonymous with American excellence!

Over the years, great announcers have described great teams. Chick Hearn, Mike Walden, Tom Kelly and now Pete Arbogast have lent their considerable radio talents to USC broadcasts. The venerable Keith Jackson has called so many incredible Trojan moments that he is our de facto TV announcer.

 

A book like this is the product of many things coming together, and I would like to hereby acknowledge some people. I would like to first thank my agent, Craig Wiley. Also, thank you to Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., my editor, Rick Rhinehart, and his assistant, Dulce Wilcox. 

I want to thank former Trojan football players John Papadakis, Sam “Bam” Cunningham, and Allan Graf. Further thanks to Mark Houska and Petros Papadakis of Fox Sports and movie producer/attorney David Dizenfeld, USC ‘71. 

I wish to thank former University of Southern California sports information director (SID) Jim Perry, who also co-authored legendary Trojan football coach John McKay’s successful 1970s autobiography, McKay: A Coach’s Story. Perry has been an institution for years at Heritage Hall. He was the SID when I worked alongside Tim Tessalone during my brief student internship in the USC sports information office. My gratitude goes out to Tim, who after succeeding Perry has maintained the high standards that Jim set for the office. A further shout-out to Jason Pommier and Paul Goldberg of USC’s football media relations, plus Chris Huston, who has helped me many times over the years. 

Thank you to the University of Alabama sports information office, in particular Barry Allen and Larry White. Also, thank you to Jan Adams at the Paul W. Bryant Museum, and particularly Ken Gaddy. Thanks go to Winston Groom, author of Forrest Gump.

I extend my gratitude to former L.A. Times sportswriters Jeff Prugh and Dwight Chapin, two real pros; to current USC beat writer Gary Klein; and Timessports editor Bill Dwyre. I also thank the widow of the great Jim Murray, Linda McCoy-Murray; to Tony McEwing; as well as Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Thank you to Allen Barra and Keith Dunnavant, who have written extensively on Bear Bryant and Alabama football.  

I thank USC head football coach Pete Carroll. Coach Carroll and I went to the same suburban California high school. I grew up hearing stories about Carroll, who was a classmate of the comic actor Robin Williams. Thanks also to others in that circle, who include Skip Corsini, Jim Peters, Bill Peters, Bob Troppmann, Ken Flower, Phil Roark, and Jess Payan.

Coach Carroll’s former assistant, Mark Jackson, and USC athletic director Mike Garrett are in line for acknowledgments as well. Also, thanks go out to Lloyd Robinson of Suite A Management in Beverly Hills. He is an honest man and, in what is also probably not a coincidence, a loyal Trojan. I would also like the opportunity to honor the memory of the late baseball writer Tony Salinn, whose passion and purity, despite what he may have thought, are not forgotten. 

Thanks to all the interviewees. I also wish to mention Dale Komai, Bruce Seltzer, Joe Enloe, Brad Wong, Melanie Neff, Lindsay Lautz, Melanie Pedrick and everybody else with the USC Alumni Association; Barry LeBrock of Fox Sports, John Wooden, Dave Daniel and Matt Derringer of USC Report, Loel Schrader, Gary Paskiewitz of www.wearesc.com, Andy Bark of Student Sports, Bob Rowher of the L.A. Times, the late Sam Skinner and Kathy Pfrommer of theOakland Tribune, John Underwood, Wayne Fontes, Dennis Fitzpatrick, Donavon McNabb, Joe Gibbs, the Washington Redskins, Joe Gibbs Racing, Charlie Evans, Rod Sherman of the Trojan Fantasy Camp, Rich Burg, Stu Zanville, Craig Long and the Oakland Raiders, Sharon Gould of the Eagle Rock High School Alumni Association, San Clemente High School, Charlie Weaver, the Detroit Lions, Richmond High School athletic director Roy Rogers, Arizona Western JC, Ray Butcher, Jimmy Jones, the Harrisburg Boys Club, Joe Namath, the African-American Registry, Ken Hall, Mal Moore, Ken Stabler, Kim Bush, Simon & Schuster, Nancy Covington and Mike Neemah of Mississippi State University, Vigor High School, Suzanne Dowling and Chris Bryant of the University of Alabama media relations department, Alabama Booksmith, the University of Alabama Press, Reid Drinkard, Fred Kirsch of the New England Patriots, Mr. and Mrs. Hannah of Albertville, Alabama, the San Francisco 49ers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gene Upshaw and the NFL Players Association, the K Club, the University of Alabama Alumni Association, Richmond Flowers Jr., the University of Tennessee sports information office, Jeff Dubinsky of ESPN Classic, Liz Kennedy and Jose Eskenazi of USC, Daniel Hopper and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Alabama, University of Alabama head football coach Mike Shula, John Sciarra, John Robinson, J.K. McKay, Pat Haden, Art Spander, Don Andersen, Mike Walden, Tom Kelly, Dave Levy, Rod Martin, Johnny Musso, and Howard Schnellenberger.

Additional thanks to Art Spander, Clarence Davis, Sam Dickerson, Bud "The Steamer" Furillo, Tom Kelly, Clem Gryska, John Vella, Dr. Culpepper Clark, Keith Dunnavant, Jack Rutledge, John Hannah, Craig Fertig, Christ Vagotis, Scott Hunter, Wilbur Jackson, Sylvester Croom, Wendell Hudson, John Mitchell, Rod McNeill, and Willie Brown. I would like to make special mention of three extraordinary Trojans, who not only gave tirelessly their time, intellect, memory and support, but also formed a bond of Christian fellowship with me:  Charles “Tree” Young, Dave Brown, and Manfred Moore. God bless you.

I would like to remember the late Tody Smith and to thank his brother, football Hall of Famer Bubba Smith.

I also thank Cherie Kerr, Earle Self, Bruce H. Franklin, plus Neal McCready and Randy Kennedy of the Mobile Press-Register. Thanks also to the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Since this book is in about the University of Southern California, I want to thank everybody in the extended Trojan family. As it is often said, “You are a Bruin for four years but a Trojan for life!” These are true words. In that spirit, thanks to the late John McKay and the late Marv Goux, who granted me interviews shortly before their respective passings. Thank you also to Goux's lovely widow, Mrs. Patricia Goux, his daughter Linda (who I had a class with at USC) and his granddaughter Kara (who created the inspiring phrase, "Win one for The Goux," at his memorial service).

I would like to extend my gratitude to the past and present pastors, as well as all of my fellow members, at Christ Lutheran Church. 

My most sincere thank-yous are reserved for the end. This includes my parents, who gave me encouragement and support, as they always do, and to my sweet daughter, Elizabeth Travers. No acknowledgments are complete without naming my cousin, Bill Friedrichs, and his wife, Jean, whose great help and support over the years can never really be repaid. I also want to thank seven close friends. Terry and Cecile Marks, and Kevin McCormack, are true Trojans. Jake Downey roots for the Bruins but possesses the nobility of a Trojan. Mike McDowd and Don Rasmussen have provided fellowship over the years. Bradley Cole (who comes from a true USC family) and I go back a long way.

Finally, my biggest thank-you is reserved for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the source of all that is good, decent, and true!

I welcome feedback, positive and negative, from Trojan fans. I expect to hear the legitimate arguments of Fighting Irish, Crimson Tide, Sooner, Hurricane, Wolverine, Buckeye, Nittany Lion, Bruin and other college football fans. My opinions are mine. I have well thought-out reasons for them, and offer them with respect. Please offer yours in the same manner.

 

Steven Travers

February 1, 2006

(415) 455-5971

USCSTEVE1@aol.com

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

DYNASTY: THE NEW CENTURIONS OF TROY

USC football is now history's all-time greatest college football and athletic tradition

 

Towards the end of the Year of Our Lord A.D. 1999, every organization imaginable came up with its "lists," "best ofs," "man of the century," "coach of the century," "team of the century," and every other offshoot of our effort to determine greatness. It is the nature of Mankind, and it is particularly true of Americans, that what is "best" be separated from what is second best.  

This author was no different. I created the "L.A.-Orange County All-Time Prep Dream Teams," a compilation of the greatest high school baseball, basketball, football and track athletes in the history of Southern California. It ran in the January 2000 edition of StreetZebra magazine.

Student Sports magazine came out with their all-time national high school athletes edition. Long Beach Poly was named "High School of the Century," having produced a plethora of Major League baseball players, All-American and NFL football stars, NBA standouts, tennis players, gymnasts; male and female heroes past and present.  

Major League Baseball unveiled its "All-Century" team, allowing Pete Rose back on the field to be a part of it. Discussions about baseball's best players of the 20th Century had the effect of shedding light on such Negro League stars as Josh Gobson and Satchel Paige, generally accepted as being as good at their positions as any of the white players who previously occupied "all-time all-star teams" of past years, such as the 1969 Centennial.

ESPN made a huge production of its choosing the century's "greatest athlete." In the end, Michael Jordan won out over Babe Ruth.

Time magazine passed over the work of Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Franklin Roosevelt, picking instead Albert Einstein. 

 The Los Angeles Times ran an extensive feature on the Southland's century of sports highlights: Trojans, Bruins, Dodgers, Angels, Rams, Raiders, Lakers, Clippers, Kings and Sharks. Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Magic Johnson, Pete Sampras, Billie Jean King, O.J. Simpson; the list of great teams, and athletes who had played, grown up and gone to college there, was astounding. Los Angeles had earned the title "Sports Capitol of the World."

Collegiate Baseball magazine chose USC baseball coach Rod Deadeaux as its "College Baseball Coach of the Century," and the Trojans as "College Baseball Program of the Century." USC also was named "Collegiate Athletic Program of the Century."

On January 1, 2000, the unquestioned "College Football Program of the 20th Century" was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

 

In 1900, an attempt to determine the best college football power of the past 31 years, which covered the time since the first football game was played in 1869, most likely would have quickly narrowed down to Ivy League stalwarts Harvard, Yale and Princeton.

In 1920, colleges were beginning to take to football like never before. A determination of the best programs of the previous 20 years likely would have come down Michigan, whose "point a minute" team under coach Fielding Yost had won the first Rose Bowl game over Stanford, 49-0, in 1901, and possibly Washington, who had racked up a huge 63-game winning streak before the game "modernized." On the West Coast, the best football was being played in the Pacific Northwest, not in California, and definitely not in Southern California. 

Notre Dame had recently emerged when quarterback Gus Dorais threw the first "legitimate" forward pass to Knute Rockne to beat Army in 1913. The Ivy League was still a powerhouse.

Much changed over the next decade. California coach Andy Smith hired an assistant named Nibs Price from San Diego, for the purposes of using his Southern California connections to recruit high school players. This was the first time that players from outside a college's geographic area were recruited to play football, instead of taking on whoever showed up for try-outs. The "Wonder Teams" of the early 1920s are considered one of the greatest dynasties of all time.

Red Grange, the "Galloping Ghost" running back from Illinois, electrified huge crowds, and his entrance into the fledgling National Football League assured its success. Alabama and the South took to football with great passion.

There was no place where football was played better than in California. After the Wonder Teams came Pop Warner's reign at Stanford. Elmer "Gloomy Gus" Henderson won almost 90 percent of his games at the University of Southern California from 1919-24. His tenure saw the building of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the Rose Bowl, both built very much because of his team's success. Enormous stadiums were also erected at Cal and Stanford in those years. But Henderson was fired because he could not beat California. 

Knute Rockne, the young chemistry student who had devised the forward pass while working as a summer lifeguard with Gus Dorais and then used it to be beat mighty Army, had taken over as Notre Dame's coach after World War I.

By the mid-1920s, Notre Dame was the king of the collegiate grid world. Catholics from Paris to Prairie View identified with the small school in South Bend, Indiana. Rockne invented larger-than-life stories like the manufactured death bed desires of a 1919 quarterback named George Gipp, who never said, "Someday Rock, when the boys are up against it, tell 'em to win one for The Gipper."

But Rock told these stories when the team trailed at the half, and it inspired the Fighting Irish to victory. The press became utterly enamored with them. At a time when parts of the country were prejudiced against Catholics, they were viewed as gritty underdogs. Grantland Rice described four of their star players as "The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame" after a stirring Yankee Stadium win over Army in 1924, and America was captivated. At the end of that season, Notre Dame traveled to the Rose Bowl and defeated Pop Warner's Stanford Indians, which further built on the coach's legend and his team's national reputation.

After Henderson was fired, USC tried to hire Rockne to replace him. Rock remained loyal to his alma mater, but recommended Howard Jones. Jones was an immediate hit. In the second half of the 1920s, Jones and the Trojans replaced California and Stanford as the dominant power on the Pacific Coast.

A rivalry with Notre Dame began, played in front of huge crowds at Chicago's Soldier Field and the L.A. Coliseum. By 1930, the question as to what program was the century's best came down to these two schools: Notre Dame number one, followed by USC (the 1928 national champion) at number two. Alabama, a two-time national champion according to the varied polls and formulas used to determine such a "mythical" thing, would have made a strong argument. However, they played a mostly regional schedule. The Irish and Trojans, feeding of each other's notoriety, were indeed recognized national powers.         

By 1940, the "number one" question was more convoluted. USC had been dominant in the 1930s. So had Minnesota. California and Stanford had re-emerged after down years. Alabama and the South - Tennessee and Duke, in particular - rose again. Notre Dame and USC were in a dead heat.

By 1950, Notre Dame had re-asserted its position as the collegiate football power after an incredible four-national title decade. The Midwest in particular was the new football capitol. Ohio State and especially Michigan were juggernauts. Army was unbeatable for several years. The West dropped precipitously, with Pacific Coast Conference teams losing to the Big 10 in the new Rose Bowl arrangement. The Southern schools became more inward, choosing to play mostly each other, often to avoid increasingly obvious racial situations.

Despite a down decade in the 1950s, Notre Dame still would have emerged as the top dog, but by a slim margin. Oklahoma dominated the decade. Southern teams - Tennessee, Louisiana State and Auburn - made their bid. Ohio State replaced Michigan as the Big 10s powerhouse. Out west, UCLA was every bit USC's equal, if not its better. Eastern football made its presence known at Syracuse. USC was no longer number two and probably not number three… or four. 

Everything changed in the 1960s; in America, in society, in race relations; and with a new breed of athlete playing with new equipment under modernized training methods, in college football. The two strongest programs were the two most disparate: Southern California and Alabama.

The Trojans were free, California easy, and thoroughly integrated. Alabama was old school, resisting racial change and clinging to archaic practices. The two coaches? John McKay and Paul "Bear" Bryant were the best of friends. 

Notre Dame under Ara Parseghian regained its place, if not at, then near the top. Southern California rivalries with the Irish and UCLA became blood feuds. Texas and Ohio State crowded near the top, as well. By decade's end, USC had put itself back in the century's number two slot. They were essentially "tied" with Alabama, but the edge would go to the Trojans because they played a more national schedule, were segregated, earned two Heisman Trophies, and one of Alabama's "national championships" had been awarded prior to a bowl loss to Texas on January 1, 1965. Notre Dame was still king of the hill.

The 1970s were basically a replay of the 1960s: USC and Alabama, followed by Notre Dame, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The Trojans' games with Notre Dame and UCLA were every bit as ferocious as they had been in the '60s. Alabama had finally integrated, along with the rest of the South. It opened a floodgate, to the benefit of Dixie in every way, on and off the field. 

By the late 1970s and early 1980s, USC was beginning to establish dominance over Notre Dame. Having won three national championships (and they easily could have won five), the Trojans under new coach John Robinson defeated the Irish five consecutive times from 1978-82. After the fifth straight win, with Marcus Allen having won the school's fourth Heisman Trophy the previous year, and their record vs. Notre Dame almost at the .500 mark, an assessment of the century's best traditions still would have favored Notre Dame, but this time by the narrowest of margins over USC and Alabama.

It was a strong bid but it would not be sustained. In 1983, USC entered the longest down period in its history, lasting through the 2001 season. They would lose 11 straight games to Notre Dame and eight straight to UCLA.

In the mean time, Lou Holtz returned Notre Dame to the heights of glory, firmly re-establishing South Bend as the Mecca of college football. In the eyes of many, Michigan would be their greatest rival, not Southern California. Oklahoma, Penn State and Miami (twice) won national championships.  

By 1992, if not before that, Alabama would have replaced USC for the number two position behind the Irish. They had beaten USC in the 1985 Aloha Bowl, an insignificant game except for the fact that by so doing, the Crimson Tide passed the Trojans as the winningest bowl team ever. When 'Bama's unbeaten team won the '92 national championship, that sealed the deal. 

The rest of the decade was just grist for the mill at SC, where fans of this once-proud tradition watched the collegiate game taken over by the Florida schools; the Southeastern Conference; the new dominance of Nebraska; and Johnny-come-latelies like Virginia Tech. Penn State had maintained its high position in the early part of the '90s. In their own conference, Washington reached for the pinnacle but could not sustain it. UCLA was good but not great. An apparent shift of power moved seemed to have eventually center itself in the state of Oregon, where the Beavers and the Ducks were the best hope of a conference and a region that the rest of the nation derided as "soft."

USC's alumni satisfied themselves that while they would never again dictate and dominate in football, the University had under President Steven Sample developed into one of the finest academic institutions in the country. That, it seemed, was the trade-off, and most could live with that. 

Notre Dame, who had started the decade riding high, fell off somewhat, its reputation shaken by revelations in Don Yaeger's book, Under the Tarnished Dome. Other traditional powers that had fallen were on the rise, Texas, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma, among others. USC just observed it all in spectator mode.

By 2000, Notre Dame was still the "College Football Program of the 20th Century." USC may only have hoped they were still third. By season's end, after Oklahoma completed its return to prominence with an unbeaten national championship season, the Sooners could lay claim to USC's old poll position. Troy was lucky to still be in the top five, derided as "Yesterday U.," its glory days relegated to old clippings and grainy pre-video footage. They were like aging rock stars who were unknown by the young girls who preferred Korn and Eminem.      

****

The 2006 college football season is right around the corner. Pete Carroll's University of Southern California Trojans completed the most perfect season in collegiate football history in 2004 and followed that up with an even more perfect one in 2005.  They enter the new campaign having attained four "titles": (1) Greatest single-season college football team of all time in 2005; (2) Greatest college football dynasty of all time, 2002-2005; (3) Greatest historical college football tradition of all time; and (4) Greatest collegiate athletic department of all time. Lofty titles, to be sure. Controversial and worthy of argument? You bet. Justifiable hype? You got that right, too. 

USC also enters the 2006 season one 12-game regular season away from Oklahoma's all-time modern record of 47 straight wins, set in the 1950s. They have been ranked number one a record 34 straight weeks in the Associated Press poll, and likely will enter the new campaign holding that spot. 

 

There have been many "perfect" teams; that is, teams that went undefeated and untied en route to a consensus National Championship. USC itself has enjoyed their fair share of these kinds of wire-to-wire perfect seasons. But the stars were never aligned for any team quite like the 2004 and 2005 Trojans. First of all, they were the sixth and seventh teams to be ranked number one in the nation from the pre-season polls through the bowl games. USC is the only team to do it three times. The 1972 Trojans, considered by many to be the greatest team of all time, accomplished the feat. But SC was also ranked number one from the end of the 2003 regular season through the bowls, carried that right through 2004 and 2005 without interruption, and are likely to be ranked number one in every pre-season 2006 collegiate football publication in America.

The 2004-05 Trojans boasted the second two-time Heisman Trophy winner, three-time senior All-American quarterback Matt Leinart. His teammate, two-time All-American running back Reggie Bush, was a New York finalist for the award in 2004, finished second in 2005 and is favored to win it in 2006.  USC became the first team in history to win three consecutive national championships and are favored to win a fourth. They have a national-longest 35-game winning streak. They annihilated Oklahoma, 55-19 in the 2005 BCS Orange Bowl, a game that was previewed as the greatest game in college football history. No less an expert than Lee Corso said the Trojans' performance vs. the Sooners was the best he has ever seen. Period.

Possibly, Nebraska's thrashing of Florida in the National Championship game of January 1996 was as impressive. Possibly. USC followed that up with a victory over Texas in the 2006 BCS Rose Bowl national title game.

The 1944-45 Army Cadets featured a similar winning streak and two Heisman winners, Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis. There are other teams that compare, but nobody has done it quite the way Carroll's team is doing it. A few came close. The 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers featured an undefeated regular season that included winners of the Heisman and Outland Trophy's. They lost to Miami in the Orange Bowl. The 2003 Oklahoma Sooners looked to be on a similar path, but their Heisman winner, Jason White, faltered in the Big 12 championship game as well as the Orange Bowl.

In light of USC's recent dominance, it is worth considering their place in history. Not just the current Trojans, but USC's football program going back to the beginning of the 20th Century. It is time to take the mantel of "greatest program in the history of college football" away from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and lay it squarely with the deserving new champions from USC. Furthermore, USC continues to lay claim to the greatest historical athletic program in college history, as well.         

 

The three-time defending national champions are the greatest dynasty ever assembled. Leinart returned for his senior year, having turned down a for-sure number one draft selection in 2005. The team may or may not have been "better" than they were in 2004, or even when they won the first of Carroll's national championships in 2003.  Other teams have had more dominating defenses, run the table by wider margins of victory, and had fewer close calls (the Trojans had their share). But considering their offensive prowess, their winning streak, the pressure of going for history, the accumulation of their awards, records and honors; and finally the sheer hype attached to them in Hollywood fashion - all of it totally lived up to - no team from Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Alabama, Miami or even from USC's storied past can legitimately call themselves better than the 2005 Trojans.  

Leinart walked away from his career with more honors than any player ever: three national championships, two Heismans, the Johnny Unitas Award, the Walter Camp Award, the Maxwell Trophy, and the Davey O'Brien Award, et al. As of this writing, he is the most likely number one pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. He is now generally accepted to be the greatest college football player who ever lived! 

 

Leinart's top competition for the Heisman, the '06 number one draft pick (and team MVP) was the 2004 team MVP, Bush. The 2005 Heisman and national title races mirrored the 2004 edition. In 2004 it was Leinart and Bush of USC vs. Jason White and Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma, with Leinart winning the Heisman, then Bush/Leinart and SC winning the national title game over White/Peterson and OU.

It 2005 it was again Leinart and Bush for the Heisman, this time principally opposed by Texas quarterback Vince Young, with Leinart winning the award again, and Bush/Leinart again winning the national title over their Heisman competition, Young and the Longhorns.

In 2006, history looks to repeat itself in one form or another. The senior Bush figures to be the odds-on Heisman favorite, with his competition again coming from a teammate (LenDale White) and two old contenders (the junior Peterson and the senior Young), with a potential national championship re-match against Young and UT. The Longhorns and the rest of college football enter any matchup with heavy psychology working against them.

Bush made the same decision in 2006 as Leinart made in 2005. Bush will be the NFL's top pick in 2007. He has been favorably compared to the Raiders' Hall of Fame-to-be wide receiver Tim Brown, an all-purpose superstar in the Bush mode when he starred at Notre Dame in the 1980s. Bush was compelled to stay in school for the same reasons Leinart did, only more so: a fourth straight national championship, Oklahoma's 47-game winning streak, a third straight All-American season, the Heisman Trophy, and all the other bells and whistles that go with such greatness. His number one draft selection in 200 would make him USC's third number one pick in five years (Carson Palmer, 2003; Leinart, 2006; Bush, 2007).  

 

The 2003-04 Trojans are very possibly the greatest two-year dynasty ever. The 2003-05 Trojans undoubtedly are the best three-year run ever. It puts them in the rarefied air of Barry Bonds's 73 homers in 2001; the Yankees' five straight World Series victories from 1949-53; and other all-time feats.  A 2006 title might require a new set of superlatives: the Americans beating back Hitler's Germany, or landing a man on the moon perhaps?*

*Just kidding.

 They return key defensive players, plus Bush, LenDale White and fifth-year senior Herschel Dennis. Talented, experienced tight ends and receivers (Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith) are back. Sophomore Jeff Byers was the nation's best lineman coming out of high school and could win the Outland Trophy before graduating. Junior linebacker Keith Rivers may garner a Butkus trophy some day. Defensive lineman Jeff Schweiger will be a Lombardi Award candidate.  

USC will re-tool at quarterback with one of two blue chip recruits. Junior John David Booty was the top prep quarterback in America at Louisiana's Evangel Christian High School. His competition? Mark Sanchez, the top prep quarterback in the U.S. (and Parade magazine's National Player of the Year) at Mission Viejo High (the nation's number two team) in Orange County, California in 2004. USC has had the number one recruiting class in the country for five years in a row. The 2004 class was considered the greatest of all time. The 2005 class was almost as good. The pipeline is endless. In light of the fact that they enter this season ranked number one, favored to win their fourth National Championship in a row, they are worthy of continued hype. Consider that if Troy runs the table in '06, their winning streak will probably surpass Oklahoma's 47 (a perfect season would make it 48). With either Booty or Sanchez living up to the challenge, maybe with senior running back Bush winning the Heisman and starring with a cast headlined by juniors Rivers and Byers, the 2006 Trojans could are looking at four national championships in a row, but wait, there is more. Booty could quarterback the team in 2006 and 2007. Sanchez would be a red-shirt junior and senior in 2008-09. Considering that the last two SC quarterbacks (Carson Palmer in 2002 and Leinart in 2004-05) won the Heisman, USC could conceivably come away with three more of the trophies before the end of this decade. The scenario could be:

 

2006: Senior running back Reggie Bush, USC.

2007: Senior USC quarterback John David Booty, USC (Oklahoma running back Adrian 

Peterson will be a pro by then).

2009: Senior quarterback Mark Sanchez, USC.

 

Sorry, Bruin, Irish, Sooner and Longhorn fans, but there is more.

Jake Downey has been covering high school football in the Southland for the better part of the past decade. He has hosted prep sports shows for Fox Sports Net West as well as Fred "Roggin's Heroes" on KNBC/4. Downey is very likely the leading authority on high school sports from Ventura north to Riverside east to San Clemente south to Long Beach west.

"Jimmy Clausen as a sophomore in 2004 was the finest high school quarterback I have ever seen," stated Downey, not a man prone to such hype. Downey saw Leinart in the 2000 Mater De-De La Salle game. He saw Carson Palmer at Rancho Santa Margarita, Sanchez at Mission Viejo, and all the other great L.A. area signal callers of recent years. 

The younger brother of Tennessee quarterbacks Casey and Rick Clausen, Jimmy Clausen in 2005 was the all-everything junior quarterback at Oaks Christian High School in Thousand Oaks. Also in 2005, he gave a verbal commitment to USC. He would be an Oaks Christian senior in 2006, meaning that as a USC freshman in '07 Clausen could be red-shirted, or challenge Booty and/or Sanchez for the most competitive position in college football…history?

Frankly, things are starting to get out of hand with Pete Carroll and USC. Number one NFL draft picks? Aside from Leinart and Bush, consider White, Rivers, Byers, Booty, Sanchez…these are just the obvious possibilities. Let's go back to Carson Palmer and the 2002 Trojans. Palmer won the Heisman and was the NFL's number one draft choice. He is currently starting for the Cincinnati Bengals after signing a multi-million dollar bonus. The 2002 Trojans finished 11-2, were Co-Pacific 10 champs, and won the Orange Bowl. They finished fourth in the nation, but the pundits were in agreement that by season's end, they were the best team in the country, even though Ohio State defeated a lackluster Miami squad in the BCS title game. Had their been a play-off, SC probably would have won.

In 2003, USC won the national championship following a victory over Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Considering that they had a spectacular wide receiver, Mike Williams, a comparison of the 2003 and 2004 teams may very well favor the '03 squad. The '05 team, however, was better than anybody - ever!   

How good is SC? Consider that the All-American Williams had his NCAA eligibility taken away prior to 2004. Had he played, he would have been in New York instead of Bush, and he may well have won the Heisman. Bush just took his place and the beat went on. Speaking of first round picks, Williams was the top selection of the Minnesota Vikings despite being out of the limelight for one year. Future drafts promise to be SC highlight films. Every year. But wait, there's still more.

Coach of the Year? In 2003 year it was Carroll. The only reason he does not win it every year is because they like to spread those kinds of things around. Give it to him every second year. This guy has gone through Troy's old nemeses, UCLA and Notre Dame, like Patton's Army charging through the Low Countries. In five years, he has presided over (through January 4, 2006) a record-setting three-Pete national titles, two Heisman winners, (probably) two NFL number one draft picks, two Orange Bowl wins, two Rose Bowl victories, five bowl appearances, four Pac 10 championships, five national-best recruiting classes, two wire-to-wire number one perfect seasons, a 35-game winning streak, a number one poll ranking for a record 34 weeks running (and still counting), four straight undefeated Novembers and (take your pick) records of 38-1 (2003-05), 49-3 (2002-04) or 46-1 (since October, 2002). Those are the facts. After that comes the speculation, the predictions, the hype. Has any coach ever done more in his first four years? Probably not.   

By the end of 2006, the line on Carroll (who has not lost a home game since September 29, 2001 vs. Stanford) could be: in six seasons, a re-Pete turned into a three-Pete turned into a fourth consecutive national championships, four Heisman winners, three NFL number one draft choices, two Rose Bowl wins, six bowl appearances, five Pac 10 titles, six national-best recruiting classes, three wire-to-wire number one poll rankings (48 weeks and counting), five straight undefeated Novembers, and records of 51-1 (2003-06), 62-3 (2002-06), 59-1 since October of 2002, 48 straight wins since October 2003, and 68-9 in his career. When does it end? A 49-game streak could be on the line on September 15, 2007 at Nebraska. A 54-game streak could face a stiff challenge at Notre Dame on October 20, 2007. Arrogant? Absolutely. But Pete Carroll has raised the bar so high at USC that such talk is not out of the realm of possibility.  

That does not even count the full promise of his last couple national-best recruiting classes reaching the fruition of their senior years, led by the likes of Booty, Sanchez and Clausen adding to the list of Heismans, national titles and NFL number one picks. Nobody has ever been this good. 

When a team is this incredible, however, watch not just for undefeated seasons and national championships, but watch out for college kids reading their press clippings and being shot at from all sides by a nation of teams out to beat them. It happened to the aforementioned Cornhuskers and the Sooners. Carroll's team had had their share of off-field problems over the last few winters. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow split. A few players ran into problems with grades and the law.

Legendary Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant won three national championships in the 1960s, including back-to-back titles from 1964-65. In 1966, Ken Stabler led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season, but the "Catholic vote" gave the title to Notre Dame. In the next couple of seasons, amid social change in the South and throughout the nation, Bear's program faltered. What happened?

"We won national championships with underdogs," recalls former Bryant assistant coach Clem Gryska. "The talent was not the best, but we played as a team. When we started winning on a national level, everybody wanted to come here; kids from Florida, California, the Midwest. They were stars but brought prima donna attitudes, and we lost because of that. We only started winning again when we went back to the basics." That meant integrating the program and winning two national titles in the 1970s. 

In 1969, Ohio State beat Northwestern, 62-0, prompting Sports Illustrated to say the defending national champion Buckeyes might be the best team ever, their young team having a chance to add two or three more. Instead, Michigan beat them at season's end, and had their 1970 title hopes ended by Jim Plunkett and Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

In 1979, USC entered the season as the consensus number one. Experts were saying that team could contend for the title "greatest college football team ever." They were the defending co-national champions and heralded that season's Heisman Trophy winner, Charles White, and Lombardi Award winner, Brad Budde, along with other stalwarts like Anthony Munoz. Not quite mid-way into the season, they took on Stanford at the Coliseum. At halftime the Trojans led 21-0 en route to another stomping. In the second half, the Cardinal scored three touchdowns, SC's offense stalled, and that 21-21 tie (before the advent of overtime) was just enough to deny them the national title along with the "greatest ever" label.

In 1983, Nebraska looked to have what it took to make history. Tailback Mike Rozier won the Heisman Trophy. Offensive guard Dean Steinkuhler won the Outland and the Lombardi Trophies. They were heavily favored over upstart Miami, but the Hurricanes held off their courageous comeback in the Orange Bowl to deny Tom Osborne the national title he would not win until 1994. 

In 1980, the best prep quarterback available was Escondido, California's Sean Salisbury. SC legend Sam Cunningham told his alma mater about his brother, Randall, in Santa Barbara, and asked if he would start. He was told Randall would be offered a ride but the job was Salisbury's. Randall went to UNLV and then made millions with the NFL's Eagles. Salisbury was a bust. SC lost coach John Robinson to the Rams, went on probation, and took 20 years to recover fully.

Troy thought they were back when, in 1987-88 under Larry Smith, they went to back-to-back Rose Bowls, were 10-0 going into the '88 Notre Dame game, featured Junior Seau, and recruited the all-time prep passing leader, Todd Marinovich. By 1990, Marinovich was a problem child and in '91 they lost to Memphis State!

Notre Dame under Lou Holtz won it all in 1988, and seemed on the verge of a real dynasty. Then came Ron Paulus, who never won any of the "two or three Heismans" Beano Cook predicted of him.

In January, 2003, defending national champion Miami rode a 34-game winning streak into the BCS Fiesta Bowl. Had they won, they would have achieved the rare back-to-back championship and been a team for the ages. So close, yet so far. Ohio State beat them, and in the last few seasons the Hurricanes have been human.

In 2003, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jason White was engineering a juggernaut at Oklahoma. Had the Sooners won the title, people would have compared them favorably with most of the best teams of all time. Instead, they failed miserably in the Big 12 title game and in the Sugar Bowl.

These are just some of many examples that USC avoided in winning three national championships in a row, yet they remain enduring cautionary tales in the endless quest for more and more and more. After all, sportstalk host Jim Rome has proposed that he sees "no reason why Carroll and USC can't win or five or 10, just like John Wooden did." USC lives in the pressure cooker of ultimate expectations in that most pressurized of atmospheres, Los Angeles. Still, Carroll has insisted that he and his team "embrace" it.

 It does not take much to derail a team when they are riding in the clouds. Bad recruiting (will Booty and Sanchez be another Salisbury and Paulus?), drugs (Marinovich), coaches leaving for the NFL (Robinson did and some say Carroll considers his pro work undone), NCAA violations (their first-half '80s teams), or just a slip against great competition ('79 SC, '83 Nebraska, '02 Miami, '03-'04 Oklahoma) can be enough to derail a team and separate the great from the legendary.          

Unlike the NFL, a single loss (or tie) can upset the apple cart. USC is the hottest ticket in America's hottest town, the toast of Hollywood, the biggest thing in a media hothouse that does not have a pro football franchise and whose NBA team is yesterday. They set the all-time USC attendance record in 2003 and continued to brake that in 2004 and again in '05. For 20-year old student-athletes, this is a major challenge, but they overcame it and, under Carroll, appear capable of continuing their focus.

It is fun to talk about, and at SC, a school that went through a long (13 years or 20 years, depending on your standards) down period, it is especially fun. Their fans are about as giddy as the Republicans when Dwight Eisenhower saved that party after 20 years of the New Deal in 1952. 

Entering the 2004 season, USC had more players on NFL rosters than any other college in 17 of the previous 29 years. In 2005, 42 Trojans were on 19 rosters, the most of all programs. 12 USC rookies were on pro rosters at the beginning of 2005 training camp. 

419 USC football players have been drafted, the largest number of any college. Many others have made NFL rosters as free agents. 28 were drafted by the old AFL, and numerous others drafted by the All-American Football Conference. USC has produced the most pro football players. 

USC has had three of the most highly drafted classes in history. The 1953 class produced 15 draftees, while both the 1975 and 1977 drafts produced 14 each. Entering 2005, USC had the most first round selections (65 to Ohio State's 58, followed by Notre Dame, 57; Miami, 53; and Michigan, 38), which does not take into account their 2006 first round selections and the number one pick (Leinart? Bush?). USC had the most players selected in the first round since1990 (10). USC had the most first round selections in the 1980s (16). USC's five first round picks in 1968 were an NFL-college record. USC passed Notre Dame for the most number one draft choices (Ron Yary '68, O.J. Simpson '69, Ricky Bell '77, Keyshawn Johnson '96, Carson Palmer '03… and Matt Leinart '06?). USC is the only school to have the first pick in two straight drafts (Yary and Simpson, 1968-69). 

USC has had the most players play in Super Bowls. Trojans have appeared in all but two of them (90 overall) with two earning MVP honors (Lynn Swann in 1976, Marcus Allen in 1984). The 1977 Super Bowl between Oakland and Minnesota featured nine ex-Trojans. 195 Trojans have been selected for the Pro Bowl, also the record. In January of 1999, ESPN the Magazine stated, "One of the best ways to win a Super Bowl is to have (a USC player on the team)." USC has had players on the most winning Super Bowl teams (45 to Notre Dame's 38 and Penn State's 35).    

USC is tied with Notre Dame for most players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (10). These include Allen, Swann, Simpson, Red Badgro, Frank Gifford, Ronnie Lott, Ron Mix, Anthony Munoz, Willie Wood and Ron Yary. Three ex-USC assistant coaches have been inducted at Canton: Al Davis, Joe Gibbs and Mel Hein. Munoz and Lott were picked for the NFL's All-Century Team in 2000. The Sporting News chose four USC players among the 100 Greatest Pro Football Players: Munoz (17th), Lott (23rd), Simpson (26th) and Allen (72nd). Munoz was chosen as one of the "NFL's top 10 players of the 20th Century" by SPORT magazine. The Dick Butkus Football Network also named Munoz and Lott to its NFL All-Century first team.

In 1999, the San Diego Union-Tribune examined all the Pro Bowl selections, and determined that at 162, USC led Notre Dame (135) and Ohio State (122) in producing the most players from one school. They also led in producing the most running backs and safeties. Entering the 2004 season, USC's total number had increased to 193.

A 1999 SPORT article determined that in the 1990s, arguably the weakest decade in SC football history, the Trojans had the most Pro Bowl selections (14). "The most measurable sign of a player's success - and thus his pedigree - comes in the form of the NFL's highest honor: the Pro Bowl," the article read. "It's not enough to make to the league, you've gotta make it in the league."

"USC is a football factory," said Keyshawn Johnson. "Every kid in L.A. grows up wanting to play there, and the coaches know how to translate that into elite athletes."

A 1994 College Sports study rated USC first among running backs, offensive linemen and defensive backs, and third among linebackers, using a rating system of top sources to determine combined college and pro success. A 1985 Sports Illustrated poll of NFL player personnel directors ranked USC first in preparing college players for the NFL, particularly at the running back, offensive line and tight end positions.

Former Trojan players, coaches and assistants who have become head coaches in the NFL include Seattle's Mike Holmgren, Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, Maimi's Dave Wannstedt, Detroit's Steve Mariucci, Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio, Oakland's Norv Turner, the Rams' John Robinson, Tampa Bay's John McKay, and Detroit's Wayne Fontes. Other assistant coaches and head coaches of note include R.C. Slocum, Ted Tollner, Bob Toledo, Bruce Snyder, Ed Orgeron, Ken O'Brien, Ricky Hunley, Paul Hackett, Norm Chow and Jerry Attaway.

Entering the 2006 season, USC's all-time won-loss record stood at 733-297-54, the best in Pacific 10 Conference history (going back to the days of the Pacific Coast Conference). They had a conference-best 388-153-29 record against Pac 10 foes. USC was 23-6 vs. Arizona, 13-9 vs. Arizona State, 58-30-5 vs. Cal, 35-15-2 vs. Oregon, 57-8-4 vs. Oregon State, 57-24-3 vs. Stanford, 41-27-7 vs. UCLA, 46-26-4 vs. Washington, and 53-8-4 vs. Washington State. USC has had the most All-Pac 10 selections.

USC is 63-27-2 vs. the Big 10 Conference, which includes 10-2 vs. Illinois, 4-0 vs. Indiana, 7-2 vs. Iowa, 5-4 vs. Michigan, 4-4 vs. Michigan State, 4-1-1 vs. Minnesota, 5-0 vs. Northwestern, 11-9-1 vs. Ohio State, 4-4 vs. Penn State, 3-1 vs. Purdue, and 6-0 vs. Wisconsin.

They are 30-42-5 vs. Notre Dame, 1-0-1 vs. Nebraska, 6-2-1 vs. Oklahoma, 4-0 vs. Texas, 3-0 vs. Texas A&M, 2-5 vs. Alabama, 3-0 vs. Georgia, and 4-0 vs. Tennessee. 

USC is 386-122-27 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and 45-28-16 in all games played at the Rose Bowl. With the Rose Bowl game on the line for one or both USC and UCLA, the Trojans are 21-11-2 and 14-4 since 1976. When both teams are playing for it, they are 16-6-1 (11 of the past 12). With only one team playing for the Rose Bowl, SC is 6-5-1. USC is 3-0-1 when only they are playing for it, UCLA 5-3 when only they are.

In 2005-06, USC finally caught Alabama to regain the title "America's winningest bowl team" with 29 (they had relinquished the title after losing the 1985 Aloha Bowl to the Tide). Their bowl percentage of …. based on a 29-15 record is the best in the country. USC won nine straight bowl games when they played in them between 1923 and 1945. They have appeared in the most Rose Bowls (30), with the most wins and the best percentage (22-8). It is the most victories by any college in a single bowl. 

There have been various polling services and statistical calculations that have ranked USC number one in the nation at the end of 17 seasons, but the school only recognizes 12 of them as legitimate national championships (1928, 1931-32, 1939, 1962, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003-04-05). Howard Jones won four national championships between 1928 and 1939. Knute Rockne of Notre Dame won three national championships in his tenure from 1918 until his untimely death in a 1930 plane crash.

Notre Dame has won 11 national championships. Since the so-called "modern era" beginning in 1960, USC has won seven to Notre Dame's three. During this period, Notre Dame has won two Heismans to USC's seven.

Alabama claims 12 national championships, but at least two of them are illegitimate. In 1964 the polls voted before the bowls. The Tide lost to Texas. In 1973, United Press International voted before the Orange Bowl, which 'Bama lost by a point to the legitimate national champion, Notre Dame. Their legitimate back-to-back national championships came in 1925-26 and again in 1978-79, although USC has a strong argument that the split 1978 title should have gone to them since they beat Alabama, 24-14, at Legion Field that year. On the other hand, Alabama has an equally strong argument that the 1966 team (unbeaten, untied, bowl winner) was denied the title by the "Catholic vote," which voted Notre Dame number one despite a tie to Michigan State. USC also boasts seven Heismans to Alabama's zero.

USC became the first team to ever win three straight Associated Press national championships in 2003, 2004 and 2005, with a shot at a fourth in 2006. USC is 4-2 in games played between the number one and number two teams in the nation. In the 1963 Rose Bowl, number one USC beat number two Wisconsin, 42-37. In the 1969 Rose Bowl, number one Ohio State defeated number two USC, 27-16. In 1981, number one USC beat number two Oklahoma, 28-24 in Los Angeles. In 1988, number one Notre Dame upended second-ranked Troy, 27-10 at the Coliseum. In the 2005 BCS Orange Bowl, top-ranked SC devoured number two Oklahoma, 55-19, and in the 2006 BCS Rose Bowl, number one USC beat number two Texas.

When ranked number one vs. Notre Dame, USC has never lost to the Irish (1962, 1967, 1972, 2004, 2005). USC tied Nebraska in 2005 for fifth place among the most-frequently ranked teams in the Associated Press polling going back to its inception in 1936, which of course does not count the fact that they would have been ranked in the Top 20 of the vast majority of AP polls conducted since World War I had there been one. 

USC tied Oklahoma in 2005 for the second most times ranked number one with 86. Should they be ranked number one at the beginning of 2006, they will pass the Sooners. Should they be ranked number one in the first four polls of 2006, they will have 90, moving them past Notre Dame (89) for the top slot.

In 2005, USC (35 from 2003-05) passed Miami (20 from 2001-02) for most consecutive weeks ranked number one in the AP poll. Again, if ranked number one at the beginning of 2006 as expected, they can extend this record beyond any reasonable hope of ever being caught, like Cy Young's career 511 wins in baseball and other lofty records. Notre Dame (19 from 1988-89) is third, with another USC team (17 from 1972-73) in fourth place.

The 2005 USC team is only the third team ever to be ranked number one in the AP pre-season poll and hold it until after the bowls. The others are Florida State (1999) and USC (2004). Four other teams: Notre Dame (1943), Army (1945), Nebraska (1971) and USC (1972) were not ranked number one in the pre-season, but were ranked first in each regular season poll and the final post-bowl poll. 

Prior to USC's two-time national championship run of 2003-04, the only repeat AP winners were Minnesota (1940-41), Army (1944-45), Notre Dame (1946-47), Oklahoma (1955-56), Alabama (1964*-65), Nebraska (1970-71), Oklahoma (1974**-75), Alabama (1978-79), and Nebraska (1994-95).

*Alabama lost its bowl game after the polls closed.

**Oklahoma was on NCAA probation.

Back-to-back champions prior to the AP polling also included California (1921-22), Alabama (1925-26), USC (1931-32) and Minnesota (1934-35). Other Pacific 10 Conference national champions include California (three: 1921-22, 1937), UCLA (1954, one Heisman), Washington (1991), and Stanford (two; one under Pop Warner in 1926, "tied" with Alabama after they tied them in the Rose Bowl; Clark Shaughnessy's unbeaten 1940 team "tied" with Minnesota; plus one Heisman; some "unofficial" analysts have said Stanford's "Vow Boys" of the 1930s were "national champs.). 

Other traditional football powers with national championships include Oklahoma (seven: 1950-55-56-74-75-85-2000, with four Heismans), Michigan (four: 1923, 1933, 1948, 1997, with two Heismans), Ohio State (five: 1942-54-61-68-2002, with six Heismans), Miami (five: 1984-87-89-91-2001, with two Heismans), Nebraska (five: 1970-71-94-95-97, with three Heismans), Penn State (two: 1982-86, with one Heisman, although the Nittany Lions could easily have won three more: 1968-69-94), Texas (two: 1963-69, with two Heismans), Florida State (two: 1993-99, two Heismans), Florida (one: 1996, two Heismans), Tennessee (two: 1950-98, no Heismans), and Auburn (one: 1957, two Heismans). 

USC ranks in the top 10 among all-time college football victories, but this is a skewed statistic since Michigan, the leader, was a major college program for decades before USC shed its rugby image after World War I.

USC is also in the top 10 in all-time winning percentage, surpassing the impressive .700 mark in 2005. This is an amazing statistic, since USC has traditionally played the strongest conference, non-conference and inter-sectional schedule in the nation since the 1920s. USC has subjected itself on a yearly basis to death matches with Notre Dame and UCLA, and a host of national powers in the Rose Bowl and other bowls. 

When trying to determine the greatest program ever, another factor in USC's favor is the fact that they have the most bowl wins and the best bowl winning percentage. They have achieved this playing in that most competitive of historical games, the "Granddaddy of 'em all," the Rose Bowl. They have also competed in most of the best bowls, including two Orange Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl and the Cotton Bowl. Each of their national championships have come with victories in the Rose Bowl, except for one Orange Bowl win and one year in which they did not play in one. There are numerous other teams that lay claim to national titles despite having lost bowl games. Seven of Notre Dame's national championship runs came in seasons in which they did not play in a bowl. Obviously, had they played in bowl games, they may well have lost some of those games, and with it national titles. Their "bowl game" in those seasons was USC, who also could have won a few more had they not subjected themselves to the yearly game with the Irish (and vice versa).

Since USC has the most impressive bowl record, it stands to reason that had there been a play-off system in place throughout all those years, they may have won more national championships than the 12 they have. They also probably would have had more undisputed titles instead of sharing a few with other teams of dubious merit. The Trojans have been accorded "national championship" status by varying polls, rankings and formulations in five additional non-title seasons. It is not hard to conceive that, with a play-off format in place, they may have beaten either Miami or Ohio State in 2002; Alabama in 1979; Pittsburgh in 1976; Texas, Penn State and Arkansas in 1969; and maybe a few others.   

Entering the 2006 season, USC had 135 (as of 2005) All-Americans, the most of any school in the nation. From 1962 to 1990, USC placed at least one player on the All-American first team. From 1972 to 1987, at least one was a consensus All-American. 27 offensive linemen have made first team All-American since 1964. Entering 2005, 106 USC players (leading the nation) have made unanimous, consensus and/or first team All-American, and many of them were chosen in two and even three seasons.

USC, of course, has seven Heismans, which tied Notre Dame and has been well documented, but several Trojans on the 2006 roster could make up the school's eighth and ninth Heisman winners before the decade is over. USC has also placed five runners-up (O.J. Simpson '67, Anthony Davis '74, Ricky Bell '76, Rodney Peete '88, Reggie Bush '06). 10 Trojans have finished in the top 10 of the balloting without winning. 

Offensive tackle Ron Yary won the Outland Trophy in 1967. Offensive guard Brad Budde won the Lombardi Award in 1979. Free safety Mark Carrier won the Jim Thorpe Award in 1989. Middle linebacker Chris Claiborne earned the Butkus Award in 1998. 27 Trojan players (the most) have been elected to the National Football Foundation's College Hall of Fame, in addition to two head coaches (Howard Jones and John McKay), three assistant coaches, and former athletic director Mike McGee.

Five USC players have won the Walter Camp Award, three the Maxwell Award, two the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, and 16 the Glenn "Pop" Warner Award. Nine have won the Voit Trophy. Three coaches have been named American Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year (Carroll in 2003), two the Football Writers Association of America Coach of the Year, and six the Pac 10 Conference Coach of the Year. 15 Trojans have been named the Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Year (the most), and 10 the Morris Trophy. 24 (the most) have won the Rose Bowl Player of the Game award. 18 (also the most) have been inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.       

O.J. Simpson was named the "50th greatest athlete of the 20th century" by ESPN. Simpson, Yary and Lott were named as starters on the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-Century Team, with Brad Budde and Tim McDonald named as reserves. Football News ranked Simpson the 10thgreatest player of the 20th Century. Yary and Lott made the Scripps Howard News Service College Football All-Star Team of the Century. Swann, Yary and Lott were first team and Tony Boselli second team on the Dick Butkus Football Network College Football All-Century Team.

13 USC players made first team and 15 second team on the L.A. Times All-Century Southern California College Football Team. Football Newsranked the 1974 USC-Notre Dame game the sixth greatest "moment of the century." The Times ranked their "moments of the century": 

 

1967 USC-UCLA game.

1974 USC-Notre Dame game.

1975 USC-Ohio State Rose Bowl game.

1990 USC-UCLA game.

1939 USC-Duke Rose Bowl game.

 

The L.A. Sports Council picked the 1974 USC-Notre Dame game as the third greatest athletic event of the century, followed by 11 other SC football contests. Collegefootballnews.com chose Simpson, Charles White, Marcus Allen, Ron Yary, Ronnie Lott, Lynn Swann and Tony Boselli among its "150 greatest college football players."

Since joining the Pacific Coast Conference in 1922, USC has won the most conference titles and had the most all-conference selections. USC has had the most players in the post-season bowls: the Hula Bowl (128), the East-West Shrine Game (98), the Senior Bowl (52), the College All-Star Game (72), the Japan Bowl (40), and the Coaches All-America Game (26).  

They have also landed the most players on the prestigious Playboy pre-season college All-American team. Since 1957, when the magazine first started selecting teams, 63 Trojan players as well as three Coaches of the Year and one Scholar-Athlete have been picked. Prior to 2005, the school with the next-most picks is Michigan (45), followed by Notre Dame (40, plus one Coach of the Year), Oklahoma (36, two coaches), and Nebraska (33, one coach, two Scholar-Athletes). From 1972 to 1987, USC was represented. On six occasions (1970-76-79-80-04-05), there were three Trojan players. In '05, Coach of the Year Carroll accompanied the three players (Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Tom Malone).

11 times, USC has played against that season's Heisman Trophy winner. They defeated Notre Dame's Paul Hornung (1956) and John Huarte (1964); UCLA's Gary Beban (1967); Ohio State's Archie Griffin (1974); and South Carolina's George Rogers (1980). 

USC's media guide bills the Trojans as the true "America's team" because they have played on television 308 times going into the 2004 season. At one point, 111 straight games were televised. They were on a record six national telecasts in 1987. From 1972 to 1981, USC had the highest average viewer rating in America. Sports Inc. ranked five of the USC-Notre Dame telecasts among the 12 highest-rated games ever. The 2005 USC-Notre Dame game was the most-watched regular season college football game in 10 years.

The Trojans have played in front of more than 100,000 fans in the Coliseum on six occasions, with the 104,953 for the 1947 game with Notre Dame holding the record. The biggest road crowd was 100,741 at the Rose Bowl for the 1988 Rodney Peete-Troy Aikman battle with UCLA. The biggest crowd ever was 120,000 at Soldier Field, Chicago for the 1927 Notre Dame game, with 112,912 watching the teams play at the same site in 1929. The biggest Rose Bowl game crowd was 106,869 for the 1973 national championship-clinching win over Ohio State.  

"Hollywood Trojans" who have appeared in films and TV: John Wayne (1925-26 under the name Marion Morrison), Ward Bond (1928-30), Cotton Warburton (All-American, 1933), Marv Goux (1954-55), Tim Rossovich (1967 All-American), O.J. Simpson (1967-68), Anthony Davis (1972-74), Allan Graf (1970-72) and Shane Foley (1989-90), just to name a few.

On top of all this, USC has the greatest overall men's and women's collegiate athletic tradition in the nation. Its closest competition comes from UCLA. Entering the fall of 2005, USC had the most men's national championships (85). UCLA has won 68 NCAA titles (Stanford has won 57 prior to the 2004 season). USC has won 105 combined men's and women's NCAA titles. From 1959 to 1985, USC won a national championship for 26 straight school years. They won five each in 1962-63 and 1976-77. USC also has won 294 NCAA men's individual championships (followed by Michigan with 244). In 2000, USC was named "Collegiate Athletic Program of the Century."

AUSC athlete has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated 92 times prior to the 2004 season, which may not be verified but is probably another record. 31 Trojans (prior to '04) have been named the Amateur Athletic Foundation Southern California Athlete of the Year. 

While it may be a question of debate as to whether or not USC boasts the greatest football tradition in America, no debate exists when it comes to baseball. USC won 11 national championships under Rod Dedeaux, and a 12th under Mike Gillespie in 1998. Texas is second with five. When Dedeaux retired after the 1986 season, his 1,332 wins were the most of any coach. He was named "College Baseball Coach of the Century." USC was named "College Baseball Program of the Century" by Collegiate Baseball magazine. USC has had the most baseball Olympians and the second-most members of the USA National Team. USC ball players have graced more Sports Illustrated covers than any school.

USC has had the most All-American baseball players, the most players drafted (263), the most players drafted in the first round, the most professional players and the most Major League baseball players. They boast the most baseball Hall of Famers, the most All-Stars, and the most Cy Young Award winners (nine). In 2002, Barry Zito and Randy Johnson both won the Cy Young Award. Fred Lynn won the 1975 American League MVP award. Trojans have been Rookie of the Year three times, one has been the All-Star Game MVP (Lynn), and in 2001 Johnson was the World Series MVP.

In 1997, Johnson, Mark McGwire and Jeff Cirillo were in the All-Star Game. In 2003, Jenkins, both Boone brothers, Aaron and Bret, Zito and Mark Prior were there. 

In 2004, USC had 15 players in the big leagues, including the Boones, Cirillo, Morgan Ensberg, Geoff Jenkins, Johnson, Bobby Kielty, Jacque Jones, Jason Lane, Eric Munson and Zito.  Mark McGwire set the all-time big league record for homers in a single season with 70 in 1998.

While only Trojan (Tom Seaver) is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, it is a safe bet that Johnson and McGwire will make it three: again, the most of any college. Arizona State has Reggie Jackson, and eventually Barry Bonds will be their second. 

Despite not being known for basketball, a disproportionate number of Trojans from the 1940s and '50s are considered hoops pioneers. The "triangle offense" was invented by Hall of Famer Sam Barry (Tex Winter was on that 1947 team) at SC. Such stalwarts as Bill Sharman and Alex Hannum played at USC before Hall of Fame induction in Springfield. Standout Trojans include Ken Flower, Mack Calvin, Paul Westphal, Gus Williams, Cliff Robinson, Harold Miner and Sam Clancy. Six ex-Trojans became NBA coaches, including Hannum, the coach of the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers, who were a then-NBA record 68-14 and, led by Wilt Chamberlain, won the World Championship. Sharman, a star on the great Boston Celtics teams of the 1950s, coached Chamberlain and the 1972 Lakers to a 69-13 mark, breaking the Sixers record. They won a pro sports record 33 straight games and the NBA title. Paul Westphal later was a standout coach of the Phoenix Suns. 

USC also boasts (along with UCLA) the most Olympians (340), the most Olympic Gold Medallists (104), and if they had been a country in 1976, they would have placed third in total medals at the Montreal Games. A Trojan has medaled in every modern Olympics Games (beginning at St. Louis in 1904) of the 20th and now 21st Centuries, including the boycotted Moscow Games of 1980.  

USC's track and field teams have won an unprecedented 26 national championships. The men's tennis teams have won 16. The swimming and diving teams have won nine. The women's tennis teams have won seven. 

Academically, USC ranks in the top 10 of all collegiate programs in the production of NCAA post-graduate scholarships. Three Trojans have earned Rhodes Scholarships, 27 have been named first team Academic All-Americans (22 for football, rating ahead of Cal, Stanford, UCLA and all other Pac 10 schools, sixth best in America), eight have earned the prestigious NCAA Today's Top Six scholar award, 12 are National Football Foundation Scholar-Athletes, and 10 have won the NCAA Silver Anniversary Awards. In 1994, a Sports Illustrated study found that, out of the relative strength of the nation's top 25 football teams, USC's players were ranked second nationally in high school G.P.A.s, sixth in SAT scores, and third in ACT scores. 

 

It is not all that hard to understand why USC is the greatest football and all-around athletic tradition ever. They are a product of their environment: in particular, Greater Los Angeles and in general, the state of California. They are the biggest and the best in a part of the world that has always produced the biggest and the best, at every level of sports. They are the proverbial "big fish in a very big pond." There are many reasons why the Golden State produces so many outstanding athletes, but the two biggest and most obvious are the weather and the population.

The best high school sports in the world are played in the L.A. area, particularly in the Orange County/Long Beach corridor, but also in the San Fernando Valley, the San Gabriel Valley, and the Inland Empire. Beyond that, great high school sports are played year-round in San Diego County; the Sac-Joaquin Section (stretching from Bakersfield to Fresno north to Sacramento); the Central Coast Section (Catholic schools in San Francisco, extending down the peninsula south to San Jose and beyond); and the North Coast Section (the Golden Gate Bridge north to the Oregon border, and in the East Bay from the Concord-Benicia area to Fremont).

Traditionally, the city of San Francisco was at one time considered the best place in the country when it came to producing big league ball players (Joe DiMaggio, Frank Crosetti). Los Angeles city proper was its equal. Fremont High has produced more big league ball players than any school. Other inner city players include Eddie Murray and Ozzie Smith, among so many. Great prep baseball traditions also include Lakewood, San Diego Rancho Bernardo, San Diego University (Barry Zito), Fresno Clovis West, San Mateo Serra (Barry Bonds) and Larkspur Redwood (Pete Carroll). Santa Monica has a long baseball and American Legion tradition. Blair Field in Long Beach has probably hosted more great high school, American Legion and Joe DiMaggio League greats than any other locale. 

L.A.  is still a prep hoops powerhouse on par with New York City and Philadelphia, with Crenshaw and Verbum Dei among the most storied traditions. Santa Ana Mater Dei developed into a top program beginning in the 1980s. Berkeley, Oakland McClymond's and Oakland Tech are longtime East Bay Area powers. 

California football tradition is dominated by Concord De La Salle, Clovis West, Bishop Amat, Santa Monica, San Fernando, Los Angeles Loyola, Huntington Beach Edison, Rialto Eisenhower, Banning, Carson, Santa Ana Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly. De La Salle, winners of 151 straight games and four national championships between 1991 and 2003, might be called the "USC of high school football."

The Oakland area produced an unbelievable plethora of superstars in the 1940s and '50s: Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Joe Morgan, Willie Stargell, Bill Russell, Jackie Jensen and many others.

California has produced the most Olympians, the most Major League ball players, the most pro basketball players and the most pro football players. After USC, the best college track tradition is UCLA's. Cal boasts a long track history. The Golden Bears' Brutus Hamilton was the U.S. Olympic track and field coach. 

In baseball, UCLA has produced a comparable number of big leaguers to SC. Cal State Fullerton and Stanford are two of the all-time great programs. Fresno State has produced many stars.

 

UCLA has also produced a large number of players in the NFL over the years. So, too, have San Diego State and Fresno State. 

The greatest college basketball program ever is unquestionably UCLA. The dynasty they replaced? The University of San Francisco, winners of 60 straight and two national titles with Russell from 1955-56. Cal won the 1959 NCAA title.

It does not stop there. USF's soccer program was for many years the best in the U.S. The Mission Viejo Aquatic Club has developed the most Olympic champions. Al Scates's volleyball tradition at UCLA is perhaps second in dominance only to Dean Cromwell's in track at Southern Cal. Southern California beach volleyball is the be-all and end-all of the sport. Surfing was perfected and mythologized in the SoCal. 

****

Below is the All-Time College Football Top 25 rankings, followed by the Top 25 Greatest Single-Season teams in college football history. The greatest college football teams are listed chronologically; the best team for each decade; the best single-season team each decade, followed by great programs in back-to-back, three-year, five-year, 10/15-year and 20/25-year periods; the most prominent dynasties and the coaches behind them; and for good measure the Top 25 Collegiate Athletic Programs of All-Time, the Top College Basketball Programs, and the Top 20 College Baseball Programs ever. A few prep dynasties are mentioned for good measure.

It is subjective and opinionated. It is meant to stir debate, controversy and argument. It is not written in stone. Extra credit goes to the more modern powers. Miami's success in the 1980s is more impressive than Cal's Wonder Teams after World War I. Oklahoma's early 2000s run, while only resulting in one national championship instead of three, is in the modern context almost as impressive as what they accomplished in the 1950s. The game has changed. Competition, money, television, scholarship limits, NCAA rules, recruiting violations and parity all play a part in this evaluation. To the extent that the so-called "modern era" began, trace it to 1960, which is subjective, yes, but as good an embarkation point as any. It was in the 1960s when the players starting getting bigger, the equipment up to speed, the coaching techniques improved, and the color of the player's skin became increasingly something other than white.

Based upon history, one is increasingly impressed with USC. Overall, Notre Dame's ranking as the greatest college football program of all time has to take a back seat to their biggest rivals from the West Coast. In light of USC's new status - the dynasty that Pete Carroll built on top of their previous tradition - it is time to officially acknowledge that it is the Trojans, and no longer Notre Dame, who have risen above all other historic college football programs. 

In 2005, USC passed the Irish for the most national championships (12 to 11), and tied them for the most Heisman Trophy winners (both with seven). Notre Dame still holds the lead over the Trojans in their inter-sectional rivalry, and trace their glory days back to when Knute Rockne invented the forward pass in time to beat favored Army in 1913. However, while Charlie Weis appears to have righted Notre Dame's listing ship, they have struggled too much in the modern decades to hold the title any longer. Call the Men of Troy the New Centurions of the Millennium; the dynasty of all dynasties!

Notre Dame was the best college team under Rockne in the decade of the 1920s and under Frank Leahy in the 1940s. They had another major "era of Ara" (Parseghian) in the 1960s and '70s, and are listed among the top two-year dynasties (1946-47), 5-year dynasties (1943-47, 1973-77) and have three dynasties that are included among the 10/15-year period. Furthermore, they are Notre Dame, and all that that stands for: "Win one for the Gipper," the Catholic Church, "Touchdown Jesus," Ronald Reagan, "Rudy," "subway alumni," the Four Horsemen "outlined against a blue, gray October sky," "wake up the echoes..."

Notre Dame's fans are the most intense and loyal. They are the team that played in Yankee Stadium, in Soldier Field, at the Coliseum. Many of their historic games were against SC. The tradition of these two teams are the best and the oldest. 

For decades, the number two team was Southern California. This was not a coincidence. No rivalry in sports (or politics or war, probably) has done so much to elevate both sides as the USC-Notre Dame tradition. It put both schools on the national map. It pits, as SC assistant coach Marv Goux put it, "the best of the East vs. the best of the West." It matches the Catholic school with their Midwestern values against the flash 'n' dazzle of Hollywood, and it has never failed to live up to expectations.

Beginning in the 1980s, however, SC dropped while Notre Dame stayed at or near the top throughout the Lou Holtz era. Other contenders emerged. Miami and Florida State ascended to the top. Nebraska left opponents in the dust. Programs like Alabama and Oklahoma had, like SC, faltered, but regained their footing. Tennessee, Georgia, LSU and other teams, many in the South, rose in prominence. This was a direct result of integration and its impact has been very positive, but a school like Southern California could no longer lay claim to black athletes that were spurned by the SEC or the Southwestern Conference.

SC began to win awards and recognition for its academic excellence, and it became an article of faith that this was the trade-off; great football teams and great students are not mutually compatible. All of it was B.S. Pete Carroll proved that.

Six years ago, a Top 25 listing of the Greatest College Football Programs of All-Time would have shown USC to have slipped. However, in light of their national championships and continuing favored status, Troy is now ahead of Notre Dame and in the top spot.

Long dynasties are hard to come by in college football, but as the following lists show, SC has a long history of doing just that. It is for this reason, combined with the glow of being Notre Dame's biggest rival, its great inter-city tradition with UCLA, and a history that goes back farther than almost any program (Michigan and Notre Dame are the only schools that go back as far and are still powers) that Southern California is not just first all-time in football but first among all athletic programs (and first by a wide margin in baseball).

The Greatest College Football Team in history was generally considered to be John McKay's 1972 Trojans. Just ask Keith Jackson, who ought to know. In addition, SC claims the best single-season team in the 1920s (1928), '30s (1931) and 2000s (2005). They are considered the best team of the decade of the 1930s, 1960s, 1970s, and now the 2000s.

Further proof of SC's ability to maintain a tradition is their consistency. The top dynasty period in history was the John McKay/John Robinson era lasting from the early 1960s until the 1980s. The Howard Jones "Thundering Herd" teams of the 1920s and '30s also ranks highly. 

 

The best back-to-back teams ever? How about USC (2003-04), USC (2004-05), Oklahoma (1955-56), Nebraska (1994-95), Notre Dame (1946-47), Army (1944-45), Nebraska (1970-71) and Alabama (1978-79)?

Among the best three-year periods ever, none is better than SC's run from 2003-05, followed by their teams of 1972-74. Oklahoma deserves mention from 1971-73, or 1973-75. Among 5/6-year periods, consider three of Troy's eras (1967-72, the best of anybody, followed by 1974-79 and 1928-32). Also, Minnesota from 1934-36. 

The best 10/15-year period? USC from 1967 to 1979, but that is not all. Also ranked is the period 1962-72 and 1928-39. Among great long-term dynasties (20/25 years), nobody beats Southern California from 1962-81, when they won five national championships and four Heisman Trophies. Alabama might argue that they won six national titles. Two of them are bogus (1964 and 1966, bowl losses after the polls closed), they had no Heisman winners, and no where's near as many All-Americans or first round draft picks. Their complaints about losing the 1966 vote are no more legit than USC saying they should have won the '78 vote outright. SC is undisputedly a football factory. The empirical evidence cannot be argued against. 

Aside from Bear Bryant's great run from 1961 to 1979, Alabama fans certainly have the right to argue against Trojan football hegemony, and they have plenty of ammunition. They were a national power as far back as the 1920s and '30s, when Don Hutson starred there. However, they slipped (as did USC during the same years) until the Bryant era. Bryant's dominant period parallels John McKay's (and John Robinson's) and is as impressive as any ever. However, the Tide was all white until SC's Sam "Bam" Cunningham showed them, in Bear's own (alleged) words, "what a football player looks like" in 1970. After SC's 42-21 victory at Birmingham, L.A. Times sports columnist Jim Murray welcomed 'Bama "back into the Union." If everything else was equal - legit titles, Heismans, All-American selections, draft picks - the fact that USC was integrated and Alabama was not for the first 10 years of the comparable Bryant-McKay period would be enough to give Southern Cal the nod. 

The Crimson Tide experienced a down period after Bear departed, regained its place with the 1992 national title, but inexplicably fell from grace for another decade after that. Their recent embarrassment in hiring Mike Price only to fire him for cavorting with strippers was indicative of their malaise, but in 2005 Mike Shula looked like he was ready to lead them out of the wilderness.

Oklahoma's teams in the 1950s dominated as thoroughly as any in history, and Bud Wilkinson is to be commended for integrating the Sooner program, but that is a long time ago. They were not a major power prior to that decade. The Chuck Fairbanks/Barry Switzer teams of the 1970s and '80s were as impressive as any that have ever taken the field (and pockmarked by scandal and probation), but they became downright mediocre after Brian Bosworth's departure. Bob Stoops, however, brought right back where they were before, and then some.

Miami is rated highly based purely on unreal dominance in the 1980s and early '90s, and a 34-game winning streak accompanied by 20 straight AP number one rankings from 2001-02. They maintained an 18-year run from 1983-2002 that approaches SC's 1962-81 dynasty. However, until Howard Schnellenberger (by whatever means he did it) made them a power in '83, they were a college football lightweight, plus their championship rosters too often resembled police reports.

Ohio State is sixth and could be higher. However, until Woody Hayes came along, Michigan, not Ohio State, was the dominant Big 10 team. Woody's long tenure is very impressive, lasting from his 1954 national championship (split with UCLA) until Archie Griffin's second Heisman campaign (1975). The 1968 Buckeyes are one of the most storied teams in history, good enough to dominate O.J. Simpson and defending national champion USC in the Rose Bowl. But Woody's teams always fell short after that. They would go undefeated, average 40-plus points a game, and make Sports Illustrated covers, but in Pasadena every New Year's Day, it seemed, their "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense was no match for Pat Haden, John Sciarra, or whoever SC or UCLA threw at them.

Penn State (seventh) has been a consistent national power under Joe Paterno since 1968, when they were in the middle of a 30-game winning streak. Their "weak" East Coast schedule cost them a couple of national titles, but the 1980s were Joe Pa's time. They had fallen precipitously in later years (rebounding in 2005), and while they have played football in Happy Valley a long time (the Lions lost to USC, 24-3, in the first game at the modern Rose Bowl stadium in 1923), they do not have a tradition that goes back like SC or Notre Dame, either.

Nebraska is a relative Johnny-come-lately. Nobody knew much about the Cornhuskers until Bob Devaney's mythical 1970-71 national championship squads (Omaha's Gale Sayers spurned the program because they "weren't that good"). The Devaney/Tom Osborne era is unbelievable, starting with a long winning streak in the early '70s, but not devoid of criticism. Osborne may be just below Jesus Christ in Nebraska today, but Big Red fans took the Lord's name in vain aplenty when he consistently lost big games in the 1970s and '80s. Still, the 1971 and '95 squads rank as two of the top four teams in history, and Cornhusker dominance from 1993-97 was extraordinary (60-3, three National Championships).

Michigan has a hallowed tradition. They were college football's first powerhouse, beating Stanford in the first Rose Bowl, 49-0 in 1902. When the Big 10 started playing the Pacific Coast Conference after World War II, Michigan (and the Big 10 overall) laid waste to the "soft" West Coast teams, which included pastings of some very good Pappy Waldorf teams from Cal in the Rose Bowl games of the late '40s. However, the Wolverines lost their place to Woody until Bo Schembechler came along. The Michigan teams of the 1970s mirrored Woody's - often unbeaten with gaudy stats until a pick-your-choice Pac 8 team (Stanford, USC, Washington) would dismantle them in Pasadena. In 1997 they finally won a national championship and are a program of the first rate, but not number one.

Texas is a bit of a mystery. Darrell Royal's Longhorns won two national championships (1963 and 1969, the last all-white title holder), and had a big winning 30-game streak that ended against Notre Dame in the 1971 Cotton Bowl, but Earl Campbell's team lost to Joe Montana when the Irish "stole" the 1977 national championship (going from fifth to first on January 2, 1978). Texas had never repeated despite occasionally being favored, but they usually were slightly disappointing until the Vince Young team of 2005 got off the porch and tried to run with the "big dog" from Los Angeles.

Florida State was a girl's school until Burt Reynolds broke the gender barrier in 1952. Tennessee has a great tradition, and they won the title in 1998. LSU and Florida have made bids for supremacy, the latter under Steve Spurrier, but they seem to lose the big games more often than not.

Michigan State under Duffy Daugherty from 1965-66 broke color barriers and challenged for greatness, but Gary Beban and UCLA beat them in the 1966 Rose Bowl, and they tied Notre Dame in the 1966 "game of the century." Georgia's fans are nuts, and the team is darn good most of the time. Auburn and UCLA are two of a kind. They each have won one national championship, and have all the advantages - weather, facilities, recruiting, talent - only to labor in the shadow of historical behemoths (USC over UCLA, Alabama over Auburn).

The Arkansas Razorbacks are always fun. The 1991 Washington Huskies were the 22nd best single-season team ever, the Don James era was terrific, but they usually only go so far. Cal is so yesterday. Brick Muller's memory died an ugly death when the school became the de facto staging grounds of American Communism circa 1964-70. The Pitt Panthers were great in the 1930s and in Tony Dorsett's 1976 Heisman season. Minnesota is forgotten except for a great stretch prior to World War II. The Golden Gophers of Bernie Bierman were a power in the mid-1930s, again from 1940-41, and the school took their last national championship in 1960. The Army Cadets once dominated whenever there was a world war being fought (?), and Stanford has Pop Warner, Ernie Nevers, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Bill Walsh and the "Vow Boys." BYU won the 1984 national championship and sports a long tradition of "bombs away" quarterbacks, led by Jim McMahon and Steve Young.

 

All-Time Greatest College Football Teams

 

All-Time Top 25

 

1.   Southern California Trojans

2.   Notre Dame Fighting Irish

3.   Alabama Crimson Tide

4.    Oklahoma Sooners 

5.    Miami Hurricanes

6. Ohio State Buckeyes

7.    Penn State Nittany Lions

8.    Nebraska Cornhuskers

9.    Michigan Wolverines

10.   Texas Longhorns

11.   Florida State Seminoles

12.   Tennessee Volunteers

13.   Auburn Tigers 

14.   Louisiana State Tigers 

15.   Florida Gators

16.   Michigan State Spartans

17.   Georgia Bulldogs

18.   UCLA Bruins

19.   Arkansas Razorbacks

20.   Washington Huskies

21.   California Golden Bears

22.   Pittsburgh Panthers

23.   Minnesota Golden Gophers

24.   Stanford Indians/Cardinal

25.   Brigham Young Cougars

 

Greatest single-season teams

 

1.  2005 Southern California Trojans

2.   1972 Southern California Trojans

3.   1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers

4.   2004 Southern California Trojans

5.   1947 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 

1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers

2001 Miami Hurricanes 

1945 Army Cadets 

1979 Alabama Crimson Tide 

1956 Oklahoma Sooners

1999 Florida State Seminoles 

1989 Miami Hurricanes

1986 Penn State Nittany Lions

14. 1968 Ohio State Buckeyes

15. 1969 Texas Longhorns

16. 1988 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

17. 1932 Southern California Trojans

18. 1975 Oklahoma Sooners

19. 1921 California Golden Bears

20. 1973 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

21. 1948 Michigan Wolverines

22. 1928 Southern California Trojans

23. 1991 Washington Huskies

24. 1985 Oklahoma Sooners

25. 1976 Pittsburgh Panthers

26. 1962 Southern California Trojans

27. 1987 Miami Hurricanes

28. 1966 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

29. 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide

30. 1924 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

31. 1996 Florida Gators

 

Chronological

 

1902 Michigan Wolverines

1919 California Golden Bears

1922 California Golden Bears

1924 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

1928 Southern California Trojans

1930 Alabama Crimson Tide

1932 Southern California Trojans

1936 Minnesota Golden Gophers

1945 Army Cadets

1947 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

1948 Michigan Wolverines

1956 Oklahoma Sooners

1962 Southern California Trojans

1966 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

1968 Ohio State Buckeyes

1969 Texas Longhorns

1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers

1972 Southern California Trojans

1973 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

1975 Oklahoma Sooners

1976 Pittsburgh Panthers

1979 Alabama Crimson Tide

1985 Oklahoma Sooners

1986 Penn State Nittany Lions

1987 Miami Hurricanes

1988 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

1989 Miami Hurricanes

1991 Washington Huskies

1992 Alabama Crimson Tide

1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers

1996 Florida Gators

1999 Florida State Seminoles

2001 Miami Hurricanes

2004 Southern California Trojans

2005 Southern California Trojans

 

By Decades (single year)

 

1900s: 1902 Michigan Wolverines

1910s: 1919 California Golden Bears 

1920s: 1928 Southern California Trojans

1930s: 1932 Southern California Trojans

1940s: 1947 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 

1950s: 1956 Oklahoma Sooners

1960s: 1968 Ohio State Buckeyes

1970s: 1972 Southern California Trojans

1980s: 1989 Miami Hurricanes

1990s: 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers

2000s: 2005 Southern California Trojans

 

By Decades

 

1900s: Michigan Wolverines

1910s: California Golden Bears

1920s: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

1930s: Southern California Trojans

1940s: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

1950s: Oklahoma Sooners

1960s: Southern California Trojans

1970s: Southern California Trojans

1980s: Miami Hurricanes

1990s: Nebraska Cornhuskers

2000s: Southern California Trojans

 

Dynasties

 

1.  Southern California under John McKay & John Robinson (1960s-80s)

2.  Miami (1980s-2000s)

3.  Alabama under Bear Bryant (1960s-80s)

4.  Ohio State under Woody Hayes (1950s-70s)

5.  Oklahoma under Bud Wilkinson (1950s)

6.  Nebraska under Bob DeVaney & Tom Osborne (1970s-'90s)

7.  Penn State under Joe Paterno (1960s-90s)

8.  Oklahoma under Chuck Fairbanks & Barry Switzer (1970s-'80s)

9.  Notre Dame under Knute Rockne (1920s)

10. Notre Dame under Frank Leahy (1940s)

11. Southern California's "Thundering Herd" under Howard Jones (1920s-30s)

12. Notre Dame under Ara Parseghian (1960s-70s)

13. Florida State under Bobby Bowden (1990s)

14. Texas under Darrell Royal (1960s-70s)

15. Michigan under Bo Schembechler (1960s-80s)

16. California's "Wonder Teams" under Andy Smith (1918-22) 

17. Army under Red Blaik (mid-1940s)

18. Minnesota under Bernie Bierman (1930s, early '40s)

19. Stanford under Pop Warner (1920s) 

20. Michigan's "point-a-minute" teams under Fritz Carlisle (1900s)

21.  Southern California under Pete Carroll (2000s) 

 

Best two-year period

 

Southern California (2004-05)

Oklahoma (1955-56)

Nebraska (1994-95)

4.  Notre Dame (1946-47)

5.  Army (1944-45)

6. Alabama (1978-79)

7. Oklahoma (1974-75)

8. Southern California (2003-04)

 

Best three-year periods

 

1.  Southern California (2003-05)

2.  Southern California (1972-74)

3.  Miami (1987-89)

4.  California (1920-22)

Southern California (1930-32)

Oklahoma (1954-56)

Army (1944-46)

Alabama (1964-66)

Minnesota (1934-36)

Oklahoma (1974-75)

 

Best 5/6-year periods

 

Southern California (1967-72)

2.  Notre Dame (1943-47)

3.  Miami (1987-91)

4.  Notre Dame (1973-77)

5.  Southern California (1974-79)

6.  Alabama (1961-66)

7.  Penn State (1982-86)

8.  Southern California (1928-32)

9.  Minnesota (1936-41)

10. Oklahoma (1971-75)

  Nebraska (1993-97)

 

Best 10/15-year periods

 

1.  Southern California Trojans (1967-81)

2.  Miami Hurricanes (1983-91) 

3.  Southern California Trojans (1962-72)

4.  Oklahoma Sooners (1950s)

5.  Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1920s)

6.  Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1940s)

7.  Nebraska Cornhuskers (1990s)

8.  Penn State Nittany Lions (1982-91)

9. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1966-77)

10. Oklahoma Sooners (1974-85)

11.  Florida State Seminoles (1990s)

12. Southern California Trojans (1928-39)

13.  Alabama Crimson Tide (1964-79)

 

Best 20/25-year periods

 

1.  Southern California Trojans (1962-81)

2.  Miami Hurricanes (1983-2001)

3.  Notre Dame Fighting Irish (1964-88)

4.  Alabama Crimson Tide (1961-79)

5. Ohio State Buckeyes (1954-75)

 

"Close but no cigar"(honorable mention)

 

1913 Army Cadets, 1938 Duke Blue Devils, 1939 Tennessee Volunteers, 1947-49 California Golden Bears, 1954 UCLA Bruins, 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans, 1967-69 Southern California Trojans, 1969-75 Ohio State Buckeyes, 1969-78 Michigan Wolverines, 1971-73 Oklahoma Sooners, 1978-1979 Southern California Trojans, 1983 Nebraska Cornhuskers, 1979 Ohio State Buckeyes, 2003-04 Oklahoma Sooners

 

Longest major college football winning streaks

 

47 - Oklahoma           Started 10/10/53 at Texas, snapped 11/16/57 vs. Notre Dame.

35 - USC (ongoing) Started 10/4/03 at. Arizona State, continues at beginning of 2006… 

34 - Miami                  Started 9/23/00 at West Virginia, snapped 1/3/03 vs. Ohio State (2 OT -   

                        Fiesta Bowl).

31 - Oklahoma            Started 10/2/48 vs. Texas A&M, snapped 1/1/51 vs. Kentucky (Sugar 

           Bowl).

30 - Texas                   Started 10/5/68 vs. Oklahoma State, snapped 1/1/71 vs. Notre Dame 

           (Cotton Bowl).

29 - Miami                   Started 10/27/90 at Texas Tech, snapped 1/1/93 vs. Alabama (Sugar 

           Bowl).

28 - Alabama              Started 9/21/91 vs. Georgia, snapped 10/16/93 vs. Tennessee (tie).

28 - Alabama              Started 9/30/78 vs. Vanderbilt, snapped 11/1/80 at Mississippi State.

28 - Oklahoma            Started 10/6/73 vs. Miami, snapped 11/8/75 vs. Kansas.

28 - Michigan State    Started 10/14/50 vs. William & Mary, snapped 10/24/53 at Purdue.

25 - *USC                   Started 10/3/31 vs. Oregon State, snapped (tie) 10/21/33 vs. Oregon

23 - **USC             Started USC 10/23/71, snapped 10/27/73 at Notre Dame

 

*Extended to 27-game unbeaten streak, snapped 11/11/03 by Stanford's "Vow Boys"

**Unbeaten streak (tied UCLA 11/20/71) 

 

Toledo started a 35-game winning streak on 9/20/69 vs. Villanova, snapped 9/9/72 at Tampa.

 

winning streak consists of consecutive games, regular season and bowl games, with no ties or losses.

 

An unbeaten streak consists of consecutive games played without a loss, including ties. 

 

Records are sketchy, but Washington had a 63-game unbeaten streak, which included 39 straight wins between 1908-14, but it is not considered the modern record due to rules changes and the playing of rugby instead of football.

 

Georgia Tech had an unbeaten streak of approximately 36 games in the 1950s, probably with at least one tie, which was ended by Notre Dame in 1953.

 

Penn State had an unbeaten streak of approximately 30 games from 1968-70.

 

Nebraska also had an unbeaten streak of 32 games, begun after an opening-game loss vs. USC in 1969, interrupted by a 1970 tie at USC, and ending in a season-opening 1972 loss at UCLA.

 

Miami had a 36-game regular season winning streak from 1985-88, ending at Notre Dame, but they had lost the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to Penn State. 

 

Division III's Mount Union College did not lose a game in four years, reaching a 46-game winning streak. 

 

Mount Dora (Division III) won 54 straight from 1996-1999.

 

In Division II, Hillsdale College posted victories in 34 straight games between 1954-57. 

 

Morgan State had the longest unbeaten streak in Division II, winning or tying 54 straight games between 1931-38. 

 

National Champions By Year

 

1869 Princeton

1870 Princeton

1872 Princeton

1873 Princeton

1874  Princeton

1875 Princeton

1876 Yale

1877 Princeton

1878 Princeton

1879 Princeton

1880 Yale

1881 Princeton

1882 Yale

1883 Yale

1884 Princeton

1885 Princeton

1886 Princeton

1887 Yale

1888 Yale

1889 Princeton

1890 Harvard

1891 Yale

1892 Yale

1893 Princeton

1894 Yale

1895 Pennsylvania

1896 Princeton

1897 Pennsylvania

1898 Harvard

1899 Princeton

1900 Yale

1901 Harvard

1902 Michigan

1903 Princeton

1904 Minnesota

1906 Yale

1907 Yale

1908 Harvard

1909 Yale

1910 Harvard

1911 Princeton

1912 Harvard

1913 Auburn

1914 Texas

1915 Oklahoma

1916 Pittsburgh

1917 Georgia Tech

1918 Michigan

1919 Texas A&M

1920 Notre Dame

1921 California

1922 California

1923 Michigan

1924 Notre Dame

1925 Alabama

1926 Stanford, Alabama

1927 Illinois 

1928 Southern Cal 

1929 Notre Dame

1930 Alabama

1931 Southern Cal.

1932 Southern Cal.

1933 Michigan

1934 Minnesota

1935 Minnesota

1936 Minnesota

1937 Pittsburgh

1938 Tennessee, TCU (Heisman: Davey O'Brien)

1939 Southern Cal, Texas A&M 

1940 Minnesota, Stanford

1941 Minnesota (Heisman: Bruce Smith)

1942 Ohio State, Georgia (Heisman: Frank Sinkwich)

1943 Notre Dame (Heisman: Angelo Bertelli)

1944 Army

1945 Army (Heisman: Doc Blanchard)

1946 Notre Dame 

1947 Notre Dame (Heisman: John Lujack)

1948 Michigan

1949 Notre Dame (Heisman: Leon Hart)

1950 Tennessee, Oklahoma 

1951 Michigan State, Tennessee 

1952 Michigan State, Georgia Tech

1953 Maryland 

1954 UCLA, Ohio State

1955 Oklahoma

1956 Oklahoma

1957 Auburn, Ohio State

1958 LSU

1959 Syracuse 

1960 Minnesota, Mississippi

1961 Alabama 

1962 Southern Cal

1963 Texas

1964 Arkansas 

1965 Alabama 

1966 Notre Dame

1967 Southern Cal

1968 Ohio State

1969 Texas

1970 Nebraska

 1971 Nebraska

1972 Southern Cal

1973 Notre Dame

1974 Southern Cal, Oklahoma

1975 Oklahoma

1976 Pittsburgh (Heisman: Tony Dorsett)

1977 Notre Dame

1978 Southern Cal, Alabama

1979 Alabama

1980 Georgia

1981 Clemson

1982 Penn State

1983 Miami

1984 Brigham Young

1985 Oklahoma

1986 Penn State

1987 Miami

1988 Notre Dame

1989 Miami

1990 Colorado, Georgia Tech

1991 Washington, Miami

 1992 Alabama

1993 Florida State (Heisman: Charlie Ward)

1994 Nebraska

1995 Nebraska

1996 Florida (Heisman: Danny Wuerffel)

1997 Nebraska, Michigan (Heisman: Charles Woodson) 

1998 Tennessee

1999 Florida State 

2000 Oklahoma

2001 Miami

2002 Ohio State 

2003 Southern Cal, LSU

2004 Southern Cal (Heisman: Matt Leinart)

2005 Southern Cal (Heisman: Matt Leinart)

 

Most Post-World War I National Championships By Team

 

 

1. Southern Cal (12): 1928, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003, 2004, 

2005 (seven Heismans)

NOTE: Each USC national championship included victory in the Rose Bowl, except for 1928 (did not play in a bowl) and 2004 (BCS Orange Bowl)

Notre Dame (11): 1920@, 1924, 1929@, 1943@, 1946@, 1947@, 194@9, 1966@, 1973, 1977, 1988 (seven Heismans)

@Did not play in a bowl game 

Alabama (9**8 considered legitimate): 1925, 1926, 1930, 1961, 1964*lost bowl game, 1965, 

1978, 1979, 1992 (zero Heismans)

4 .  Oklahoma (8, post-WWI: 7): 1915, 1950, 1955, 1956, 1974***NCAA probation, 

1975, 1985, 2000 (four Heismans)

5.  Minnesota (7, post-WWI: 6): 1904, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1941, 1960 (one Heisman)

6. (tie) Michigan (6, post-WWI: 5): 1902, 1918, 1923, 1933, 1948, 1997 (three Heismans)

6.(tie) Miami (5): 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001 (two Heismans)

6.(tie) Ohio State (5): 1942, 1954, 1957, 1968, 2002 (six Heismans)

6.(tie) Nebraska (5): 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997 (three Heismans)

 

Other National Championships Won by Traditional Modern Powers  

 

Arkansas (1): 1964 

Auburn (2, post-WWI: 1): 1913, 1957 (two Heismans)

Brigham Young (1): 1984 (one Heisman)

Florida (1): 1996 (two Heismans)

Florida State (2): 1993, 1999 (two Heismans)

Georgia (2): 1942, 1980 (two Heismans)

LSU (2): 1958, 2003 (one Heisman)

Penn State (2): 1982, 1986 (one Heisman)

Tennessee (3): 1938, 1950, 1998

Texas (3, post-WWI: 2): 1914, 1963, 1969 (two Heismans)

Washington (1): 1991

 

National Championships by Other Teams

 

Army (2): 1944, 1945 (three Heismans)

California (3): 1921, 1922, 1937

Chicago (1, post-WWI 0): 1905 (one Heisman)

Clemson (1): 1981

Colorado (1): 1990 (one Heisman)

Georgia Tech (3, post-WWI: 2) 1917, 1952, 1990 

Harvard (6, post-WWI 0): 1890, 1898, 1901, 1908, 1910, 1912

Illinois (1): 1927 

Michigan State (2): 1951, 1965**lost bowl game   

Mississippi (1): 1960

Pennsylvania (2, post-WWI: 0): 1895, 1897

Pittsburgh (3, post-WWI: 2): 1916, 1937, 1976 (one Heisman)

Princeton (19, post-WWI 0)): 1869, 1870, 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1877, 1878, 1879, 

1881, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1889, 1893, 1896, 1899, 1903, 1911 (one Heisman)

Stanford (2): 1926, 1940 (one Heisman)

Syracuse (1): 1959 (one Heisman)

TCU (1): 1938 (one Heisman)

Texas A&M (2): 1919, 1939 (one Heisman)

Yale (12, post-WWI 0:  1876, 1880, 1883, 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892, 1894, 1900, 1906, 1907, 

1909 (two Heisman)

 

National Champions By Conference Since World War I

 

Pacific 10: 19 

USC, 12: 1928, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, 2003, 

2004, 2005 

California, 3: 1921, 1922, 1937

Stanford, 2: 1926, 1940 

UCLA, 1: 1954

Washington, 1: 1991

10 Heismans

 

Big 10: 18 

Minnesota, 6: 1934, 1935, 1936, 1940, 1941, 1960

Michigan, 5: 1918, 1923, 1933, 1948, 1997

Ohio State, 5: 1942, 1954, 1957, 1968, 2002

Illinois, 1: 1927

Michigan State, 1: 1951

13 Heismans

 

Southeastern: 18 

Alabama, 8: 1925, 1926, 1930, 1961, 1965, 1978, 1979, 1992 

Tennessee, 3: 1938, 1950, 1998

Georgia, 2: 1942, 1980

LSU, 2: 1958, 2003

Auburn, 1: 1957 

Florida, 1: 1996

Mississippi 1: 1960

8 Heismans

 

Independents: 15 

Notre Dame, 11: 1920, 1924, 1929, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 

1988

Penn State, 2: 1982, 1986

Army, 2: 1944, 1945

11 Heismans

 

 

Big 12: 13

Oklahoma, 7: 1950, 1955, 1956, 1974***NCAA probation, 1975, 1985, 2000

Nebraska, 5: 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997

Colorado, 1: 1990

8 Heismans

 

 

Southwestern: 6 

Texas, 2: 1963, 1969 

Texas A&M, 2: 1919, 1939

Arkansas, 1: 1964

TCU, 1: 1938

5 Heismans

 

Big East: 8

Miami, 5: 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001

Pittsburgh, 2: 1937, 1976

Syracuse, 1: 1959

4 Heismans

 

Atlantic Coast: 4

Florida State, 2: 1993, 1999

Clemson, 1: 1981 

Georgia Tech, 1: 1952

2 Heismans

 

Western Athletic: 1

 Brigham Young, 1: 1984

1 Heisman

 

All-Time USC Football Team

OFFENSE

POS. FIRST HONORABLE MENTION

QB    Matt Leinart 

Pat Haden, Carson Palmer, Paul McDonald, Rodney Peete

TB    O.J. Simpson 

Charles White, Mike Garrett, Ricky Bell, Frank Gifford

FB    Marcus Allen 

Sam "Bam" Cunningham

WR   Lynn Swann 

WR   Mike Williams 

      Keyshawn Johnson, Erik Affholter, Bob Chandler, Dwayne Jarrett

TE    Charles "Tree" Young

OT    Anthony Munoz 

OT    Ron Yary  

Tony Boselli, Ernie Smith, Don Mosebar, Pete Adams, 

Keith Van Horne, John Vella

OG   Brad Budde 

OG   Bruce Mathews

Aaron Rosenberg, Roy Foster, Johnny Baker

C      Stan Williamson

 

DEFENSE

POS.  FIRST HONORABLE MENTION

T        Marvin Powell 

John Ferraro

DT     Shaun Cody 

DT     Ron Mix

Mike Patterson, Tim Ryan 

DE     Tim Rossovich 

DE     Willie McGinest

Mike McKeever, Charles Weaver, Keneche Udeze

LB      Junior Seau 

LB      Richard "Batman" Wood 

LB      Clay Matthews, 

Dennis Johnson, Chip Banks, Adrian Young, Charles Phillips, Chris Claiborne

DB    Ronnie Lott 

DB    Tim McDonald

DB    Troy Polamalu

Dennis Smith, Dennis Thurman, Joey Browner, Mark Carrier

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

KR   Reggie Bush 

Anthony Davis

P      Tom Malone

PK    Frank Jordan,

Ron Ayala

 

OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Matt Leinart

DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Ronnie Lott 

                         COACH: John McKay 

Pete Carroll, Howard Jones, John Robinson

 

All-Time Greatest Collegiate Athletic Programs

 

1.  Southern California Trojans

2.  UCLA Bruins

3.  Texas Longhorns

4.  Miami Hurricanes

5.  Michigan Wolverines 

6.  Alabama Crimson Tide 

7.  Ohio State Buckeyes

8.  Florida State Seminoles

9.  Stanford Indians/Cardinal

10. Oklahoma Sooners

11. Louisiana State Tigers 

12. Tennessee Volunteers 

13.  Notre Dame Fighting Irish

14.  Penn State Nittany Lions

15.  Arkansas Razorbacks

16.  Florida Gators

17.  Indiana Hoosiers

18.  Georgia Bulldogs

19.  Texas A&M Aggies

20.  Oklahoma State Cowboys

21.  Arizona State Sun Devils 

22.  Auburn Tigers

23.  Duke Blue Devils

24.  North Carolina Tar Heels

25.  Syracuse Orangemen

26.  California Golden Bears

27.  Brigham Young Cougars

 

All-Time College Basketball Programs

 

1.    UCLA Bruins

Indiana Hoosiers

North Carolina Tar Heels

Duke Blue Devils

Kentucky Wildcats

Kansas Jayhawks

Michigan Wolverines

Ohio State Buckeyes

Virginia Cavaliers

Michigan State Spartans

Nevada-Las Vegas Runnin' Rebels

Louisville Cardinals

Arizona Wildcats

Stanford Cardinal

West Virginia Squires

San Francisco Dons

Syracuse Orangemen

Maryland Terrapins

 

All-Time College Baseball Programs

 

Southern California Trojans

Texas Longhorns

Cal State Fullerton Titans

Arizona State Sun Devils 

Miami Hurricanes

Stanford Indians/Cardinal 

Louisiana State Tigers

Florida State Seminoles

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Florida Gators

Mississippi State Bulldogs

Texas A&M Aggies

Arkansas Razorbacks

Arizona Wildcats

Georgia Bulldogs

Oklahoma Sooners

California Golden Bears

Fresno State Bulldogs

Michigan Wolverines

Clemson Tigers

 

Prep football

 

De La Salle H.S. (Concord, Calif.)

Mater Dei H.S. (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Poly High School (Long Beach, Calif.)

Moeller H.S. (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Highland Park H.S. (Dallas, Texas)

Hoover H.S. (Alabama)

Punahou H.S. (Honolulu, Hawaii)

Mission Viejo H.S. (Calif.)

Clovis West H.S. (Fresno, Calif.)

Baylor School (Chattanooga, Tenn.)

St. Thomas Aquinas H.S. (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida)

Jenks H.S. (Oklahoma)

 

Prep basketball

 

Verbum Dei H.S. (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Crenshaw H.S. (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Mater Dei H.S. (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Cardinal Gibbons H.S. (Baltimore, MD.)

De Matha H.S. (Hiattsville, MD.)

Power Memorial Academy (New York, N.Y.)

McClymonds H.S. (Oakland, Calif.)

New Trier H.S. (Winnetka, Illinois)

 

Prep baseball

 

Lakewood H.S. (Calif.)

Redwood H.S. (Larkspur, Calif.)

Sharpstown H.S. (Houston, Tex.)

Rancho Bernardo H.S. (San Diego, Calif.)

Fremont H.S. (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Serra H.S. (San Mateo, Calif.)

Clovis West H.S. (Fresno, Calif.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART ONE

 

THE WILD, WILD WEST 1880-1918

 

The growth of California, the need for a first class university in Los Angeles, and the popularity of football in the West

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

THE METHODISTS LEARN TO "FIGHT LIKE TROJANS"

Competition from Cal and Stanford spurs USC 

 

A Methodist, a Catholic and a Jew founded the University of Southern California in 1880 as a private institution near downtown Los Angeles. It was a non-denominational university, but became identified with the Methodist Church. Los Angeles was, up until that time, a sleepy pueblo surrounded by the sea, desert vistas, canyons, mountains and valleys where oranges and other “exotic” fruits and vegetables grew in wild abundance. The Spaniards dominated the political and social influence of Southern California. Father Junipero Serra, who traversed the state founding Catholic missions, had led them. Catholicism was the dominant religious ethic, and the citizenry was heavily Hispanic. The Mexicans who lived in the area and owned much of the land considered themselves Americans, for the most part. Over time, however, white Americans had populated the area in large numbers. By 1880 the need for a top-notch university was fulfilled by USC. As the whites moved in, emboldened in part by the U.S. victory over Mexico in the 1847 war, more and more Spanish and Mexican land barons moved out, sometimes by force. A seething resentment on the part of the Hispanic community began. It still lives, to some extent, to this day.

The “big city” in California was not Los Angeles. It was San Francisco. Next came Sacramento, which was the hub connecting the Trans-Continental Railroad to San Francisco in the west and the Sierra Mountains in the east. Historians have often asked why the railroad was built over the Sierras. The safer, easier route was to the south, then across the deserts that could have by-passed both the Rockies and Sierras, through Arizona and on into Southern California to L.A. Connecting rail lines to San Diego in the south, San Francisco and Sacramento in the north would have been easier to construct over the Tejon Mountains, or along the Pacific Coast, than the treacherous Rocky and Sierra passes that were constructed.

The answer to the question as to why the “Southern route” was not chosen: Abe Lincoln and the Civil War. Lincoln was a huge supporter of the railroads, who in turn supported his candidacy with money and favors. When the slavery question threatened War Between the States, it was decided that the lines would not be built through Confederate states. Slaves likely would have been conscripted to perform the labor that actually was handled, in large part, by Chinese immigrants.

When the line finally was built, and the war eventually ended, people in the Midwest and South could come to California. Before the Trans-Continental Railroad, San Francisco was the “civilized” city that was populated by people from the East Coast. They favored the Union. The City was populated by Europeans, many from England, and Orientals. The first settlers had come via covered wagon, but this was a perilous journey. “Sophisticates” preferred ships, which made their way via the Cape of Good Hope or from Asia.

With the creation of the railroad, men and women from America’s heartland came to California. 400 miles separate San Francisco from L.A., but those 400 miles represent (and today is no different) a psychological divide between north and south, or to use political terms, Northern California and the Southland. Southerners did not “cotton” to the East Coast Yankees who made up San Francisco’s power structure. They tended to find their way to L.A. Midwesterners, up to their ankles in frozen winters, chose the year-round sunny climes of the Southland over the oft-foggy Bay Area. San Francisco’s “elite” tended towards ribald Barbary Coast hedonism, and less towards traditional Christianity. The new Los Angelenos were more conservative and churchgoing.

Over time, many changes would occur. Los Angeles and environs would became more populated, its vast expanses and weather providing an enormous attraction. The population expansion would become possible when, in 1904, L.A.’s “city fathers,” led by chief engineer William Mulholland, cut a controversial deal with the Owens River Valley in the southern Sierras. An aqueduct was created to divert precious water to L.A. Many more canals, aqueducts and dams would be built over the years to quench the seemingly insatiable thirst of a continually growing populace.

World War I showed L.A. off to servicemen passing through for training. The Rose Bowl drew Midwesterners to L.A., too. But the original mindset, in which San Francisco and the north was viewed as liberal, while Los Angeles and the south was seen as more politically conservative and Christian, has never truly gone away.

 

While the University of Southern California was indeed founded by members of different religious backgrounds, in its early years its sports teams were known informally as the Methodists. 

In 1880, Los Angeles was home to about 10,000 residents. Approximately 1,000 of those citizens arrived by horse and buggy to dedicate the university, which consisted of little more than a small frame building in a mustard field, surrounded by wild cockleburrs. The school was erected some two miles south of what is now known as downtown L.A., and approximately the same distance from the city's Spanish origins on Olvera Street. At the time, its residential surroundings were the finest neighborhood in the city; Victorian mansions, palm trees, gauzy and exotic with exquisite views of the Santa Monica Mountains to the northwest and, in the winter, the San Gabriels capped with snow. It was then, and on clear winter days still is, nothing less than a spectacular sight.

Los Angeles was, until World War I, a very quiet pueblo. From 1880 to 1915, the city center consisted mostly of downtown businesses and the University. Western Avenue, located a few miles from the campus, marked the end of the city. To the west were open fields; farms and orange groves. The famed Hollywood Hills were empty canyons, home to coyotes and numerous other wildlife. A small town was growing about seven miles northwest of USC. It was called Beverly Hills. Beyond that lay virgin lands in what is now known as Westwood, and still further west was a thriving beach resort, Santa Monica, where the wealthy and the fun-loving sought summer fun. 

Outlying suburbs such as the San Fernando Valley and Orange County were still essentially frontier outposts. 

In 1888, the university fielded its very first football team.

"Perhaps it was the invigorating country air of the lane known as University Avenue or maybe it was just the rugged stock of those pioneer students," recalled former athletic information director Alfred Wesson. "At any rate, the desire to win athletic championships along with scholastic honors was revealed early in the history of the University of Southern California. Within a few years after the founding of the University, 11 sturdy young men sporting handlebar moustaches and padded vests drew lines on a vacant lot, erected wobbly goalposts and challenged all comers to contest in that 'new-fangled push-and-tug' business called football."

The sport, while popular with participants, was not an immediate draw with the general public in Los Angeles. USC did not have any major natural rivals, whereas the two Northern California universities, California and Stanford, quickly lined up against each other like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Football thus entered the consciousness of Californians. 

In the late 19th Century, principally Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Rutgers played the best football in the Ivy League. The game, which had morphed from the English sport of rugby, had become extremely violent and dangerous in the 1880s. The infamous "Yale wedge" had caused numerous injuries and even deaths, prompting rules changes.

Prior to 1895, the official school color was gold. The color of the College of Liberal Arts was cardinal. A marriage between the colors was entered into, and ever since Troy has fought under Cardinal and Gold. Years later, USC's famed assistant football coach, Marv Goux, would say: "Gold is what every man wants. Cardinal is the color of blood, which he will shed in order to attain it." 

According to the late, great Los Angeles Times sportswriter Mal Florence's 1980 book, The Trojan Heritage, much of USC's early football history was compiled by Harry C. Lillie, a Los Angeles attorney, was a "125-pound end on the first rag-tag USC team," wrote Florence.

"The only available opposition was a club team which carried the name of Alliance," said Lillie. "Our first game was November 14, 1888, right at the University and we won by a score of 16-0." 

In the 1890s, the so-called "Athletic Association" at Southern Cal was underfunded. Baseball was more popular than football, but all sports took a back seat to such Gay '90s fads as eating contests, according to The Rostrum, a school newspaper. The paper reported that girls participated in these contests as enthusiastically as boys.

During years in which USC did not even field a football team, crowds of 50,000 were watching Harvard, Yale and Princeton play in the Ivy League. Stanford had more luck attracting interest, and in 1892 drew a crowd of 9,500 to a football contest played in San Francisco. Crowds approaching 20,000 showed up for the  "Big Game" with California.

The weather in Northern California is excellent, but it is more Mediterranean in the Southland on a year-round basis. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where California and Stanford are located, the football season is played during its best time of year. The "Indian summer" months of September and October usually offer warm sun, little rain, and a cessation of wind and fog. Late October and November can be unpredictable, with climes ranging from moderate to chilly. 

In any given year in the Southland, however, the divide between fall and winter sees little seasonal change. In modern years, comedians like Johnny Carson have joked about Santa Clause figures wearing Bermuda shorts on Hollywood Boulevard. December and January occasionally brings rain to Northern California. One song says, "It never rains in Southern California." While sometimes, as the song later intones, "it pours," it more often does not. Warm sun often marks the holiday season.

Around the turn of the century, business leaders in the Los Angeles area began to see the advantage of their weather and decided to actively try and "catch up" with San Francisco as a major hub of Pacific commerce. The plans that would eventually result in the building of the aqueduct that brought water to its desert basin from the Sierra Mountains were put into place. 

Nearby Pasadena is a beautiful town which had seamlessly combined Victorian sensibilities and Greek architecture with Spanish tradition. It had grown early on as a railroad and horse stop, with a growing upper class. It was a town with Southern, Christian and military roots. One prominent family, the Pattons, occupied a large tract of land in nearby San Marino. Young George Smith Patton Jr., the scion of Revolutionary and Civil War heroes, grew up riding and hunting in the wilds of the San Gabriel foothills. He would eventually lead American forces to victory at the Battle of the Bulge, splitting the Third Reich into pieces as the commander of American forces driving the Nazis to defeat in World War II.   

Pasadena was eager to draw business and tourism. The Chamber of Commerce decided that football would be a big draw. A Tournament of Roses committee was formed, resulting in a popular downtown parade and New Year's Day celebration on the grounds of Tournament Park. Located in the Arroyo Seco, in the shadow of the spectacular snow-topped San Gabriel Mountains, it is currently the home of the prestigious Cal Tech University. A football game began there in 1902, when Stanford journeyed from the north and Michigan from the Midwest to play each other. Michigan won going away, 49-0.

Stanford's plastering soured the idea of football against "Eastern teams." The game was put on hold for a number of years. The Tournament of Roses and the attendant parade, however, continued to grow in popularity.

In the 1900s Michigan took to football and developed into a major power, on the strength of its great victory over Stanford in the first Rose Bowl. The Far West was still considered a football backwater, although natural rivalries between California, Stanford and later Southern California were heated. The railroads and weather made travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco pleasant, so the games often were the impetus for adventurous vacations. 

Despite Stanford's loss to Michigan in the first Rose Bowl (chariot races replaced football on New Year's Day for 14 years), early recognition came to the Northern California schools. The first Walter Camp All-American was Lawrence Kaarsberg of California in 1889. Frank Slater of Stanford earned the same honors in 1900.  

The importance of football at USC began to grow.

"The time was when a graduate would return to his own college and coach the team purely out of loyalty and love or he would go to another college and teach the rudiments of the game just for glory," read the Los Angeles Times of September 6, 1897. "Those times are past now; a football professor in these days draws a bigger salary than the average professor in chemistry or any other sciences."    

Under coach Clair Tappan in 1901, USC played only one game - a 6-0 loss to Pomona. Tappan was either too embarrassed to return, or the loss was too galling for the University to request him to.

In 1904, USC lost to the Sherman Indians, 17-0, but the game was considered a moral victory because Sherman had played Carlisle to a 6-6 tie. Carlisle, an Indian college back East, would feature the great Jim Thorpe and Coached Glenn "Pop" Warner, who would go on to become a legend at Stanford. 

In the mid-1900s, it could be argued that the best football team on the West Coast was not Stanford, California or Southern California, but rather Los Angeles High School. Ken Rapaport's The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football, described them as "brawny" and "pugilistic." Southern Cal defeated the "six-foot lads from the prep school on the hill" 34-6. L.A. High was a team which had broken "the back of California's Golden Bears as well as a number of other universities and colleges which tramped across their path," wrote Pigskin Review. USC's victory signaled a major rise in the school's grid fortunes.     

Ivy League coverage continued to overshadow press reports of USC football. Fielding Yost's Michigan powerhouse had earned the sobriquet "point-a-minute" Wolverines. Opponents often consisted of Pomona, Whittier, Occidental, Los Angeles High School, and various military teams. In 1905, coach Harvey Holmes, a Wisconsin graduate, took Troy to five victories by a combined 205-0 score. However, when Southern California ventured north to play Stanford, they met their match and then some, losing 16-0. It was the first "major college football game" in USC history. A year later, though, Southern Cal won a big contest from Occidental by a 22-0 tally. Shortly thereafter they became independent of any conference affiliation. They wanted a more regular rivalry with the northern schools as well as greater recognition than just the Los Angeles area.

In 1909, Dean Cromwell took over. Despite USC's feeling that they deserved to big more than a "big fish in a little pond," local rivalries and conference affiliation would not die easily over the next few years. Cromwell was an Occidental man himself. He was constantly being courted by his alma mater to return and bring them glory. 

"The coach became convinced," read the 1909 USC yearbook, "that to cement the team into a unit which should possess an invincible spirit it would be necessary to have a training table where the men could eat their meals and sleep and enjoy each other's companionship, where football was the only subject of discussion from morning to night."

Schools like Pomona and Occidental considered USC to be strong rivals. In 1909, USC's campus experienced a " 'jolly up' before the big Occidental-USC football game," according to local newspaper accounts. "A huge bonfire in the middle of the field, around which students waved in the serpentine dance, lighted up the scene, where for more than an hour prophecies were made as to the outcome of this afternoon's game." 

"Oxy" was burned in effigy. 3,500 fans saw the two teams play the next day at Occidental's Bair Field. 

"Never did those crowds see a finer, cleaner, faster game," wrote sportswriter Chester Lawrence. "It was the apotheosis of Southern California's greatest amateur sport." The game ended in a 3-3 tie.

By 1910, Southern California's enthusiasm for football was at such a pitch that charges of professionalism permeated the exchange between supporters of the Bay Area schools and those of USC. 

"The football team was being accused by the Los Angeles Times of certain 'irregularities' in technical features of the game and criticized by Pomona College for not meeting eligibility requirements," wrote Manuel P. Servin and Iris Higbie Wilson in Southern California and Its University. "Then the University Advocate reported that a check for $25 had been made out to the football team captain, Dan Calley, for 'services rendered.' "

"Has professionalism been present in our school and no one the wiser?" asked USC's school newspaper.

Money was already an important factor in collegiate sports. After Cromwell came on board, his demands for athletic dormitories were accompanied by a $3,500 outlay for new playing facilities. Victories over Occidental and Pomona resulted in wild street celebrations resulting in police intervention. As USC began to assert its football supremacy, heated words between Southern California and the "lesser" schools, mostly involving accusations of bribery and academic miscreancy, created heated rivalries; at least on the part of Occidental and Pomona. USC was looking for bigger fish to fry. Thus was born the famed USC "arrogance," in which their beaten foes yearned to get the better of them, and they would pay little heed. 

Cromwell also contended with "fraternity cliques."

"Demoralizing to consistent training and team spirit, so essential to athletic success, is the influence of the clique spirit on the athletic squads," said Cromwell. "I have had all kinds of troubles with certain players on the football team, and I could not at first discover the reason for the dissatisfaction until I found out the players giving the most trouble were members of the college fraternities."

These "frat players" were peeved at Cromwell's disciplined ways. They found sympathetic ears among their fraternity brothers. A greater allegiance was felt to the frats than to the football team, at the cost of good sleeping and living habits, which had a detrimental effect on their performance. 

In 1910, 5,000 people attended the Southern California-Occidental game at SC's Bovard Field. After USC's 6-0 win, the newspaper reported, "New and open football triumphed over the old, close formations Saturday afternoon at Bovard Field. The game was close and hard fought all the way and the superiority of the open game as played by Cromwell's Puritans <a nickname of the time> was manifest at every stage of the contest." 

On November 17, 1910, USC played what up to that time may have been their biggest football game. Pomona had beaten Occidental 28-0. The resulting 9-9 tie was called "the hardest fought gridiron contest staged in this vicinity…" according to Spaulding's Football Guide.      

In 1911, however, the violence issue which had emerged some 20 years earlier again reared its head. Former President Theodore Roosevelt had threatened restrictions, and in 1911 Southern California went to English rugby for three years.

At a track meet between Stanford and USC in 1912, L.A. Times sports editor Owen R. Bird wrote that USC's athletes "fought like Trojans." USC's unofficial nicknames, the Methodists and sometimes the Wesleyans and even the Puritans, officially became the Trojans. 

"The term 'Trojan'; as applied to USC means to me that no matter what the situation, what the odds or what the conditions," Bird later recalled, "the competition must be carried on to the end and those who strive must give all they have and never be weary in doing so."

This was a calculated decision, spurred on by University president Dr. Warren Bovard, who according to Bird had decided that USC's athletics would "enter the big league." At the time, this certainly seemed to be a daunting task. The northern schools, California and Stanford, whether playing rugby or football, were still considered to be advanced in this arena. They were not yet nationally-recognized programs such as was found in the Ivy League, at Michigan, and at Army.

In 1913, a game was played that would have an effect on the game, the nation, and eventually the University of Southern California. A tiny Catholic school from South Bend, Indiana, Notre Dame University, did battle with the powerful Army Cadets. Up until this time, the so-called "forward pass" was either not used or used only in times of desperation. But Notre Dame quarterback Gus Dorais and end Knute Rockne had been working on it in secret. They unleashed the pass not as a desperation measure but as part of their regular game plan against Army. Caught off guard, the Cadets could not stop it. The Dorais-Rockne heroics led the Fighting Irish to an upset victory. This put Notre Dame on the map. Over time their fortunes became intimately intertwined with that of the USC Trojans.

One year later, events in Europe would have an effect on West Coast football. California, because of its fair weather and wide open spaces, was home to numerous military bases and training camps. Many soldiers would come to the state and fall in love with it. In 1917, the U.S. entered World War I. America's involvement pushed the balance of power in France. Fresh U.S. troops would spur the Allies to victory in the Argonne Offensive. In November 1918 the Germans capitulated. Young men, hardened by war  and disciplined by military service, would enter colleges shortly thereafter.      

Under Ralph Glaze in 1914, Southern Cal had returned to American football, and a 28-10 whipping of California demonstrated that USC was a team to be reckoned with. 

"The Trojans have the only chance they have ever had to win a football game from California," read pre-game prognostications. "If they let this slip by, the chances are 100 to 1 that they will ever have another." USC proved that they could "come back" after three years of rugby with the win over the Golden Bears.

In 1915, USC's Cromwell, considered by many to be the greatest track coach in history, took over football duties again. Over the next three years he led USC to an 11-7-3 mark.

"Cromwell was a fine gentleman and particularly kind," recalled Chet Dolley, who would play for Cromwell in the 1920s. Cromwell was the archetypal "father figure" to his players. He would encourage them, put his arms around them, and spur them on to efforts above and beyond their normal playing abilities. Players would walk the campus with their sweethearts and beam when Cromwell would meet them with the cheerful appellation "champ."  

Up at Berkeley, the California Golden Bears were determined to move to the next level in football, which after a few years of rugby they had returned to. In 1917, however, Southern California played them to a highly significant scoreless tie. That was the highlight of Cromwell's football coaching career, and signaled that the Trojans would be a program to be reckoned with.

Cromwell's first love was track, however.

"Cromwell had Charlie Paddock, who was billed as the 'the world's fastst human;' Fred Kelly, an Olympic high hurdles champ; and Bud Howser," recalled Dolley. 

Kelly became a pilot; the first to fly airmail from Salt Lake City, over the Rockies to the West Coast.

"Cromwell was an excellent coach, but his main idea was to make you feel as if no one could beat you," recalled longtime sports information director Al Wesson in The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football by Ken Rappoport.

In the history of college sports, there have been many great dynasties and coaches to go with them. Among the great champions, in football Notre Dame experienced the eras of Knute Rockne (1920s), Dick Leahy (1940s) and Ara Parseghian (1960s-70s). Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma (1950s) and the 20-year run at Southern California under John McKay and John Robinson (1962-81) rank highly, along with powerhouses under Bear Bryant at Alabama, Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Tom Osborne at Nebraska and Bobby Bowden at Florida State.

In basketball, terrific, longtime dynasties were established at Kentucky under Adolph Rupp in the 1950s, UCLA under John Wooden in the 1960s and '70s, and at schools such as Indiana (Bobby Knight), Duke (Mike Krzyzewski), and North Carolina (Dean Smith).

Dick Leach built Stanford into a tennis power, and Peter Daland did the same thing with USC's swimming program. The Tennessee Lady Vols are a modern women's basketball dynasty of the first order. L.A. Times sports columnist Jim Murray once wrote that UCLA coach Al Scates, "Is to volleyball what Napoleon was to artillery."

Rod Dedeaux at USC and Cliff Gustafson at Texas developed collegiate baseball juggernauts.

However, in the entire history of college athletics, men's or women's, no coach and no program has ever been as dominant as track and field at the University of Southern California under Dean Cromwell.

In 40 years at the helm, he produced champions in each Olympic Games from 1912 to 1948, and eventually he would become the American Olympic coach. His teams won 12 national championships in 19 years. His legacy helped launch the Trojans to seven more national titles after he left. The 26 national championships won by Southern California track is so far and above all other competition as to render a sense that there are, for all practical purposes, rules for the Trojans and then rules for the also-rans. By comparison, Notre Dame has won 11 football national championships and USC has won 12. USC baseball has won the College World Series 12 times. UCLA has 11 NCAA basketball titles.

In 1915, the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (PCC) was established. Within a few short years, membership included California, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State. The conference champion automatically went to the Rose Bowl game. After a period of years in which the New Year's celebration featured chariot racing, Tournament of Roses officials decided to give football another try.  The result was an enormous boon to West Coast football. It also officially replaced the last vestiges of rugby in the West.

The Washington Huskies had run up an incredible 63-game winning streak playing against mostly Northwest competition. Most football historians, while noting the greatness of this record, do not consider it the "modern" record, which is held by Oklahoma, winners of 47 straight in the mid-1950s. The "modern era" of West Coast football is roughly seen as the period when the PCC was formed, the old rugby rules were done away with, and World War I ended.

The post-war era that followed would be one in which Americans pursued leisure activities with money to spend; transportation improved, thus allowing fans to travel to sporting events; equipment and medicine improved; stadiums would be built to accommodate large crowds; and radio made it possible for millions of fans to thrill to the games.   

The emergence of the West as a major sports power was swift, and entered the public consciousness with great force in a short period of time. On January 1, 1916, Washington State shocked the Eastern establishment by humbling Brown, 14-0 in the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, rare bad weather kept the crowd to 8,000, causing the Tournament of Roses to lose money, but they were not deterred. The future was now plainly revealed. 

On New Year's Day, 1917, Oregon shut out Penn, 14-0, causing the New York Sun to rank Western teams in their final polls. 

Southern California had enhanced their schedule in a big way. Beginning in 1915, they began to play California on a yearly basis. That same season, they took on such "big time" programs as St. Mary's, Oregon and Utah. In 1918, they played Stanford for the first time since being shut out by the Indians in 1905. They held their own, but were not considered the "best of the West" by any stretch of the imagination. USC drew good crowds and were turning handsome profits from football. Efforts to modernize Bovard Field, however, ate up much of the budget. The ball park, which was suited for baseball (and would host Trojan diamond champions until 1974) never would be suitable for the kind of football environment USC was engendering. 

In 1917, USC won four games and tied the Golden Bears of Cal. Colorful nicknames were given to Southern Cal's star players: "Rabbit" Malette, "Tank" Campbell, "Turk" Hunter, and "Duck" Miller. Dan McMillan starred without appellation.

Malette was called "the greatest backfield man the University of Southern California ever produced" up until that point in time. His play was furthjer decsribed as "grand… spectacular… brilliant." Frank "Rabbit" Malette was a broken-field runner with great footwork and tackle-dodging talents. He was an all-purpose man who ran back kicks and was said to "as slippery as an eel." 

A number of players dropped out of school to sign up for military service, thus missing the 1918 season and causing an abbreviated schedule. Some, like McMillan, would return not at USC, but at rival California. He would be a star on what, up until then, was the greatest college football team ever assembled.

The war would make a big difference in a million ways, but in Los Angeles another factor was coming into play. The Hollywood film industry had putting the city on map. 

Film was an invention that had emerged from the great work of Thomas Edison, a New Jersey inventor who had created electricity. It had been "perfected," as it were, by Lumiere, a Frenchman. It had become an art form in Hollywood.

The great weather in Southern California, combined with virginal landscapes of mountains, oceans, deserts, canyons and all other form of natural environment, meant that any kind of setting could be created at any time of the year. A snow scene could be captured at nearby Big Bear or in the Sierras. Biblical desert scenes could be found in Palm Springs. The San Fernando Valley resembled the Wild West - because it still was!

The wanderlust that had propelled Easterners to find a new life in their search for gold was replaced by a desire to re-make ones' self in the movies. Aside from the rugged, hearty types who had long come to California, a new breed of artiste - sometimes of European descent - found their niche in this fantasy world. They were accompanied by the cigar-chomping New Yorkers who saw business opportunity and would make up a fair number of the agents, producers and moguls who made dreams happen, sometimes honestly and sometimes not. A racial egalitarianism began to take shape, too. Movies needed a diverse group of people to fill the screen, resembling exotic locales. Many Jews found that their talents were welcome in this new place. Women, particularly beautiful young girls, discovered new powers in this medium. By 1920, women had turned their powers into the right to vote.

Movie studios began to pop up throughout the city. The industry spurred growth. Hollywood, a sleepy ranch community a few miles northwest of downtown L.A., became the hub of the movie industry. Just west of Hollywood, the gauzy, palm-dotted Beverly Hills expanded with mansions on its hill for the new "stars" to live in. With the growth of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, real estate west of Western Avenue took shape, connecting the resort town of Santa Monica with Beverly Hills. Houses alongside a tract of farm land began to be built, in a place called Westwood.

In 1915, Hollywood produced a blockbuster called Birth of a Nation.  D.W. Griffith's classic is studied to this day in film schools, not just because of its artistic merits but because of its controversial political message. The notion of film as a socio-political tool took shape. The film made huge box office and spurred the industry, which by the end of the 1910s was L.A.'s biggest business. 

The growth of Hollywood and Los Angeles would coincide with that of the University of Southern California. The school and its football program were about to embark on the quest for, and achievement of, glory beyond anything that could have been imagined.

 

 

 

PART TWO

 

A NATIONAL GAME 1919-1940

Notre Dame and USC put college football on the map: Rockne, Jones and the two glamour schools 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

 

THERE IS A THERE THERE 

The Trojans and college football after World War I : "Gloomy Gus" Henderson's team was no Lost Generation

 

 

"Once they seen Paree," one possibly apocryphal American general is supposed to have said, "you won't be able to keep 'em on the farm anymore."

Indeed, many young Americans did see Paree - Paris - during and after World War I. When President Woodrow Wilson entered the U.S. into the war, on the heels of Russia's Communist Revolution and pull-out from the allianace, General John "Black Jack" Pershing announced that no U.S. troops would fight under any flag or command other than America's. This caused some consternation with the British and the French, and also meant that from April of 1917 until early 1918, large numbers of American personnel lived the café life in Paris while Englishmen and Frenchmen died in the killing fields just down the road. This indeed caused great resentment with the local male population.

All of that was forgotten when the U.S. engaged the enemy with full force. It was this engagement that proved decisive in victory. It also ended the idealism of many young, fresh-faced American soldiers. In the years after the war, a large number of Americans stayed in Europe, particular Paris. An ex-patriate literary commuinity developed. Giants of this "Lost Generation" were Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, and Gertrude Stein.

Stein once visited Oakland, California and wryly remarked, "There's no there there." Had she traveled just a few miles to the north, to Berkeley and the campus of the University of California, she would have seen that there was most definitely something there, and in the post-war years that was the greatest collegiate football juggernaut seen in America up to that time. They were the "Wonder Teams."

The rise of the California Golden Bears under coach Andy Smith totally revolutionized college football. It symbolized a Westward shift in the nation's sensibilities, and created various theories. It was felt that great sports teams in the West were the result of a form of genetics. Hardy settlers had come by covered wagon to mine for gold in the late 1840s. Women who made and survived the trip had to be physically fit in order to survive the perils of sickness. Children of these people were naturally strong. 

As Hollywood rose up, a new breed of attractive men and women came to California to pursue their dreams. These handsome men and women naturally found each other's arms, and they would produce still more physical, attractive and athletic kids.

"Maybe it's the sunshine," wrote famed New York sports columnist Grantland Rice. "Maybe it's the abundance of fresh fruit available for the picking on the trees. For whatever reason, the California athlete is bigger, stronger than his Eastern counterpart. He's a superman of sorts, a hybrid."

At California, Rice's theory seemed to have some validity. The Bears picked up where Washington State and Washington had left off. With the Rose Bowl gaining in popularity every year, their rise came with considerable national attention.

Naturally, when judging college football dynasties, many factors are considered. The Cal Golden Bears did not have or compete against black players. Many of large stadiums were not yet built. The game was still in the growing stage. However, the growth of college football was coming about in large part because of what they achieved. Certainly the Notre Dame, USC, Alabama and Oklahoma dynasties of later years might overshadow them in the historical context, but Smith's teams were groundbreakers.

Smith was the first coach to truly recruit players, particularly from outside the school's geographic area. Up until the post-World War I period, by and large college football programs fielded a roster made up of players already in school who tried out for varsity play.

Smith hired an assistant from Southern California named Nibs Price. Smith was aware of the shifting demographics of California. The population was growing in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego. Great athletes were emerging from the sun-kissed playing fields of the Southland. Smith knew that it was only a matter of time before USC, a natural rival, would benefit from all these players entering their school, and he was determined to countermand this.

Smith also had to compete with Stanford for playing talent in the Bay Area. San Francisco and Oakland were hotbeds of sports talent, too, but unlike Los Angeles, these prospects had not one but two top universities to choose from.

So Smith put Price to work. He had numerous contacts with Southern California prep football coaches, and through these connections was able to bring in a gold mine of football stars to Berkeley. The result was nothing less than a powerhouse, above and beyond anything yet seen at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Army, Notre Dame or Michigan.

The recruitment of high school stars created a series of prescient problems. The great young athletes at Cal were much like prima donnas who make up the college football scene today. Incensed by Smith's hardnosed attitude and demanding practice regimen, they threatened to leave school despite having won the mythical national championship of 1919.

A summer meeting was arranged in Fresno, half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Price took a train and met with the Southern California contingent. An agreement was hammered out in which Price agreed that Coach Smith would tone down the brutal nature of his practices. If Cal's player were prima donnas, it did not curtail their effectiveness on the field. Led by All-American Brick Muller and Dan McMillan, who had transferred from USC, the Wonder Teams dominated college football through the 1922 season. Their success and popularity would lead to the building of new stadiums in the West.

In Berkeley's Strawberry Canyon, the marvelous Memorial Stadium was erected. Down on The Farm, Stanford Stadium was built. Pasadena erected the Rose Bowl to accommodate their New Year's Day game, and a few miles away, across the street from the USC campus, the L.A. Memorial Coliseum went up. The Coliseum was built by the city to house their Trojans, and also to entice the Olympic Games, an event that would announce to the world that Los Angeles had "arrived."

In 1919, a small college opened for business on Vermont Avenue near downtown L.A. It was an "extension" of the University of California. The state education system had decided to expand beyond its Berkeley base. Originally, the L.A. extension was called "Southern Branch." They did not immediately field a football team, but they did play baseball and tennis. Pretty well, in fact. Good enough to beat the Trojans. In 1920, "Southern Branch" changed its name to the University of California at Los Angeles. At around the same time, USC decided to cancel sporting matches with UCLA. They were expected to win, and to lose to the upstarts was embarrassing. A rivalry was bornb.  

 

The rise of football in the West, which coincided with the "arrival" of the region in general, was not lost on the University of Southern California. They went after Elmer Henderson, who had compiled a glittering record as a player and coach in the Northwest. After a Navy commission in 1918 he was brought in to put the Trojans on the map with schools like California and Washington.

Henderson knew football, and he also knew psychology. He quickly earned the moniker "Gloomy Gus" because he regaled the writers with tales of his team's woes. 

"Pomona will mop us up," he announced prior to Troy's 6-0 win.

"Did you ever see a rottener college outfit than that one of mine?" he asked rhetorically before taking on Poly High School.

"Nope, it isn't possible," Poly's coach said tongue in cheek.

When asked about his "star" player, Charles Dean, Henderson skoffed, "Stars? Why I haven't a man on the team who could make a first-class high school eleven. Someone told me when I came here that Charles Dean was a star. I never suffered such a surprise in my life when I beheld him in action. He's a joke. I'll have to start him Saturday, because my squad is limited in size. He's a good fighter, that's all I can say about him."

Dean took affront to his coach's assessment of his abilities and was seen stomping off the practice field shortly thereafter. A reconcilitaion was effectuated, and Dean led the team's win over Pomona.

"It was our only chance," said Henderson. "Fight, that's what did it. I knew if I could instill the spirit of fight in my team USC would be returned the victor."

Henderson's style of putting down his own team and building up opponents became a tradition that coaches like Lou Holtz and others would incorporate to this day, although a savvy media has long ago recognized the fallacious nature of such tactics.

"Therein lies the secret of Gus's freak nickname - as well as its fallacy," said Leo Callan, who played for him. "Whenever the newspapermen approached Henderson concerning the ability of his team, he told them the truth. But the gods of fate were unkind, and invariably 'Gloomy's' trick squad came through by winning the game and giving the newspapermen a chance to disprove Henderson's pessimism."

The name "Gloomy Gus" was based on a popular cartoon character of the era. There was nothing gloomy about the Trojans' performance on the football field, however. Henderson coached from 1919 to 1924. His teams twice won 10 games in a season, won the first Rose Bowl played in the new stadium that stands to this day, and compiled an overall 45-7 record.

But Henderson's tenure was a harbinger of the future, and not just in terms of his negative assessment of his teams. He was hired to beat Cal. He failed in this endeavor (0-5). Despite the greatest winning percentage in USC history (.880), he was fired because of it.

Henderson introduced revolutionary spread and T-formations. Henderson also was a "mercenary" coach, of sorts, in that he was hired after a major search was embarked upon to find a successor to Cromwell. The Los Angeles Examiner had been campaigning actively for the "upgrade" of USC football. It was felt that the school and the city itself needed the national recognition that came with a top-rated football team. In the days prior to commercial airlines, theWest Coast was not "eligible" for a Major League baseball team or even a team in the brand new NFL. 

Examiner sportswriter Harry Grayson was given the assignment of bringing in Henderson, who was a recognized talent from his playing days at Oberlin College and his subsequent prep coaching career. The clincher came when Henderson promised that he could "deliver" all the stars from his team at Broadway High School in Seattle. 

In 1919, the Trojans defeated Stanford handily but lost to Cal by one point. In 1920 they chose not to schedule the Golden Bears, and managed its first perfect season. Cal Tech, Stanford, Occidental, Pomona, Nevada and Oregon fell. A loss to Cal was the only scar on the 1921 schedule. In 1922, their 12-0 loss to Cal was played in the brand new Pasadena Rose Bowl. Cal chose not to go through the expense of another trip to Southern California representing the Pacific Coast Conference. Thus, USC was chosen to play in the first actual Rose Bowl game played in the stadium, when on January 1, 1923, they handed Penn State a 14-3 loss. 

It was around this time that Stanford and Cal began to accuse Henderson of recruiting improprieties. In truth, Henderson had stanched the flow of Southern California high school stars that had previously flowed to Andy Smith in Berkeley. The population of Los Angeles was growing by leaps and bounds. In 1880, 1,000 of Los Angeles' 10,000 residents had shown up to see 53 students enter USC's first class. By 1923, they were in the process of going from that 10,000 residents to 1 million by 1930. This was the fastest rate of growth in world history. The high schools of the L.A. Basin were filled to overflowing and great athletes made the area a recruiting bonanza.

"He was a good recruiter," recalled Chet Dolley. "He got the best boys from local high schools. He also got his players to recruit. One of my 'assignments' was to bring in Morley Drury to the school."

The advantage of good weather and great talent attending nearby high schools was something no other school in the nation could match, then or now. Most coaches must expand their recruiting base to well beyond the nearby confines of the campus in order to find players. Not so at USC. Of course, as USC gained in stature, many, many stars from other geographic vicinities also expressed a desire to go to college in Los Angeles and be Trojans.

Henderson was known as a clean liver, very fair and approachable. He opened up the passing game and was innovative. The fledgling National Football League picked up on his approach to offensive football. Stanford and Cal became fearful of a juggernaut at USC that would steal their thunder. 

Stanford had hired Glenn "Pop" Warner, the great Carlisle coach who had once mentored Jim Thorpe. In 1924, the Indians dominated with Ernie Nevers and went to the Rose Bowl, where Knute Rockne's Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated them. Warner was frustrated at his inability to beat Henderson's Trojans, though. It was said that his continuing inability to establish dominance over USC when Howard Jones took over was the driving motivation behind Warner's eventual decision to move back to the East. Despite never having lost to Henderson, Cal joined Stanford by "banning" the Trojans from their schedule after 1924. After that season, however, it was Henderson who lost his job because he could not beat Cal. 

In that 1924 season, Henderson's nine wins included victories over Syracuse, Missouri, Idaho, Oregon State, Nevada and Arizona, a truly modern schedule that would be considered difficult by modern standards. 

Following the 1925 Rose Bowl, when Notre Dame beat Stanford, Rockne was in a jocular mood.

"I'll have to come out and coach USC to show them how to beat the California teams," he told the writers.

This statement was seen as an overture on Rockne's part to come west and take over at USC. In a move that was not USC's finest hour, school officials decided to fire Henderson and negotiate with Rockne. Records are sketchy, and the official mythology has it that Rockne never seriously considered the Southern Cal offer. His great loyalty to his alma mater is part of the legend. 

However, Rockne's success vs. Stanford did have Southern Cal officials thinking that, despite Smith's Wonder Teams, there was something superior about the Midwestern football style. Rockne did eventually say no to Southern California, but he offered up the recommendation of Iowa's Howard Jones, who did come west. The story may be different from the Pat O'Brien version, though.

"Rockne came to USC for a football seminar and we saw a lot of him," said Gwynn Wilson, USC's student manager of the era. "We didn't have a coach and we talked to Rock about the job. He agreed to come, subject to getting a release from Notre Dame. Mrs. Rockne had fallen in love with Southern California. We had hopes but they <Notre Dame> talked him into staying. Maybe it was better that Rock stayed there and we got Jones." 

Jones would benefit greatly from the program that Henderson had developed, which included recruitment of SC's first All-American, Brice Taylor. Henderson would go on to Tulsa, where he turned that program into a Southwestern power. He eventually returned to L.A. as coach of the professional Los Angeles Bulldogs, later the Detroit Lions, and finally a stint at Occidental.

A plaque at USC's Heritage Hall proclaims Henderson to have been, "A courageous competitor who inspired his men to fight like Trojans." 

"He was a thoroughly principled and clean man," recalled one of his players, Leo Calland. Calland himself was one of those star players who came to USC with Henderson from Washington. Calland became a star guard, although he was versatile and played various positions.

"I played every place," he said. "In my sophomore year we didn't have a center, so I played center. In my junior year I played running guard, and in my senior year I played tight end and sometimes defensive center."

In his first year at SC, 1919, only 26 players showed up for fall practice (although they were a quality group that included many of the Broadway High stars). After winning the 1923 Rose Bowl, Henderson had his pick of Southern California talent.

"About 100 turned out for the freshman team the following year," Calland recalled.

Calland coached on Howard Jones' staff after his playing career ended, and rated Henderson the equal of the great Jones. He coached a USC freshman team that included Gus Shaver, Jim Musick, Johnny Baker, Ernie Smith and Erny Pinckert. The group would go on to win the 1931 national championship.

Henderson's "failure" to beat Cal, which was the purported reason for his firing, certainly was not a failure. Andy Smith's team beat everybody. After losing to Washington, 7-0 in 1919, Cal went undefeated for the next few seasons. They won by unheard of scores during a defensive era; 127-0, 79-7. They scored 514 points one season vs. 14 for their opposition. After trouncing Ohio State, 28-0 on January 1, 1921, the Big 10 refused to return to Pasadena until 1947, when the Big 10 and the PCC contracted to play every year.

Despite the fact that Cal beat almost everybody by huge margins, Henderson played them tough. The 1919 game saw the Bears rally late for a 14-13 win. After losing to Cal, 38-7 in 1921 and 12-0 in 1922, subsequent defeats were close: 12-7 (1923) and 7-0 (1924). But close was not good enough for "Gloomy Gus" or the Trojans.

Henderson's tenure, however, saw the rise of USC from being a "neighborhood school" of sorts to an elite institution. In 1919, work began on the administration building at a cost of half a million dollars. The Italian-Romanesque structure stands today. Although neither the Rose Bowl nor the L.A. Memorial Coliseum were built by USC, the popularity of football in the Southland, which USC was responsible for, did give rise to those monumental structures. The fact that the Coliseum was built across the street from the campus was no accident.

USC's yearbook, El Rodeo, said that Henderson's first year of 1919 produced success "beyond all hopes…" 

Some of Henderson's "men of might," as L.A. Times sports editor Braven Dyer Sr. described them, were fullback Charley Dean; linemen Swede Evans, Andy Toolen, Ken Townsend, John Fox, Deacon Beale, Jimmy Smith, Lowell Lindley, Eddie Simpson, Orrie Hester, Bill Isenhour, Johnny Leadingham, and back Dan McMillan (who would transfer to Cal)

USC did not play Cal's "Wonder Team" of 1920, and despite an undefeated record were denied the Rose Bowl berth. Cal destroyed Ohio State in front of 42,000. 

In 1922, USC sold 850 season tickets and drew 9,000 for the Cal game. That was USC's first year in the PCC. Sports hyperbole described the Trojans.

"At a late hour last night, Dr. Sivens, popular and well-known veterinary surgeon, announced that the Occidental Tiger would live but there was little hope that it will ever look the same," read one account of Henderson's wide-open offensive attack vs. Occidental. 

"Though the score reads USC 10, Stanford 0," read another report, "the true status of the beating is not at all revealed by the figures…the score (could) have read more like a city census than a respectable ball game. Never was the Trojan goal in any danger and but twice in the game was the ball in Trojan territory in the hands of the enemy."

After USC had beaten all six opponents by a combined score of 170-21, then gone 10-1 in 1921 (outscoring foes by 362-52), two criticisms reared their head. Losing to Cal, 38-7, their only loss, seemed a bigger deal than all the victories. The weakened schedule, which in 1921 included several service teams (now that the war was over military football was unimpressive) provided little lustre. The obvious task at hand was to join the PCC, to beat Cal, and gain Rose Bowl invitations.

Henderson was a tough taskmaster who did not tolerate mental errors. When Charley Dean fumbled no less than three times in an otherwise easy 35-7 win over Pomona, "Gloomy Gus" ordered Dean to carry an inflated football with him at all times for a week; to the class room, to bed, everywhere. 

"Take it with you to your class rooms, to training quarters, to your meals and take it home with you at night," Henderson ordered him. "Everywhere you go, that football must be under your arm. Maybe you'll learn to hold it by the time we play California."

The fumbled football incident has been repeated numerous times over rthe years, and was depicted in a college football movie called The Program.

"If I could smear Dean's arm with glue that might help," Henderson said prior to the Cal game. "Or maybe I might persuade California to let my backfield men carry the ball in a sack. I'll have to invent something to stop that fumbling."

Andy Smith was the opposite of "Gloomy Gus". He predicted his teams to win.

"Bet the bank roll on California," he announced prior to the 1921 game. Rumor had it that Smith and Henderson made a $2,500 private bet in those pre-NCAA days. 

When asked about the bet, Henderson was his usual pessimistic self, stating to the writers that he predicted a three-touchdown loss and that, besides, he did not have that kind of dough. 

Hundreds of USC alumni took the ship Yale from Los Angeles on a 400-mile coastal trip north to San Francisco Bay for the game, which drew 26,000 to California Field (Memorial Stadium was under construction). It was, up to that time, the biggest football game ever played, with scalpers getting $15 for tickets. 

While Rockne was already in the process of turning Notre Dame into a major power, the Midwestern teams were down and Eastern football, in the aftermath of the war, no longer was what it once had been. California was the new superpower and their biggest rival was Southern California. The game would be for the supremacy of the college gridiron. USC was desperate to take that mantel, but it was not to be.

Smith took a page from Henderson's aerial playbook and passed the ball up and down the field.

"Perfect forward passing let California beat Southern California, although USC made many more yards than USC in line plays," read one news report. "Andy Smith's chief scoring strategy was a forward pass on a fake punt end run play, which brought the ball down to within scoring distance repeatedly."  

That day, the Cal rooting section and their colorful marching band put on a display. Whether it was the first such display is not known for sure, but on the West Coast the demonstration of card stunts of blue and yellow spelling C-A-L was unique. On the field, the blood ran hot, but Henderson prevented his team from starting fights. When the Cal rooters hurled lemons at the USC bench, Henderson quelled trouble by having Charley Dean make a display of handshaking sportsmanship with a Cal player named Stephens.

Despite the loss, USC, along with Nevada, was invited to join the PCC. This would put them in a position to earn Rose Bowl berths.  

"He took a small Methodist college and put it into a strong Pacific Coast Conference," Leo Calland recalled. "It was quite an achievement."  

1923 saw USC's entrance into the PCC. By that year, USC, California and Stanford were three of the top programs in the U.S. Alabama was building a power. Illinois was a Midwest up and comer. Notre Dame was wildly successful. But the state of California was quickly showing itself to be the center of college football, and this caused jealousy. A Seattle newspaper, unnerved that their place in the gridiron world was being usurped, accused all three California schools of unethical conduct.

"Let us restore the conference to the northern part of the Pacific Coast and let <California> shift for itself in the future," they editorialied.

"Washington hasn't taken any too kindly to California's domination of what Washington believes its own," replied L.A. Herald Examiner sportswriter Mark Kelly.  

 On October 28 35,000 fans arrived to see the first football game ever played at the Pasadena Rose Bowl (built for $272,000). Unfortunately, the new stadium failed to produce a different result for the Trojans. Cal won, 12-0. It was SC's only loss of the year. Andy Smith's Bears chose not to make the second trip to the Southland, so the invitation went out to USC to play Penn State on New Year's Day. 

With the building of Stanford Stadium, there had been strong efforts to play the "Rose Bowl" not at the Rose Bowl, but in Palo Alto. History may have been changed by virtue of the fact that Stanford had scheduled a regular game at their stadium on December 30 vs. Pittsburgh, making it problematic.

Further controversy came from USC president Rufus Von KleinSmid, who decried the "commercialism" of college football in the wake of Cal's snub of the Rose Bowl and tickets ($5.50) priced beyond the ability of most students to purchase them. 

Furthermore, the building of new stadiums demonstrated a heretofore unheard-of problem. Football teams wore numbers, but in large stadiums most fans and writers, no longer sitting in cozy, small settings, could not see them. This would lead eventually to larger uniform numbers, and many years later (mainly with the rise of television) actual names on their backs.  

The Rose Bowl game was scheduled for 2:15 p.m., but by 2:30 Penn State was no place to be found. Finally, Nittany Lion coach Hugo Bezdek walked through the tunnel. The excuse for his team being late would be used many times over the years in L.A. They were caught in traffic.

The building of the Pacific Electric Railway and the popularity of the Model T, combined with good roads to downtown L.A., had helped turn Pasadena into a major city of 300,000 people. A crowd of 43,000 showed up for the game, and the sun was hot. Henderson and Bezdek entered into an argument. Henderson stated that the Penn State coach had stalled because his team was not used to playing in the heat, especially in the winter. After Henderson called Bezdek a liar, the Penn State coach told "Gloomy Gus" to remove his glasses so they could enter a proper fight - at midfield! Henderson declined, stating that it would be "wiser if the two teams decided the issue." The fact that Bezdek had fought professionally in Chicago helped tilt Henderson's decision, too.

Bezdek had already stirred trouble by barring photographers from his practices. He would not be the last visiting Rose Bowl coach to find trouble with cameramen, as Woody Hayes would show some 50 years later. An enterprising Examiner lensman managed to surreptitiously capture the Penn State practices. They were splashed all over the paper's pages.

Stanford coach Pop Warner, who had coached in the state of Pennsylvania before venturing west, built the Lions up. By game time, when running back Harry "Lighthorse" Wilson made several long gains leading to a field goal by Mike Palm, it looked like the concept of California superiority, espoused in part by Grantland Rice, was based on a false premise.

"This early score prompted us to change our defense," said Leo Calland. "Immediately after that scoring drive, I pulled our tackles and ends in and drifted wide myself from my center position. We found that Penn State's main power was inside from a shift either way. So we switched from a seven-man diamond defense to a six-man line with me playing a sliding center. I filled when a hole opened or drifted with the wide stuff."

The adjustments made, USC developed their running attack, managing a drive to the Penn State one, but lost the scoring chance by fumbling into the end zone. They did come back, however, and Gordon Campbell scored on fourth down from the one to give Troy a 7-3 lead. 

Campbell and Roy Baker fueled a third quarter drive that ended with Baker also scoring from a yard out to cap Southern Cal's 14-3 win. Because Penn State had shown up late, thus delaying the game in the middle of the winter, the game ended in near-darkness with writers lighting matches in order to complete their game stories. 

Henderson compared good coaching to cigarettes, "because the effect…always tells in the long run." It was a thinly veiled critique of Bezdek. Then he made an unveiled assessment of the Penn State coach.

"Hugo Bezdek is no gentleman," Henderson said. Certainly it was USC which had made the adjustments after Penn State had driven on them early. Bezdek had obviously not enjoyed his time in the winter California sun. His surliness, like his trouble with cameramen, would start a longstanding tradition of disgruntled Eastern and Midwestern coaches at the Rose Bowl. It was as if, unless the weather was fowl and the conditions miserable, they could not be happy. Certainly, the near-perfect West Coast climate must offer some reason for their teams losing.

"The best team lost," Bezdek stated after the game. He said USC was lucky, intimated that the cross-country travel was the reason his team failed to win "by 40 points," and polished off his classless act by saying, "I wish Elmer Henderson had left his glasses on," in reference to the pre-game near-fight.

The 1923 Rose Bowl was also the very first college football game ever broadcast in L.A., carried by KHJ. The 1922-23 seasons were monumental in building up football at the University of Southern California, what with the team's entrance into the PCC, the building of the Rose Bowl and their appearance there, which was their first-ever bowl game, period. 

But the 1923 season saw what was the most important single landmark event in the school's gridiron history. That was the erecting of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 1923 was the year that the two most famous stadiums in American history were built. In New York, the "House That Ruth Built" - Yankee Stadium - went up in the Bronx.

The impact of the Coliseum cannot be overstated. It turned USC into a major national football power. It would do the same for UCLA, in time. It attracted the 1932 (and later 1984) Olympics to Los Angeles. It can be compared with the building of the Aqueduct in its impact on the city's growth.

Built in the style of the Roman Colloseum, L.A.'s version would also be the home of the Los Angeles Rams, the Los Angeles Dodgers for three years, one World Series, an All-Star game, the Pro Bowl, L.A. City and CIF-Southern Section championships, the North-South Shrine all-star high school game, and international soccer matches. It would be the site of major music concerts, revivals and speeches, including George Patton's famous homecoming after winning World War II. It would be depicted in numerous movies and TV shows. It would spawn the neighboring L.A. Memorial Sports Arena, the home of USC basketball for 45 years; the NBA's Clippers and the ABA's Stars; and the 1960 Democratic National Convention, just to name a few highlights.

The Coliseum is old now, but in its heyday it was the crème de la crème of sports stadiums, equaled in grandeur only by Yankee Stadium. It would set and re-set many attendance records, and its distinctive look - peristyles and urban landscape - make it one of the most recognizable TV sports arenas on earth. 

Over the years, many Trojans would play high school, college and professional football at the Coliseum. 

One of the early Trojans stars who played on that 1923 team was quarterback Chet Dolley, who had come to SC from Long Beach.

"The good teams started at this time," he said. "Henderson had some fine players, and he actually built the nucleus that Howard Jones inherited. Jones later came in and had national champions with the material that Henderson left him.

"It was single wing in those days. We had a fatter football, and it was harder to pass because you couldn't hold the ball so well."

The rise of SC football continued to strain relations Stanford and Cal, who seemed to feel - as did Washington - that it was their inherent birthright to dominate in football.

"There were strained relations with Stanford and Cal when they canceled games because they were jealous of our good teams," said Dolley. "They always used to beat USC, and the Trojans came back and started to beat them. They charged under-the-table dealings, said we must have been subsidizing athletes. But we couldn't do it - we were too poor.

"In those days, players didn't get anything. Kids didn't even own cars. It was a different life. And when we worked we worked for 40 cents an hour. Heck, even the football looked like a basketball before we could buy a new one. By the time we through kicking it around, it really got tattered on the ends and just ballooned out of proportion."

Dolley's tale of poverty was exaggerated. The accusations of payoffs led Cal's student body to bastardize USC's fight song, which led with, "Fight On! For ol' SC, our men fight on, to victory." Cal's version was, "Fight On! For ol' SC, our fullback needs, his salary."

Further aggravating the situation, the groundskeeper at USC's Bovard Field, their home before the Coliseum and also site of SC's freshman games, had flooded the field with water despite 90 degree temperatures - whenever Cal came to town with a strong running atack!  

SC had many advantages which they used to induce players to come to their school. College football was a big time deal by the mid-1920s, but it was sour grapes on the part of Cal, Stanford or Washington to accuse the Trojans of improprieties above and beyond what they or schools in other parts of America were doing.

Henderson went for good people, on and off the field. Dolley was one of them. He was president of the student body and later forged a successful law practice before striking it rich in the oil business.

USC's first game at the Coliseum, a 23-7 win over Pomona, drew a sparse crowd of 12,863, but 72,000 were on hand a few weeks later to observe a 13-7 loss to Cal. Henderson earned a $1,000 bonus for his contributions, which were a financial boon to the school once the Coliseum was built, but frustration over losing to the Bears mounted. 

"If Henderson ever succeeds in bowling over the Golden Bear," one sportswriter wrote, "the Trojans will make him a present of a couple of miles of Broadway frointage."

At Palo Alto, 20,000 were on hand to see SC's 14-7 victory over the Indians.

The Coliseum made for large enough crowds to begin card stunts in 1923. The motion picture industry also began to get involved. Actress Carmel Myers offered two free tickets for the Motion Picture Directors' Association costume ball to the USC player who scored the first touchdown vs. Arizona. USC won, 69-6.

USC's 9-0 win over Idaho also ushered in the era of night football.

"Powerful arc lights played from the parapets of the vast Los Angeles Coliseum and the phantom shapes of red and blue-jerseyed athletes carried their battle into the fast descending darkness," read one account.

In 1924, things started going downhill for Henderson. The dispute with the northern schools came to a head. Cal and Stanford both canceled games with USC. While Cal beat Troy, 7-0, before 60,000 fans at Memorial Stadium, the Bears decided to cancel the 1925 game. In the mean time, Stanford had already threatened to cancel the 1925 game, so USC retaliated by not playing them in 1924.

This of course led to accusations that USC was avoiding Stanford because the 1924 team may have been Pop Warner's best. Led by the great Ernie Nevers, Stanford would go on to the Rose Bowl, where they lost to Notre Dame.

Henderson's squad was successful, finishing 9-2 with a 16-0 homecoming win over Syracuse and a 20-7 victory over Missouri in the Christmas Festival. However, they tied for a disappointing fourth in the PCC. 

1924 was the year that Grantland Rice penned his story about the "Four Horsemen of Notre Dame," which elevated the Fighting Irish to national status, much of it fueled by a "subway alumni" of Irish and Catholic football fans. Red Grange emerged as a star at Illinois, so the myth that was being spread was that Midwestern football was superior.

Despite the questions surrounding his team (and the PCC in general), many feel that 1924 was Henderson's best team. If his job was in jeopardy, then there were few outward indications. The school upgraded his salary to $7,000, making him one of the highest-paid coaches on the West Coast. School officials stated that Cal and Stanford were spreading rumors about Henderson's demise. 

Beating Syracuse and Missouri provided the Trojan program with further national respect. The team was led by Dolly, Mort Kaer, and Jeff Cravath. 

Eventually, an amicable agreement was reached with Stanford and Cal, which was based on agreed standards for entrance requirements and eligibility rules. However, the damage was done regarding Henderson. 

The rise of the Wonder Teams, entrance into the PCC, the building of great stadiums in Berkeley, Palo Alto, Pasadena and Los Angeles, the popularity of the Rose Bowl, and Henderson's 45-7 (.865) record over six years had made college football a nationally recognized success at SC and on the West Coast. However, the hiring of Howard Jones in 1925 would have the effect of a major California earthquake. Its effects are being felt to this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

THE THUNDERING HERD

The "Head Man," the rivalry and a great tradition 

 

It is true that Red Grange, the "Galloping Ghost" of Illinois, was a phenomenon in the mid-1920s. Crowds at Illinois, Michigan, Ohio State and throughout the Big 10 Conference were huge. But Grange's greatest impact is felt on the professional game. It was his presence which translated the enormous crowds of his college career to the young National Football League, thus ensuring the NFL's success.

The college game, however, was turned into a truly national game by the rivalry between USC and Notre Dame, and that rivalry was marked from the beginning by the two coaches, Knute Rockne and Howard Jones.

"SC wanted to get Knute Rockne," said Ambrose Schindler, the quarterback from 1936-39, "and he said 'no, but a young man who just beat me is Howard Jones.' He beat Notre Dame 7-6 and Rockne recommended Howard Jones to the University." 

Carl Benson, an offensive lineman from 1939-40: "He was unique, very straightforward, not saying too much, not asking too much, you never questioned what he said. He was the kind of fella who'd walk down the street and he'd go his way and you'd you go your way."

"Howard Jones was always described as taciturn, granite-faced," said USC historian Joe Jares. "He loved golf, and maybe he was personable with his golfing buddies, but players and those who covered him said he was taciturn, and obsessed with football."

"I think this year we'll play and have an opportunity, with the toughest schedule of any team in the country, why, to do something, it's up to you," Jones told team one year:

"Howard Jones was to USC what Pop Warner was to Stanford, what Knute Rockne was to Notre Dame," said Art Spander, an Oakland Tribunecolumnist. "He was basically; they just took the program and pushed it to the next level. He made SC football what it later became. The tradition was started, the Thundering Herd, what people have always expected of USC started under him. Now they always expect them to be a great football team."

"He was the toughest taskmaster I ever knew," stated Nick Pappas, who played for the "Head Man" in the 1930s. 

Players who "hated his guts" grew to love him because he made them great. He made athletes go above and beyond themselves. 

"Jones was the kind of guy who would tell you to run through a wall - and you'd ask him, how high?" said Pappas.

Jones took over at a time in which the rules were not clear. Players took advantage of inconsistent officials, often cheating and playing dirty. Jones would have none of it. 

"He taught me to play it clean," said lineman Gene Clark. 

Descriptions of Jones - "impeccable integrity," honesty", "dignity" - remind one of the superlatives used to describe UCLA baseball coach John Wooden in a later era.

Jones had a brother, TAD, who was also a coach and who was considered more colorful. According to Allison Danzig in his book Oh, How They Played The Game, it was Jones's lack of flair that prevented him from getting the full measure of credit he deserves. Danzig pointed out that "systems" were named after his contemporaries, Rockne and Warner, but not after him, even though he was one of "the most ingenious and progressive minds of the game."

The naming of a still-popular national youth league after him immortalized Warner. Rockne was depicted by Hollywood in glowing fashion. Jones had to settle for a highly popular football board game and the eventual naming of USC's practice field after him.

He had greater success against Rockne than any other coach. His team outclassed Tennessee, coached by the great Bob Neyland. He coached at the same time as Amos Alonzo Stagg, Bernie Bierman, and Jock Sutherland. His USC record stacks up with anybodys. He won four national championships, five Rose Bowl games (without a loss), and eight PCC titles, with a record of 121-36-13 (.750, ironically lower than Henderson's).

In many ways, the style of Jones's teams, which was straightforward without a lot of flamboyance, mirrored later Trojan teams under John McKay and John Robinson, not to mention the Browns of Paul Brown and the Packers of Vince Lombardi. USC's reputation as "Tailback U." really began under Jones. 

"His team had more straight power than deception," recalled Nate Barrager, captain of the 1929 squad. "He always believed that if the men did their individual jobs, the play should go. There was nothing fancy. We'd actually tell the other team where we were going to run the ball - and then just ran it through that spot."

Jones's philosophy mirrored the "power" game espoused by Woody Hayes, which has often been compared to military tactics. 

"Football to me means power - massed power, functioning smoothly, driving forward relentlessly," Jones said. His words could easily have described those of Patton.

Longtime USC sports publicist Al Wesson is credited with calling Jones "The Head Man." One photo of Jones directing his team in practice speaks to the nickname. Jones towers over linemen gasping for breath, arms gesticulating, each players' eyes (including a young John Wayne's) on him with rapt attention. When he spoke, his players listened.

Jones had been born in Ohio. He and TAD took to football, which led both of them to Yale, which was the pinnacle of the college game at the time. In 1906 and 1907, Jones was named to Walter Camp's prestigious All-American teams.

Jones immediately went into coaching. His 1909 Yale squad was, along with the 1901 Michigan Wolverines, the greatest team ever, up to that point. Yale produced an undefeated, untied season, six All-Americans, and never allowed opponents inside their 30. 

Jones also coached single seasons at Syracuse and Ohio State. His second stint at Yale began in 1913. Then he retired, only to take the job at Iowa in 1916. He compiled a 42-17 record with the Hawkeyes over an eight-year period. His teams were known as offensive juggernauts, and were undefeated in 1921 and '22. 

In 1921, Jones set the wheels in motion for his future by leading the Hawkeyes to a 10-7 victory over Rockne's Irish, ending Notre Dame's 21-game winning streak. This laid the groundwork for the SC-Irish rivalry.

"Now, don't forget," Rockne told Jones at mid-field after the game. "You owe me a game. 

"You'll get it," Jones replied.

There would be four of them between Rockne and Jones, and 77 between the schools as a result of that handshake.

Rockne averaged a loss a year, so any coach who could beat him earned his admiration. Jones was a wanderer. He was one of the first coaches to take different jobs at different schools, not just for the career opportunities but out of a sense of professional challenge. 

Despite winning at Iowa, Jones moved on to Duke, where he was 4-5. After the 1924 season, when Henderson was fired at USC, school officials went after Rockne. Rockne had made a side remark about coming to Southern Cal and showing them how to beat the other California schools, since he had just knocked Stanford around in Pasadena.

Unlike Jones, Rockne was no mercenary. No matter what his motivations, he is credited with staying at his alma mater even though he had opportunities, at USC and elsewhere, to make far more money at institutions that probably would have made it easier to succeed in football than an academically strict Catholic school. The fact that he stayed, and despite those restrictions won in glorious fashion, separates Rockne from the field of legendary coaches.

Despite Jones's losing year at Duke, Rockne remembered the man who had engineered Iowa to victory over his squad in 1921. He recommended Jones to USC. Jones fit the profile of the tough Midwesterner, which thanks to Rockne (and the "Four Horsemen" image) was the "flavor of the day," so to speak.

It is often as important to be lucky as it is to be good. Jones was both. He was lucky in that Henderson had taken over the Southern California recruiting game, which Andy Smith and Nibs Price had dominated a few years earlier in building Cal's dynasty. Jones's first team was star-studded.

"It was among one of the best Southern Cal teams in standpoint of material," recalled Leo Calland. 

The Rockne-Jones connection meant everything; first in Jones getting the USC job, and second in starting the USC-Notre Dame rivalry. Prior to 1926, which was the first year the game was played, Notre Dame was already mythologized. They had played to enormous crowds at Yankee Stadium, upending strong Army teams, taking on all comers (actually, playing an extensive road schedule), including Pop Warner's Stanford Indians in the Rose Bowl.

The "Four Horsemen" story, which was written by Grantland Rice in October 1924, is considered one of if not the most influential sports columns ever written. In the years after World War I, during the age of Prohibition, conservative, Christian revivalism swept the nation. There were some who thought the rise of Notre Dame football to be an act of God.

Prior to the 1926 game, USC was an emerging power, but no more than that. Cal was the dominant team in the West. Stanford had a longer tradition (although they were as frustrated at not being able to have their way with SC as SC was in not being able to beat Cal). Army was still a national power. The Ivy League was still fairly strong. Red Grange was helping to put the Big 10 on the map. Alabama won national championships in 1925-26. USC was the new kid on the block. 

In the beginning, at least, it was Notre Dame who put them on the map by scheduling them, but the rivalry very quickly evened out and became something that elevated both programs, very evenly, to the very highest perch of college football. They are still the two leading contenders for that perch to this day.

The first game, in Los Angeles, drew 74,378 fans. The 1927 and 1929 games were played at Soldier Field in Chicago, drawing unbelievable throngs of 120,000 and 112,000. This is the best evidence that USC held their own as a rival right from the get-go. They were seen as the "best of the West," which no doubt annoyed Cal and Stanford. The games drew interest above and beyond any possible Notre Dame opponent, thus effectuating the scheduling of the games at the biggest stadium in America. With the eventual expansion of the Coliseum, L.A. crowds would top the 100,000 mark   

In 1925, Jones's team was 11-2. The Cal-Stanford dispute still had a hangover effect, with the Bears left conspicuously off the schedule. Stanford gained a measure of revenge for the slights felt at Henderson's hands, beating Southern Cal 13-9 before 70,000 at the Coliseum. Washington State, who had been a Rose Bowl representative a decade earlier, when football in the Pacific Northwest was, in fact, the "best in the West," was more than happy to teach the Trojans that there were still plenty of good teams on the coast. Before a paltry crowd of 12,000, which may have contributed to the Trojans' taking the Cougars lightly, Washington State prevailed, 17-12. 

USC beat St. Mary's, 12-0, to finish the 1925 campaign 11-2. The St. Mary's contest was not a cakewalk. When Stanford had threatened to cancel the 1925 game, USC canceled the 1924 game - one week before the game. They invited little St. Mary's, a Catholic school in the Bay Area, to Los Angeles. The Gaels won, 14-10. This began a fairly serious rivalry between USC and St. Mary's, who played off and on for two decades, both teams giving as well as they got. 

The 1925 Trojans featured the "Red Bluff Terror," Morton Kaer, and the school's first-ever All-American. Brice Taylor was a man ahead of his team. He was black, part Cherokee Indian, and had only one hand!

The story of how the USC-Notre Dame rivalry began is rife with the kind of storytelling myth that permeates its history. Jones had surveyed the landscape, nationally and locally. He saw that Notre Dame was the kingpin of college football, replacing the old champ, California.

Jones knew, of course, that under Henderson the Trojans could not beat the Bears, and that both Cal and Stanford, while worthy opponents, were capable of classless acts of jealousy that he wanted his team to rise above. Jones understood that weather and demographics now favored USC over Northern California teams in the recruiting wars, but he wanted that higher profile. 

He yearned for Southern California to achieve prestige over and beyond the other powers and wanna-bes of the 1920s, whether that be Illinois, Michigan, Army, Yale, or Alabama. The challenge in achieving that, as Jones saw it, would come by overcoming two huge obstacles. The first would be to get Notre Dame not just to schedule USC, but to schedule a series of games. The second would be to actually beat the Irish.

The nature of this way of thinking, which has always been a hallmark of USC's competitive nature, was embodied years later by USC coach and athletic director Jess Hill. 

"There was a period when we were having trouble beating them and people would ask me, 'Why do we schedule Notre Dame?' he said. "I would answer, 'How are we going to beat one of the finest institutions in the country if you don't schedule them?' "

The beauty of the USC-Notre Dame rivalry is that there were periods when the shoe was on the other foot (such as has been the case for the last few years), and Notre Dame would answer the query exactly as Hill did.

Getting Notre Dame to agree to play his team was the task that Jones gave to USC student manager Gwynn Wilson in November 1925. Notre Dame was in freezing cold Lincoln, Nebraska for a season-ending game with the Cornhuskers. Wilson and his young wife took the Sunset Limited to Lincoln to ask Rockne for the game. 

Wilson could not get to the busy Rockne at the stadium or anywhere in Lincoln. Notre Dame's loss had Rockne in a less-than-jovial mood, anyway. He boarded the train Notre Dame was taking back to Chicago. With Rockne "captive" in the train, and able to relax with the game now over, Wilson approached him, got the audience, and made his pitch.

Rockne was respectful and told Wilson the Trojans had gotten a great coach in Jones, but that the administration at Notre Dame was already giving him a hard time about putting the team on the road so much. Notre Dame Stadium was not yet built, and the audience demand to see them play required that they travel. Wilson may have gotten Rockne to agree had he painted a vivid picture of the enormous crowds that would see the teams play at the new Coliseum and at Soldier Field, but Wilson was unable to make the sale. He returned to his compartment, wondering how he would explain his "failure" to Jones.

Enter Mrs. Marion Wilson and Mrs. Bonnie Rockne. On a train filled with football players, football coaches, football writers and football fans, they found in themselves women and kindred spirits. Gwynn found his wife engaged in excited conversation with the coach's wife, and was delighted at what they were talking about: shopping.

Yes, shopping, for it was shopping that started the USC-Notre Dame game. Mrs. Rockne liked to shop. She liked to travel. She liked to travel to warm weather places. She had just spent the day freezing her you-know-what off in a town that had no shopping! Mrs. Wilson, bless her, painted a colorful picture of Rodeo Drive, the emerging boutique boulevard of Beverly Hills where the nouveau riche and famous of Hollywood were buying all those fabulous fashions that she saw in the movie magazines. Mrs. Rockne had already gotten a taste of the Hollywood lifestyle when she had accompanied Rock to L.A. for a coaching clinic.

If Notre Dame would travel to Los Angeles and play the Trojans, Mrs. Wilson explained, Mrs. Rockne would have the chance to spend a few days in sunny California - shopping on Rodeo Drive. 

At some point, Mrs. Rockne departed and went to see her husband. Her powers of persuasion were certainly better than Gwynn's. She talked Rockne into scheduling the game.

Wilson had achieved his goal after all. Of course, this story has been hyped in the traditional USC-Notre Dame manner. Rockne certainly recalled the promise of a game with Jones that the two had made after Iowa beat him in 1921. No doubt Rockne gave some further, serious thought to the gate receipts at the Coliseum and Soldier Field. He certainly thought about the recruiting value of playing such a national game. It would be a huge publicity boost. This was Jones's feeling, that the game would allow the Trojans to rise above all Western teams in the recruiting battles, compete with the Irish for other players across America, and use the PR value to boost the program and the school, with all the attendant financial value inherent therein. If indeed these were the hoped-for expectations of Rockne and Jones, their expectations came true in wildly successful fashion.

"He told me that he couldn't meet USC because Notre Dame was traveling too much," Wilson once recalled. "I thought the whole thing was off, but as Rock and I talked, Marion was with Mrs. Rockne, Bonnie, in her compartment. Marion told Bonnie how nice Southern California was and how hospitable the people were.

"Well, when Rock went back to the compartment, Bonnie talked him into the game. But if it hadn’t been for Mrs. Wilson talking to Mrs. Rockne, there wouldn't have been a series."

Despite the serendipitous nature of the Gwynn Wilson story, it was later revealed that Rockne wanted a game in a big cosmopolitan city on the West Coast, in order to bookend their games in New York. It has even been suggested that the game was a favor offered not by Rockne to Jones, but vice versa, since it was Rock who had recommended Jones to USC. Either way, to quote Vince Vaughn, it's "worked out pretty well for everybody."  

In 1926, USC opened the season with a 74-0 thumping of Whittier. Talk of a national championship, capped by a season-ending home win over the Irish, filled the air. The Associated Press would not begin its polling until 1936, but there were various organizations, systems and formulas used to determine who was, in fact, number one. The Parker H. Davis ratings were devised by a former player from Princeton and coach from Wisconsin. The Dickinson System (1924-40) was based on a point formula devised by an Illinois professor. The "winner" was awarded the Rissman Trophy. The Eck Ratings System, in place since 1897, was a mathematical formula devised by Steve Eck. The Dunkel System, started in 1929, would be a power ratings index that has been maintained by Dick Dunkel's heirs to this day. There was also the College Football Researchers Association, which went by a vote system.

The Helms Athletic Foundation named their choice for the national championship. The Football Thesaurus began awarding champions in 1927, and the Williamson System came into place in 1931. In subsequent years, various other organizations, systems and polls were created to "determine" national champions, which in the absence of a "March Madness" or College World Series type play-off system relies on "mythical" rankings. 

By and large, between the systems in place, media attention, "people's choices" and common sense, national champions were generally agreed upon, with varying regional differences. Over the years, USC has been named "national champions" 17 times, but the reality is that they can consider themselves a true, legitimate national champion 12 times. Some of those are shared, or co-national championships. In recent years, the BCS has failed college football in general, but again, common sense and history accord legitimacy to the school's claim on 12 titles.

So it was that in 1926, with Notre Dame on the schedule and a Rose Bowl waiting at season's end, Trojan fans felt that "this was the year." Interestingly, the creation of the USC-Notre Dame rivalry had the effect of ending Notre Dame's participation in bowls. The criticism of the school's schedule, which resembled a barnstorming crew, had helped to dissuade their administration from approving bowl trips after the 1925 trip to Pasadena. The Southern Cal game, to be played at season's end and in California every even year, would be their "bowl game." When Notre Dame Stadium was finally built in 1930, the school was able to schedule their big games at home instead of traveling to New York or Chicago to play in stadiums that accommodated enormous crowds. They would play in Yankee Stadium and other neutral sites in future years, but not in any post-season games until the 1970 Cotton Bowl. Thus, the SC game would take on enormous importance to Notre Dame in their quest for national supremacy. 

After the Whittier game, Troy confidently advanced to a 5-0 record. On October 23, they exorcised their greatest demon by defeating Cal, 27-0, before a crowd of 72,000 at Berkeley. Jones's confident team returned to Los Angeles to read their press clippings and think about the future, which looked like a trifecta of victory over Notre Dame and a Rose Bowl opponent, capped by the elusive national championship.

Along came their old whipping boys, Stanford. 78,500 fans came to the Coliseum and were stunned to see Stanford win by a 13-12 margin. It was SC's only loss heading into the Notre Dame game, when 74,378 came to see the first-ever game between the new rivals. If the Trojans could win, they would lay claim to a national title with one loss. Notre Dame denied them, winning by the same one-point score as Stanford, 13-12. USC did not get the Rose Bowl invite, having finished second in the PCC. Notre Dame maintained its status as the elite team in America, although legitimate ranking systems also recognize Alabama as back-to-back national champions of 1925-26. Certainly the uncertainty of a non-play-off system was leading more and more in the media towards the conclusion that a more "legitimate" poll system be devised. It was very important to colleges to be able to raise their fingers in the air and shout, "We're number one!" As for USC, they were confident that they would be able to do just that in 1927.  

 

The 1926 USC-Notre Dame game was, up to that point, the most ballyhooed college game ever played. It overshadowed Notre Dame's previous encounter with Army at Yankee Stadium which produced the "Four Horsemen… outlined against a blue, gray October sky," as well as the Rockne-Warner Rose Bowl struggle of 1925. Notre Dame's train stops to Los Angeles engendered headlines at every stop. Rockne had learned from the "Gloomy Gus" playbook, lamenting to a Tucson writer that the 1926 Irish were terrible. This may or may not have been the first time Jones's USC team was referred to as the "Thundering Herd." TheDaily Trojan had earlier written that "…long years of submitting to an oppressive yoke were avenged at Berkeley…when the thundering hoofs of Troy's galloping Herd crushed the Bear of California into the turf of Memorial Stadium," and "the Thundering Herd crashed on its way to everlasting fame."

The game attracted what was said to be the greatest array of coaching talent ever assembled in one place. Jones' brother, TAD (the Yale "head man") attended along with Red Grange's Illinois mentor, Bob Zuppke and Pop Warner. 

In the end, it was a Notre Dame reserve, Art Parisien, who lofted a pass to Johnny Niemec with a mere four minutes left on the clock to give his team the win, despite early heroics from Don Williams and Mort Kaer. Morley Drury and Brice Taylor, both Trojan legends, failed in extra point attempts in the one-point defeat. 

"It was a football battle that has never been excelled for brilliance, thrills and pulsating drama and the Irish won because Harry O'Boyle kicked one goal after touchdown while both Brice Taylor and Morley Drury failed in their attempts to shoot the ball between the uprights," read one reporters "tearful" account.

"It was the greatest game I ever saw…" Rockne told Jones afterwards. "See you in Chicago." 

The game was great in part because it was so cleanly played, a factor that, with very few exceptions, would mark the rivalry to this day. It differentiated it, in some ways, from the rancorous attitudes of Cal and Stanford towards the Trojans. Clean play was Jones's trademark.

"He was highly intense, clean, had great moral values, and was ethical as the devil," said Nick Pappas. "There was no way anybody was going to play dirty football for him."

Jones was extremely intelligent as well as honest. He devised a brilliant system for the card game of bridge, and taught himself to shoot scratch golf. He was innovative when he needed to be as a football coach, but of course was smart enough to let his team's power take over. His off-field personality was somewhat introverted. Unlike Rockne, the media darling, Jones disliked banquets or press conferences. On the field, however, Jones was dynamite, in his element.

"You could always sense the electricity when he came onto the field," recalled Pappas.

Like a later Los Angeles legend, John Wooden, Jones never took a drink and his greatest expletives were "gol darn" and "by gad," with one exception. The Cal Bears took to such dirty tactics and foul-mouthed, unsportsmanlike conduct that Jones, at halftime, said, "These people, are you going to let them come down here and son of a bitch you!?" 

Erny Pinckert, a star player, turned around and just smiled at Pappas.

Despite a thick-skinned reputation, Jones could get sentimental. Stanford made such malicious remarks at a pep rally once that, when Jones heard of them, he teared up. On another occasion, he chewed a player out. When the young man cried, Jones was compelled to cheer him up for an hour. 

He did have one true vice, however. He was a chain smoker, which probably led to his heart attack and death in 1941. He also was a bit of an absent-minded professor when confronted by non-football activities, at least during the season. He dressed with mis-matched socks and stranded his family, missing appointments. Perhaps it was for this reason that he kept a low off-season profile.

Jones was an aggressive coach who valued mental quickness, and once stated that Morley Drury exemplified these qualities the best of all his stalwarts. He was also a man of Christian charity who, despite his strong aversion to alcohol, was known to come to the aid of drunks in need. 

Despite his love of the rough-and-tumble of football, he enjoyed the solidarity of fishing in the high Sierras.

"He was a perfect gentleman to strangers," said Al Wesson. "But he never said a kind word to his closest friends. He always told the athletic director that he couldn't prepare a decent schedule, his assistant coaches that they didn't know how to scout, the publicity boy that he couldn't write English, and the team doctors that they were quacks. But they liked to hear the Head Man talk like that, for they knew it was his good-natured, rough kind of ribbing and that out of their presence he swore by them.

"He would hardly glance at a boy coming off the field after playing his heart out. But when the game was over, in the privacy of the training quarters, he'd hunt out every boy who had played, thank him for what he had done, and be sure that any injuries, no matter how trivial, were immediately cared for.

"He never 'treated,' never carried enough money to buy anyone lunch, and always figured on plucking his golf opponents for enough petty cash to almost any charity that sought him out.

"He didn't belong to a church. But he lived every minute of his life according to the Golden Rule."

 

The "noblest Trojan of them all"

Great coaches are only great because they coached great players. One of the greatest was a man called "the noblest Trojan of them all," Morley Drury. 

In 1927, when Drury ran off the field for the last time in front of 60,000 at the Coliseum, the standing ovation lasted four minutes. Drury "bawled like a baby." 

In that last game, a sweeping win over Washington, Drury rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns. 

"It was a nice way to finish," said Drury. Drury had asked Coach Jones to replace him with a backup with the game in hand, but Jones ordered him to the dressing room, via the playing field, knowing that the crowd would give him the kudos he deserved. 

"I crossed the Coliseum floor and the ovation lasted until I reached the tunnel," he recalled, "I knew I couldn't hold back my tears."

Drury was a West Coast "golden boy" from 1925-27, and Jones's favorite player. He was aggressive, courageous and durable. In the pre-specialization days, Drury did everything, which included running, punting, tackling, passing and blocking. In the 13-0 history-shaping victory over Cal, he scored both touchdowns. In 1927 Drury rushed for 1,163 yards.

"He was omnipresent, smart, powerful, and positively brutal in the way he banged and whanged at Stanford's line," read one account of his skills on the other side of the line. "His defense against passes was phenomenal, his generalship above reproach."

Drury had moved to Long Beach with his family from Canada at a young age, and had worked in the shipyards to put himself through prep school before coming to USC.

"He was more matured, more settled, and better adjusted," recalled center Nate Barrager. "He was superb under pressure."

Drury was 21 when he entered school after being "recruited" by Chet Dolley. Despite his "advanced" age, his high school records were fresh, as he had earned 10 letters at now-legendary Long Beach Poly High School. In his three years at SC, the Trojans were 27-5-1. It was an injury to Drury, forcing him to the sidelines on crutches, which cost SC the loss to Stanford in 1925. 

Like another, later Trojan great, Mike Garrett, Drury was an All-American who longed to play in a Rose Bowl but was denied. It looked like he would get his wish in 1927, but a 13-13 tie with Stanford cost them the Pasadena invite. In that game, Drury gained 163 yards on the ground and intercepted no less than five passes. 

Mark Kelly, sports editor of the L.A. Times, called him "the noblest Trojan of them all," out of respect for his work ethic, on-field versatility, tireless stamina, and strong character.

"I did everything - the kicking, the punting, and the kicking after touchdowns, as well as carrying the ball," he said. At "Tailback U.," he is also the school's first 1,000-yard rusher.

Drury's nobleness comes also, in part, from the fact that he came "so close and yet so far." In addition to not going to the Rose Bowl, he never beat Notre Dame, losing to them twice by a point each time.  

"There must have been 17,000 people in Soldier's Field," he recalled. "That was quite a highlight. I had never seen that many people before in one place."

Drury was part of the transformation of Trojan football to the big time.

"When Jones got there, he started to cut the smaller colleges from our schedule and began scheduling really big-time schools," he said. "Jones felt it was bad to play against weak teams because it gave you false confidence. Jones wanted to change all that."

Drury had been part of the Trojan program when they played a doubleheader against Whittier and Santa Clara, beating both by large shutout scores. After football, he went into real estate, living near Santa Monica Beach with his wife, Louise. He went to USC games well into the modern era, lamenting the "free substitution" of today's game. Drury passed away in 1989.

 

While Drury was an old-fashioned player in the sense that he played offense and defense, and was a back who also passed, the fact is that Howard Jones was one of the first coaches to introduce "specialization" to football. 

"Jones' system is unique in that no two men on the team have exactly the same duties," one sportswriter remarked. "On most elevens the duties of the two men playing a like position, for instance, tackle, have the same general duties. Not so under Jones' regime. There is a left and right tackle on a Howard Jones team, and it is rare that a man is trained to play both positions. The same is true of the ends, the guards, and the halfbacks. And, of course, the other men, center, fullback, and quarterback is a fast man who carries the ball off-tackle and around end, the fullback being used primarily as a line-bucker."

Pop Warner credited Jones with inventing the "trap play" in 1928. Jones enjoyed the long run, which resulted in a "hole smashed open," and after some stiff-arming, "matching of skill and courage and wits between a swerving, dashing ball carrier and his flying pursuer."

His offenses, despite the "stodginess" of their power sweeps, were also described as having a "kaleidoscope" effect, making use of patterned blocking, screens and power to create confusion in the enemy. Linemen like Jesse Hibbs, John Baker and Ernie Smith helped pave the way.

Nine of the 23 All-Americans under Jones were running backs, however. The vaunted SC ground game was a tradition that he most definitely had a large role in starting. 

Brice Taylor was the blocker most responsible for opening the holes that Mort Kaer ran through in 1925, when Southern California outscored the opposition, 456-55. Taylor was a 1925 All-American. Kaer earned his honor in 1926. 

Howard Jones would usher USC into the era of great rivalries, first with Notre Dame but also with UCLA. However, it was Cal and Stanford who were their fiercest competitors when he arrived, and indeed success (or failure) against them was why he was brought in to replace Elmer Henderson. 

Andy Smith passed away from pneumonia and Pop Warner left Stanford, right around the time that USC was reaching a point of dominance. This caused the old ill feelings to come out, and the northern schools began to infer that USC was not a great academic institution, but rather a "football school." This charge was, over the years, continually difficult to back up in light of the fact that USC consistently produced leaders in politics, the law, medicine, science, the arts, Hollywood, and all other forms of human endeavor. Some of those leaders were ex-football players, but the carping continues to this day.

In 1927, USC fans among the crowd of 52,385 found themselves given the worst seats at Stanford Stadium, and they swore that the time keepers' shenanigans allowed the clock to tick minutes too long in order to give the home team time to tie the game in the fourth quarter.  

That 1927 season was a breakthrough year, in that USC played both Cal and Stanford and did not lose to either. At the time, it was considered a big deal. For Jones, who had lost to Warner as Henderson had lost to Smith, it was a very big deal.  While Stanford and Cal supporters were often venomous, in fairness the Bay Area scribes recognized USC's qualities, and it was glowing reports from San Francisco that helped elevate Drury and Hibbs to All-American status, while laying the groundwork for later All-American honors for Francis Tappaan.

USC truly felt that 1927 would be their national championship. They were an absolute juggernaut, but ran into just enough trouble to deny them the ultimate prize. They shut out four opponents, including Cal, 13-0 before 76,500 in L.A. The tie against Stanford could be overlooked, but it all came down to the Notre Dame game, and what a game it was.

If the 1926 game was "the greatest ever played," then the 1927 game might been the "second greatest," or even better than that! 1927 was a special year in American history; a year of peace and prosperity, of conservative political values mixed with Christian revivalism and a speakeasy mentality, the sort of mix that only happens in America.

It was the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs and the "Murderers Row" Yankees fielded their most legendary team. It was the year Jack Dempsey fought Jack Tunney, and the year Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. It was the year USC played Notre Dame in front of 120,000 fans at Soldier Field in Chicago.

It was the most highly-anticipated football game played to date. Chicago Mayor William Hale Thompson ordered the city to clean itself up and welcome Southern California, calling the "attention of the citzenry to the fact that a football game of consequence was about to be perpetrated and that the town should arise to the occasion.

"I request that the people of Chicago decorate their buildings by displaying the flag and the collegiate colors of the Universities of Notre Dame and Southern California."

When Walter Eckersall, the Beano Cook of his day, proclaimed the game the "greatest inter-sectional football game ever played in the country," he foreshadowed what people have said of the rivalry in all the years since.

 USC was expected to avenge the one-point loss to Notre Dame in Los Angeles and win their initial national title. It was not to be.

Morley Drury passed to Russ Saunders for a touchdown, but the extra point was not converted. Later, a touchback that the L.A. writers groaned should have been a two-point safety in favor of Southern Cal did not get called. 

"We were robbed," was Drury's assessment. As great as Drury was, it was his two missed extra points in 1926 and now in 1927 that cost his team two defeats at the hands of the Irish. Notre Dame scored on a 25-yard pass from Charlie Riley to Bucky Dahman. Dahman made his kick and that was that. Final score: Notre Dame 7, USC 6.

The Rockne-Jones battles, covered by legions of adoring writers, produced its fair share of headlines and anecdotes. When USC arrived in Chicago, they were met by the words, "Knute To Start Shock Troop."

"If he does," Jones told the media, "we'll score in the first minute of the game." Naturally, this led to the next day's headline: "Jones Says Will Score In First Minute Of Play."

USC did score in the first minute. 

Rockne continued to feed the "woe is me" line to the reporters, pleading with USC through the papers not to "humiliate us." Jones replied, "What do you say we play the game and find out?"

Rockne is credited with being one of the few who could bring some color out of Jones. When Rockne told the "Head Man" he looked nervous, Jones noted that Rockne's cigar "looks like a shredded rope."

Great players from Jones's early USC teams included Frank Anthony, Nate Barrager, Charles Boren, Henry Edelson, Howard Elliott, Bert Heiser, Cecil Hoff, Lawrence McCaslin, Don Moses, Russ Saunders, Albert Sheving, Tony Steponovich, Francis Tappaan, Lloyd Thomas and Don Williams.

The 1927 season ended in disappointment. The Trojans had to endure the agonizingly long train trek back from Chicago, their National Championship hopes dashed again. Furthermore, despite having lost to St. Mary's and Santa Clara, PCC co-champion Stanford was for some reason chosen ahead of the Trojans for the Rose Bowl.

Still, 1927 was indeed a year in which college football went big time - financially. The sellout at Soldier Field had grossed $250,000. USC's income from football that year was an extraordinary $300,000.

Prior to 1928, Jones had three All-Americans. Taylor would be inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992. A descendant of American Indian chief Tecumseh, he became a teacher in the L.A. City School District and later coached football at Southern University.

Kaer was a member of the 1926 national championship track team, performed at the 1924 Paris Olympics, was an All-American halfback in 1926, and played professional football for a year. "The Red Bluff Terror" returned to his hometown, where he coached and taught at the local high school for 27 years. He went into SC's Hall of Fame in 1997.

Drury, the "noblest Trojan of them all," did not have his rushing records broken until Mike Garrett came along, was inducted into SC's Hall of Fame in 1997 after having been elected to the National Football Foundation College Hall of fame in 1954. 

 

The Greatest College Football Team of All Time (1928 edition)

By 1928, it was obvious to the nation that a major power shift had occurred, with the West having overcome the East. Hollywood began to make a big deal over the Trojans, and after Stanford beat Army, the Evening World proclaimed that the victory "had demonstrated the futility of the Eastern one-man offense against Western team play."

Oregon State took care of NYU, leading Ed Sullivan in the Graphic to write that, "We learned about football from them."

Grantland Rice announced after the Stanford and Oregon State wins that these were the two best teams in America. The New York Mirror took exception to that, stating that Southern California was the best since they had beaten Stanford 10-0 and Oregon State, 19-0.  

"In view of what happened to New York U. and Army," wrote Mirror sports editor Dan Parker, "I propose the following choices for All-America teams:

"First team - University of Southern California.

"Second team - Stanford. 

"Third team - Oregon State."

While it may be difficult to get Cal, Stanford, Oregon or Washington loyalists to admit it, the new prestige accorded the region's grid teams had come about thanks to USC, and much of that because it was the Trojans who were playing those monumental contests with Notre Dame.

Rockne had wanted to upgrade his schools prestige by staging major inter-sectional games, which had included contests at Yankee Stadium, Soldier Field and the Rose Bowl. Two of those games were against Western teams, Stanford and USC. He had indeed succeeded in building up his school's prestige, but indeed had helped build up that of USC and the West, too.

In so doing, Rockne and USC were part of something even bigger. Most colleges were in small towns. The Eastern teams in or around New York City had fallen drastically. Pitt was a "big city" power, if one calls the Smoky City a big city. The Southern and Midwestern schools were for the most part in rural America.

Stanford and Cal, however, were intertwined with glamorous San Francisco, and of course L.A. was the fastest-growing city in the country, already a major metropolis. In staging games in cosmopolitan cities and enormous arenas, Rockne not only developed the Notre Dame fan base, which included every blue-collar Irish, Italian and Polish Catholic in cities large and small. He was taking a game which only a decade before had been not just a college event, but a rich college event, a fraternity ritual of "sis-boom-rah" played before crowds of fur-coated preppies, turning it into a popular pastime whether it be in a rural or urban setting. 

Combined with Red Grange, who by the late 1920s was a dazzling star in the ever-growing National Football League, Notre Dame (and USC), were responsible for the growth of football at a time when Babe Ruth and baseball was far and away the dominant pastime.

The fact that it was USC who was developing into Notre Dame's rival was part luck (Jones's association with Rockne, Mrs. Wilson talking shopping with Mrs. Rockne). Rockne could have decided his West Coast rival would be Cal, whose Wonder Teams had started the whole craze after the war, or Stanford, their great rival and the school that had brought Warner out West. But of course Jones had wanted the game and went after it. Luck is the residue of design.

In 1928, USC stepped it up a notch, growing beyond the role of Notre Dame's West Coast rival. They firmly planted themselves at the apex of the football world. Up until that season, the Wonder Teams were thought to be the best squads ever assembled, but a poem written after the USC-Stanford clash told the new story:

 

They whip the end, they buck the backs, the line begins to yield

And the "greatest team in history" backs slowly down the field

And finally comes the whistle as a seal to Stanford's fate

And the "greatest team in history" goes staggering through the gate.

 

The "greatest team in history" was a fan favorite in Los Angeles long before the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers or UCLA. Jones began to receive fan mail from the likes of Oliver Hardy of the Laurel and Hardy comedy team, Gary Cooper, Vilma Banks, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Harold Lloyd, Norma Talmadge, Richard Dix, Hoot Gibson, Ronald Coleman, Nancy Carroll and Reginald Denny.

"Is the quarterback's value greater today than it used to be?" asked Hardy.

"Yes," was Jones's written reply, "because the introduction of the forward pass broadened the field for the employment of strategy."

Gary Cooper was interested in what constituted a penalty and why some were more severe than others. 

Vilma Banks wanted to know who the best football player ever was. Jones's surprising answer was Tom Shevlin, Yale's captain in 1905, because he was "powerful physically" with "great mental characteristics."

Jones's reply to Miss Bank's query may have hearkened to a quaint time and place that still reverberated sentimentally in Jones's Yalie dreams. However, the idea that Shevlin or any Ivy Leaguer from the Teddy Roosevelt era could compete at the level of Morley Drury, Ernie Nevers or Red Grange was preposterous. The two decades that separate football from the 1900s to the 1920s are a period of great growth. Possibly in later years the separation between the 1940s, when the players were mostly white and the equipment still archaic, with the 1960s, when integration was taking full force and the game had become one of gladiators, was a more shocking contrast.

Wins over Utah State, Oregon State and St. Mary's set up the famed "mud bowl" at Berkeley. No rain had befallen San Francisco, but the field was a swamp, obviously hosed down to create a quagmire to stop the Thundering Herd. In later years, USC would retaliate, but at the freshman level at Bovard Field, not at the Coliseum. It was, in all honesty, a typical Cal stunt from a school that had become sore losers over the loss of their "empire" to the Trojans. Cal watched with envy while Southern California gained the plaudits of Hollywood and the national recognition that came with the Notre Dame game.

Injuries further hampered Troy. Charlie Boren, Harry Edelson and Lowry McCaslin were out. 

The players found themselves ankle deep in mud, according to Arnold Eddy, a former player who became executive director of USC's alumni association. Frustration was the order of the day.

"With the advantage of the heavy turf and Benny Lom's brilliant spirals, the Bears were saved from serious trouble on more than one occasion," recalled Eddy. "Don Williams and Russ Saunders of Southern Cal spent most of the afternoon trying to dig the ball out from the California end of that wet field. Williams went out of the game early with injuries, not to return until the Stanford game two weeks later."

There is little doubt among honest observers that had the field not been muddied, USC would have won handily, as they did with all other 1928 opponents. Still, the 0-0 tie left some doubters, who installed Troy as the underdog when Stanford ventured south. 

"Early games had the football public believing that 'Pop' Warner had one of his greatest teams at Stanford," wrote Braven Dyer in Top Ten Trojan Football Thrillers. 

"I have more good material than I ever saw before," Warner stated. Obviously, he was not of the "Gloomy Gus" Henderson school of pre-game predictions. Stanford officials were saying the Indians, coming off a 47-0 pasting of Fresno State, would knock SC around by as much as four touchdowns.

"Pop had concocted a new formation - called Formation B - to distinguish it from what he had been using," said Dyer. Warner gave his quarterback more room to maneuver and weaved in a variety of reverses and double reverses, plays that were anathema to "Head Man" Jones.

Stanford had great size for the 1920s. Herb Fleishacker weighed 220 pounds, Biff Hoffman 195, and their blockers were men named Artman (240) and Sellman (205). Injury reports from Los Angeles combined with a flu epidemic on campus (a highly serious danger 10 years removed from a worldwide Spanish Influenza epidemic that killed millions) further buoyed Stanford's hopes.

The game may well have been in danger because of it, but Jones "quarantined" his men at the Beverly Hills Hotel, avoiding catastrophe. Betting was big already in football, as it had been in baseball for years. The oddsmakers made Stanford 3-1 favorites. 

However, a USC scout by the likely name of Clifton B. Herd (nicknamed "Thundering?") had watched the Indian. He was convinced that on a dry field the real Thundering Herd would create a "quick mix," which might be called a blitz today. The idea was to get into the Stanford backfield and disrupt the reverses before that could develop behind Stanford's average 10-pound blocking weight edge. 

"When the ballcarrier poked his head beyond the line of scrimmage," said Dyer, "he had been stripped clean, or nearly so, and hard-hitting secondary tacklers thus got a clear shot."

Stanford fumbled five times and USC missed no tackles. A Jesse Hibbs interception set up a touchdown pass from Saunders to McCaslin. A Stanford drive late in the first half was disrupted when Thomas chased Chuck Smalling down and tackled him on the SC 10. Stanford never moved the ball in the second half, and Hibbs's 15-yard field goal was enough to give Southern California a 10-0 win that was easier than it looked. Beating the vaunted Warner put USC in a position to win a national championship.

Braven Dyer spared no hype in describing how the "battling sons of Troy scaled the heights of the Coliseum" to "(turn back) the Red Horde…in the most stunning upset ever recorded in these parts." He stated that it was the "most powerful team in Stanford history" at a time when they were one of the top programs in the nation. Ed R. Hughes called it Warner's "Waterloo" in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Warner called USC the "perfect eleven," and many of the SC players said the game was their biggest thrill, which considering the other events of that season alone is quite a statement. 

"Yes, even greater than my 95-yard return of a kickoff against Notre Dame at Soldier's Field" the next year, stated Saunders years later. 

Still, the hurdle of Notre Dame still stood in the Trojans' way. The Irish were down that year, at least compared to their usual standards. Furthermore, Rockne's son was ill in South Bend, Indiana, so the coach's mind was understandably troubled. 

The Irish never had a chance. Russ Saunders scored on what was called "the old 21 play," Williams tosed a touchdown to Marger Apsit, and after Johnny Niemec's pass was intercepted by Tony Stepovich, USC led 20-0. Williams later hit Harry Edelson for a score. Hibbs and Williams sustained minor injuries, but their strong play earned them All-American recognition. 

With the 27-14 victory came further analysis of the American football scene. Considering the earlier victories of Stanford and Oregon State over Eastern opponents, the question was no longer whether the best football was played in the West or the Midwest. It was definitely not played in the East. If Notre Dame was the epitome of Midwest football, then their loss to Southern Cal seemed to cede supremacy to the West, namely to the Trojans. Alabama was the kingpin of Southern football, and to be fair it was the lack of media coverage in that section of the country that cost the region its share of glamour more than any deficiencies on the field of play.

"Southern California all but hugged the life out of the South Bend Irish, and made it harder than ever for the folks back over the Great Divide to forget Los Angeles," intoned the L.A. Times. "The tang of the sea and the heart of the desert do not make sissies. Men are not debilitated into softlings in the great open spaces."

Perhaps there had been some talk that warm weather, comfortable surroundings and the glamour of the movies made football players in L.A. "go Hollywood," but in reality Americans understood the rugged nature of Western individualism, which had manifested itself in the settlers who had forged a nation against obstacles made by man and nature. The more pertinent question may have been whether that "individualism" would lend itself to a team game like football. It was obvious by now that it did not disrupt from it, and that good weather not only made for the best playing conditions, but the best year-round training, as well.

Football was not the only sport being played better in California than anyplace else. The state (and USC) was producing the best track stars and baseball players, as well as swimmers and tennis stars.

The Rissman rating system awarded the national championship to the University of Southern California, based on their 9-0-1 record and 4-0-1 PCC mark, earning them the conference title. The glory of the season, however, was disrupted by a season-ending controversy. 

Despite their obvious designation as the conference representative in the Rose Bowl, USC turned down the January 1 invite. Officially, they gave the lame excuse that it was based on a policy that "frowned on any games after the closing date of the Pacific Coast Conference season." Supposedly, they would not play any games after the Saturday prior to Christmas. 

In reality, a feud with Rose Bowl officials had caused the impasse, for reasons that have never been explained. In the history of USC, it was one of the very few times that they failed to meet an obligation or a challenge, which has always separated the Trojans from various other unimpressives dotting the landscape. It would seem implausible that Jones avoided the game because he had his undefeated season and national title, and chose not to sully it with a potential defeat. However, absent better explanations, it seems to be a possible answer. That said, it does not square with anything Jones ever did, before or after 1928. He thrived on challenges, met them head on at every opportunity. He created a tradition at the school that has always led the team to risk rankings and records in search of greater glory. No team in America has this record, but 1928 is the exception.  

If the nation now saw the West as the best, USC's decision diluted this view and gave the South a chance to rise. California, with a loss and two ties, was picked to face the "Ramblin' Wrecks" of Georgia Tech. Fate seemed to enter the picture, because in this game Cal's Roy Riegels was misdirected and ran the wrong way on a play that proved decisive in Tech's 8-7 win. Riegels has forever endured the moniker "Wrong Way" Riegels.

 

Nate Barrager

Still, the glory of the number one ranking was one worn proudly by the Trojans. One of those stars was Nate Barrager, who who would go on to a film career with John Wayne and pro football, too.

Barrager's hard tackling earned him a spot on Walter Eckersall's All-America team for 1929. Also on the team was the great Minnesota running back, Bronco Nagurski. Barrager was Jones's seventh All-American and one of two in 1929. Coming out of San Fernando High School, Barrager had earned a scholarship to USC after turning down other offers. Under Jones, Barrager blossomed.

"He was an outstanding fundamental coach who taught young men how to handle themselves," he said. "He was a taskmaster, a strictly dedicated football coach. Personality-wise, he wasn't a man who had a lot of things to say. He was just very quiet and very dedicated to his work. There was nothing funny about Jones. He was serious as anything. Chewing gum sometimes bothered him."

Jones switched Barrager from fullback, where he had starred in high school and on the SC freshman team. 

"But they needed a center in my sophomore year, and they made me a center," said Barrager. Jones was innovative, and had Barrager backing the line on defense, which made Barrager one of the first linebackers.

Barrager starred in the 10-0 win over Stanford in 1928, and in his senior year Jones turned him into a running guard, defensive fullback and team captain. 

"Being captain of the team and playing defensive fullback, you are into an awful lot of things," said Barrager. "You have to be a leader. All the boys on the team are pretty smart, but you have to keep after them."

In the 1930 Rose Bowl game against Pitt, Barrager and Russ Saunders put the clamps on the Panthers' All-American halfback, Tony Uansa, which made the difference in Troy's lopsided 47-14 victory. The score was exceptional, for in those days strong teams usually played defensive struggles. 

"We won, and on that particular day we could have beaten anybody," said Barrager.

His final game was one of the few times that Barrager was able to "laugh and enjoy" football under the taskmaster Jones. With Southern Cal winning handily, Jones was ready to bring in his second team, but Barrager was having too much fun. He and guard Clark Galloway purposely knocked a Pitt player into Jones's lap as he sat on the bench. Jones, impressed, told his subs to sit down because, "If anyone can play like that, they're on my team."

The Pitt team that had their hats handed to them had five All-Americans on it. This was an obvious example not necessarily of "East Coast bias," but rather because the concentration of media was congregated in this part of the country. USC's plastering of them made up for Cal's embarrassing "wrong way" loss of 1929. Along with SC's beating of Pop Warner and Stanford, along with Knute Rockne's Irish in 1928, it played a big part in further cementing the Trojans' place in the football hierarchy.

Barrager played professional football, eventually ending up with the fabled Green Bay Packers. He was able to add three NFL titles to his national championship at USC. Barrager was a teammate of the great Don Hutson, who had starred (alongside teammate Bear Bryant) at the University of Alabama. 

Barrager also parlayed his football career into acting. He befriended Paramount contract star Richard Arlen whil filming Salute, which lead to Arlen inviting Barrager to be a part of his New York stage show. They were scheduled for an appearance after a Packers' game against the New York Giants. After winning a close one, Barrager, along with teammates Russ Saunders and Marge Apsit (former Trojans), had to herd Arlen out of the Polo Grounds and into a cab - without changing from their game clothes. The show was a big success and, despite being Packers, the uniformed players were given a big ovation.

 

The Duke

Nate Barrager went to work for RKO Pictures and became a top production manager on such hits as The Greatest Story Ever Told and, of course, John Wayne films like Hondo, The Fighting Seabees and The Sands of Iwo Jima. He also worked closely with Bob Hope on television specials. 

Barrager was part of a long tradition of ties between USC, their football team, and Hollywood. As big a reason as any for this, aside from the geographical proximity, is the fact that John Wayne played football for Howard Jones.

"He had all the football ability in the world," said Leo Calland. "He had savvy, a great build and the equipment."

"Duke was a good guard," said Normel C. Hayhurst, his coach at Glendale High School. "He played a big part in our winning the Central League and the Southern California championship. He was one of seven players selected for a football scholarship at USC. Our 1924 team was a good one."

Others, however, said that Wayne was not as dedicated to football as Howard Jones required them to be. Photos of Wayne at USC reveal a big, good-looking guy with black, curly hair and a great built who "had to fight the girls off."

The Wayne visage is one of a rough 'n' tough military man or cowboy, more ruggedly macho than handsome, but many film fans are only familiar with movies he made in his 40s and beyond. In his 20s, the man was nothing less than an Adonis.

Wayne's teammate at USC was Ward Bond, who would go on to a long film career. His typical roles were of Irish priests or sidekicks, fighting with and against Wayne, usually winding up sharing a shot of whisky as a conciliatory gesture. Bond had great desire but lacked Wayne's physical abilities. Observers of the two said that if Wayne's talent and Bond's desire could be morphed, the result would have been an All-American. 

Gene Clarke, a lineman who played for Jones, claims to have had a hand in making Wayne a picture star. By accident. Wayne was looking forward to being the starting right tackle in his sophomore year. 

"Duke and I used to go down to Balboa Beach and ride those big waves," said Clarke. Balboa Beach is in Newport, and those "big waves" are part of the notorious "Wedge," which has produced injured surfers for decades. It is not uncommon to observe wistful men in wheelchairs staring at the ocean wearing t-shirts that read,"Victim of the Wedge." 

"One day we're all on the sand with pretty coeds all around. You know how everyone likes to show off, particularly Duke and me.

"These big waves started to come in. We called them, 'butt-busters.' I mean, they were BIG! They were washing the bottom of the pier. Duke says, 'Come on, let's go and ride them.' I said, 'You gotta be nuts, they'll kill us.' He said, 'Come on, you've got no guts!' And I said, 'Dammit, if you're crazy enough, I'll go.' "

15 minutes later, Clarke and Wayne were out past the breakers.

"I warned Duke that the breakers cup hard," said Clarke, but Duke was caught in one. The last he saw was Duke going down.

"He hit the sand," said Clarke, "and if he hadn't pulled his head to one side he probably would have busted his neck. As it was it dislocated his shoulder."

The body surfing adventure had occurred three weeks prior to the beginning of fall football practice. 

"He was playing right tackle in the old Howard Jones power plays," said Clarke, "and in this system you used your right shoulder blocking all the time."

Wayne was injured and unable effectuate the blocking patterns

""The old man would give him hell for it," said Clarke. "With Jones you slept, ate, and drank football 365 days a year. He wouldn't understand anyone getting hurt in a foolish accident like that. Well, what happened was the old man thought Wayne didn't have any guts. He didn't know about the shoulder injury, of course. So he put him down on the fourth or fifth team. Took Wayne off the training table, and he had to scrounge for his own meals. He owed the fraternity house so much dough that they had to ask him to move out until he could pay. He dropped out of school and went to Fox Studios."

Born Marion Michael Morrison on May 26, 1907 in Winterset, Iowa, the son of a druggist and a mother of attractive Irish pioneer stock, young Marion moved to the California desert with his family when he was six. "Doc" Morrison had lung problems and improved in the warm climate.

In that environment, Morrison often fantasized that he was a cowboy on a dangerous mission. He rode a horse every day just to get groceries and run errands. He would scare himself into believing he was chasing or being chased by outlaws. 

When Doc Morrison's health improved he moved the family to the Los Angeles area. Glendale in those days was still open country, and Marion lived a perfect boys life, fishing and swimming. Morrison got the nickname "Duke" from a local fireman because his dog's name was Duke and the fireman did not know Marion's real name. At first he was "Little Duke," but when he grew to 6-4 it was just Duke. At Glendale High, Duke did not only star in football, but he performed Shakespearean dramas. He was an honor student, president of the Letterman Society, senior class president, and a top debater. He loved to dance and girls went for him.

Despite his football scholarship at USC, he needed to earn extra money and became a top scalper. His scalping took him to the Hollywood Athletic Club, and he also did work for the phone company on movie lots. It was Howard Jones, however, who got him started in Hollywood, so to speak, when he arranged for Morrison and Don Williams to "train" actor Tom Mix for a cowboy movie called The Great K And A Train Robbery. They conditioned Mix and moved sets for $35 a week.

Morrison met famed director John Ford, who made him a prop man and liked his rugged film presence enough to cast him in 1928's Hangman's House.

Ford later made a football movie about the Naval Academy, Salute, and wanted USC players for it. He needed them full-time before the end of the semester, and made Morrison his go-between.  Morrison overcame major administrative hurdles in granting permission from school officials, which impressed Ford. He led a delegation that trained east in May, 1929, amid much fanfare. The players included Clark Galloway, Russ Saunders, Jack Butler, Tony Steponovich, Jess Shaw, Frank Anthony, Al Schaub, Marshall Duffield, and Nate Barrager. The trip did cause some concern that the work constituted professionalism, since the players benefited financially by virtue of the fact that they played football at USC.

Director Raoul Walsh gave Morrison the name John Wayne when he starred in a $2 million spectacular called Big Trail in 1929. In 1939 he broke through with John Ford's Stagecoach. He was nominated for an Oscar as Sergeant Stryker in The Sands of Iwo Jima, and by 1949 was the top box office attraction in the world. His visual appearance, however, was significantly different by then than it had been in the 1920s, when he was more pretty and handsome than rugged. Wayne liked to pull a cork in real life just as his screen characters did, which may explain this. 

Other classic Wayne films include The Quiet Man and The Longest Day. In 1969 he finally earned a Best Actor Academy Award for his role as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. 

Even though he left school early without making a mark on Howard Jones's football team, and never graduated (although he was awarded an honorary doctorate), Wayne is inexplicably tied to the school and its football tradition. Through Wayne, Jones arranged for USC players to work as extras on movies. Aside from Salute, extravagant Hollywood productions of the era often featured Trojan players in the roles of Roman Legionnaires, Napoleon's Grand Armee, or Biblical flocks. This was prior to the NCAA, and while there was grousing about "professionalism," there never were repercussions.

The Hollywood connection was an enormous recruiting advantage that Jones made use of. Not only did the players make much-needed extra money, but they were introduced to the beautiful actresses. As any recruiting coordinator could tell you, no inducement is greater than pretty girls.

One story that made the rounds and was written about in a late 1990s issue of Los Angeles magazine concerned Clara Bow, the "it girl" of the silent film era. A gorgeous brunette, Bow apparently had an insatiable sexual appetite, and allegedly used Duke Wayne to arrange wild orgies at her Hollywood Hills mansion. This was the kind of extracurricular activity that schools such as Iowa or Duke, where Jones had toiled previously, could not offer.

Wayne maintained a strong association with USC until his death in 1979. When he visited his friend Gene Clarke at the Sigma Chi fraternity house, he noticed a derby that had been given Clarke as a member of Southern Cal's 1931 team. 

"Don't you wear it?" asked Wayne.

Clarke thought it was silly, but Wayne was so taken with the memento from SC's stirring victory over the Irish that he "wore that derby for the longest time, hardly ever took it off."

Nick Pappas developed a very close relationship with Wayne, and used Duke many times in his role as director of Trojans' Athletic Support Groups. 

"He's a fraternity brother of mine, and the night before a big game with Texas in 1966 we were having cocktails together," Pappas said in Ken Rappoport's book The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football Football. The interview took place prior to Wayne's 1979 passing. 

"This is in Austin, see, and he had come in just for the game," said Pappas. "We drank until about four in the morning - Wayne's drinking scotch and soda all this time. All the guys at the party had gone to dinner and come back and then gone to bed, and we're still in there drinking.

"In the course of our conversation, he says, 'Pap, I want to talk to the kids at breakfast tomorrow.'

"I told him, 'You're in, Duke,' without thinking. I hadn't asked anyone whether it would be all right for Wayne to talk to our football team on the morning of the game. It was a big one, a season opener with Texas ranked number one and us number two.

"But I remembered that Coach John McKay loved John Wayne movies. He used to talk about his big evening - sitting home with a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk and watching a John Wayne movie. And he never met him. I also remembered that McKay would awaken early on the day of games, he was always up by six o'clock, and read the papers. Have breakfast, and go over his diagrams. He was constantly working on football.

"So I call McKay and tell him I had a problem. 'Look, John,' I said. 'I was with John Wayne last night. He asked me if he could talk to the kids, and I said, yeah.' And before I could finish, McKay says, 'Geez, great…bring him down.'

"The kids are all assembled in the locker room at 10 in the morning, and in walks Wayne. Damn, he was fantastic. He walks in with this white 20,000-gallon cowboy hat and black suit - he looked just beautiful. The kids look up, and their eyeballs pop. Here's the REAL John Wayne. And Wayne walks over to the coach and gives him a big hello and squeezes him - you'd think he and McKay were long lost buddies. They had never met before.

"It was beautiful. A former player and all, Wayne gives one of the greatest fight talks you've ever heard - and the kids got all fired up. We win the ballgame 10-6, and back in the locker room after the game, McKay says, 'Hey, guys, how about it? Let's give the game ball to John Wayne.'

"For a moment Wayne stands there - nonplussed. It was probably the first time in his life that he couldn't think of anything to say. Then he looks at the ball for a minute and pumps it like a quarterback. Then he puts the ball under his arm, and the kids break into a cheer, 'Hooray, Hooray.' All the guys joined in. He's still a Trojan." 

Mike Walden was the USC play-by-play announcer, and recalls that 1966 Texas game, and Wayne's unique role in the events of that weekend.

"My first game in 1966 was on the road vs. Texas," said Walden. "There'd be a press gathering in Austin, what they called 'smokers' down there, where everybody got together. Well, Wayne was down there making War Wagon in nearby Mexico, and he shows up with Bruce Cabot.

 " 'I'm gonna have some whisky,' Wayne says to the bartender, who pours it, and Wayne just looks at it, shoved it back, and said, 'I said WHISKY!'

"Texas had a quarterback they called 'Super Bill' Bradley who was supposed to be outstanding, but SC just controlled the ball and won, 10-6. Afterwards, <assistant coach Marv> Goux came in and said wasn't it great, we 'didn't get anybody 'chipped off.' Well, Wayne and Cabot were somewhere, and someone got in an argument the next morning and their make-up artist was dead of a heart attack. It was confusing, I don't know for sure what all happened. Wayne and all of 'em were out drinking all night and came in at seven in the morning, maybe it was too much for this guy, but this make-up artist died.

" 'Well,' Cabot said, 'We got somebody 'chipped off,' after Goux said 'we didn't get anybody 'chipped off.' "

Wayne was an absolute Republican and a superpatriot, traits that were fairly common in Hollywood when he was in his prime, but towards the end of his career he found himself increasingly isolated from his fellow actors. In 1968, Alabama's segregationist Governor, George Wallace, ran for President as an independent. He asked Wayne to be his Vice-Presidential running mate. Wayne agreed with Wallace when it came to states' rights and fighting Communism, but could not stomach racism. He declined. 

Tired of the liberal media spin of the Vietnam War, he made a highly jingoistic film, The Green Berets. It was propagandistic in nature and lacked gritty realism, but viewing it today, the film does emphasize military heroism that cannot be denied. It was a huge box office success. That and three 1970 war films,Patton, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and Midway, all succeeded artistically and financially, showing that the American public was not as widely anti-war as the popular misconceptions of the era.

Wayne's conservatism earned him plenty of critics, but even in 1969, when he won the Oscar for True Grit, Hollywood opened its hearts to him without reservation. Others found him to be a celluloid hero who had not served in wars while real war heroes like Ted Williams were thought to be "the real John Wayne."   

Jeff Prugh, the L.A. Times beat writer for USC football in the 1960s and '70s, recalls a story from that 1966 weekend in Austin.

"Well, there was this one L.A. sportswriter writer whose name shall remain anonymous," said Prugh. "Everyone is gathered at the bar, and John Wayne's holding court. This old writer is off in the corner getting drunker and drunker. He's liberal and Wayne's an outspoken conservative Republican. Finally, this old writer has had enough, and he approaches Wayne, interrupts him in mid-sentence with all Wayne's pals staring at him."

" So… …" the old drunk writer says, "they tell me, uh… … they call ya… The Duke!"

"'Yeah, what of it?" says Wayne.

"This writer just gathers himself," continued Prugh.

"Waaal…Duke… … You ain' s--t!"

"Well, it was almost a full brawl right then and there but his pals held Wayne back," said Prugh.

Craig Fertig was a star quarterback at USC and a graduate assistant in 1966. 

"One time, the players wanted to go see Easy Rider," Fertig recalled, referring to a "hippie" movie of the 1960s. "Duke Wayne says, 'Don't let the kids see that crap!' So he arranged for 'em to see War Wagon instead.

"I'm low man on the totem pole in '66, so I gotta chaperone the team and do bed checks. Now McKay's hosting a party for Wayne."

(This contrasts with Nick Pappas' assertion that Wayne and McKay had not met prior to the morning of the next day's game, but considering that alcohol, old alums and memories were involved, the discrepancy is a minor one.)

"I finally put the kids to bed, so I make it up to this party, see," continued Fertig. "I see John Wayne and introduce myself to him, and he's like, 'Oh, I saw you beat Notre Dame,' and he's just like my best friend.

"Well, he has Bruce Cabot with him, and this make-up artist, too. This make-up artist's mixing drinks - vodka one time, Bourbon, scotch, right? He's gettin' hammered. 

"The next day, I'm assigned to Duke Wayne, 'cause he's gonna speak to the team. Wayne's mad as hell, 'cause his make-up guys' not there.

" 'Son of a bitch's never around when you need 'im,' he says. It turns out the man's died during the night, maybe 'cause he mixed drinks and it was too much for his heart. Anyway, I gotta get Duke ready, the job this dead make-up guy usually does."

Apparently, Wayne had not yet learned of the make-up artist's demise.

" 'Whadda I wear?' asks Duke. I tell him, 'Everybody knows you as a cowboy, so dress like that.' 10-gallon hat, cowboy boots, brass belt buckle; I got him lookin' good. 

"We're scared sh-----s, Texas is number one in the country. So at the stadium he fires up our team. Then he's introduced to the crowd. He comes out and he's in this cart with my dad."

Fertig's father, "Chief" Henry Fertig, was the longtime head of the Huntington Park, California police department in L.A. County, and a tremendous USC booster.

"He's being driven around the stadium in this cart, and the whole time my dad's pouring whisky into a cup and Duke's drinkin' out of it," continued Fertig. "Now, the Texas fans, they see The Duke, and he's wearin' this cowboy hat, and most of 'em don't know he's a USC football player. Duke's givin' 'em the hook 'em horns sign with his fingers, and the Longhorn fans are cheering.

" 'Duke's a Texas fan,' their sayin'.

"All the time, Duke's sayin' to my old man, 'F--k the 'horns.' "

All things considered, Duke Wayne cut a swath across the entertainment industry like very few others. In terms of longevity and impact, perhaps only Clint Eastwood has played a greater all-around role in show biz.

USC continues to be integral to the film industry to this day. The USC marching band actually bills itself "Hollywood's band." They have appeared in numerous movies and even helped cut a gold record, Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk". USC athletes have made a disproportionately large number of careers in the media. 

"Going to school in L.A. is a big advantage," explained former USC football coach John Robinson. "It's a big difference being interviewed by major media there than it is to say, 'yes, sir,' or 'no, sir' to a local sportscaster in Alabama."

Many major movers and shakers in Tinseltown are part of the "Trojan Family." John Wayne would be proud. 

 

USC and UCLA: a tradition of equal opportunity

When one looks back at Howard Jones's tenure at Southern California, it is impossible not to be struck not just by his astounding success, but at how much better it could have been! In his first four years, Jones's teams were 36-5-2. The five losses were by 12 points! In 1925, the Trojans lost to Stanford, 13-9 and Washington State, 17-12. In 1926 they fell to Stanford and Notre Dame by one each (13-12 and 13-12, respectively). In 1927 it was by one again at Notre Dame, 7-6. Both Notre Dame losses came when Morley Drury missed extra-points. The ties were against a great Pop Warner-coached Stanford eleven and cheating Cal on a muddy Memorial Stadium field.

With a little luck, Jones could have been riding a 43-game winning streak, or at least a non-losing streak (add to that three straight wins to close out Elmer Henderson's last season in 1924). It is with this in mind that one considers that, while Jones would win three more national championships in the 1930s, his 1929 squad is thought by some to be his best.

They scored 492 points, a school record that stood well into the modern era, and destroyed Pittsburgh in the Rose Bowl, 47-14. 

Braven Dyer, in Top Ten Trojan Football Thrillers, felt that the team might have been Jones's best. They were not perfect, however, and it cost them the national championship. Cal beat them fair and square this time, 15-7. The fact that Rockne's Irish had what it took to defeat USC, 13-12 in front of 112,912 at Soldier Field, tells much more about Notre Dame's greatness than it does about any failure on SC's part.

The Thundering Herd took care of UCLA, 76-0; Washington, 48-0; Occidental, 64-0; Nevada, 66-0; Idaho, 72-0; and Carnegie Tech, 45-13, to finish 10-2, good for first place in the Pacific Coast Conference. These opponents (with the exception of UCLA), while some are not considered top football schools any more, were all strong opponents at the time.

Writers gave colorful nicknames to the Trojans, such as "Field" Marshall Duffield and "Racehorse" Russsell Saunders. According to Braven Dyer, the Thundering Herd appellation stuck in 1929, but as noted, the Daily Trojan and other sources had made use of the phrase in earlier seasons. There may have been multiple sources, which include Maxwell Stiles and PR man Al Wesson. Wesson denied it (although he did write the school song, "All Hail") because he was Jones's mouthpiece. Jones always downplayed his team in order to lull opponents. There is no doubt that part of the nickname's origin comes from the Noah Beery film of the time called The Thundering Herd. 

"Those 'Thundering Herd' teams didn't throw the ball around much," said Dyer. "They thought that was the sissy way to play the game."

The starting backfield consisted of Saunders, Erny Pinckert, Harry Edelson, and Jim Musick. Their subs were Duffield, Jess Mortensen, Marger Apsit, and Jess Hill. Sophomore Gus Shaver was a quarterback/fullback. Nate Barrager and Francis Tappaan were All-Americans. Jones was sparing in his compliments. Grantland Rice was researching his All-American picks, and Jones wired only that Tappaan is "the best end we have." Wesson insisted on replying to future telegrams.

Pinckert was a bit of a court jester, a favorite of writers looking for quotes. Lord knows Jones was tightlipped about things. Pinckert also had a propensity for playing in great pain - muscle tears, bad ankles. But novacaine was available and it took just enough of the edge off to play hard.

"I've heard him hit guys in a game and make them squeal," one friend said of him. "He just knocked the wind out of them." 

When Southern Cal beat Georgia, 60-0 in 1931, Gene Clarke and Gus Shaver visited their All-American end, "Catfish" Smith, in the locker room afterwards. His body revealed criss-cross marks and deep, dark bruises, courtesy of Pinckert.

"Man, I ache all over," said Smith. 

"We have a pretty tough system here," Clarke told him. "Jones has this power play where we have two of our linemen taking you out of the play most of the time."

"Man, there were only two?" was Smith's dazed reply.

Cal's All-American guard, Ted Beckett, was blind-sided by Pinckert, leaving him doubled up like Smith. Pinckert just picked him up, slapped him on the back and said, "Nice going, kid." 

Players like Pinckert belied Cal's insinuations that USC's players were thugs and academic rejects. Tough as nails on the gridiron, Pinckert had the soul of an artist. He painted beautiful murals and invented football pads, which brought him a small fortune. In 1930 and 1931, he made All-American.

Famed Pitt coach Jock Sutherland brought his unbeaten, untied team to Pasadena for a repeat of the 1928 Rose Bowl, when they had lost to Stanford, 7-6. Both Knute Rockne and John W. Heisman (another famed coach and namesake of the award) pick Pitt to win. Running back Tony Uansa was a breakaway threat who had ran for long touchdowns of 70 yards or more twice against Duke and once against Ohio State, in addition to a receiving TD against the Buckeyes and three scores vs. West Virginia.

Heisman said they were clearly the "class of every other Eastern team." They were playing for a national championship, since both they and Notre Dame were 9-0 prior to New Year's, 1930. By beating the Panthers and knocking them out of the picture, SC was helping themselves, in a sense. The success of each team's rival, making the other look better in the process, would be the unique aspect of the USC-Notre Dame series. 

Those "fans" who say, "My favorite team is USC and my second favorite is whoever beats Notre Dame," are adhering to a Chinese maxim that the "enemy of my enemy is my friend." It may apply in war, but usually not in football, and is no more valid (unless conference titles are at stake) with regards to the UCLA rivalry.

The Pitt game swung early when Uansa broke for what looked like one of his long touchdown runs. Saunders, "knocked on his rumble seat," according to Dyer, then picked himself up and gained eight yards on his man, nabbing him at the SC 14.

A Pitt star named Montgomery summed it up to the reporters later.

"What the hell…we broke our fastest runner into the clear," he declared, "knocked down your safety man, and then he got up and caught our man!"

Pittsburgh failed to capitalize on deep possession, with Pinckert swatting away a pass. Then Jones really foiled Sutherland. Despite Braven Dyer's assertion that the Trojans felt passing was for "sissies," that was what Saunders did, tossing a 55-yard beauty to Harry Edelson and a 25-yarder to Pinckert.

USC's 26-0 halftime lead was so thorough that re-capping it in 2006 reminds one of their equally stunning demolition of Oklahoma in the 2005 BCS Orange Bowl.

"The ease with which the Trojans amassed 26 points in the first half left the capacity crowd (of 71,000) stunned with astonishment," read one report.

The second half was more "showtime"; perfect passes, leaping catches, glittering runs. The Rose Bowl crowd and assembled literati had to be scratching their heads, wondering how Cal and Notre Dame had beaten this team. All the pre-game predictions left egg on the faces of Rockne and Heisman, but they were not alone.

"Saunders is the greatest back I have seen since Glenn Presnell," said Sutherland. "They rate with the great backs of all time."

Saunders, never an All-American, rates as one of the most underrated players in USC football annals.

"The outstanding lineman on the field was <Garrett> Arbelbride," read one game account, going on to speculate whether the man "had wings the way he came flying through the air."

"The Trojans are the equal of any team in the country," Sutherland said afterwards. The Pittsburgh media found a convenient excuse, however, stating that the Panthers were "seduced by Hollywood glitter." It would not be the last time L.A. glamour would be trotted out as a reason a team from the "heartland" had lost, and indeed if the "stars in their eyes" could make football teams lose, it would indeed be repeated many, many times over the years.

Grantland Rice's theory about California athletes being a "hybrid" of "supermen" now gave rise to further analysis, with one reputable man of science declaring that "sunshine and vitamins' " ultraviolet light - California-grown oranges, fruits and vegetables - provided USC players with "more energy."

While hard to prove, this theory seems to have some validity even to this day, but whatever advantage is gained by the environment, Walter Eckersall nailed it best when he stated, "Better football is played on the Pacific Coast than in any other section of the country."

 

Walter Eckersall was referring to USC first and foremost; beyond that, California and Stanford seemed to be the only teams other than Notre Dame and Alabama, worthy of taking the field against Southern California. Little could anybody recognize that still another football power would rise up out of the land of "sunshine and vitamins."

The Southern Branch of the University of California educational system opened for business on a Vermont Avenue storefront in 1919. After a while they took to calling themselves the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Southern California was not enamored by their neighbor. They paid little attention to them, but the newcomers were a feisty lot, demanding some recognition. They took to sports, started calling themselves the Bruins, an apt "baby bear" nickname spun from Cal's majestic Golden Bear moniker. UCLA grew quickly. The city was so dynamic that it indeed needed more than one school - a public one at that. USC may have worried that UCLA would siphon enrollment and tuition money from them, but there was more than enough to go around in Roaring '20s L.A.

UCLA started fielding sports teams. They challenged USC, already a top college baseball program, to games. They started beating the Trojans. USC decided to cancel the series instead of suffering such embarrassments. UCLA took their sports seriously, and after a while it was obvious that many of L.A.'s fine prep athletes were opting to matriculate there. Therefore, ambitious plans were made to start up a football program.

At first, it looked to be a laughing matter, but when UCLA made all the right moves - to Westwood - there was no denying that the little public school had big plans. At first, people thought nobody would venture west of Western Avenue. Westwood was farmland; "sunshine and vitamins." But the film industry had expanded into these hinterlands. The connection between Los Angeles and Santa Monica had created well-worn traffic lanes. Nearby Beverly Hills was now the home of mansions lived in by the rich and famous. The studios liked the open spaces of ocean, beach and mountains, using these as film backdrops. 

UCLA, in many ways, has had the last laugh. While USC's South-Central neighborhood became an urban blight (in recent years, University-orchestrated and -funded building revitalization has created a Renaissance of sorts in the neighborhood), Westwood became a glitzy, happening Mecca of Westside money. Beverly Hills expanded to Century City and Bel Air, a hillside community across the street from the UCLA campus. A strong-armed baseball player, standing on the far east side of the campus, might be able to hit Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion with a great throw.

Like a persistent kid who keeps pushing to become a member of a fun club, UCLA managed, on January 1, 1928, to gain admittance to the Pacific Coast Conference. They immediately lobbied Southern Cal for a game, and USC reluctantly agreed to give them one in 1929. It was not unlike the scene in Cool Hand Luke in which Paul Newman insists on fighting George Kennedy, who reluctantly but doggedly pummels Newman with one hard shot after the other.

USC knew they would destroy the Bruins, and despite some grudging respect for their pluckiness, were determined to teach the newcomers a lesson. Still, the L.A. Times was prescient in both their pre-game and post-game coverage.

"Opening the season for the first time in local history with a Pacific Coast Conference game, the Trojans of Southern California and the Bruins of UCLA clash on the Coliseum gridiron this afternoon," read the report. "In years to come this game will probably be one of the football spectacles of the West."

After USC's 76-0 slaughter of UCLA, they wrote, "What this proves, if anything, is not certain." That writer might have said of Custer's "last stand" that defeat at the hands of Sitting Bull was a "setback" that did not "prove anything." He would ultimately have been right. While UCLA has not "come back" to avenge defeat as thoroughly as the Americans did in eventually "winning the West," the big early loss was not a "certain" predictor of the future by any means.     

UCLA failed to win a single game in their initial season in the PCC. Jones was by this time a major football figure whose book, Football for the Fan, was a best seller. But UCLA had hired a good coach, a contemporary of Jones at Minnesota when the "Head Man" had been at Iowa. Spaulding had been building his program patiently since 1925. 

40,000 showed up for that initial game. USC rushed for 753 yards. The loss did not deter the plucky Bruins from playing USC the next year. The Southern Campus yearbook of 1930 declared that "the seige of Troy has began."

Over the years, various analogies and metaphors based on the USC nickname, "Trojans," have tried to compare the events of  ancient Greece with modern football, creating various confusing interpretations. UCLA may have wanted to effectuate a "seige of Troy," such as when the city of Troy fell to the Greeks under King Agamemnon in 1184 B.C. Of course, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey describes the Trojan Army laying seige on Greece.  Further references to the Battle of Thermopylae fail to account for the fact that the Trojans were not involved; rather this was a fight between the Persians and the Greeks. The Peloponnesian War is a more appropriate comparison, although this was a fight between Greece not with Troy, but rather with the Spartans. "Spartans" is the name given to USC's freshman or junior varsity teams over the years.

The sports comparison does gain some credence in light of the fact that the first Olympic Games were held in Athens, in part to celebrate the peace following the Trojan Wars. The good feelings of the Games did not prevent the Peloponnesian War (possibly because they were not open to non-Greeks), although that war did spawn the philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Their attempts to create professional politics and diplomacy as a substitute for war led to democracy.

Despite historical confusion, the two schools again played on opening day of 1930. It was obvious from the beginning that sharing the Coliseum was a disadvantage to UCLA. Against USC, it meant an away game. During other home games, it meant a 10-mile drive to their rival's campus, where their fans were forced to walk across the "hallowed shrine" that was the University of Southern  California, replete with all the splendid monuments to the all-conquering Trojans! 

40,000 Los Angelenos showed up to see "Field" Marshall Duffield score three times and Orv Mohler add two more in a 52-0 route. Whether giving up 128 points in the first two games or being shut out twice was more devastating was a problematic conundrum for UCLA. Either way, USC looked at UCLA much the way New York Giants' manager John McGraw had looked at the American League. In 1904, his Giants were National League champions, but he refused to play the American League title holders because he considered the upstart junior circuit a "busher league." In 1905, when his team repeated, he did agree to play Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's. His haughtiness was justified in an easy win. However, McGraw would be proved wrong, and quickly, since the American League indeed caught up to the senior circuit.

So it was with USC, who decided after the 1930 game that UCLA was not worthy of their schedule. This despite the fact that the Bruins managed to win three games after the 52-0 loss. USC was big business; their games drew huge crowds and everybody wanted a part of it. There was disagreement over whether to play UCLA early or late in the season, and USC felt neither. They replaced UCLA with St. Mary's.

However, coach Bill Spaulding made UCLA perfectly respectable from 1931-33. His teams were 15-12-1 with wins over Montana, Stanford and Washington State. When USC struggled to a 4-6-1 mark in 1934, talk revived about renewing the game, and when UCLA had a better season in 1935 than Southern Cal, they decided to start up again, this time in earnest.

The creation of the USC-UCLA rivalry is far more than a series of great sporting events that have created excitement and pride for millions of sports fans over the years. It mirrors something far more important than that, and the pride engendered by these non-sports factors outweighs the value of championships. 

California has always been a trendsetter. Two World Wars brought veterans, ship workers and families to its warm suburbs. This created important political demographics and turned it into a Presidential electoral juggernaut. These factors led to the choice of California Governor Earl Warren being chosen as the Vice-Presidential running mate on the 1948 Republican ticket. In 1952, California's GOP Senator, Richard Nixon, was elected V.P. on Dwight Eisenhower's coattails. The state was strongly anti-Communist, and this sentiment was the driving force behind the rise of Nixon (President from 1969-74) and California Governor Ronald Reagan (President from 1981-89). 

California already had a major Spanish influence, having been under Mexican dominion until statehood in 1848. Opportunity, political and racial moderation, in addition to the defense industry, brought in blacks from the South. Former USC All-American Charles "Tree" Young likes to point out out that USC is the University of Southern California. He has a point. The years between the Civil War and World War I saw a large population shift to the state in which, to some extent at least, "Yankees" from the North tended to move to the San Francisco Bay Area while "rebs" from the South preferred the L.A. environs.

The state was conservative by nature, but that conservativism had its strongest base in the Southland, where churches prospered with Christian constituencies. San Francisco tended more towards labor movements and unionization.

While there is no question that racism existed in California in the 1920s and '30s, it may be said that life for black people in the Golden State was probably more pleasant there than any other section of the country. Part of this is because California, unlike the East, was not comprised of "ghettoized" ethnic neighborhoods, with Jews, Italians, Irish and blacks living separately. In California, people tended to live together. Blacks tended to attend schools and play on sports teams with white classmates.   

What is somewhat telling is that the two universities of the conservative Southland, USC and UCLA, provided more opportunities for blacks than the supposedly enlightened liberal institutions of the north, Cal and Stanford. 

Thus, it is fair to say that both USC and UCLA can point with considerable pride to their role in racial progress. In 1907, Jamaican-born Alexander Somerville became th first black graduate of the prestigious USC School of Dentistry. He earned the highest grade point average of the class of 1907, and passed the state dental boards early. His wife, Vada Watson Somerville, became the first black woman graduate in 1918. She also became California's first black woman to practice dentistry. Aside from their practices, the Somervilles developed property. Mr. Somerville became a member of the L.A. Chamber of Commerce and served on the Police Commission from 1949 to 1953.

Ralph Bunch attended UCLA when it was still the Southern Branch. He graduated from the then-Vermont Avenue campus in 1927, and was a starting guard on their Southern Conference championship basketball teams for three years. He also played football and baseball while writing for the school paper, engaged in campus politics, and ascended to valedictorian of his graduating class. 

He went on to earn a Master's and a Doctorate from Harvard. Later, he was tasked by Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal with researching American racial conditions as part of the U.N. charter. 

In 1948, Bunche made a risky peacekeeping mission with Count Folk Bernadotte's mediating delegation. Count Bernadotte was assassinated, leaving Bunche to negotiate an armistice agreement between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. He was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize, and became the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In 1969, UCLA named Bunche Hall in his honor.

At USC, two-way black star Brice Taylor earned All-American honors in 1925 despite standing only 5-9. 185 pounds, with no left hand. This did not stop him from also competing in track. He was a member of SC's world record-setting 1925 mile relay team. 

In the late 1930s, two black stars, Kenny Washington and Jackie Robinson, propelled UCLA to parity with USC. In the 1950s, C.R. Roberts endured taunts in Austin to lead USC to a huge victory over the Texas Longhorns. Also in the 1950s, Rafer Johnson starred in basketball and track at UCLA. In 1970, USC's integrated team beat the all-white Alabama Crimson Tide in Birmingham, helping to end segregation in the South. These were just highlights of the two schools' excellent racial record.

While Taylor's All-American record is stunning when considering he did what he did as early as 1925, the truth is that UCLA held a slight edge over Southern Cal in this category over the next 30 years. They truly provided wonderful opportunities for people of color, and in fact it was the recruitment of the many great black stars dotting the L.A. prep landscape that allowed their teams to catch up and surpass USC within a very short period of time. By the 1950s, under the leadership of a Southerner, coach Red Saunders, UCLA became the dominant football power of the West Coast, winning the 1954 national championship. In large part because he recruited great black stars while the South was still segregated, basketball coach John Wooden created the all-time best hoops dynasty a decade later. It was John McKay who did much the same thing in building Troy into a football power of similar success over those same years.

Harlem in New York City was a place of black opportunity,  while towns such as Chicago and New Orleans were cultural centers of jazz and black artistic expression, it was Los Angeles - conservative, and this is the key, Christian - where average blacks had the best standard of living, mingling more closely and easily with their white brethren. The Baldwin Hills and Ladera Heights, located not far from USC on the east side of the Fox Hills area known as the Jefferson/Crenshaw corridor, is to this day considered the "black Beverly Hills." Its spacious, ranch-style homes offer swimming pool views of the L.A. Basin. Its residents consist of numerous doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, political figures and entertainers who graduated from USC and UCLA.   

In assessing all-time great college sports programs, whether it be football, basketball, track or other sports, the "racial factor" cannot be ignored, just as historical assessments of Babe Ruth invariably lead to the conclusion that his record is tempered by the fact that he did not compete against black players. Certainly, in judging USC, they gain some considerable edge by virtue of the fact that they had blacks on their teams, and competed against them. Their great rival UCLA was the leading integrated sports program from the beginning of the rivalry, so the Trojans were competing against as open a playing field as was available in America over these times.

In comparing USC with Alabama, other Southern schools, and even Midwestern programs (including Notre Dame), this is a factor that allows one to say that where the record is close, the edge goes to the Trojans.  

 

Johnny Baker and the comeback at South Bend

Late 1920s Trojan All-Americans included tackle Jesse Hibbs (1927-28), quarterback Don Williams (1928), and end Francis Tapaan (2929). 

Hibbs also played basketball, and was team captain. He played for the Bears in 1931, and eventually became a movie director.

Tappaan, who came out of Los Angeles High School, later coached at USC before becoming a judge and then a top executive at Rockwell, a major defense industry contractor.

The 1930 Trojans, in addition to pasting UCLA, 52-0, took the fight out of California. The 74-0 whipping was payback for the slights about academics and the accusations of cheating. It was revenge, a dish best served cold. The score carried with it an inherent message, which was that USC had declared themselves a dynasty and wanted Cal to stop pretending they were in their league. The 82,000 who witnessed it at the Coliseum (with the exception of the Cal rooters who always made the trip) relished every second of it. Unfortunately, the Trojans had let their guard down against Washington State at Pullman, losing 7-6. In the history of Washington State football, the 1930 squad was probably the best they ever had, at least until Mike Price and quarterback led Ryan Leaf led the Cougars to the 1998 Rose Bowl.

In the season finale at home, Knute Rockne coached what proved to be his last game. He died in a tragic plane crash in a Kansas corn field the following spring. He was warned of impending weather, but hated to fail on a commitment he had made. It was a blowout, 27-0 over USC before 73,967 at the Coliseum. 

"Rockne used great psychology with all the newspapermen," USC's star tackle, Ernie Smith recalled. "He told them they had nothing with <fullback Joe> Savoldi out of the lineup." Savoldi had been kicked off the team…for getting married???

USC believed what they read in the newspapers, which was that Notre Dame had very little and were unbeatable. 

"I don't feel that we were ready for them that day, though, not taking away from Notre Dame," continued Smith. "I don' think our team consciously let down, but they didn't subconsciously build themselves up for that game like we did for the others." 

The rest of the 1930 season stands out as a very odd on in the Howard Jones era. In their eight victories, Southern California dominated in a manner rarely seen in the annals of college football. They did not go to the Rose Bowl or win the national championship, but on eight Saturdays that year, the Trojans may have bean Jones's best team. On the other two, they were ordinary, especially on offense.

USC beat Utah State, 65-0; Hawaii, 52-0; and Washington, 32-0. Further blowouts came over Oregon State, Stanford and Denver. 

Aside from the loss to Notre Dame, 1930 was a year of upheaval. The enormous victory over Cal had given everybody the impression that USC was a professional team overmatching their opposition. One USC player had to be kicked off the squad for falsifying his entrance information.

In addition, the 1930 season was played under the cloud of the Carnegie Report, which after visiting 130 campuses found enormous corruption in the practice of awarding scholarships.

The genie was out of the bottle, however. Neither USC or any other college had any intention of stopping the recruitment of big-time football players, who helped attract enormous crowds and create big revenues that ultimately would build law schools, medical schools, and all the other accoutrements of academe.

As if to snub their nose at the Carnegie Report, Southern Cal commissioned sculptor Roger Noble to erect a statue in the center of campus. "Tommy Trojan" was said to be modeled after Russ Saunders.

It had been 11 years since Elmer "Gloomy Gus" Henderson had taken over at USC, thus taking the Trojan program from that of a glorified "club team" to a big-time program in a new, big-time sport. The 1920s had seen enormous growth; the building of the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum, with huge crowds to fill them. There was the firing of a coach with an .865 winning percentage because he could not beat rival Cal, and the hiring of a man who led the Trojan empire over the old Cal dynasty in the manner of Caesar humiliating Pompey. A national championship, the spectacular Notre Dame games. But in 1931…

 

In 1931, all the previous highlights of USC football paled in comparison with the spectacular, dramatic events of that season. It is possible that the game played between SC and Notre Dame that year is to this day the most significant in school history.

Gus Shaver, Garrett Arbelbide, Johnny Baker, Erny Pinckert, Stan Williamson, Ernie Smith and Robert Hall, all Trojan legends, made up that team's incredible roster. A first-year player, Aaron Rosenberg would make All-American. 

The season opener was a scheduled blowout of St. Mary's at the Coliseum before 70,000 on hand for round one of the coronation. Taps were blown for the death of Rockne

"This may have been an expectant championship year for the Trojans, but they looked anything else but," wrote Paul Lowry in the Times. 

St. Mary's had good teams and would continue to field excellent ones for more than 20 years after that season. However, their 13-7 victory over SC may be the biggest upset the Trojans have ever suffered, especially considering that 70,000 fans, flush with expectation, were on hand at the Coliseum.

From there, however, USC went on a winning streak. Oregon State, Washington State, Oregon, Cal, Stanford and Montana fell like Italy, Austria and Poland under Napoleon. After the St. Mary's game, USC won six straight, five by shutout (Washington State lost, 38-6). On November 21, the Monster lay in wait. The Siegfried Line. The Atlantic Wall. Hannibal staring at the Alps.

"Notre Dame is so good that <new coach> Hunk Anderson could lick any team he has played, Northwestern excepted, with his second string," USC scout Aubrey Devine told the reporters. "It is impossible to set a fool-proof defense for the Irish because they are such  a versatile squad. Just when you think you have them stopped, they break out in another direction."   

Notre Dame had beaten USC four out of the first five times they had met. Jones amped up his practice sessions, and did it in secret.

"There is every reason to believe that the team we buck up against Saturday is much stronger than the one which trounced us 27-0 last year," Jones said. "On the better hand, there is nothing to indicate that my boys are any better than they were that day Kunte Rockne's eleven made us look bad."

L.A. Examiner: "ABOARD THE TROJAN SPECIAL, Bound For Heaven Knows What," by Maxwell Stiles (November 17, 1931):

 

That big noise you heard down there at the Southern Pacific depot was not a bedlam of Southern California rooters cheering a Trojan victory over Notre Dame. The noble 600 hundred were merely seeing the gang off. Everybody seemed to be taking a good, long look at most of us. As if they never expected to see us again - after Notre Dame's team, those on Notre Dame, and perhaps one of those Midwestern blizzards got through with us.

A special section of the Golden State Limited pulled out of downtown L.A. at night, carrying the team and a small group of die-hard rooters who would be there to withstand the roars of a capacity crowd at the new Notre Dame Stadium. It was SC's first trip to South Bend proper, and of course the first game in this new arena…

The big push starts tonight. El Trojan of Southern California starts eastward in quest of victory over Notre Dame, generally recognized throughout the Middle West and East as the greatest American football team of the generation. Quite a mouthful to bite.

 

Notre Dame was indeed the "greatest American football team of the generation" under Rockne, but USC was right on its tail. If USC had beaten the Irish four of five instead of vice versa, the Trojans' record would have put that "title" on them. If the teams had "split," 3-2 or 2-3 either way, the "greatest" description may well have been a split decision. But the Irish had earned the moniker and USC knew it.

The train pulled into Tucson, Arizona. USC held a practice there in the airid desert. Johnny Baker, recovering from a bum knee, had a mental lapse on his defensive assignments. Jones came down on him hard.

"I remember quite distinctly the bawling out which Howard gave Baker," said Braven Dyer, who seemingly was covering the Trojans, on and off the field, day and night, in those years. ""Johnny was quite mad about it. Later he told me that he came within a whisker of quitting the team right then and there and heading back to Los Angeles."

(Dyer indeed seemed to be "everywhere" throughout his career with the Los Angeles Times. In 1964, while traveling with the Los Angeles Angels, he got into a drunken fight with playboy pitcher Bo Belinsky at four in the morning at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Belinsky punched the then-elderly sportswriter, knocking him out. Despite the fact he was a star at the time, Belinsky found himself traded to Philadelphia faster than he could say, "Braven Dyer.")

The newspapers in South Bend were much more provincial than the Chicago papers. They gave USC very little respect, despite their fabulous record over the past years, and the pounding they had given opponents since the St. Mary's game. Notre Dame was the big time, and when it came to that test, 1-4 said it all! Certainly, playing at South Bend would prove to be an atmosphere that, combined with the talents of the Irish, could not be overcome. The Irish were riding a 26-game winning streak. USC entering the 2005 season with two straight national titles and the imprimatur of invincibility only had a 22-game streak at the time.

55,000 (a capacity audience, 50,731 were considered paid attendance) let USC know what they were in for from the moment they took the field. The Trojans were intimidated by the surroundings. The Irish had them off-balance early when Steve Banas finished off a drive with a four-yard touchdown run. 7-0, Irish.

USC stiffened on defense but could not push the ball at all. They felt lucky to be trailing only by seven at the half, but all seemed lost when the great quarterback Marchy Schwartz took it in from three out in the third quarter to make it 14-0.

"The score looked as big as the population of China," wrote Dyer. "In fact it looked a darn sight larger than that, if possible, because of the consummate ease with which the Irish scored those touchdowns.

"In other words the Irish were in command of the situation, and everybody, apparently, but the Trojans knew it. Schwartz had been whizzing around his own right end repeatedly for long gains. Banas, on a twisting, 32-yard run which ended up on Troy's three-yard line, had made the Trojans look positively silly. And the ease with which Schwartz went over for the touchdown presaged others to come."

USC fullback Jim Musick broke his nose. Orv Mohler replaced him at the position, and it was a Godsend for the Trojans. He and Gus Shaver started making gains in the fourth quarter. Jones's hard practices and conditioning in the California heat began to pay off in the chill of an Indiana November. USC got it to the one, where Shaver bulled in. At that point, a tie seemed the best they could hope for, but when Baker missed the extra point, a 14-6 deficit in the fourth still looked insurmountable.

But USC held Notre Dame, got the ball back, went to the air, and when the Irish were called for pass interference (a brave call from an official in South Bend), they had a first-and-10 on the Irish 24. Shaver and Mohler, fighting for every yard, pushed it to the nine. Mohler lateralled to Shaver, and he went around the left end to score. Baker made the conversion, and at 14-13 the crowd was silenced, the USC cheers rising above their silence. Momentum was in USC's favor, and all that was left was the famed "luck of the Irish." It was not to be.

"The fury of Troy's attack in the second half astounded evrybody," wrote Dyer. "No man, unless it be Gus Shaver, stood out. Morley's choice of plays was almost perfect, and the way the 162-pound Orv rammed into the Irish line inspired his mates immensely."

Possessions were exchanged and the clock, Notre Dame's only remaining ally, wound down to four minutes. USC had the ball on its own 27 with time left for one dramatic drive.

Two plays failed, but Shaver made a daring pass after being forced to retreat from Notre Dame tacklers, spotting and hitting Ray Sparling with a diving grab for a first down at the Notre Dame 40 (Dwayne Jarrett, anyone?). This gave life to the Trojans and created a sense of foreboding in the Irish rooters, who by this time were counting on Baker's inconsistency if he lined up for a field goal. 

Bob Hall caught a pass and got the ball down to the 18. A penalty moved it to the 13, and Sparling ran into the middle, putting the team into good field goal position while the clock wound down. Some confusion reigned when Jones sent Homer Griffith into the fray with instructions to go for the kick, but Mohler waved him back.

"Cold sweat broke out on his <Jones'> brow, and his assistant coach groaned in anguish," read one report. 

(Again, the "confusion" near the goal line in '31 eerily pre-cursors what happened in '05.

But Mohler did call for a field goal. The team caught Notre Dame off guard and lined up for the kick, but it was Baker, he of the missed conversion who had come "within a whisker" of quitting in Tucson, who stood at the ready.

It was in God's hands now.

Baker was straight and true from 23 yards out, and now it was 16-14, Trojans. USC celebrated as if it was Armistice Day in 1918. With a minute and three seconds left, they would have been wise to consider the magic of Notre Dame. USC kicked off, but they were so enthused and Notre Dame so shocked that they simply smothered the Irish on their side of the field until the cannon roared.  

"Great. Boy, great! But why did you do it?" Jones yelled at Mohler.

"Baker and I have been practicing that play all year," said Mohler. "I knew if it failed I'd be the goat and we would be licked, but old 'Bake' doesn't miss on those short ones. I knew he wouldn't fail me. Wasn't it a beat?"

Jones restrained himself from punishing Mohler for winning the biggest game of his career; indeed in USC annals and certainly in football history up to that point!

"Notre Dame was far from the Fighting Irish type when Howard Jones' Trojans got hitting on all 11 cylinders in the last period of play," wrote Tom Thorpe of the New York Evening Journal. "No one would have thought it possible for any team to tally at a greater rate of speed than a point a minute against a Notre Dame squad. This Southern California did without much trouble.

"Notre Dame has no excuses. The Trojans simply outplayed them during the last 15 minutes in a manner that left no room for alibis. 'Old Rock,' looking down from up above, must have wept with tears of genuine sorrow when he saw his former Irish playmates being pushed around. It has been seven years since any team has been able to manhandle the Irish as Southern California did."

Of course, assuming 'Old Rock" is with the Lord, it does not seem likely he "wept" over the loss of an earthly game.

Dyer seemingly lost much of his "journalistic integrity," morphing from colorful sentimentalist to wordy fan in his game story.

"Noah Webster's diction book does not contain enough adjectives to describe the way the Trojans refused to be licked," he wrote. "Until the Trojans get home, you can paste this in your hat for future reference. Nobody ever saw a gamer battle than that which the Southern California players staged against supposedly insurmountable odds this afternoon. It did not seem humanly possible for them to win, but thanks to the indomitable fight of a great gang of kids, plus the cool nerve and steady hoof of Johnny Baker, the Trojans today achieved the greatest athletic triumph in Southern California history.

"Yours truly has run out of paper, his typewriter has broken down completely, and it's getting late. You'll have to wait until tomorrow for more about the stunning achievement of a bunch of boys who were rated no better than a two-to-five bet to upset the mighty Irish."

Dyer's further commentary included the following gem: 

 

NOTRE DAME STADIUM (South Bend, Ind.), November 21

(Exclusive) - When Howard Jones is old and a darn sight grayer than now he will tell his grandchildren about the heroic fight his 1931 Trojans made against the undefeated Irish of Notre Dame. He will tell them how his boys, with the odds hopelessly against them and with a sound thumping staring them in the face, came back to do the impossible and score sixteen points in the last quarter to bring to an end the sensational winning streak of the greatest team in Irish history. (Braven Dyer, L.A. Times).

  

 In addition, the game was broadcast nationally by Ted Husing on radio. Millions of Americans could recall for years afterwards being huddled around their radios, listening to the wild descriptions of this event.

Tears of sadness were shed in the Notre Dame locker room; tears of sadness on the USC side. Gordon Clark held the game ball for all it was worth. 

"I knew they couldn't stop us," Pinckert shouted. "I've waited for two years for this day - but boy, what revenge."

Indeed, it may have been revenge, but the atmosphere was totally different from the cold calculus of Total Victory that had enveloped the 74-0 thrashing of the "poor sport" Cal Bears. A sense of mutual respect pervaded. After losing three times by a point, USC now had the respect of the Notre Dame fans, players and allies in the sporting press. They were looking at an open road towards Howard Jones's second national title in four years, and were sitting firmly on top of the college football mountain.

USC alumni actually crashed into the locker room to congratulate Baker - in the shower! Trojan fans dance with the naked, dripping Baker. 

Jones was beside himself, disheveled and totally beyond his normal reserved persona. He just went about shaking hands and declared that he was too "flabbergasted" to be eloquent. 

"But I'll tell you that it was the greatest team in the world," he stated of his club. 

Jones had a little time to compose himself when the team boarded the train, but he continued to stay out of character, acting like a "kid let out of school," according to Jack James of the L.A. Herald. "The strain and worry of past weeks all fell away from him like a discarded garment the moment the gun ended that game on the Notre Dame greensward Saturday afternoon. From that moment he 'unlaxed' as the saying goes…"

At stops, Jones was seen throwing snowballs at the athletic director and his assistants. He brought snow into the train, committing acts of hi-jinks in order to "get" various players, sneaking into their compartments amid great laughter.

The "special train" was "a regular madhouse" for the three-day, three-night trip back to Los Angeles. Jack James admitted that he preferred "sanity," but if he thought he would find it in the City of Angels, he was wrong.

300,000 fans met the "…men of Troy, conquering football heroes," said the Examiner. The cheering came from the rooftops and all about.

"I never saw anything like it in my life," said Ernie Smith. The team all wore bowlers, a style of the day, which was purchased for them in Chicago. Dressed in their best finery with the bowlers, the team was loaded into waiting cars, two per car, for a ride down Fifth Street to Main, then on to city hall. 

"There seemed to be a half-million people lining the streets," said Smith. "When we left city hall and started down toward the school, ticker tape came flying out at us. We rode down Spring Street, I remember, and people had torn up telephone books, and they were throwing all this paper out of windows. It was a real thrill - it was unbelievable. For a football team to get this type of reception, I mean it was REALLY something."

In the mist of the Great Depression, Los Angelenos had found escape in the exploits of their beloved Trojans. On this day, USC became a tradition in the city. Perhaps the Dodgers would equal the intensity of fan enthusiasm and loyalty a few decades later, but other than that, in the history of Southern California, no team - not UCLA, the Angels, Rams, Raiders, or Angels - would establish greater tradition than what USC started, and over the years proudly continued to live up to! 

"I think Ted Husing's national radio broadcast of the game had a lot to do with that welcome," recalled Al Wesson. "He had built up the last quarter to such a dramatic extent that Los Angeles people were running out into the streets during the game and screaming.

"It was the wildest sports demonstration that the city of Los Angeles ever had. 300,00? I don't know, there were at least 200,000 in the line of march to see the Trojans riding in their cars. Everyone got a helluva cheer."

The team rode "fancy touring cars," open on a mild L.A. November day. People leaned out of office buildings. Streamers and confetti were hurled out of the sky. It was a ticker tape parade that observers said could compare to the one Charles Lindbergh had received on Broadway in New York City after his trans-Atlantic flight in 1927. 

"A reception never before equaled for athletic stars turned downtown Los Angeles into a half holiday as the triumphant Trojans rode through the city at the head of a three-mile parade beneath a barrage of confetti and flowers," the Examiner went on. "At the first cry of 'Here they come' and the first notes of Harold Roberts' Trojan band, playing 'Fight On!' men and women poured from every building on Spring and Broadway and Hill….

"…Bankers and laborers…industrial kings and clerks…merchants and typists…For a day USC was the adopted alma mater of the city. Through the jammed lanes of humanity, the Trojan warriors who fought the Battle of Notre Dame rode as heroes ride. Police sirens screamed to clear the congested traffic."

The paper went on to state that the team had left as college students and returned as heroes. The cheers of the populace were only the beginning. The student body received them like Caesar returning from victory over Gaul. An "arch of triumph" was fashioned out of chrysanthemums and poppies in Cardinal and Gold colors. Flowers, serpentine, blossoms and confetti reigned. 

Mayor John C. Porter presided over a city hall welcome with 40,000 filling the area in front of the building, made famous in the 1950s TV police series,Dragnet. Bishop John J. Cantwell of the Roman Catholic diocese of L.A. and San Diego certainly seemed to favor the locals over Notre Dame despite the religious conflict. Howard Jones stood before a cheering crowd that would not let him speak for several minutes.

The applause could be heard for many, many blocks. 

In Los Angeles, writers who had not made the trip got many further recollections, such as captain Stan Williamson saying that Jones had kissed him in the locker room. Williamson kissed the man right back before he realized "it was the 'Head Man' himself." 

Garrett Arbelbide had been sidelined and was in the locker room. All he heard was "racket" when the team came in. A movie camera had captured the game, and it was replayed as a full-length feature in L.A. by M-G-M for a long while, with Dyer providing narration.

It played at Loew's State Theater, the top downtown movie house at the time. It began as the first of a double-bill, but was so popular it ran over and over, breaking all the house records at Loew's.

A strange twist became public when it was revealed that third-string center William Hawkins had been imprisoned, allegedly for leaking team secrets to Notre Dame. Hawkins had missed some practice time, and upon his return inquired of the plays the team was practicing in his absence. Assistant coach Gordon Campbell suspected that something was amiss. Apparently Hawkins had friends at Notre Dame, and this fact concerned the coaches. After being "grilled" by the rest of the staff, he was placed under the custody of detectives, and spent the week of the game at a mountain lodge in Topanga Canyon, away from his team and his classmates. He missed a week of school and did not even hear the game on radio.

A subsequent investigation exonerated him. His home was searched, he was shadowed, and his Notre Dame friends questioned. In the end, he was found innocent, prompting a genuine apology from Jones to Hawkins and his enraged parents. 

USC had gone from football players to movie stars, but it did not go to their heads. Washington fell, 44-7 and when they beat Georgia, 60-0, it stamped the team and the West as the kingpins of the game. It most certainly did not improve the image of the South as it related to gridiron prowess. Alabama's back-to-back national titles and Georgia Tech's "wrong way run" win over Cal two years later (following the 1928 season) had elevated Dixie.

Georgia guard "Red" Mattox got into it with Baker on the field, but the thrashing wore him out.

"All I want to know," Maddox told Baker in those Prohibition days, "is where can a guy get a gallon of corn liquor after the game?"

USC went on to play another Southern school, Tulane, in the Rose Bowl. The Green Wave was a very tough challenge, very well coached and the best team in their region at 11-0. Jones's brother, TAD, predicted a close contest. Their end, Jerry Dalrymple, was acclaimed to be the best in the nation. 

An overzealous L.A. sports editor misquoted Dalrymple, headlining a story with, "Dalrymple say's he'll stop Trojan attack." The article was great bulletin board fodder for the Trojans, who did not know the Tulane man had not said it. The player was distraught, as was coach Bernie Bierman. 

The Southern sportswriters had heard tales of the Notre Dame drama, Grantland Rice's 1920s exclamation that California produced "supermen," scientific theories that the sun, the weather and maybe the gene pool of settlers and Hollywood hopefuls further created "perfect" football players. They expected he-men, brutes, animals, but were surprised at what they found.

"You never saw such quiet, boyish looking chaps…polished gentlemen all," wrote Bill Keefe of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "Williamson, a great big kid with a baby face, looks as if his feelings could be hurt with a frown. We expected to see gangs of ferocious, cruel, and twin-headed monsters, but find only a band of fine young chaps. No university ever boasted a more gentlemanly or clean-cut set of boys. Barring Pinckert, Shaver, and Williamson, they are not much bigger or tougher-looking than Tulane."    

A great deal of film obviously existed of USC, however, and the more Bierman observed it, the more he realized his team was overmatched. He predicted a four-touchdown USC win. Six Trojans made All-American. Pinckert was named for the second time, and honors went also to Shaver, Mohler, Williamson, Baker, Rosenberg, and Smith.

The Associated Press declared USC the "outstanding sports team of the year" over the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. The Rose Bowl parade had a distinctly international theme, and with the Olympics scheduled for that summer, there was a distinct feeling in the air that Los Angeles was now the "sports capitol of the world." Radio broadcasts of the game delivered it across the Fruited Plain.  

Once the game began, Pinckert took charge, sweeping through Dalrymple to score from 30 and 23 yards out. USC led by 21-0. Tulane rallied but it was too little, too late.

"Southern California had more power than any team I ever saw," said Bierman after the 21-12 defeat before 84,000. 

"These players accomplished more throughout the season than any team I ever coached," stated Jones. USC was an undisputed national champion, and the new Knute Rockne Trophy was awarded to the "Head Man" and his team. 

Indeed, despite the observation by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, USC had a powerful team of 200-pounders-plus. Pop Warner made note of this, assessing that the Trojans had no weak spot and were as strong as any club he had ever seen, which was saying something. Players of that era, when questioned in the 1970s, when the game had modernized in terms of player size and equipment, were still convinced that they could have adapted; diet, weight training, equipment.

"The guys I played with had good athletic ability - and guts," said Gene Clarke.

Chief among those was Pinckert, who often played the full 60 minutes and was given the Douglas Fairbanks trophy as the nation's most valuable player. 

Clarke also offered an amusing anecdote, describing some near-fisticuffs involving Tom Mallory and an opposing player in a game USC was winning by five touchdowns.

"What's the matter with you guys," the referee says to them, "don't you know how to play football?"

"Don't we know how to play football?" Mallory retorted. "For Christ sakes, look at the scoreboard, buddy." 

Greatness also followed the Trojan players in the years after the 1931 season. Ernie Smith went from All-American to All-Pro and then the NFL Hall of Fame. Without his USC teammates, however, "I never would have achieved what I did," he said.

He and Aaron Rosenberg were the great off-tackle blocking combination that fueled The Thundering Herd. Smith also had the utmost respect for Jones.

"He was called the 'Head Man' and he was that in all respects," said Smith. 

Smith, who hailed from Gardena, a small community a few miles south of the USC campus, was an all-around person who played the trombone. He had grown up a USC fan, attending Trojan games, and had seen the Four Horsemen play in the 1925 Rose Bowl when his Gardena High band played at the game. At USC he performed in dance orchestrations. Smith was a good example of why Cal's "professionalism" charges had no merit. He had come to school on a music scholarship!

Once in, Smith worked many jobs to make ends meet, further negating the myth. He did get work through his football connections, however. Smith was a football player, cowboy and singer in 55 movies.

"I worked in all of Will Rogers' pictures through that era," he recalled. "I was a waiter in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times."

In 1932, a movie was made called The Spirit of Notre Dame. It was filmed at Loyola College in Los Angeles, and the football sequences were shot using Trojan and Loyola players. 

That fall, defending national champion USC played Loyola, and despite their great reputation, the game was a close one, 6-0 Troy. It turned out that the close proximity of the players on the movie had made USC familiar to Loyola; they knew their plays and techniques, and lost their intimidation of them. 

In Smith's 1930-32 career, USC won two national titles, two Rose Bowls, averaged 30 points a game to four for the opposition, shut out 16 teams, and compiled a 28-3 record. 

Smith was also one of those gentlemen that the New Orleans writer had made note of; a true credit to the Trojans and an example of the sense of elan,esprit de corps and happiness that often marked Trojan football over the years. 

A tradition at USC in his day was the "haircut." A player would take to the barber's chair, the barber would give him the "works," a shave, hot towel, and haircut. His teammates would stand around an give all manner of advice to the barber. One day, a USC man was in the chair, his face covered by a towel, with Trojans surrounding him. Smith arrived to give his teammate the once-over. Rubbing his hands together, Smith gave the man a lunge against the solar plexus, then proceeded with a full body massage making extremely rough use of his huge hands and fingers that no doubt was leaving black-and-blue marks on the poor guy. Shampoo tonic ensued, followed by a hand massage through the towel on the man's face, with the affect that the guy had trouble breathing through the hot, wet towel. As much to get air as to discover his tormentor, Smith's teammate rose and pulled the towel off his face.

"There was a sudden emptiness of people in that shop of the former occupants who had been standing along the sidelines," recalled Orv Mohler. "The man in the chair was Coach Howard Jones."

Smith, who had of course thought it a teammate worthy of a prank and not the "Head Man," was left literally holding the towel. His great on-field abilities saved him from the perils such adventures might otherwise have cost him.

Smith seriously considered a musical career, but his graduation came in the middle of the Depression. Pro football was steady work, so he went on to star for the Green Bay Packers. Later, he was the player-coach of a pro team in L.A. called the Hollywood Stars until his insurance business developed. His clients would include Bing Crosby.

In 1970, Smith was inducted into the College Hall of Fame along with the great Notre Dame coach, Frank Leahy. His work with the Tournament of Roses Committee led to the foundation memorializing Howard Jones. Out of that grew sholarships for deserving USC students, leading to a number of football players going on to dental and law school. 

"There's a tendency to shove the greats of the past into the past," said Smith, but not on this author's watch.

 

1932: unbeaten, untied, back-to-back national champs

1932 was the height of the Depression, and Los Angeles was hit as hard as most American cities. However, when it came to the world of sports, and especially college football, L.A. was "fat city." Dean Cromwell's magnificent track program was at full throttle, making the Games, held at the Coliseum, resemble a USC home meet of sorts. A Trojan had earned a Gold Medal in every games since 1904 at St. Louis. The great Fred Kelly had taken Gold in the 110-meter high hurdles at Stockholm in 1912. Charles Paddock, the "fastest man alive," had competed in the famous Chariots of Fire Paris Games of 1924, where he came up empty after having earned Gold in the 100 meters and four-by-100-meter relays. Frank Wykoff had earned Gold in the 1928 4-by-100 meter relays, and Buster Crabbe had won a Bronze in swimming.

The L.A. Games were a Trojan extravaganza, with SC trackmen taking five Golds. The great Frank Wykoff took two of those, and Crabbe went for the Gold and got one in the 400-meter freestyle swimming event.

Fresh off the glory of the Olympics, which by virtue of its being held at the Coliseum turned the campus into the Olympic Village, showing off the school, the city and the greatness of its athletes as well, defending national champ USC and Los Angeles itself was flush with success as the 1932 football season got underway. 

The participants and fans in L.A. simply had decided not to participate in the Depression. USC become not just a great football school, but a world famous institution, in large part because it was showcased at the Games with Hollywood as its backdrop.

The 1931 team, number one and bathed in glory after beating the Irish and winning the Rose Bowl, were the epitome of college grid excellence. The 1932 team was even better, if that can be believed, than the '31 squad. 

A new superstar emerged, the All-American defensive guard who powered one of the greatest defensive juggernauts of all times. Eight opponents were shut out (after six had gotten goose eggs in 1931). In 1938, Duke would be unbeaten, untied and unscored upon in the regular season. So, too, would Tennessee the following year. Both those teams were beaten and scored on…by USC in the Rose Bowl. In light of that, the '32 Trojans must rank as one of the truly great defensive teams ever. 

"Aaron Rosenberg is still considered Troy's mightiest guard - on defense he stopped everything that came his way and charged viciously on offense," was one appraisal of the era.

Smith was "headline material," a "hammer-'em-down 200-pounder…" 

"I give credit to Rosenberg for playing a big part in the success of the team's defense against Notre Dame and Stanford in 1931 and 1932," Coach Jones said. Of the fullbacks he was assigned to tackle, he "cracked him and messed him up."

"The 1932 team was the strongest defensive team that USC ever had," stated Al Wesson. "There were only two touchdowns scored on us all season - and they were both by passes. No one could move, no less score on the ground against us. Smith was one of the greatest tackles we ever had. Rosenberg was a smart, fine athlete. You couldn't buy a yard against this team. I'd say without qualification that the offense of the 1931 team and the defense of the 1932 team were the best produced by Jones."

Captain Tay Brown was an All-American tackle. Left end Ray Sparling made huge plays in crucial situations. New recruits of equal strength, an indication of Jones's enormous recruiting ability, replaced the players from the 1931 champs who had graduated. There is little doubt that USC had gotten to the point where they enjoyed a huge advantage in attracting players to their school, for reasons that went well over and above football. It was also obvious that the modest but steady success of UCLA was not preventing the great stars from wanting to be Trojans. 

",,,If any of these players of prominence show signs of lagging," wrote one football magazine, "Jones will have somebody else in there in a hurry." 

Jones knew that team competition was a very good thing that pushed everybody. "Players get one or two chances to make good, and if they fail it is a long time before they land on the first string again," the magazine continued. Shaver was thought to be the player most likely to be missed, and the backfield might "lack cohesion" early.

A new superstar emerged in the USC backfield. Cotton Warburton quickly became a Trojan legend. He was only 140 pounds, but the sophomore from San Diego was a scatback, a term that applied to a number of great runners of the decade. Ted Williams, the great baseball star who also grew up in San Diego, had seen Warburton as a high schooler, would follow his career at USC, and later in his life counted Cotton as one of his all-time favorite athletes.

Warburton scored a touchdown in a 9-6 win over Washington and scored in the 13-0 defeat of Notre Dame. He scored twice in a 35-0 pasting of Pitt in the Rose Bowl. 

"I was responsible for the one and only blemish on our undefeated, untied and almost unscored on record," Warburton did admit. He slipped in the Cal game and let the Bears score. Against Stanford, Warburton knocked down multiple Stanford passes. 

"The USC defensive power was absolutely astounding; their ability to out-dazzle Mr. (Pop) Warner's razzle-dazzle was uncanny," wrote Mark Kelly of the Los Angeles Examiner. 

USC opened the year with five straight shutouts before Warburton slipped and Cal broke the string in SC's 27-7 victory. Cal was said to be desperate to win, or at least show, against the Trojans, so perplexed were they by their loss of football prestige over a decade against the team that they wanted to beat more than any. Stanford of course is their biggest rival, but USC is the top of the mountain. Perhaps they took some solace in that they ended USC's scoreless record, but the loss was hardly a "show." USC no longer even looked at the Bears as anything more important than the rest of the schedule. Oregon and Washington fell, and Notre Dame came into town.

Warburton returned a punt 39 yards to set up a touchdown pass, and USC recovered an Irish fumble to create another score. The game was not the dramatic extravaganza of 1931, but the Trojans faithful of 93,924 were happy to observe a good old-fashioned whuppin'.

The Pacific Coast Conference champions returned to Pasadena, where Pittsburgh came in hoping for some measure of respect after their 47-14 loss three years earlier. They should have stayed in the Steel City for the holidays.

Colgate was left home. The papers remarked that they were "unbeaten, untied, unscored on and uninvited." 

Sophomore quarterback Homer Griffith out of Fairfax High had mostly handed off to Warburton, but towards season's end he came into his own against Notre Dame and Pitt. He hit Ford Palmer for a 50-yard first quarter touchdown in front of 78,874. Warburton starred on both sides of the ball. He scored twice late.

Pitt went home with their tales between their legs, 35-0. USC was the back-to-back national champion, and at that point if a poll were taken to determine the greatest program of the century up to this season, it would very well have been a tie between USC and Notre Dame, with a slight edge to SC.

Four years later, Pitt returned to Pasadena to play Washington. Coach Jock Sutherland ordered the bus to a stop on the hill overlooking the Arroyo Seco and announced, "There it is. There's the place two Pittsburgh teams were beaten by a total of 68 points." 

 

Some of the greatest legends in USC football history played for Howard Jones's Thundering Herd teams of 1930-32. Halfback Garrett Arbelbride was an All-American in 1930 who also played on the baseball team. Inducted into SC's Hall of Fame in 1999, he was an educator and rancher.

Quarterback Orv Mohler came to USC from Alhambra High School, made All-American in 1930, also played baseball, was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame (1995), and became an Air Force colonel. He died when his jet crashed in 1949.

Erny Pinckert came out of San Bernardino High School, was a two-time All-American (1930-31), won the Davis-Teschke Award, is a member of USC's and College Football's Hall of Fame, and played professionally for the Washington Redskins.

Guard Johnny Baker from the Central California valley town of Kingsburg, earned All-American in 1931. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, he later was the head coach at Iowa State and the athletic director at Sacramento State.  

Quarterback Gaius "Gus" Shaver of Covina High earned All-American in 1931, made SC's Hall of Fame and was a Trojan assistant coach.

Center Stan Williamson, from the Sacramento Delta hamlet of Pittsburgh, was an All-American in 1931 (as well as team captain), and eventually the athletic director at U.C.-Santa Barbara.

Tackle Tay Brown came to USC from Compton High School and made the 1932 All-American team. A College Hall of Famer, he became the basketball coach at the University of Cincinnati and the athletic director at Compton J.C.

"I'd have to say that that all of us hitched our wagon to a star, and Howard Jones was that star," athletic director Willis O. Hunter, who had hired Jones in 1925, said of this golden era of USC football. "He made all of USC's later success possible." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

THE FALL AND RISE OF TROY

Stanford's "Vow Boys" and UCLA make their bid; the "Head Man's" Trojans return to glory

 

1932 was a high point in the history of USC football and Los Angeles. The Trojans were the preferred school of all the great athletes who went to the high schools in and around Greater Los Angeles, an enormous metropolitan swath that is unequaled anywhere in the world. New York City has more people than L.A. city proper. Chicago did until the 1960s. London and Calcutta, just to name a couple of large cities, have comparably high populations. But in terms of geographic size, weather, good high school programs and economic prosperity, "L.A.," which of course means much more than just the city limits, is the largest goldmine of sports talent by a very wide margin.

Greater L.A. basically extends from Camarillo or Thousand Oaks, on the 101 Freeway in Ventura County to the north, about 100 miles or so to San Clemente, on the Interstate 5 in Orange County to the south; then from the ocean strands that run from Malibu to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, making up the South Bay, and again from Long Beach to Newport Beach, extending to all points east, into the Inland Empire of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, communities that lie some 50 to 80 miles from the USC campus. These suburbs were quite developed as early as the 1930s, more so than most city outgrowths in the West at that time. In the Bay Area, for instance, a large number of students were coming from San Francisco proper. Suburbs in Marin, Sonoma, Contra Costa and outlying areas were not as developed as in the Southland. 

Furthermore, the term Greater L.A. may be extended even beyond the aforementioned boundaries. There is an argument that Palm Springs, indeed all of San Bernardino County, the largest county in the country extending all the way to the Nevada border, is part of Greater L.A. Ventura and even Santa Barbara, some 100 miles north of the city, is thought to be connected in the same way. Despite efforts to create a separate civic identity, San Diego has always been overshadowed by Los Angeles. 

As time went by, and television extended fan bases even further, communities as far away as San Luis Obispo; Bakersfield and northern Kern County; and even Las Vegas, Nevada found themselves part of L.A.'s orbit. USC has always benefited from its geographical vantage point, as if Manifest Destiny had been orchestrated to create a single center of sporting greatness on its campus. They also were never afraid to go into Northern California and pluck athletes who otherwise might have been destined for Cal and Stanford, not to mention the out-of-state players attracted to the school.

Of course, its rivals had always tried to get top stars from the L.A. area who, for whatever reason, chose to leave. Indeed, Cal's Wonder Teams had been built on a talent base from the Southland. By the 1930s, the rest of the PCC, despite the negative ramifications of the Carngie Report, were actively engaged in the high-stakes game of recruiting. College football was very big business. Cal and Stanford were determined to get back in the game, and there were plenty of fine athletes to go around. USC could not get everybody.

Indeed, UCLA was created because there was so much to go around. Howard Jones found himself competing every year against the forces of attrition. While the two Northern colleges had to fight amongst themselves for the smaller talent base of their region, USC had the bigger talent base to themselves. This was to end. 

The first fissure in the Trojan Empire germinated in the 1932 USC-Stanford freshman game, which the Spartans, the unofficial name given to the lower classmen, won. Stanford's freshmen surveyed the landscape. The Indians' varsity had been shut out twice in a row by USC (1931-32), was beaten five straight times, and had not won over Southern Cal since 1926. Those freshmen got together and vowed never to lose to USC in their varsity careers. It was a daunting task. Truth be told, it was the kind of pact many teams and players make but are unable to attain. Stanford's "Vow Boys" are remembered because they actually did fulfill their promise. It was not the end of USC's period of greatness. Howard Jones would take the Trojans to the Promised Land again, but it was the first steps down from the highest mountaintop that they had climbed in 1931-32.

The 1933 Trojans were re-tooled. They opened with an astounding for straight shutout victories. Then Oregon State tied them, 0-0, ending their 25-game winning streak. At Berkeley, USC's 6-3 win had none of the Caesarian pomp of the 1930 74-0 pasting.

95,000 filled the Coliseum the following week when Stanford came to town. Troy still has a 27-game unbeaten streak, and the Northern papers said it all when it was over:

 San Francisco Examiner: "The King Is Dead… Monarch Who Reigned Since 1931 Crashed to Earth."

"Across the nation's football front the right phrase echoed this afternoon as Stanford University crushed, and I mean crushed, Southern California 13 to 7," read the article.

"These words fell with a resounding crash. Unbelievable, but 90,000 pairs of eyes witnessed the feat.

"It was a strange sight. Not since 1931, when a little band of St. Mary's Gaels turned the trick, has the old Trojan warhorse showed any signs of slowing down…"

13-7 was certainly no "crushing," but no matter. There was literal dancing in the Palo Alto streets. It was a chink in the armour, and arguably the greatest three-year run in Stanford football history. The Indians went on to three straight Rose Bowls in addition to their victories over Southern California. Remarkably, it was all under new coach Tiny Thornhill, who replaced Pop Warner. Warner left ostensibly out of frustration that he could not beat Jones. 

"You can never hope to beat USC with the kind of material that comes to Stanford," Warner whined to Thornhill.

Warner goes down in history as a great coach, but much of his legend is because of the youth leagues named after him. Thornhill is a blip on the college football screen, but it would certainly seem that at Stanford he should rate at least as high as Warner for his feats. Being nicknamed "Tiny" might have been his problem.

Monk Moscrip, Bob Reynolds, Frank Alustiza, Bones Hamilton, and Bobby Grayson made up the Vow Boys. USC still had stars in 1933, of course. Their All-Americans, Warburton and Rosenberg, were the biggest. Warburton suffered a tremendous hit that knocked him into "never-never land" during the Cal game, affecting his performance the following week vs. Stanford. However, in that Cal contest, despite the knockout punch, Warburton re-entered the game and ran for a game-winning touchdown. 

"I don't know what happened," Warburton said.

Warburton was described as the "platinum blonde speedster" and "the most sensational ball carrier since the halcyon days of Red Grange." Warburton was a true game-breaker, in many ways the Reggie Bush of his era. In 1933, he was the difference in a majority of USC's games. He was "the most feared runner in these United States."

It is really a testament to the greatness that Jones and his team ascended to that 1933 goes down as a disappointing season. Following the Stanford loss, Southern California took care of Oregon, Notre Dame, Georgia and Washington. The team managed eight shutouts, outscored the opposition 257-30, and finished 10-1-1. However, they did not go to the Rose Bowl or win the national championship. Anything less than that was below standard. This standard, for right or wrong, would remain what Trojan fans would expect of their team in all the years since. 

USC thoroughly dominated Notre Dame, 19-0 on the road, evening up the series at four games apiece. Despite the Depression, which had cost Babe Ruth a major reduction in salary despite his assertions that he should be paid more money than the President because "I had a better year," Jones' saw his salary increased to $15,000. 

Unfortunately, the Trojans declined badly in 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1937. Attendance, the lifeblood of the program and a huge moneymaker when the Coliseum was filled up, declined. The Coliseum had been expanded to accommodate 100,000 for the Olympics, but its cavernous expanses just accentuated crowds when they were small. It also exposed the peculiar nature of the Los Angeles sports fan: he is a front runner! 

645,000 saw the mighty Trojans of 1933, but the next three seasons attendance continued to drop to 435,000 by 1936. In 1934, Troy was 4-6-1, was shut out by Notre Dame at home, 14-0; by Stanford, 16-0 in Palo Alto (Vow Boys, part two); lost to Cal, 7-2 (major revenge for the Bears); and gave Jock Sutherland's Panthers a chance to redeem themselves when USC traveled to Pitt, only to lose 20-6. 

In 1935 USC went 5-5. Cal beat them 21-7 at Berkeley in front of 48,000 ecstatic Bear backers. Stanford shut them out again, 3-0 at the Coliseum. Only 50,000 came out to see the Vow Boys complete their sweep. On to South Bend: disaster, 20-13 Irish. Pitt came to L.A. and beat them again. USC did manage to beat the Kamehameha High School alumni in Honolulu on Christmas Day! Oh, how the mighty had fallen!

So it was that the "mighty" Trojans now needed UCLA on their 1936 schedule in order to draw a large enough crowd to make ends meet. This period of Trojan history should serve as a cautionary tale for the current powerhouse, and all other great sports dynasties. The Romans had always worried about the kind of hubris that USC had succumbed to. Jones', like Roman dictators, should have assigned an assistant (the Romans gave the duty to a slave) to trail him, whispering in his ear, "You are mortal! All glory is fleeting!" 

In that 1936 season they ended the humiliation against Stanford, 14-7 at 'The Farm," as their campus is called. Cal maintained firm control of the newly invigorated rivalry with a 13-7 victory before a disappointed 65,000 in L.A. The Washington Huskies shut out SC, but the last two games were the final straw.

90,000 came out to see UCLA and USC play to a 7-7 tie. With six years, parity had been established! Notre Dame came to town and Troy "escaped" with a 13-13 tie before 71,201.

How did such a great team fall so fast?

"Howard had a lot of fine stars who spent three years on the bench when they could have played at some of the other schools," said Paul Zimmerman of the L.A. Times. "The high school players figured that out for themselves, and many decided to go elsewhere."

In analyzing how Pete Carroll has put together a successful run at USC in the 2000s, it might appear that Carroll learned lessons from this. With freshmen eligible, he has given his underclassmen every chance to compete with the seniors for playing time, thus keeping his recruits interested.

Jones's team went down while UCLA and other schools were on a recruiting drive. Also, Jones saw the game changing drastically. Sammy Baugh and Davey O'Brien were two great quarterbacks of the era who were in the process of revolutionizing the passing game. Jones had not adapted.

In 1937, USC barely escaped against the Bruins, 19-13 before 75,000. Kenny Washington, the Bruins' splendid black halfback, helped pass UCLA to two scores late before succumbing. According to newsreels, he passed the ball from his own 15 to the USC 23. The Bruins would have won, except Woody Strode dropped a smoker from Washington, who had an arm comparable to Bob Feller.

(Strode would later play professionally and then enter the movies. He played a significant role as a black gladiator who sacrifices himself so that Kirk Douglas may lead a slave rebellion in the Stanley Kubrick classic, Spartacus. Marv Goux, who also played, appropriately, a gladiator, represented USC in the film.)

  UCLA Coach Bill Spaulding entered the USC locker room afterwards, knocked on Jones's closed door, and heard somebody ask, "Who's there?"

"Bill Spaulding."

"What do you want?"

"Tell Howard he can come out now," responded Spaulding. "We've stopped passing."

To Los Angelenos, at least, the USC-UCLA game was a great rivalry by the mid-to-late 1930s. 

"The youngest 'traditional' football game in the country was…a honey," the L.A. Times stated. "To those fuddyduddies who point to the half century of tradition behind the Yale and Harvard game we, like the chap who said his railroad was not as long as some but just as wide, wish to state that while the Trojan-Bruin rivalry may not be as old as some, it certainly is just as hot." 

Nick Pappas, who would go on to be an alumni leader, friend and "chaperone" of John Wayne, played on those Jones teams of the mid-1930s. He had grown up in Seattle a Washington fan, but when he saw Morley Drury play he told his mother, "I'm gonna be a Trojan."

Without a scholarship he arrived in Los Angeles and started following Cotton Warburton around campus. Warburton weighed 158 pounds but the man running the scales wrote on his chart that he weighed 175. When Pappas interjected, Warburton asked him how much he weighed. Pappas said, "140."

"Do you want to play for Howard Jones?" asked Cotton.

Pappas said yes.

"Then you weigh 175."

Despite the reputation of a clean rivalry based on respect, Pappas recalled that Notre Dame used every trick to gain an edge. In 18-degree weather at South Bend, they waited until USC took the field, then played Ave Maria in memory of Knute Rockne - twice. The song required everybody to stand at attention in the freezing chill, while the Irish players were warm in their locker room. Another year, they tried the same trick to honor a local Catholic man who had died in a traffic accident, but Jones kept his troops inside until the song was done. 

Pappas described on-field play against the Irish in which both teams engaged in illegal tactics - violent elbows, bloodied tongues, punches, shredded shirts, tobacco juice spit in the eyes. Jones, however, would not condone his players playing dirty. 

"We were playing Washington one year in the Coliseum - that was the year Jimmy Phelan was coaching the Huskies," recalled Pappas. "And they called us every name in the books, SOBs, the whole works. They were not only badmouthing the hell out of us, but playing dirty as well. During the half, one of our assistant coaches came to us and said: 'Are you going to let those so-and-sos beat you up like that? Go out in the second half and give it back to them. Give them what they're giving you!' "

Jones heard it and kicked the other coaches out of the locker room. 

"He was madder than hell," recalled Pappas. Jones proceeded to dress down the assistant in front of the team.

"I want to tell you something," Jones told his team. "If anybody goes out there in the second half and does anything dirty or illegal, he's coming out of the game. He'll never play another goldarn minute for Southern Cal."

Jones's honor, particularly during Pappas's career, which coincided with SC's down years, sheds some very illuminating light on the program and the coach. 

"We played our best and we played our hearts out," stated Pappas.

Pappas also said that playing at Notre Dame was extremely difficult because 55,000 or 60,000 fans maintained a constant racket, making the calling of signals problematic for the visitors, whereas the wide spaces and the more laid-back approach of fans at the Coliseum never created that kind of volume. 

Pappas, who went on to law school after graduation, was an extra in the film Knute Rockne: All-American, starring Pat O'Brien as The Rock and Ronald Reagan as George Gipp.

"Every summer, (we) used to make three or four football movies a year," said Pappas. "O'Brien had the voice down pat."

O'Brien was so convincing that he fired up the mostly-Trojan football players now playing Notre Dame guys. So enthused were they by his "Rockne" that they charged out of the room onto the field, even though it was not in the script.

"They had to shoot that scene three times before they could use it in the movie," said Pappas. 

Pappas saved three lives in World War II combat, earning the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. 

There were great players on the teams in between Jones's' third (1932) and fourth national champions (1939). Guard Aaron Rosenberg was a two-time All-American out of Fairfax High. A USC and College Hall of Famer, Rosenberg became one of Hollywood's most successful TV producers ever.

1933 All-American guard Larry Stevens won the Davis-Teschke Award. Quarterback Cotton Warburton earned All-American in 1933, made it into the College Hall of Fame, and won an Oscar for his editing of the film Mary Poppins.

The first pro draft was held in 1937. The Brooklyn (football) Dodgers chose Gil Kuhn.

 

Knute Rockne and Gus Dorais kind of "invented" the forward pass in 1913. One could throw the ball, of course, but in a football game it was not a very good idea. Even after they used the new technique to beat Army in 1913, the pass was a bit exotic. The traditional quarterback was not instituted yet. Various backs were used as all-purpose players who could run, maybe catch, sometimes throw.

The fat football, which was difficult to throw, was slimmed down, and in the 1930s the quarterback position began to evolve into its modern incarnation. Coaches like Howard Jones disdained the pass to some extent because they had huge blockers who could lead fast running backs. Why risk going to the air? As Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler would later say, "Three things can happen, and two of 'em are bad."

But the game was developing. The Trojans could not afford to be left behind. First Stanford's Vow Boys sapped all their previous arrogance away. In 1937 the Vic Bottari-led California team that beat them 20-6 up at Strawberry Canyon rolled all the way to a 13-0 Rose Bowl win over Alabama and the national championship. 

So in 1938, Jones would let his quarterback go to the air. By the end of the season, it would be a pass that earned USC not just a Rose Bowl win, but eternal glory for the passer and the receiver.

Doyle Nave became a national hero for winning the Rose Bowl game against Duke. He was named honorary Mayor of Gordo, Alabama. Women wrote love letters from many states. Sick children wanted autographs. An organization of deaf people tried to adopt him as hard of hearing even though he was not.

Nave's touchdown pass rivaled Johnny Baker's field goal. Years later, a magazine poll determined that the Rose Bowl game he won was the most thrilling of all holiday bowls - ever.  

"I was nervous when I went in," Nave confessed. Oh yes, he was not a starter. He had played all of 35 minutes in the regular season. He was a last-gasp hope against a team that stamped out all hope.

Grenville Lansdell, Mickey Anderson and Ollie Day had tried their hand as USC's quarterback on January 2, 1939. Their opponents: the Duke Blue Devils. 1938 record: unbeaten, untied…unscored on. Unlike Colgate a few years earlier, the Blue Devils were not uninvited. The Associated Press had begun their poll in 1936. USC, at the top of college football's mountain top, had not been ranked in the first two years of the poll. Bernie Bierman, now at Minnesota, had led the Golden Gophers to the pinnacle in 1936, followed by Jock Sutherland's Pitt Panthers in '37 (who won the AP version, Cal was number one in alternate rankings). In 1938, Duke looked to be a shoo-in. Number one.

When the Trojans upended them, 7-3 on January 2, 1938, it knocked them off-kilter. Davey O'Brien and Texas Christian would win it, followed by Bob Neyland and Tennessee. USC was back in the hunt, finishing seventh on the strength of an 8-2 campaign. They would knock a Southern school out of a "sure" national title two years in a row. In so doing, they would return Howard Jones to the heights of glory.

Duke featured Eric "The Red" Tipton, a terrific punter who constantly kept opponents pinned deep in their own territory, from whence thy never got out. In fact, so good was Tipton, he sometimes punted prior to fourth down because the Duke defense was more likely to make breaks deep in the other team's territory than they were to sustain long drives. 

In the Rose Bowl, both teams held the other to zero until Tony Ruffa's 23-yard field goal made it 3-0, Duke in the fourth quarter. The previous quarterbacks were ineffective. Nave was known as a good passer, but lacked experience, knowledge of the first team offense, and technical ball-handling ability. What he did not lack was heart. 

Duke fumbled in their own territory, but USC's field goal for a tie missed on a close official's call. It gave them some hope, though. When they got the ball back, they made it to the Duke 34 with two minutes remaining. At this point, Jones made a decision that was either a gamble or a calculated risk, depending on the perspective. He could have tried to stay conservative and play for a game-tying field goal. However, two things dissuaded the "Head Man" from this. First, he was the kind of coach who played to win, not to tie. He had played to ties in the past, with Cal and Stanford. In 1936 the 7-7 deadlock with UCLA was a moral defeat for Troy and a victory for the upstart Bruins.

Furthermore, USC's kicking game was not strong. The kick could miss. Unlike the 1931 Notre Dame game, a kick was not a winner. So, Doyle Nave's name was called. 

"Jones gave me a few minutes to warm up," Nave stated, "and I was nervous, I'll tell you." 89,452 voices filled the air with a cacophony of sound. 

Because Nave was not first string, the receiver he was most comfortable with did not start either. He schemed to pass one to "Antelope Al" Kreuger, in the game to replace the ineffective first string and because he was Nave's partner. 

"I completed the first pass and made 12 yards on a button hook," recalled Nave. He followed that up with a "27," a flair in which Kreuger went down, pivoted, then broke to the outside. The catch went for a first down.

In 1988, announcer Tom Kelly narrated a video called Trojan Video Gold: 100 Years of USC Football 1888-1988. Nave and Kreuger were interviewed together. Nave claimed every ball was "right on the numbers" while Kreuger rolled his eyes behind his back, indicating spectacular dives. In truth, the passes were not perfect and Kreuger indeed made excellent grabs, albeit not totally sprawled out. It was a moment of great humor and camaraderie.

"Was I havin' a good time?" Kreuger asked rhetorically. "Why, of course, I was goin' to SC!          

With the ball on the far left side of the field in those pre-hashmark days, Nave needed to devise a way to get Al some maneuver room. Nave worked a play towards the center of the field, but his pass was picked up on and Kreuger dropped for a loss after snaring it. 

On second-and-12, Nave told Al to go for the end zone; there was little time left for anything but heroics. On a "27 down-and-out" Kreuger got away from Eric Tipton while Kreuger faded deep into the pocket. According to Doyle, he unloaded the ball when Nave was on the "seven or eight," which had to be an exaggeration. Nevertheless, the ball was thrown for the back of the end zone. With 40 seconds left, Kreuger clutched the pigskin to his chest and "we went berserk."  

According to Maxwell Stiles of the L.A. Times, "strange events" led to the play. Stiles heard of it from Joe Wilensky, a former Trojan guard-tackle who was on Jones's 1938 staff. Stiles and Joe Hendrickson wrote a book together called The Tournament of Roses:

 

Wilensky was manning the telephone on the bench, relaying the messages of assistant coaches Sam Barry, Bob McNeish, and Julie Bescos, who had been observing the action high above in the press box. Suddenly Wilensky got an idea. He decided to take a chance to do something to pull out victory. He knew that the coaches above had already left the press box and were on their way to join the team. Nobody had scored a point all season against the great Duke line.

"Our only chance is to get Nave in there to pass," thought Wilensky. "He has the arm to hit Kreuger and dent this great Duke defense." Wilensky snatched the phone. "Yes," he shouted so everybody on the bench could hear. "Yes, yes - I get it. I'll tell him right away." Wilensky slammed the receiver on the hook and excitedly nudged assistant coach Bill Hunter.

"The word is to send in Nave and have him throw to Kreuger," said Wilensky to Hunter, who in turn passed it on to Jones. Nick Pappas, who helped Jones with the coaching and today is a member of the USC athletic administration staff, verifies that this is the true story of how Nave got into the game.

 

Duke had gone into a "prevent," defense, which seemingly to this day consistently prevents the team that uses it from winning the game! With the defenders playing back, Kreuger used his clever breakaway ability to find the seam he needed.

Wallace Wade was Duke's coach. He had led Alabama to two straight national championships in the 1920s, but he had no scouting report on Nave or Kreuger. It cost him this one. Trojan scout Clifton B. Herd would later say that if they had known the scrub quarterback actually had the best arm on the team, they would have rushed him, getting him to hurry. Wade also had to contend with a running play and the possibility that Jones would not go for broke, instead "settling" for a field goal. 

Wade showed no Southern courtesy afterwards, prompting criticism that TCU should have been the invitee. He never congratulated Nave even though he had the chance, and slammed the whole atmosphere.

Nave, who was gracious, pointed out that Wade's wife was ill back in North Carolina. During World War II, they exchanged gracious letters and Nave, now serving in the military, was able to visit with him.

Nave actually had not "earned" a varsity letter with 100 minutes of playing time, but Jones waved that rule. 

Jones's analysis of the game did not include the Wilensky story. Instead, Jones said that while Lansdell might have gained rushing yards in a final drive, he knew his "only chance was to pass, and Nave is the best passer…" He stated that he "knew" that Nave alone was the only hope, "so I sent him out there and told him to get at least one of them off to Kreuger." 

Southern Cal Chancellor Dr. Norman Topping was quarantined in a hospital with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, running a 105-degree temperature.

"I was dying, they had given up one me," he recalled. "No visitors, not even my wife."

Barely aware of his surroundings, he had the presence of mind to request a radio.

"They said it was impossible," he said. "I insisted, demanding that they grant my last request."

When Nave hit Kreuger "something remarkable happened. A miracle. It did more for me  than any medicine. My temperature immediately started going down."

Dr. Topping did indeed recover to collect on a $50 bet. God works in mysterious ways.

Braven Dyer had actually been advocating that Nave be used throughout 1938. He wanted USC to upgrade its offense to accommodate the passing game. To fail to modernize, Dyer insisted, would set the program back. 

"Give my boy Doyle Nave a chance," Dyer had written in an open letter to the coach.

Dyer actually missed the play because of a deadline: "somebody has to get out the paper." Apparently, he needed to beat the always-brutal traffic jam that, to this day makes getting not just out of the Arroyo Seco, but out of Pasadena proper, a nightmare. He heard it on the radio along with several colleagues as they drove back to the Times' downtown offices. 

Rumor has it that he fainted at the wheel, but Dyer called that a "dastardly report." What he did do was "let out a yell which all but shattered the windshield and promptly began jabbering like an idiot. The 'gridirony' of it all practically slays me."

Dyer noticed when he saw the newsreels just how great Kreuger's catches were, too. 

As a Naval officer assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Marianas during World War II, Nave ran into former Duke center and captain Dan Hill.

"When I came into the game," Nave asked him, "did you have any idea that I was going to pass?"

"Hell, no," Hill replied. "we didn't even know who you were."

The 1939 Rose Bowl completed a season in which Troy rebounded from a four-year down period, but it did not start well at the hands of a great Southern school. Alabama put the wood to SC, 19-7. 70,000 Los Angelenos came out to see the fabled Crimson Tide, already a power at least the equal of Troy. 'Bama was eager to represent the South after having lost to Cal in the previous season's Rose Bowl. The game would be the first of seven, to date, between two of the most storied programs of all time. Both teams would give as well as take, and to date the Tide, along with Notre Dame, is one of a tiny, select group of schools with a winning record over USC (5-2). 

Sportswriters painted a dismal picture of 1938 after the opener, stating that the 19-7 score did not represent the true mediocrity of the team. Two weeks later, though, USC earned a very important win for the program when they made the trip to Columbus, beating the Ohio State Buckeyes, 14-7 in front of 62,778. The season turned in their favor when they defeated Stanford at The Farm, 13-2. Two weeks after that they overtook defending national champion Cal, 13-7, in a defensive struggle before a packed Coliseum audience.

A tremendous downturn occurred in a place that would always be difficult for Troy. The state of Washington tends to get cold and rainy in November, and when USC plays in the Northwest late in the season, it is always difficult. On November 12 in the mud, the Huskies beat them, 7-6, throwing the PCC race into a tizzy. 

But in 1938 USC took advantage of their schedule, an opportunity they would get many times in the future, especially in even years. While Cal and Stanford grab the spotlight and would play their Big Game at the end of each season, USC would get two big games. In 1938 that meant UCLA and Notre Dame at the Coliseum.

The Bruin game was already an "instant classic," with memories of the two lopsided shutouts of 1929-30 a distant memory, but in '38 they were no match for USC, 42-7.

97,146 came out for a titanic struggle with the Irish December 3. This was a game that would truly define the program, and answer any lingering questions over whether Jones's team was a major power again. 

Elmer Layden, one of Rockne's "Four Horsemen," was the coach of a team riding an 11-game winning streak with national title hopes. One report stated that the Irish did not know if it was an "earthquake or a shock" in a game in which they were "outclassed in almost every department of play."

It was Al Kreuger, portending things to come at Pasadena, who hauled in the touchdown pass with little time left in the first half to basically win it for USC. The13-0 shutout was sweet revenge for a four-year winless skein, eliminating number one-ranked Notre Dame's hope-for national championship aspirations. It also was enough prestige to land the Trojans in the Rose Bowl despite a 6-1 first place conference tie with the Golden Bears. Having beaten Cal in addition to wins over the Bruins and Irish, plus the natural tendency of those years not to send repeat champions to Pasadena, helped USC.

TCU lobbied ferociously for the invite, probably too zealously. In the end, Duke got the nod. While Texas Christian was bitterly disappointed at the financial hit that came with the loss of invite, they gained by not having to face the buzz saw that was Troy on New Year's Day. In the end were named the AP national champions.

 

Germany's Blitzkrieg had devastated Eastern Europe in the fall of 1939. England alone stood up to them. France, figuring "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," collaborated with the Nazis with the exception of a few brave resisters. America debated whether to fight with their ally, Great Britain. Franklin Roosevelt's Ambassador to the Court of Saint James, JFK's father Joseph P. Kennedy, advocated the the French way, stating that democracy had little future, nobody could Germany, so they might as well "do business with them." In the mean time, a strange "quiet war" enveloped Europe, with England and Germany mobilizing, trying to figure where to strike next.

Life went on in the United States. 

The hallowed tradition that is Southern California football has elevated many teams to the status of "legend." Perhaps it was because World War II started right at the beginning of the season, thus engendering grave concerns for other things, but the 1939 Trojans are in many ways a "forgotten" team in Trojan lore. In truth, they are one of the best teams the school has ever produced.

Howard Jones's teams sometimes started slowly. Some of his better squads suffered strange defeats early, or in this case a strange tie (7-7 at home against Oregon). But the juggernaut picked up steam after that, cruising in the style of the Thundering Herd to four shutout wins in five games. Washington State fell, 27-0; Illinois, 26-0; Cal, 26-0 at Strawberry Canyon; Oregon State, 19-7; and Stanford, 33-0.

The Trojans were balanced with the likes of ends Al Kreuger, Bill Fisk and Bob Winslow; tackles Phil Gaspar and Howard Stoecker; guard Ben Sohn; center Ed Dempsey; and quarterback Doyle Nave. In 1939, Nave demonstrated more all-around ability than in '38.

Cal coach Stub Allison, who had led the Bears back to glory after the death of Andy Smith in the 1920s, called it the "best Southern California team I have seen."

Oregon State coach Lon Stiner stated that he had competed as a player for Nebraska against the Four Horsemen and "seven mules," as well as against the great Red Grange, but Southern California was "better than all these other great ones - the greatest team I ever saw."

Indeed, Stiner saw what Jones had taken  some time to finally develop, which was a balance between the pass and the run, thus fully "modernizing" his team's offense. Stiner pointed out that defending the Trojans was in 1939 much more difficult than figuring out how to defend the great-but-predictable 1933 club that the Beavers tied, 0-0. 

Howard Jones made what would be his visit to South Bend, pinning the second loss of the season on the Irish. With the score 6-0 USC entering the fourth quarter, both teams traded touchdowns, but the Irish could not converts PATs. With three minutes to go, Ambrose Schindler made a tremendous 41-yard touchdown run to ice the 20-12 USC win.

USC suffered a scare in barely beating Washington, 9-7 at home, setting up a huge showdown with UCLA before 103,303 fans. The Bruins had built themselves into a major football power by fully integrating their program. Even though the Trojans had starred Brice Taylor in the 1920s, they had not kept up with their cross-town rival's social progress. It cost them athletically. UCLA had the likes of Kenny Washington and future baseball great Jackie Robinson in the late 1930s. Largely through their heroics, UCLA had created parity with USC. In no prior year was this more apparent than in 1939. On December 9, Washington and Robinson led the Bruins into the Coliseum. 

"I really was worried," stated Nave, who also played safety. "I was trying to figure what I'd do if they tried a pass to Woody Strode, the big end. He was the man I was assigned to cover. Woody stands about six-five, you know, and I'm under six feet. I couldn't figure any way I could stop him from catching a high pass if they threw to him. Well, I was lucky. They didn't throw at him at all. I sure breathed a sigh of relief when it was over."

Indeed, so did the entire Trojan team. They were lucky to come out of it with a 0-0 tie. UCLA totally blundered the game by not going for a field goal with the ball on the USC five with 10 seconds left. Instead, quarterback Kenny Washington passed to Bob MacPherson in the end zone, but Bobby Robertson managed to knock it down. It cost UCLA a $120,000 invite to their first Rose Bowl. Coach Babe Horrell's Bruins had driven 76 yards, but play-caller Ned Matthews chose to try for six when three would do. With the ball just a few yards from the goal line, USC's defense stiffened and held the Bruins to a fateful fourth down situation.

In a strange twist of democracy gone too far, five UCLA players voted for a field goal try, while five wanted the touchdown. Matthews opted for the latter course and came up snake eyes. The smart play not only would have been to try the kick on fourth, but to try it on third in case it missed, giving the team another crack at it.

Coach Horrell deferred the blame from Mattews, stating that he supported the decision. USC had also missed scoring chances of their own in a game that while slow in terms of defensive dominance and lack of movement, built to a crescendo of pressure in front of the mammoth throng. In the first quarter, Grenny Lansdell, suffering from a hand injury that made it hard for him to grip the ball, fumbled at the Bruin goal. Lansdell fumbled again at UCLA's 22, and a Trojan drive that died at the UCLA 25 was their only other threat. After the game he abjectly apologized to Coach Jones.

USC had their hands full boxing in Jackie Robinson, especially on UCLA's almost-successful final drive. The greatest criticism of Horrell came not from the decision not to kick, but his inexplicable choice not to get the ball into Robinson's or Washington's hands once inside the USC five.

"It was one of the cleanest, yet most bitter struggles in Coliseum history," wrote Paul Zimmerman of the Los Angeles Times. After the game, in what has become tradition, players from both teams, acquainted with each other from high school, four years of rivalry and sharing the same city, mingled in "the finest display of sportsmanship anyone could ask for," wrote Zimmerman.    

USC was out-played by Robinson, Washington and the Bruins. There was no haughtiness left, no returning to the days of yesteryear in which they looked down upon the public school from Westwood. They were lucky to be going to the Rose Bowl and they knew it. 

UCLA felt no consolation, as they had in 1936 when they were still feeling their oats. They had blown it. Jones offered in his post-game commentary that the Irish and Husky games had drained his team, but to a man Kenny Washington's "hip-wiggling" running style, which portented a revolutionary change in the running back position over the next decades, elicited praise from USC.

Jones made a point to console Lansdell over his fumbles. Grenny had given him all he had. Statements like "those Bruins are a fine bunch" and "give 'em credit" lent to the general feeling that Southern Cal welcomed a true conference rivalry on par with what Cal and Stanford had up north.

The two teams oddly were, and would finish, undefeated. USC was 8-0-2, while UCLA sported an unusual 6-0-4 record. Tennessee was invited to Pasadena in a true national championship game. 

Whereas the 1938 game had engendered controversy over the selection of Duke over Texas Christian, with USC coming in as the underdog, the 1940 game promised to be the national battle America longed to see.

Bob Neyland, the Volunteers' coach, may not have been a legend at Jones's historic level, but in his "neck of the woods" you could not win that argument. The Vols, riding a 23-game winning streak, came in with the same credentials as Duke in 1939: unbeaten, untied, unscored on. Unlike the Duke game, which had been a donnybrook, the USC-Tennessee Rose Bowl affair was all Trojans from start to finish. They were bigger, stronger and faster. Ambrose Schindler had a terrific day. Southern California prevailed by 14-0.

"We weren't stale or off form," Neyland announced. "We were outclassed. We were badly beaten by a superior team, and my hat is off to Howard Jones."

Tennessee quarterback George Cafego had to be removed when he suffered an injury, but offered that he would not have made any difference "against those big guys anyway."

"I remember they <Tennessee> had two All-American guards, a guy named Sutheridge and a guy named Belinsky," recalled Carl Benson in The History of USC Football DVD. "These guys just said to me, 'you guys are something else.' I said, 'I can't even make the first ball club, and we're coming right through ya.' And by God we did."

"I said, this is the Rose Bowl and I'll give these people something to think about," recalled Schindler. "It was the perfect play. I lobbed the ball out to Al Kreuger and he turned and there it was. It was real neat."

Newspaper headline: "Tennessee Unable to Cope With Might of Southern California Grid Machine."

"I believe it played the heaviest schedule and accomplished the most of any team I ever coached," Jones said (in archival footage that still exists) when he accepted the national title trophy from Professor Frank G. Dickinson, a respected analyst whose system was considered one of the arbiters of national championship status.

"The Trojans were the best team in the best section…and the nation's other top teams did not play as strong schedule as USC," stated Professor Dickinson.

 The win improved Jones's Rose Bowl record to 6-0. Their victory also re-started the talk of a decade earlier, when pundits were saying that the best football was played on the West Coast, particularly in the Golden State. Loses by Alabama (1938), Duke (1939) and Tennessee (1940) tarnished the Southern football reputation, especially considering that Duke and Tennessee had looked impregnable playing their regular schedules, only to be exposed by Southern Cal. The South still had its supporters, who pointed out that Texas at least was maintaining standards, what with Texas Christian's and A&M's strong years in 1938-39. But Alabama had been soundly beaten by California in 1938, the West's supporters pointed out.

"They raise them rugged out here," wrote Henry McLemore, which was an interesting side of the double argument: one that says Californians are indeed "raised rugged" and the other that says they have "gone Hollywood…soft," the warm sun creating a population of loafers who had never "walked a mile to school in the snow."

McLemore theorized that "nature" made for a tougher athlete who could "withstand earthquakes." He said it was the water that made for men who were bigger and even had to shave more often! 

Jones was back on top, to be sure, but it was his final reach for greatness. If indeed California was the football capitol of America in January of 1940, it would not last for long. 

In 1940, his team was depleted. For whatever reasons - age, failure to go the extra mile? - Jones had failed to recruit the usual replacements who had fueled his team's long, dominant run. They won only three times. Jones would die of a heart attack on July 27, 1941, making 1940 his last year at SC. Against tough odds, the Trojans played Notre Dame to the wire before going down in his last game. 

"With his passing, there ended an era of football in the West," wrote Max Stiles. "No man ever brought so much gridiron glory to the southern section of California. No man ever gave more of himself to the game he loved. To him, football was the first bright rays of dawn, the noonday sky, and the stars that shine by night. To him, football was a creed and he kept it clean and pure. Good sportsmanship and perfect execution of assignments on the field of play were sacred, and woe to any player on his team who failed to measure up to the field degree of either standard."

From 1934 to 1937, no Trojan had earned a first team, consensus or unanimous All-American selection, but in 1938 they had two. The first was left guard Harry Smith out of Chaffey High, out in the Imperial Empire, as it is called. Smith, a member of the USC and College Hall of Fame, played for the Detroit Lions. He later coached at Missouri and in the Canadian Football League.   

Quarterback Grenville "Grenny" Lansdell was USC's f'irst "modern" signal-caller and an All-American in 1939. He had played previously at Pasadena High and Jackie Robinson's "other" school, Pasadena City College. Grenny could and did run as well as pass, and later played for the New York Giants before the war. 

In 1939, Ray George and Tony Tonelli were drafted by Detroit; Bob Hoffman and Boyd Morgan by Washington. In 1940, Doyle Nave was a first round selection by Detroit, Lensdell a first rounder by the Giants. Bill Winslow went to the Lions. Hoffman, chosen the year before, had his eligibility re-instated, played another season, and was again picked by the Redskins along with Howard Stoecker. Phil Gaspar and Ambrose Schindler both were selected by Green Bay.

Jones's last team produced four 1941 NFL draft picks: Al Kreuger and Jack Banta to Washington; Ben Sohn and Bobby Peoples to the New York Giants. 

 

The death of Jones, on the heels of a losing season, ushered in a new era for USC, Los Angeles, and college football - not to mention the world. Within a short period of time, UCLA had achieved a level of close competition with USC. The two schools would compete on a fairly equal footing in the next decade, and in the 1950s UCLA would be the higher-rated program! Cal would also be a West Coast power.

Their would be a paradigm shift in college football back to the Midwest, with the exception of the mid-'40s, when Army would field some of the best teams ever assembled. Other than that, however, the heartland regained its footing.

Minnesota under Bernie Bierman would attain extraordinary, repeating as the AP national titleholders in 1940-41 after having won the initial poll of 1936.

Michigan's Tommy Harmon would win the 1940 Heisman Trophy. He was the first "media star" among the ranks of college players and Heisman winners. His Wolverines had an exceptionally strong decade, regaining the glory of their pre-World War I "point a minute" teams. The Rose Bowl would eventually contract an annual game between the Big 10 and the Pacific Coast Conference. In the first years of this arrangement, the Big 10 would dominate. Michigan would be the most dominant, but Ohio State was close.

Notre Dame under coach Frank Leahy would have an unbelievable decade. In South Bend, they argue to this day whether the Irish were greater under Rockne in the 1920s or under Leahy in the '40s. Considering the increased national competition of the modernized game, the Leahy supporters have a good argument. 

In light of Notre Dame's and the Big 10's strength, the old saw that California produced the better players and teams because of vitamins, ultra-violet rays or hearty stock, was replaced by an unfair new "conclusion" that the boys out west were not as tough or as dedicated. Eventually, a post-World War II population shift to the California suburbs would create another power block on the West Coast, but it would take some time to happen. The first beneficiaries of these changes would not be the University of Southern California.

 

Other sports 1900-1939: Like Troy taking Athens, the Trojans take the Olympics

The 1930s saw the creation of the USC-UCLA rivalry not just in football, but in other sports, and with that the rising popularity of sports other than football. Certainly, the huge economic gains of football allowed the "minor sports" to thrive; scholarships, better facilities and coaching.

Sam Barry is an unsung name in USC history, but in many ways, certainly if one takes diversity of expertise into account, he may be the school's all-time best. Barry would coach baseball, basketball and football at USC! He took over the basketball program prior to the 1929-30 season. Games were played at the old Olympic Auditoreum in front of good crowds. The games with UCLA were hard-fought affairs, although in the 1920s and '30s the Trojans held a big edge over UCLA, 35-7.

In track, of course, USC was in the 1920s and '30s the unquestioned powerhouse of America, filled with Olympic champions. By 1934, when UCLA was finally "ready" to compete against Troy, USC had earned three NCAA team titles and 13 individual titles.  USC would win 32 straight meets against UCLA.

Lou Zamperini, the top American miler, would become a national hero when, during the war, the plane he was piloting would crash in the Pacific. He survived on a rubber raft for 47 days, was captured by the Japanese, tortured, and released when the war ended. 

Dean Cromwell's teams would capture eight PCC titles and 12 national championships in 19 attempts, while finishing second five times. From 1935 to 1943, the Trojans won nine straight NCAA titles. Overall, USC athletes under his tutelage earned 33 national collegiate championships and set 17 individual world records.

From 1912 to 1948, USC track stars won 24 Olympic Gold, five Silver and three Bronze medals. At Berlin in 1936, USC scored 37 points, placing them, if they had been a country, in the top five in the world. Cromwell indeed coached the Olympic team in those 1936 Games, and again in 1948.

His legends included sprinters Charles Paddock, Frank Wykoff, and Mel Patton; jumpers Al Olson and John Wilson; throwers Bud Houser, Jess Mortensen and Kenneth Carpenter; vaulter Bill Graber; and miler Lou Zamperini.

In baseball, many people are not aware of the fact that Elmer "Gloomy Gus" Henderson also coached the Trojans in the 1920s. Interestingly, UCLA took to baseball in a big way in the 1920s, beating their new rivals and establishing themselves as a strong program.

In the 1930s, USC traveled to Japan to play games promoting the sport to a people who were quickly taking to it. Football star Garrett Arlbelbide was a USC baseball hero playing for Sam Barry in the early 1930s. Barry led the team to at least a share of five conference titles in the decade. In 1935, he led his best team ever, led by captain Raoul "Rod" Dedeaux, a talented infielder, and ace pitcher Joe Gonzalez. Dedeaux would play briefly in the Major Leagues for Casey Stengel and the Brooklyn Dodgers.

USC, led by coach Fred Cady, was almost as dominant in swimming and diving in the 1930s as they were in track. Over 33 years, Cady would coach 39 Olympians, including Clarence "Buster" Crabbe (who went on to Hollywood stardom) and Johnny Weismuller (Tarzan in the movies). Cady also coached Esther Williams, and was the U.S. Olympic diving coach in the 1928, 1932, 1936 and 1948 Olympics.

He coached water polo, producing 12 Olympians in that sport. The Cady-coached Wallace Wolf, a three-time USC All-American, swam for the U.S. in the 1948 and 1952 Games, then played on the Olympic water polo teams of 1956 and 1960. Wolf earned Gold at London. Cady was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame in 1969.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART THREE

 

A BLOOMING ROSE 1941-1959

The "best of the East vs. the best of the West": the Big 10 comes to the Rose Bowl and the post-war California population boom changes America

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

 

THE WAR YEARS

The Victory Bell and putting a mere game into perspective

 

The Victory Bell was what UCLA trotted out when they won football games. In 1941, USC students stole the bell. The bell would be hidden in the Hollywood Hills and then in Orange County. In that season, still another tie ensued between the two teams, emblematic of the closeness and fierceness of the rivalry. Eventually, a high-level "conference" of student body presidents brought a "peace treaty" that resulted in the bell's return. The bell would become the iconic prize that went to the winner of the Southern California-UCLA football game. 

No sooner had the arrangement been made, USC lost to UCLA for the first time in 1942, 14-7. The bell was back in Westwood. Pranks, thefts and vandalism would mark the intense rivalry in all the decades after that. Humiliations, head-shavings, imprisonments, kidnappings, bombings, wild rodents; the painting blue of USC's horse, Traveler as well as Tommy Trojan, and fertilizer drops from helicopters, marked some of the hi-jinks. Spies were sent out. Card stunts disrupted. The other school's fight songs would play on campus loudspeakers. Bogus students newspapers were printed.

The UCLA game now represented just as much importance to USC as the Notre Dame contest. To the local citizenry of the city overall, it would be more important. 

"You have to beat UCLA," said Nick Pappas. "It's better for us to live in this town if we do."

When America entered World War II, exceptional security measures had to be devised in case of Japanese attack on the Pacific Coast. It had a major effect on USC's football schedule. USC and UCLA played two games, the opener and the season-ender, in 1943, 1944 and 1945. Huge crowds paid little heed to the possibility of a Japanese aerial attack, packing the Coliseum. In many ways, it was a morale victory for America, just as a packed Yankee Stadium for the World Series weeks after 9/11 had taught Osama Bin Laden that destroying the American way of life is an exercise in futility. The fact that America was able to defeat two mighty empires, Germany and Japan, on two front, while continuing to run its colleges, its industries and all of its sports enterprises, from college football to Major League baseball, probably says as much about the power, might and abundant strength of this nation as any other fact! 

Sam Barry was a great baseball coach and a great basketball coach. His football efforts, however, came up short in his only year at the helm. The once-mighty Trojans won a mere two games, but there was light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a 13-7 upset over Rose Bowl-bound Oregon State. USC also played a thrilling game against the Irish before losing, 20-18. 

Barry had been thrown into the mix with little preparation. Jones died in the summer prior to the season, leaving no real time to find a replacement, certainly not a national search. The war was on and that made football a light priority. 

Barry hailed from the Midwest, where after graduation from Wisconsin he got into coaching and teaching. He befriended Howard Jones. It was through this connection that he came west. While coaching baseball and basketball, Barry was on Jones's football staff, specializing in scouting and defense. With USC shutting out opponents as if it was going out of style in the 1930s, he gained a reputation in this area. 

Barry gained head coaching experience by taking over the Spartans. He called his guys "Tigers," a name that his protégé, Rod Dedeaux, would make famous. Barry took a beating in the L.A. press, which has certainly never let up in succeeding years. Comedian Bob Hope used them in one of his skits, stating that they lost because they did not "want to fight the traffic to Pasadena" and the Rose Bowl. Despite the failures of his team, the '41 Trojans were said to be courageous and full of fight, with stalwart character. The fans stuck with them. 86,305, the largest attendance in the nation that year, attended their home game vs. Stanford.

After the season, Barry joined the Navy. He had co-coached the baseball team with Rod Dedeaux, who took over the diamond reigns upon his departure. 

USC replaced him with Jeff Cravath, who came out of Santa Ana High School in Orange County to star for Jones in the mid-1920s. Cravath coached at the junior college level and on Howard Jones's staff. In on year at San Francisco University in 1941 he developed one of the nation's most high-powered offenses. Cravath was cut out of the Jones mold in terms of character, courage and dedication, but he was determined to introduce the new speed and passing game that was in vogue. In 1942, Ohio State kept the national championship in the Big 10, succeeding the back-to-back champs from Minnesota. SC fans felt that such accomplishments were their birthright, but in that year they faced more rude awakenings in the form of the loss to UCLA.

Don Clark, who would later coach at Southern Cal, played for Cravath. He played for him before joining the service, then again afterwards. Perhaps because he was hardened by experience, Clark looked at the coach in an entirely different way after he got back. 

"I think he changed," Clark said, but considering the events Clark lived through it was probably the other way around. Either way, Cravath was one of those coaches who instill fear, intimidates young players, and demands to be worshipped. It works with 18-year olds. It does not work with guys coming back from the European Theatre.

Cravath had tried to get into the service but was not accepted. This had the effect of making him self-conscious, a little resentful of the service members on his team, and took away from the respect they had for him. Rod Dedeaux, the baseball coach who did not join the military, overcame any lingering doubts this may have caused through the force of his gregarious personality, but Cravath did not have that going for him.   

"It just wasn't fun after the war," stated Jim Hardy. Hardy did not think it was all Cravath's fault, though. The returning veterans mixed with the regular incoming recruits created a glut of talent; not everybody could play; so the older guys resented the situation. But Hardy found Cravath to be dedicated - "he loved USC" - an "old school type" who helped players away from the game.  

Cravath's nine-year record was quite impressive: 54-28-8 with four Rose Bowl appearances. It was not up to Jones's record, of course, and included Rose Bowl losses, which never happened under the "Head Man." Some said that Cravath's tendency to belittle players was a detriment to the program. In some ways, the attitude towards Cravath began to take a regional shape. Hard-nosed coaches who gave their players verbal drillings would be more likely to succeed in the Midwest or the South, while the Western coach became more of a personality, like John McKay or Pete Carroll.  

Not everybody disliked him, though. Frank Gifford and John Ferraro were two of his best players, and they credited their success to him. Gifford went so far as to name his first son after him, while Ferraro, who would become a top Los Angeles political figure, said Cravath was "a great person…a good psychologist."

Tough as he was on the field, Cravath was not that way off it. In this respect he differed from Jones, the task master who never opened up off the field (except after the 1931 Notre Dame thriller). 

Partly because of the war, the 1942 schedule included mostly home games, but it was a tough one that included Tulane and a trip to Ohio State to take on the eventual national champion Buckeyes. USC lost, 28-12, incurring Cravath's wrath. He stopped the train in El Paso, Texas and ran the team through grueling drills that were said to be so hard word spread in Texas that USC was not a place to play, therefore taking any small chance they had of getting players from that part of the country.

A number of Trojans did succeed in the NFL, lending credence to the theory that Cravath's martinet approach may not have been popular at the time, but toughened his guys up for the future.

"I matured more at USC than anything," said one top player, George Davis. 

When the war ended and Barry returned, there was talk of giving Sam his old job back, but Cravath was retained. Barry did not return to baseball, either, although he did coach during a golden era of SC basketball. When Cravath died in an auto accident, his former players stepped up and accorded him great respect. 

Some could not give Cravath his due one way or the other. USC had a large Naval training program, which served as an advantage to his program in that players who otherwise would not have been Trojans played for them while going through flight school. On the other hand, the advantage was one that critics thought he did not take advantage enough of.

Wartime rules changes that allowed for transfers and more flexible eligibility were instituted, but Cravath favored the younger players over the "vets," creating division on his roster. Cravath preferred the players who had chosen USC to those who found themselves on campus out of military orders. The war also created circumstances by which some players as young as 16 and 17 played. Freshmen were eligible and this made the age differentials more pronounced. 

For the record, Cravath's Trojans were 5-5-1 in 1942. They were shut out by Notre Dame and lost to UCLA. In 1943, they were 7-2, undefeated in conference, and 29-0 winners over Washington in an all-West Coast Rose Bowl. However, the Notre Dame game was called off. Frank Leahy's Irish finished number one. "Trips" were relegated to Stockton and San Diego against a Navy team. The Bruins fell twice in one year, including by shutout in the opener.

In 1944, Cravath's greatest team was undefeated with another shutout over Tennessee. The wins included various games with military outfits. Against UCLA they won and tied. The war situation created an atmosphere in which it is difficult to accord real "greatness" on their record, although that year's Army Cadets, coached by Earl "Red" Blaik and led by "Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside," Don Blanchard and Glenn Davis, are considered one of the top ever.

The Cadets won the national title in 1944 and 1945, with Blanchard and Davis both earning the Heisman. This unique accomplishment is one that nobody else approached until Pete Carroll's Trojans of 2003-05. 

The 1945 Trojans played a schedule that had been devised with the war still on but was played in peace. UCLA fell twice. Notre Dame was not on the schedule. St. Mary's had great teams in those days, led by running back Herman Wedemeyer, who would later star in Hawaii 5-0. They smoked Troy, 26-0 before 76,378 at the Coliseum. USC beat Cal twice but did not play Stanford. Alabama brought their great second-ranked team to Pasadena and beat Cravath's 11th-ranked squad handily, 34-14. 

George T. Davis of the L.A. Evening Herald called Cravath's offensive schemes a "double T" or "tease formation," filled with fakery and stunting presaging the Norm Chow offenses of modern times. Cravath split the duties; passing and running a multiple spread of skill players getting touches. Despite his Bill Walshian innovations, Cravath sounded more Vince Lombardian, stating that coaching was not complicated and that winning was accomplished by blocking and tackling better than the other team.

Cravath's offensive mindset is partly the reason why USC had an unbelievable number of players play professionally after leaving his program. 

Ralph Heywood earned All-American in 1943. A guard from Huntington Park, he would play through the 1949 season with several NFL teams.

Bobby Robertson had been a first round pick by Brooklyn in 1942, with Bob DeLaur going to the then-Cleveland Rams. In 1944, Norm Verry, Ron Thomas, Ken Roskie (Packers), and Bill Bledsoe (Brooklyn) were drafted. 

Nine Trojans were chosen in the 1945 draft. Quarterback Jim Hardy was the first pick of the Washington Redskins. The 'Skins also chose Eddie Saenz and Milford Dreblow. Quenton Klenk went to the Eagles, Joe Wolf to the Giants, and the Brooklyn (football) Dodgers picked three USC seniors from the '44 squad: Wally Crittenden, Jerry Whitney and Hal Finney.   

The 1945 Trojans had 10 NFL draftees, including first rounder Leo Riggs to Philadelphia and sixth rounder John Ferraro to Green Bay. The Eagles took Gordon Gray, the Packers also selected Joe Bradford, Bon Hendren, George Callanan, John Pehar and Harry Adelman were picked by Washington, the Giants went for Bob Morris, and the Los Angeles Rams selected Jay Perrin. 

While Frank Gifford was later drafted after playing his senior year for Don Clark, he thought of Cravath as his college coach.  

While Cravath may have been an offensive guru, he took his greatest pride in instilling character in his players. None exemplified this better than quarterback Jim Hardy, who came out of L.A.'s Fairfax High to star for Troy on Cravath's best teams; serve on a battleship; then star for seven years in the pros with the Rams, Chicago Cardinals and Detroit Lions. Hardy, after being made the eighth overall pick of the 1945 draft by the Redskins, never played in Washington; he was dealt back home to Los Angeles, making him one of those fairly numerous people who played high school, college and professional ball in the Coliseum.

Hardy was a multiple threat who led the team in passing and total offense in 1943 and 1944. He was named the Helms Player of the Year in 1944, the outstanding player in the UCLA game, and MVP of the Rose Bowl. 

"It meant something to me to represent Southern Cal," said Hardy. "In a corny sort of way, I got turned on by the Trojans' fight song. I felt chills when I heard it. I still do."

Hardy was considered a little "corny" by his teammates, but in a loving way. In terms of the way he played, his attitude and even his name, he was a throwback. Jim Hardy could not help but remind people of the fictional All-American boy, Andy Hardy.

Hardy was a Heisman hopeful who did not garner the first of USC's six trophies, but he accomplished much. His father was a telegraph operator who operated the machine in the press box at USC games. He brought his son along with him to work. Later while in high school Hardy was a Coliseum usher. Incredibly, he was a walk-on at USC. He earned his spurs as a single wing tailback and T-formation quarterback. Like many stars of his era, he played both ways and led the conference in interceptions with 11. 

Hardy saw the transformation of offensive football from Jones - "they never passed" - to his teams that put the ball in the air "about 15 times a game," to the 25/30-pass teams that followed. On the other hand, Hardy said that Cravath stuck to Jones's basic defensive schemes. 

His were the UCLA years when the team did not play Notre Dame, so "everything hinged" on the game with the Bruins. Hardy called his most "gratifying" game his last one against UCLA in 1944, when in front of 90,000 fans he scored twice, threw for two more, intercepted two, and had the Bruins down 40-0 entering the fourth quarter.

"I loved every minute of it," he stated.

Hardy said that because of war transfers, players from Oregon State, Washington State and Catholic schools played on his teams. In a sign of the times, service teams gave Troy their biggest trouble in 1943. March Field's team blanked USC, 35-0 with pros. Hardy played with two All-Americans, end Ralph Haywood and tackle Ferraro.  

Hardy was probably giving his 1944 team a little extra credit when he compared them to the Blanchard/Davis Army Cadets, but then again their relatively isolated schedule did not allow them to fully flesh out their potential. Shutting out 12th-ranked Tennessee was nothing to sneeze at. It is hard now to think of the military teams as being exceptional, but they were. In 1944 USC defeated San Diego's Naval squad.

"Hardy was the greatest T-formation quarterback I have ever seen in action," said Cravath.

"Hardy must be rated with the all-time Rose Bowl greats," was Al Wolfe's assessment in the Los Angeles Times

Syracuse coach Chuck Meehan said Hardy compared to Chicago Bears' star quarterback Sid Luckman. 

Tennessee coach Jim Barnhill said the exact same thing that Bob Neyland said in 1940: "We were outclassed" by Hardy's team.

Another terrific star of the 1940s was Ferraro, who aside from his All-American record played in three Rose Bowls and the East-West Shrine Game. He was a classroom wunderkind, too, who would put it to use as a city councilman and mayoral candidate in L.A. Ferraro turned down an offer from Redskins' owner George Preston Marshall and went into business instead. He got bit by the public service bug in 1966, became a police commissioner, and was an institution at city hall until recent years.

"The things I've learned from football I apply daily to my political life," Ferraro told Ken Rappoport in the 1970s. "Football disciplines you and teaches you that you must learn to give as well as take. Another thing I've learned from football is that you can drop out of the limelight in a hurry, and you must be prepared for it. I was pleased by the adulation and enjoyed the fact that people were nice to me, but I knew it would be gone as soon as I stopped playing football. It's the same situation in politics. I always try to give my best and not worry about anything else."

At 6-4, 240 pounds, Ferraro came to Southern California from Bell High in Maywood, a small community just south of L.A. that today might be described as "urban sprawl," but in his day was still fairly rural. He was attracted to two Catholic schools, Notre Dame and Santa Clara (a strong program in those years), but stayed close to home because his best friend was a "dyed-in-the-wool USC fan."           

Ferraro "looked" like a football player. He had big, dark, bushy Italian eyebrows and a shock of black hair, with the swarthy face of a bulldog, which would swell up in contortions as he muscled his way into the line. He gained an inch and 35 pounds in college. He was part of that group of players allowed to play as freshmen, and a blip in the rules allowed him to call that a "red-shirt" season. He served in the military, then came back, earning All-American honors in 1944 and 1947. 

Ferraro earned his initial media notice when he played well in a loss to March Field, and secured his reputation in the Rose Bowl win over Washington.

"We went in prepared," he stated, adding that he was nervous ahead of time but was "all right once we got a few plays in."

Playing in front of throngs at the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum was "a terrific thrill." Another great moment came when the Trojans made a road trip to the football Mecca of Columbus.

"That's a madhouse up there," he said. 

Like Alabama, Ohio State got their licks in during early, regular season games with SC in Columbus and L.A. But in Ferraro's senior year, USC got their revenge, 32-0 before 76,559. 

"They appreciated what we had done," he said. The local papers called them the "Magnificent Trojans."

Ferraro also noted as a particularly tough contest the 1944 game with St. Mary's Pre-Flight, played in Fresno. The Rose Bowl against Michigan capped his career, and it was unfortunately a tough way to go down. The number two Wolverines annihilated USC, 49-0, the same score they had laid on Stanford in the very first "Granddaddy of 'em all," as the game is known.  

"That was the year that Michigan used the platoon system and really beat us badly," Ferraro said. "It was really a shock seeing them come in and out of the game while we stayed in there for the whole time. And I was so tired after playing the full game. The platoon was new, and I think that Michigan was the only major school which understood it correctly."

Ferraro confirmed the other assessments that Cravath did not get the most out of his team because the returning servicemen were hard to discipline, although he was one of those returning servicemen. 

"A lot of us found out there were other things than football," he said. "And some didn't adapt."

USC had highlights and lowlights: Highight: beating Cal, 39-14 in 1947. Lowlight: losing to the '47 Notre Dame team that is one of the best of all time, 38-7.

"Notre Dame had a really great team," he said. "They were superior."

Ferraro could have played in either the NFL or with the Los Angeles Dons of the old American Football Conference, but he was older, tempered by the experience of military service in a post-war world, and chose to move on to other endeavors. There is little doubt that with his size and intelligence he could have been a fine pro football player.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

MIDWESTERN DOMINATION

The Big 10 and Notre Dame make life miserable for USC

 

The resumption of the Notre Dame series brought excitement but no prestige to USC football. Cravath's Trojans were a solid college program. Leahy's Irish enjoyed one of the greatest decades ever, one that compares with Rockne's Irish in the 1920s, Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma Sooners in the 1950s, and…Pete Carroll's Trojans of the 2000s.  

The 1946 national champion Fighting Irish hosted number 16 Troy before 55,298. They had ended Army's winning streak in a monumental 0-0 tie, a game that is considered a true classic. USC came in after having lost to UCLA, 13-6 before 93,714. By the time Notre Dame played USC, the Irish were into one of the great winning streaks ever themselves. They dismantled USC, 26-6.

The Irish, ranked number one coming in, would be one of only 11 back-to-back national champions when they beat Ferraro's third-ranked Trojans, 38-7, in 1947 in front of Coliseum 104,953 fans. Rose Bowl-bound USC had legitimate hopes, or at least so they thought, having dispensed the 18th-ranked UCLA Bruins, 6-0, before a crowd of 102,050 two weeks before that. It was the fourth consecutive USC-UCLA contest, now called the City Game, which decided the Rose Bowl representative. The game's only score came when Jack Kirby hit Jim Powers from 33 yards out. A Gordon Gray end zone interception saved the day for the Trojans after UCLA drove to their four with 35 seconds left on the Coliseum clock.

Up until 1947, only Minnesota (1940-41) and Army (1944-45) had done won repeat national championships, but of course prior to the AP, Alabama, USC and Minnesota had done it. It is further instructive to note that AP national championships must be taken with a grain of salt up until the early 197os. The vote was sometimes taken prior to bowl games (although it was not always consistent, varying between the AP and UPI, adding to the confusion) Therefore, Alabama (1964-65) claims one in '64 despite losing a bowl, as does Texas (1969-70). Absent a play-off system, a more complete picture came into focus with the 1950 creation of the United Press International poll, and after that other polls have come and gone, sometimes confusing the issue and sometimes creating some fairness. 

When USC lost to Michigan, 49-0, in the Rose Bowl, two debates emanated from it. The first was whether Michigan or Notre Dame deserved to be number one. The Irish still clung to their no-bowl policy. Since USC had played both teams, their opinion was sought out. 

"Cravath and most of the Trojans claimed Notre Dame hit harder and was better than Michigan," wrote Joe Hendrickson and Maxwell Stiles in their book,The Tournament of Roses. Notre Dame was considered a power team, while Michigan, using the platoon, was a team of "deception, a whirling fullback at its ball handler - and the forward pass."

The second debate was not really a debate. In 1946, the Big 10 and the Pacific Coast Conference contracted to play the Rose Bowl every year. For years, the Big 10 adhered to a no-repeat policy. The PCC tried it for a while but scrapped the socialist concept with the realization that fairness cannot be legislated in sports or anywhere, for that matter.

The 49-0 thrashing of USC had people asking if the PCC was worthy of this yearly match-up. Combined with Notre Dame's dominance, the West was said to be lucky to get such a game, but of course the location of it more or less mandated a representative from the region.

Other bowl games, the Sugar and the Orange, were rising in popularity but with controversy occasionally cropping up over the invitation of integrated teams. In the more egalitarian world of post-war America, especially in light of former Bruin football star Jackie Robinson signing with the Dodgers and expected to break into the Majors in 1947, the invitation of Jim Crow football programs from the Deep South, while not stirring a drumbeat of protest, did engender some minor protest.

At least the Big 10 and the PCC would bring together opposing teams that sometimes were and sometimes were not integrated, but at least they were not segregated. Progress crawls slowly.

While USC could be said to have not lived up to Trojan standards in the Cravath years, UCLA was moving up the ladder. Jackie Robinson's last game in 1940 had not been a winner, as he was handled surprising well. But the 1942 Bruins were strong, beat USC, and went to the Rose Bowl. UCLA was now a "glamour" team in Los Angeles, with Hollywood showing interest in the team previously reserved for USC. Famous fans included comedian Joe E. Brown and radio crooner Rudy Vallee. A UCLA war bond drive earned a cool $2 million.

It was also the era of Jane Russell. The busty star of Howard Hughes notorious The Outlaw was the girlfriend of Bruin quarterback Bob Waterfield, one of the all-time greats in Westwood and with the Los Angeles Rams. Russell's presence was not enough to distract Georgia in the Rose Bowl, however. UCLA failed to continue the PCC's consistent success against the South. Georgia won, 9-0. 

UCLA was getting better and better players. In 1945, lineman Al Sparlis made All-American. The end of World War II was a boon to UCLA's athletic success, just as it was for USC.

The 1947 Trojans were a team at a cross-roads, in the middle of a decade that was somewhat similar to the Larry Smith era of 1987-92. They competed, some times at a very high level. They went to Rose Bowls, won some, lost some. They beat teams that appeared to be major powers, but it proved to a bluff. Just as Smith's teams beat good UCLA, Ohio State and Penn State teams, they could not beat great Notre Dame and Washington teams.

When the 1947 Trojans beat Ohio State, 32-0 at Columbus early in the season, they were highly confident. They were third in the country with a chance to play and beat number one Notre Dame at home, followed by number two Michigan (almost at home, in Pasadena). Had they won those games, they would have been national champions. The program would have been completely back to form, and likely would have led to great glory in the 1950s.

Instead, they lost both games. They would represent in the 1950s, but not dominate. UCLA was better. Notre Dame would drop a notch, too. A new coach would eventually return USC to Mt. Olympus. Sound familiar?

The 1947 Notre Dame loss would be a precursor to the 1988 USC-Notre Dame game in Los Angeles. Number two USC was two wins away from their first national title in 10 years (1947 would have been eight since Jones's 1939 team). They needed to beat…number one Notre Dame and then Michigan in Pasadena. They lost both.

Into the 1990s, they would represent, but UCLA was better. Pet Carroll would take over 13 years later, just as John McKay had in 1960. In McKay's third year, they would be number one. Pete Carroll? Third year: number one.

As some experts say, history does not repeat itself, it rhymes.

But Braven Dyer, who had seen it all, saw it comin'. He was unimpressed with the "need breed" of Southern California football player, was not enamored with the war vets and their lack of dedication to a mere game, and groused about it. On the train back from Columbus he tried to fire his beloved Trojans up with a challenge.

"I doubt if you can beat California," he told the celebrating players.

Dyer made a bet with the players, which if it did not break NCAA rules then would now, even though it was not for money, but rather for $5 sports shirts. When the Trojans indeed beat the legendary Pappy Waldorf's very good, fourth-ranked Cal team, 39-14, before more than 80,000 in the Strawberry Canyon, Dyer was out $185 on $5 sports shirts.

"It took a long time to make that up on my expense account," he wrote, thus revealing the questionable bet in the Times. Subsequent wins over Washington, Stanford and UCLA were a bluff; they were not prepared for the Irish and the Wolverines, although there was probably no amount of preparation that could have gotten them into their league, so to speak.

Dyer wrote in Top Ten Trojan Football Thrillers that Cal was probably not as good as the polls indicated they were. Indeed, California would consistently rate higher than they deserved, possibly because Coach Waldforf was so highly respected. In the following three years, they went to three straight Rose Bowls. In those games, they played well and they played poorly. What they never played was: to win. With the prestige of the conference on the line, an opportunity to redeem the West, they just fueled the argument that the Midwest was better and they were not in the Big 10's class. 

"Kids from the Big 10 figured the Rose Bowl was a reward," said longtime USC announcer Tom Kelly, "a chance to go to the beach and meet pretty girls."

The post-war Trojans were entertaining. Crowds were tremendous. Optimism and victory were American themes of those triumphant times. At Southern California and UCLA, the rivalry was intense. Having fallen consistently to Notre Dame, USC wanted at least to gain the upper hand in the City Game. More hoaxes and pranks emerged in these frivolous days. Before the 1946 game, SC students were reported using fire hoses to flood the Coliseum turf the night before in an effort to slow UCLA's fast runners. UCLA students heard of it and came to stop them. A melee occurred. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how one looks at it, the story was a hoax. The papers that reported it were forced to apologize. Should happen more like that in modern politics.

At USC, a school surrounded mostly by single-family dwellings, domestic animals often roamed about. A mongrel dog was found by a group of war vets attending USC on the G.I. bill. The dog would chase after cars and bite the tires, at great risk to his life and limb. His scrappiness impressed the soldier-students. They adopted him and named him "George Tirebiter." 

The dog became a campus favorite. Quickly, the unofficial mascot was being rolled into the Coliseum via shiny convertible to a great roar. Tirebiter would bark into the public address system. Naturally, UCLA's frat boys "dognapped" the animal, but a "daring raid" saved the canine. He was scarred from captivity, however. U-C-L-A had been shaved onto his back. 

Wearing an old-style leather helmet, Tirebiter appeared at the game with a blanket to hide the offending letters. His greatest "feat" came in 1947, when he made the trip to Berkeley. With USC winning, Cal's famed mascot, a man in an adorable Bear suit that kids fell in love with, called Oski, who would traipse about the sidelines in a clumsy, lovable manner. Oski made the mistake of taunting Tirebiter. Oski lost his moral favor, however, when he flipped Tirebiter "the bird."

It was as if Tirebiter "knew" what it meant. He "knew" the "number one" sign from Notre Dame students indicating another national title. He "knew" the "V for Victory" gesture of the SC crowd. Before the assembled Cal fans, he chased Oski about, biting and nipping at his heels. USC fans, who always make up a large portion of the crowd at Cal and Stanford games because it is an annual pilgrimage, went into an uproar.

Tirebiter was enshrined in the USC "All-American Row," his paw prints included alongside cleat prints of Trojan legends. Tirebiter became a true cause celebre until he was killed (predictably, since he was allowed to bite tires of moving vehicles) by an auto in 1950. A more "attractive" dog was found, "Tirebiter II." He roamed the sidelines in the early 1950s.  

Before the 1947 Notre Dame game, USC students, with the original Tirebiter in tow, almost caused a riot, snarling traffic as they made their way to nearby downtown, converging on the Biltmore Hotel and Pershing Square. Then things got ugly when, no doubt fueled by drink, they moved to the famed Hollywood and Vine. Bonfires on the busy boulevard created havoc. Finally, it was on to the Ambassador Hotel, the location of the famous Coconut Grove night club, and a hangout of celebrities, mobsters and politicos (later the hotel would be the site of Robert Kennedy's 1968 assassination).

John Ferraro was receiving telegrams every day from a Notre Dame tackle with the somehow-appropriate named Zygmont Czarobski. Somehow, players do not have those names any more. At every stop on Notre Dame's train trip to Los Angeles, a telegram would be sent to the USC All-American.

"I'm coming, Ferraro…

"Are you ready for me, Ferraro?"

Czarobski and his mates lived up to their hubris in a big win that secured their second straight national title. 

Losing to the Irish was tough enough, but the Michigan game had the effect of focusing attention on the program. Cravath and USC had to analyze where they were and where they planned to go. A fair amount of critics thought the first part of this "analysis" involved sending Cravath back to junior college. 

After the annual Rose Parade on January 1, 1948, featuring the theme, "The Golden West," the Wolverines set out to devour the Trojans. Fullback Jack Weisenburger scored in the first quarter, adding two more later. All-American halfback Bob Chappuis added an Anthony Davis-like five scores. Jim Brieske converted all seven PATs. Michigan was effective from the air, too. On defense they stuffed USC totally, holding them to a mere 91 yards on the ground and 42 passing.

"The Trojans stood up on one play - the playing of the National Anthem," wrote Bob Hunter in the Los Angeles Examiner.

Ned Cronin of the L.A. Daily News noted that USC needed plasma because "somebody (will) get killed…"

Michigan was said to be a "football squad that just about defies comparison," wrote the Examiner's Vincent X. Flaherty. "They threw the Trojan to the Wolverines in full view of 95,000 horror-stricken onlookers. It will go down in history as the most macabre spectacle ever beheld since they fed the Christians to the lions rare."

While Flaherty may have been guilty of over-hyping the historical comparisons (Jim Murray in later years learned how to make these kinds of statements in a more refined manner), he did describe what many fans felt was the "fall of the Trojan Empire."

The Michigan juggernaut that devastated USC, 49-0 on New Year's Day of 1948 had finished second in the polls. Frank Leahy's team was legendary, but so were the Wolverines. Michigan writers decried the "Catholic vote," but the team was determined to capture the crown in 1948.

Two Pacific Coast Conference schools would figure on their achieving that goal. The first team was Southern Cal. It was one of those "representative" Trojan squads of the Cravath era. Nobody quite knew what to expect. The general feeling was they could beat anybody on a given Saturday, but could also disappoint. Reaction see-sawed from satisfaction over their many strong showings to dissatisfaction over their occasional weak ones. But when Leahy's mighty Irish came to the Coliseum again in 1948 (a back-to-back L.A. trip to make up for the scheduling anomaly of the war years), Cravath's team stepped up and tied them, 14-14. It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the rivalry, a true "victory" for Southern California.

Michigan was unable to return to Pasadena because of conference rules barring repeat appearances. Pappy Waldorf's California Golden Bears, who had come to L.A. and beaten USC, 13-7 before 90,890, were unbeaten, untied, featured one of college sports greatest players, All-American baseball/football stud Jackie Jensen, and had national title aspirations of their own.

If Cal could beat Northwestern, they would make the argument that they should be number one, a ranking they had not finished with since 1937. It promised to be a nightmare scenario for Michigan, forced to sit home and possibly see their hopes dashed by the voters again.

Instead, Northwestern stepped up for the honor of their conference, and helped their rival win the title by beating Cal, 20-14. The 1948 Michigan Wolverines go down in history as one of the greatest teams of all times. The Fighting Irish would look back on that season as a blemish that may have prevented them from winning four straight national titles. The PCC was still a "joke" as far as Rose Bowls were concerned. 

Two-time defending national champion, number two-ranked Notre Dame had not lost for 27 straight games coming into the Coliseum. 100,571 came out to see All-American guards Bill Fischer and Marty Wendell, end Leon Hart, and running back Emil Sitko. USC had not beaten them since Howard Jones did it nine years earlier. Between the Rose Bowl debacles and the Notre Dame record, USC was suffering in the prestige game. 

Notre Dame had beaten Washington, 46-0. USC's 20-13 win over a 3-6 UCLA team impressed nobody. When USC fumbled early, recovering the ball but losing eight yards, the route appeared to be on. Notre Dame quarterback Kelly Tripucka hit end Leon Hart, who would win the 1949 Heisman, and he seemed to just knock Trojan defenders away en route to a score and a 7-0 lead. 

Notre Dame squandered opportunity by fumbling after that, however. The tide turned when Tripucka suffered a broken bone. Defense took over. With Troy down by a touchdown, running back Bill Martin started to find holes, eventually barreling in from a yard out to break a gain, making it 14-7 USC late in the game. 

Notre Dame was less desperate now for another national title and just hoping to get a tie. Bill Gay took the ensuing USC kick up the sidelines to the SC 13 with about two minutes to play. Notre Dame ran and passed, hoping for a touchdown, praying that a tie game would win over the Associated Press voters! Second team quarterback Bob Williams's pass to Gay misfired, but USC defensive back Gene Beck was called for pass interference, putting the ball on the Trojan two with less than a minute to play. John Panelli gained one yard. Then Sitko scored, the extra point was good, and the stadium went quiet. Even Notre Dame fans could not find real solace. With no bowl to play, they would just have to wait it out. After Cal's loss to Northwestern, they were forced settle for number two behind Michigan.

It was really Gay's incredible kickoff return that saved Notre Dame.

"That these Trojans had enough stuff to tie these babies speaks volumes for their fighting hearts…and their coaches," said one writer.

Other commentary played on the metaphorical Hart of Notre Dame vs. the "heart" of USC. It was enough to keep Cravath in favor at University Park, but he did not build on it. 

In 1949, the eighth-ranked Trojans tied number 11 Ohio State, 13-13 before 62,877 in Los Angeles, but lost to the 10th-rated Golden Bears in front of 81,500 at Memorial Stadium. Oregon and Washington fell handily, but a crowd of 70,041 were disappointed at the SC homecoming when Stanford won, 34-13. 

UCLA fell when USC's sophomore quarterback, Dean Schneider, engineered a 21-7 victory.  The game against the unranked Bruins vaulted USC back into the Top 20, but was otherwise a pedestrian affair. However, it marked the beginning of a major period in the history of UCLA football and, by consequence, the City Game.

Henry R. "Red" Sanders took over in Westwood that year. At first, it seemed an odd match. For one, Sanders was a Southerner. UCLA was the most open of all major sports programs to minorities. This fact did not sit well with certain liberals in academia and the media. Sanders had been recommended by Army's legendary coach, Earl "Red" Blaik (maybe because they shared the same nickname), as well as Michigan's Fritz Crisler and sportswriter Grantland Rice.

Sanders was colorful. He liked to drink and he liked women. He would die en flagrante delicto in a Sunset Strip cathouse in 1958. He came to UCLA shortly after the school had hired his polar opposite to coach basketball.

"We were different kinds of people," was John Wooden's assessment of Sanders.

Sanders immediately made one of the most famous statements in college football history.

"The USC-UCLA game isn't a matter of life and death," he said. "It's more important than that."

In the 57 years since Sanders made that outlandish comment, it has nevertheless held up as somehow appropriate to the passions and intensity of the rivalry. 

A week after defeating UCLA, Southern California played at Notre Dame Stadium for the first time since 1941. It was cold in South Bend. Notre Dame was number one again, still unbeaten, carrying one of the longest unbeaten streaks ever (although marred by ties). The Irish were unrelenting in getting revenge for the 1948 tie, winning by 32-0. 

Third-ranked California was also undefeated when they took on number six Ohio State at the Rose Bowl. With Notre Dame sitting out the bowl season, as was their custom, Cal had a very outside hope of getting to the top spot by beating the Buckeyes, the team tied by USC, by an impressive margin in the Rose Bowl. They led, 7-0 at the half, but the PCC fell again when Ohio State pulled out the 17-14 win. Waldorf's team was 10-1, but they had done nothing to dissuade the nagging commentary that was still persisting about the "toughness" of the Midwest as opposed to the "soft" West Coast teams.

USC's only All-American (1947) of the late 1940s was right end Paul Cleary, who had grown up Orange County and transferred in from Santa Ana Junior College. He played for the Detroit Lions and the New York (football) Yankees before induction into the USC and Orange County Sports hall of Fame.

In 1947, Mike Garzani was drafted by Washington, Green Bay drafted Jim Callanan, while the Los Angeles Rams went for both Gordon Gray and Don Hardy.

The next year, Ed Henke and Ollie Fletcher were selected by Washington, with Lou Futrell going to Philadelphia and John Kordich to Green Bay.

 

The Giffer: everybody's All-American   

Frank Gifford came to USC in 1949, and while in many ways he would come to symbolize and be the glamorous face of the University of Southern California, in other ways he would indirectly be responsible for the firing of the man he admired, Jeff Cravath.

Gifford was a 6-1, 193-pound all-purpose halfback. He was born in Santa Monica, but had grown up in an "oil family" in Bakersfield, a dusty town about 80 miles north of L.A. Today, Interstate 5 winds over the mountain passes, known as the "grapevine," between the San Fernando Valley and Bakersfield. Descending from the higher altitudes, an entirely different world presents itself before the motorist; a seemingly endless stretch of highway along hundreds of miles of relatively barren farmland known as the San Joaquin Valley. Distant mountain ranges are visible: the coastals that shadow the spectacular coastline and strands of Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey to the west. The Sierras - the fabulous Yosemite and Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the contiguous U.S.) - barely visible in the smoggy agricultural air to the east. But in the middle is the valley. It is hot in the summer with "toolie fog" in the winter. The towns have none of the Golden State panache: Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, and Sacramento are more like Iowa minus the harsh weather. Political and religious attitudes are similar, though. Today, it is reliably Republican in an otherwise "blue state."

Oil is a fairly plentiful resource in Southern California. There are rigs off the coast, but a major spill near Santa Barbara sent environmentalists into apoplexy, shutting down operations ever since. Derricks still pump like Quixoteesque windmills in the Fox Hills of L.A., the surfer town of Huntington Beach, and of course, in Bakersfield. 

Gifford's family worked the rigs. It was hard work and people who did it were not considered the higher classes, in a fairly "classless" place like Bakersfield. But Gifford was a "different breed of cat." He did not have good grades in school and had to go to Bakersfield Junior College before transferring to Southern California, but the man America came to know; the "golden boy" from California, the New York Giants' "man about town" and sex symbol, the "Monday Night Football" icon, and husband of Kathie Lee Gifford - that man is erudite, articulate to a tee, the very picture of the All-American gentlemen. He remains a class act all the way.

When Frank Gifford would survey his life's achievements, however, trying to explain how he got so lucky and had so much, he would more often than not look back at his school and his first college coach when it came time to explain it all.

Gifford would earn All-American honors in 1951, induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977. He played on offense and defense. He was a triple-threat who could run, pass and catch the ball. Make that a quadruple threat. His 22-yard field goal vs. California in 1949 was - according to SC's football media guide - the Trojans' first since 1935!? 

A first round draft choice, Gifford joined the New York Giants in 1952. He played for them in the greatest glory days of their franchise history (1952-60, 1962-64). At first, the grizzled vets put him down. Gifford may not be the most handsome athlete of all time, but he is probably in the top five. His big contract, dazzling visage, caramel rich voice and Hollywood flair did not sit well, until he started carrying the ball and proved to be one of the toughest, hard-nosed football players of a particularly hard-nosed era.

After proving himself, he was idolized by his teammates and the fans. He was far more at ease with fame and the limelight than his counterpart, the Oklahoma country boy Mickey Mantle. Gifford's experience at USC most likely was the best preparation he could have. 

In the annals of American iconography, aside from Mt. Rushmore level political figures, perhaps a few astronauts and war heroes, nothing equals the New York sports star. Marilyn Monroe discovered that when she married Joe Di Maggio.

"Joe," she gushed upon returning from Korea, "you never heard such cheering."

"Yes I have," deadpanned the Yankee Clipper.  

Gifford heard those cheers. In the Big Apple, there is Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Di Maggio, Mantle, Tom Seaver, maybe Derek Jeter. Gifford is in this elite company. He did advertisements. He was a Manhattan socialite. He appeared on TV and in movies. When "Monday Night Football" became a sensation, he was the star of the show. He aged as gracefully as a man can hope to.  

Gifford's talents were obvious in 1949 and 1950, but when the Trojans failed to produce a winning record in his junior year, Cravath found himself on the hot seat. Once thought to be an innovator, Cravath now was thought to be a coach who had seen the game pass him by, all the while wasting the athletic genius of Gifford. 

Cravath continued to have his supporters, especially among the student body. Rallies were held to support him, but they would be drowned by the drumbeat of criticism. Some years later, Sports Illustrated did a story on Gifford.

"A strong case could be made that Gifford was the most ill-used college player of all time," it read. "Cravath put Gifford on the defensive unit throughout most of his career, although he was probably the best all-around offensive player on the squad. He was its best runner and passer, he punted and he placekicked, and yet Cravath rarely gave him a chance to do these things. It wasn't until well into Gifford's pro career with the New York Giants that he was able to prove his full potential on offense. It might be argued that if Gifford had played before the free-substitution rule and under a coach who knew hot to utilize the full measure of his ability, he would have to be named the finest player the West ever produced, maybe the best anywhere."

Certainly, Gifford would have to wait until Cravath was gone and Jess Hill was in before experiencing real glory at USC.

In a book titled The Fifth Down, ex-Trojan George Davis and co-writer Neil Amdur (now sports editor of the New York Times) described the case of Don Burke. Burke was a junior college sensation out of Hartnell J.C. in Salinas, near Monterey. O.J. Simpson would break some of his juco records. He was a 225-pound fullback who ran the 100 in 10-flat and had every skill needed. For reasons that were never explained, he never made it past the third string under Cravath, but the San Francisco 49ers saw his talent and turned him into a top NFL player, albeit at linebacker.

Cravath had actually signed a $14,000 extension in 1949, but USC, unlike Notre Dame (until Tyrone Willingham) has never stuck to keeping a coach around until his contract is up. In 1950, Braven Dyer discovered that player dissension and alumni unhappiness had become too much.

Previous criticism was "a mere zephyr compared to the hurricane of howls which arose" when Cravath's team went 2-5-2 after pre-season prognosticators had forecast a Rose Bowl season. 

It was not a good year, even though their were highlights, namely a 9-7 win over Notre Dame that spawned some stories about how it had saved Cravath's job. They lost to Washington and tied Stanford, though. What was galling and hurtful for Cravath was the rise of the U.C. schools: California under Waldorf was recruiting stars from the Southland otherwise ticketed for USC. UCLA beat the Trojans, 39-0.

The Bruins outgained SC, 423-79, behind tailback Ted Narleski's three scores. This was a major event. Nobody doubted that UCLA was on a par with Southern Cal, but to dominate them? That was hard to stomach, especially after Sanders had promised the win. Gifford was hurt and on the sidelines.

Media and alumni criticism can be absolutely brutal at USC. There are very, very few sports programs, professional or amateur, that are in the confluence of such a pressurized situation. The manager of the New York Yankees has a similar job. Even great college football and basketball programs around the country, programs on a par with USC, do not come with this same level of intensity. Not even the Notre Dame job, the coaching positions at Alabama, Oklahoma, Penn State, Nebraska, or basketball hot spots like North Carolina, Duke, Indiana and Kentucky are like this. True, some of those schools have had coaches whose longevity and success put them above the fray, but the fact that USC is uniquely located in a huge city dominated by print, TV and radio media with major national outreach probably is the reason.

Ted Tollner experienced a similar heat in the 1980s. Don Clark and Larry Smith did, but to some lesser degree. UCLA basketball coaches who followed Wooden met the same kind of expectations and pressure; again the combination of the program the Bruins developed combined with the L.A. glare. Steve Lavin was excoriated during his tenure at Westwood even though his teams usually competed at a high level.

Cravath, despite the criticism, went out with class amid plenty of grudging praise for his high moral standards, which is a backstory that really does not flatter the image of college sports, then or now. He won, but did not dominate. He produced many fine young men who succeeded on the field, the classroom and in life; most of them credit him for that. Still, he was "crucified," said broadcaster Robert Kelly. 

 

USC went after Frank Leahy, Fritz Crisler and Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown. They ended up with Jesse T. Hill. Whether the other "name" coaches might have had more success is not known. Probably not. What is probably true is that none of them would have been figures more intimately associated with the "Trojan family" than Hill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

MR. TROJAN

Jess Hill, a coach of great dignity with a unique place in USC history

 

Jess Hill grew up in Corona. Located on what is now the 91 freeway, about half an hour east from the Anaheim hills, it is a hot, small town with surrounding canyons, rock formations and desert plateaus that looks as much like Arizona as California. When Hill was a kid, it was a time when it still seemed like Geronimo might lead a war party from around the next bend.

In 1926, Hill used his earnings from employment at the Corona Ice Co. and the Union Oil Station to attend the Rose Bowl between Alabama and Washington. Hill, a baseball fan, became a football aficionado, too. At Corona High School, he earned 10 varsity letters; was salutatorian and president of his senior class, earned a prize as the extemporaneous speaker of Riverside County; and became a member of the California Scholarship Federation. He starred in basketball, football, baseball and track at Riverside Junior College. His broad jumping earned him notice from Dean Cromwell.

After his recruiting visit, he felt USC was "just too big for me."

Cromwell's assistant, Tommy Davis, persisted until Hill accepted a $300 scholarship and a part-time janitorial job. His original athletic ambitions were track and baseball. When he showed interest in football, Cromwell tried to dissuade him from going out for Howard Jones's team for fear of injury.

Hill told him that he planned to go into teaching and coaching; that this would probably mean coaching football; and that the experience of being a college player would make him more marketable as well as a better coach.

The prizewinning extemporaneous speaker and salutatorian of Riverside County made logical arguments, and Cromwell had to let him do it. Thus did a protégé of Howard Jones emerge.

"He was the fastest man I have ever seen on Bovard Field," stated Jones of the player he called "Hula Hula" Hill, because he swiveled his hips to evade tacklers. Hill starred on great Trojan football and track teams. He set the Intercollegiate Athletic Association record in the 1929 long jump at 25 feet, 7/8 inches. 

Hill subbed for Jim Musick and starred in a route of Washington, but the equipment manager had forgotten his shirt. Wearing Cliff Thiede's number 32 instead (a number retired after O.J. Simpson won the Heisman but before his wife was murdered), Hill remained anonymous to radio listeners in L.A. who instead heard what a great game Thiede had.

The announcer went so far as to state that "Thiede" was the "greatest open field runner we've seen" and in what was may rate entrance into the Hyperbole Hall of Shame, "maybe better than Red Grange."

(This situations is slightly reminiscent of the 1971-72 NBA season, when fans of Lew Alcindor, unaware that he had Islamicized his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, looked at the Milwaukee box scores and thought, "Alcindor must be hurt, whose this guy Jabbar? He scores 35 every night with 20 rebounds!") 

Playing on teams with great depth, Hill shared playing time, but Jones knew how to use him. When he carried, he averaged 8.2 yards. Hill played in that 76-0 first game vs. UCLA in 1929.

"We had tradition and we had heritage behind us and they didn't," he said.

Hill was still a fine baseball player who signed with the vaunted New York Yankees after graduation in 1930. In his first game with the Hollywood Stars, a Pacific Coast League team that had an arrangement with the Yankees, he homered against the L.A. Angels at the old Wrigley Field, a classic minor league park on Avalon. 

As he rose through the Yankee organization, he found himself playing alongside Babe Ruth, but by the time he made it to the Major Leagues in 1935, The Babe had been dealt to the Boston Braves.

Hill was known for his base running with New York, but eye problems forced a trade to the Washington Senators. He hit .306 for the legendary Cornelius "Connie Mack" McGillicuddy and the Philadelphia A's in 1936, but when he dropped to a still-respectable .273 in 1937, Mack dealt him back to the Pacific Coast League. After playing for the Oakland Oaks, he decided to retire and pursue coaching.

His first stop was coaching baseball and football at his alma mater, Corona High, followed by a stint coaching track and football at Long Beach City College. In 1942 Hill joined the Navy, where he became associated with USC athletic director Bill Hunter.

After the war, his connection with Hunter led to his taking over the USC frosh football team and a spot on Cromwell's track staff. Cromwell retired in 1949. Hill took over without missing a beat: two national titles and immediate recognition as the "best track coach at any American college."

The only better American track team than USC's was the U.S. Olympic squad, and half of those guys were Trojans, anyway. To Hill's way of thinking, the athletes were so good anybody could succeed with them.

"I didn’t do much coaching," he said modestly.

Hill, still youthful and coaching his alma mater, had his dream job and may well have gone on to win the 12 national titles that Jess Mortensen and Vern Wolfe went on to win, plus some Olympic Gold. 

Instead, Bill Hunter chose him to replace Jeff Cravath as the football coach in 1951. Certainly names like Leahy, Crisler and Brown, while bandied about, would have made a big splash. But the choice of a great Trojan satisfied the faithful. Hill was as qualified as a rookie major college coach could be, at least in terms of varied experiences: ex-football, track and baseball star at USC; big league ball player; excellent scholar; Navy veteran; head track coach of national champion track teams; head football coach in high school and assistant college experience at SC. 

Hill was worldly, loyal, smart and disciplined. His record is not among the all-time greats, his star not as bright as others, but he was a truly great Trojan. After coaching in the 1950s, he became the school's athletic director, hired John McKay and presided over USC athletics over a period that has never been remotely approached by any other athletic program in the history of American sports!

Hill graciously gave credit to Cravath for the recruiting he had done, leaving him "in great shape" in 1951. His first decision was to get Gifford on his offense. Using a single wing and T-formation, Hill turned Gifford into the star everybody expected him to have become. 

He also coached Jim Sears, "one of the finest small backs I've ever seen," who played offense, defense, returned punts and kicks. Hill was the coach of one of USC's all-time superstars, the legendary Jon Arnett. 

Hill's teams from 1951 to 1956 were 45-17-1 (.725). He said he found a sense of "defeatism" when he took over and certainly set that back. He went to two Rose Bowls, but in what was a truly major accomplishment, never lost to Pappy Waldorf and California. 

Michigan had instituted the platoon system to great effect. Hill modernized with the times despite the Jones influence, although the Trojans depended on good, old-fashioned power running attacks. 

"We had men in motion, flankers and split ends - just like today," he told Ken Rappoport for his excellent 1981 book, The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football. 

The "G.I. problem" that plagued Cravath was not a factor during Hill's tenure. The freshman eligible rule of the war years was also in effect in his day, as well. Like Pete Carroll 50 years later, Hill told incoming high school phenoms that they could compete for playing time.

His greatst moment came in his rookie season, 1951, when USC traveled to Berkeley to take on Waldorf's number one-ranked Cal Bears. They were undefeated and had won 30 straight conference games. This would be the year they would win the national championship, or so it seemed. 

"They had us 14-0 at the half," said Hill, "and we beat them 21-14" in what he further stated was "my most satisfying victory."

That game ranks with the 16-14 Johnny Baker game at South Bend as one of the all-time greats, although of course Trojan lore is filled with many equally exciting victories in the succeeding years. 

The USC-Cal rivalry is an odd one. Hill oversaw a period of time as a coach in which USC firmly re-established itself, once and for all, as the better football program. As athletic director, he saw a chasm between the prestige of USC's and Cal's programs open as  wide as the Grand Canyon.

Nevertheless, while to this day USC ranks as the greatest collegiate football dynasty ever, and Cal has seen endless years of mediocrity, the Bears have always proven to be the occasional thorn in their side. There are Pacific 10 Conference teams that just seem to lose and lose to USC over the years, but not Cal. Oddly, some of Cal's most vexing upsets of USC have come in years in which the Trojans enjoyed otherwise-perfect or near-perfect years on their way to national championships. 

All of that was in the future when Hill took over. Cal was the conference standard, something to shoot for. Hill was proud of the fact he maintained an even psychological strain despite the high stakes of big time football. His religious views helped moderate him. 

"I hate to lose," he said, but he also was bound and determined that his charges get a good education and succeed in life. 

"He treated me like a father," Jim Sears said of him. "He's the only person I know who remembers anyone he ever talks to."

Hill did not "bring his work home with him" in the emotional sense - win or lose he was a calm man - but he was indeed dedicated and did bring his work home with him, watching film in his den, studying and preparing. He was a perfectionist and a fatalist, a rare combination.

Since Hill had been an accomplished athlete himself, starred in multiple sports, and had played in the bright lights of New York City, he was keenly attuned to the mental make-up of good athletes. Film was readily available in his day, but he did not rely on it. He took a chance on some players who rewarded his faith, and turned down a few high school superstars.

One player who did not play for Hill was Ronnie Knox, one of the most bizarre athletes in Southern California history. Knox seemed to be a story that could only happen in Hollywood; or Beverly Hills, or Santa Monica; or Inglewood; or Westwood; or…

Knox's father was a rocket scientist who divorced his mother, a beautiful wannabe actress. Ronnie Knox looked like Troy Donahue, the 1950s teen heartthrob. His sister was a beautiful wanna-be actress like their mother.

Their mother married a successful Jewish businessman. They lived in Beverly Hills. Ronnie was not enthusiastic about football. He was one of those "soft" California kids the Big 10 fans made fun of. Nevertheless, he possessed extraordinary talent. He could fly and he could throw. 

Ronnie's step-father was no athlete with no coaching experience. He had ego, though, and fancied himself an offensive genius. In four years, Ronnie played at four high schools: Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Inglewood and Venice. He was the star quarterback on every team. Ronnie's sted-dad argued with every coach, claiming their offense did not suit Ronnie's special talent. Transfers ensued.

He was the best player in Southern California, and highly recruited, but Hill passed on him. He did not want a flake; at least not one with a stage father. Ronnie took his show up to Berkeley. The old man clashed big time with the hardcore Pappy Waldorf, so it was back to "La La Land," where Red Sanders took a chance on him. There were problems with eligibility, with the father and with Ronnie, who told the media he did not like football, did not like to hit or be hit, did not like discipline, football practice, pressure or much anything else having to do football. 

Normally Red Sanders would have had nothing to with him, but he had talent. Hall of Fame football talent. Despite his attitude, and all the problems that kept him off the field, Knox did play for one season. In 1955, he was one of the brightest stars in the Pacific Coast Conference, passing and running the high-powered UCLA offense that finished with a 9-2 record, a win over USC, a Rose Bowl berth, and a number four ranking. 

Ronnie was of course drafted and offered good money to play in the National Football League. He told the press he was signing an exclusive studio contract to be a movie star with M-G-M. His sister was trying her hand at acting. The step-father would buy every ticket in the theatre, then pass them out to assure a full house. He would bribe, coerce and threaten the critics, who derided her "talent." The sister was beautiful and willing to use her sexuality. According to rumors, she at one time may or may not have done so in and around the Sunset Strip (although she was not the one who gave Red Sanders his 1958 heart attack), but she "landed on her feet" by marrying a multi-millionaire and moving to Hawaii.

Ronnie had no more work ethic as an actor than as a football player, so he went to the Chicago Bears. George Halas suffered him badly. He played for a few other teams, and enjoyed some success in the Canadian Football League. When the American Football League started up in 1960, Sid Gilman knew just who he wanted to power his genius offensive schemes with the brand new Los Angeles Chargers.

It took private investigators, but they found Ronnie living on the beach. As in on the beach, although Gilman maintained that he also had a hovel with some clothes. Gilman offered considerable bonus money, but Ronnie had no interest. Gilman signed Jack Kemp out of Occidental College instead, the team moved to San Diego, and Kemp rode football stardom to Congress.

Ronnie Knox? He became an institution at Venice Beach, the funkiest of funky ocean communities in L.A., a kind of cross between Sausalito, Greenwich Village, Cannes and Harlem. Ronnie wrote poetry that was discovered by literary types who found genius in its wistfulness, but Ronnie never allowed them to be published for money, preferring to either give them to strangers on the boardwalk or read them to passers-by. He became known as the "Poet of Venice." People who knew him for 30 years never knew he had starred at UCLA.

The opposite of Ronnie Knox was a man Jess Hill found to have desire to "work, willing to sacrifice, willing to perspire." His name was C.R. Roberts. Even USC football fans, unless they have taken the time to learn the team's great tradition, often say, "Who?" Roberts is a great Trojan who may very well have changed the world. He did not, because the time was not right, but not because his accomplishments were anything less than outstanding.

While Brice Taylor had starred in the 1920s, USC was still behind UCLA when it came to recruitment of black players when Hill came in. Hill endeavored to change that. 

"We hadn’t many black football players at USC, I guess, until I had four or five," said Hill. "I brought in Addison Hawthorne in 1952, and we had C.R. Roberts."

Black football players elevated USC's program. They helped power UCLA to national prominence. They helped make the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1940s and '50s a team of destiny, and made champions out of the New York Giants. 

In Oklahoma, Bud Wilkinson had taken over as the coach of a team in a part of the country not exactly known as a bastion of liberal racial progress. In the 1950s, Wilkinson turned the Sooners into one of the truly great dynasties in collegiate history. They won the AP and UPI national championships in 1950, 1955 and 1956. They were undefeated in 1954, but so were UCLA and Ohio State, who split the national championship. They won 47 games in a row until Notre Dame ended the streak in 1957. 

Wilkinson courageously integrated the Sooner program long before any forces of society pressured him to do so. Hill never talked up his role in racial progress. He certainly never painted himself as a pathfinder. Hill was a moral Christian man who just did what was right. Luckily he operated in a part of the country where to do so was not met by great protest, although to suggest everything was just peaches and cream is a refutation of the truth. 

Roberts did not get as many touches as he might have because he shared the backfield with Arnett. With combinations like Gifford and Sears, Arnett and Roberts, it ios easy to see why it may well have been Hill, not John McKay, who started "Student Body Right," "Tailback U." or whatever moniker one chooses.

Another Hill favorite was linebacker Pat Cannamela.

"You're bound to have a lot of good player at Southern California over all those years," Hill said. "I don't know how people can select an all-time USC football team…You just can't do it."

Hill was "moved upstairs" to take over as SC's athletic director in 1957. Again, his diverse background made him the perfect choice. From 1957 to 1971, USC won 29 NCAA championships and twice that amount of conference titles. He was named "Athletic Director of the Decade" by the Columbus Touchdown Club in 1969.

"You don't accomplish these things only with outstanding coaches, or even with superb athletes on the field," Hill said. "Athletic success, as with everything else that has made USC a great institution, also comes from friends and alumni across the nation who gave this campus unparalleled support."

Hill pointed out the achievements of Bill Hunter, Gus Henderson, Howard Jones and Sam Barry. It was what these men created that gave him and those who followed him a chance to build on greatness.

The USC-California rivalry was at its peak in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Pranks similar to the ones SC and UCLA pulled on each other ensued, such as the "bearnapping" of poor Oskie, already quivering from "George Tirebiter's" attacks.

"Weather is fine. Think I will stay - Oskie," read the telegram from L.A.

Peace talks resulted in the return of Oskie in exchange for a stolen USC banner.

 

By the time Coach Hill took over in 1951, Cal was still the class of the Pacific Coast Conference, but a paradigm shift was about to occur. Three major demographic factors, combined with politics, would elevate the conference back to its old glory, but with a decided tilt towards the two teams in Southern California. The first was a huge population swing to the West, particularly to California, and most particularly to Southern California. 

Mob boss Bugsy Siegel had virtually "invented" Las Vegas, leading to the growth of "Sin City" just a five-hour ride from Los Angeles. The popularity of the automobile and affordable post-war housing helped create a mobile society. Los Angeles, San Diego and environs; Orange County, Long Beach, Torrance, the South Bay, Santa Monica, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley; plus Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties - all of these cities and communities became part of a larger metropolis. Young families, often headed by soldiers eager to start life anew, moved in. This population shift created even more of a gold mine of high school sports talent and political power. As the Cold War heated up, with extra emphasis on science and technology as the "space race" developed, huge amounts of money were poured into the schools.

The second major demographic was the influx of black families. The coastal towns of San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sausalito and Seattle all had shipbuilding facilities operating at full capacity during the war. Southern blacks moved to these areas to work in the shipyards. They settled in and their families followed. They were quickly integrating into society. There was no more seamless way to integrate than through sports.

The third demographic was the "return" of Mexicans to California. Once the dominant ethnic group, they had been made into a minority by white settlers. Now, with the state becoming a huge economic powerhouse of industrial and agricultural might, they were coming in droves, some joining relatives who had stayed. They worked in the factories, the fields and the professions. As they assimilated, their children would add to the mix of athletic greatness - baseball, football, other sports - in California.

According to the mythology of the day, all of this was happening in blissful harmony amid the building of ranch style homes with swimming pools; rosy neighborhoods teeming with smiling citizens in a new paradise. Of course, as the book and movie L.A. Confidential somewhat cynically pointed out, all was not as it seemed, but compared to the baggage of the rest of the U.S., the post-war American West pretty well got it right. For the most part.

The 1940s and '50s were still a boom time for Hollywood. The studio system was still in place. Writers, actors, would-be directors, and film crew people looking for work were finding it in the entertainment industry, which was expanding with the popularity of television. Aside from the indispensable need to own a car, jet travel made cross-country movement convenient. That unique hybrid of Los Angeles life, the transplanted New Yorkers, became more commonplace.  

In addition, President Dwight Eisenhower federalized highway building programs that would do for the West what Franklin Roosevelt's federal works projects had done for the1930s South. Los Angeles benefited from the best, most comprehensive and modern highway construction. This turned disparate communities into one giant metropolis called Greater L.A. Richard Nixon had grown up in Whittier in the 1920s, and his daily trips to L.A.'s Farmer's Market to buy fruits and vegetables for the family grocery store had been a major haul. With the new highways, the once arduous trip is now a half-hour commute. 

Students from outlying communities would find USC and UCLA to be within easy hailing distance. Their parents could attend their games. Kids could go home on weekends and get their laundry done in the new washing machines that every family now owned.

Because the L.A. Basin is essentially a large desert valley surrounded by mountains and foothills, like Las Vegas it had the room to expand and expand and expand. The Oakland/San Francisco/San Jose area, on the other hand, has a huge body of water in the middle of it. Therefore, the Bay Area could not accommodate the kind of population that L.A. could. It has nice weather, but not as "perfect" as the Southland. It could not produce the same crop of ball players.

  It was a political time, too. This had some effect on sports. With the Korean War raging and the conviction of the Rosenbergs for giving the Soviets Atomic secrets, Communist espionage became a huge issue. It was the wedge being driven by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R.-WI.). Communism in academia and Hollywood became an issue.

California had been socially divided from the beginning. Socially liberal and moderately religious Northerners and Europeans tended to populate San Francisco. When the railroads and aqueducts were completed, and connections with Los Angeles made, social and religious conservative Southerners and Midwesterners favored the Southland.

The University of California-Berkeley, the home of Manhattan Project scientist Robert Oppenheimer, became radicalized. Oppenheimer had given Soviet scientists Atomic secrets because he felt that America should not be the only superpower. Sides were taken, with the result that Cal went to the Left. USC maintained its reputation as a conservative, patriotic, Republican-leaning private institution. 

The USC-Cal rivalry began to reflect this, with sports mirroring society. A sometimes-nasty social edge, class envy with liberal vs. conservative tendencies, entered the dynamic. This would prove to be the ultimate downfall of Cal football which they have never really recovered from. It would get worse in the 1960s.

Stanford was still a relatively conservative private institution. They maintained their commitment to football, and it paid off in the 1950s, 1960 and 1970s, when they had pretty good decades. When the Vietnam War became a major issue, they would liberalize, to the detriment of their football team, but theresults were not as disastrous as what occurred at Berkeley.

So who benefited? USC, UCLA, and Washington. UCLA, a school that is to the political Left of USC but only moderately so, became a major college football power in the 1950s and held that level of success, with a few bumps in the road, for half a century. 

 

The 1950s would see Notre Dame experience a down period. Michigan would cede its superior rating to ultimate rival Ohio State. Oklahoma would dominate. The South would be somewhat down, only to rise again. 

It was an important decade in the history of college and professional sports, politics and America. Much of what we are is influenced by events of those times. Leisure activities became a mantra of American life. Sports became exceptionally important, rivalries formed, legends made.

But it is looked upon as an age of innocence, too. Racially, it was a time of breakthroughs but not true accomplishment. While baseball records, teams and players of this decade are considered part of the modern era, it would seem less so in football and basketball. Integration, even in the West, was not yet at full commitment. Equipment (consider the face mask, for example), training methods (and even later, diet) seem to have made their big advancements in the 1960s - when players looked bigger, faster and faster - not the '50s. In assessing college football history, accomplishments of that era are duly noted and given weight, but not as much as in the succeeding decades.

USC entered the mid-20th Century with the all-time best athletic department in the nation, but their football program, while definitely a collegiate power, was not the all-time best. Notre Dame, the dominant team of the 1920s and '40s, was. If an AP-style Top 25 poll of college football teams from 1900-49 had been held, USC would have been in the top five, possibly as high as second or third in competition with Alabama, Michigan and possibly Army or Minnesota. Cal would have been close. 

Michigan had been the top team (along with old line Eastern schools like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, Rutgers and Army) of the 1900s.

The 1910s saw a hodge-podge of good programs in a decade interrupted by war and rugby. Washington put together a 63-game winning streak. Army was strong. Notre Dame emerged along with the forward pass. But the first truly great football dynasty was Cal's Wonder Teams. While Brick Muller's and Andy Smith's star ascended to their greatest heights in the early 1920s, enough of the team's record was established in the prior decade to say they were the best program of the '10s.

Cal certainly looked to be a dominant power, but ceded over successive years to rivals Stanford and USC, and Notre Dame. Rockne's team ultimately dominated the 1920s. Alabama made their bid, but Southern California was so strong after Howard Jones's hiring in 1925 (not to mention Elmer Henderson's .800-plus winning percentage) that the Trojans must be considered the second or at least third best team of the '20s.

Jones's Thundering Herd, with their three national titles, competes with Minnesota for domination of the 1930s. Runners-up are, not necessarily in this order, Alabama and Notre Dame. 

The 1940s was a golden age of college football despite World War II. Notre Dame was a  juggernaut. So was Army and Michigan. Ohio State and Minnesota were Midwestern powers.

The longterm question facing Jess Hill in 1951 was whether he was going to take Trojan football forward, maintaining its high historical level, or continue on the slight downward trend of the previous 10 years. He cannot be compared with John McKay, but the program did move forward. Among those other major programs, Notre Dame, Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, and Washington would also move forward.

The Ivy League was already irrelevant. Cal and Army would step way back. Minnesota would have one more shot but then fade. Stanford would get better but find a ceiling to their success. UCLA would be a great program but become something of an enigma. 

Oklahoma and Nebraska would burst onto the national stage. The Florida schools - Florida State, Florida, Miami - virtually not spoken of in the American football conversation of the 1950s, would cast giant shadows. Eastern football would find prestige again at Syracuse, Penn State and Pitt. 

Alabama would ascend to the very top, perfectly eligible to enter the "who's the best?" debate with Notre Dame, USC and others. With integration, the rest of the SEC would get better and better and better. 

 

Utilizing Frank Gifford, Hill had USC fans fantasizing about a national championship at best, and a semi-return to glory at worst. To quote Charles Dickens, "it was the best of times and the worst of times"; a tale of four schools, really: SC, Cal, UCLA and Notre Dame.

The Trojans started unranked, but when they won their first four games they found themselves at number 11 on October 20. 81,490 fans waited for them at Cal's Memorial Stadium. The "Oppenheimer mindset" had not yet set in. Fans in Berkeley had their minds on football, not psuedo-Communism. The Bears were unbeaten and rated number one. Notre Dame was down. The Midwest did not look as strong as in previous years. Was the West back, and would California be its lead blocker?

Looking at the events of October 20, 1951 from the perspective of the years that followed, this can be seen as a turning point. One team would use it to move up, the other would ask, "What happened?"

Pappy Waldorf's teams had not lost a regular season game since 1947, covering 38 contests, but this record, despite being impressive, hung like an albatross around heir necks. They had also lost all their Rose Bowl games. They were always "close but no cigar."

In 1951, Cal surveyed the landscape and said, "This is our year." They were the football version of the Brooklyn Dodgers, National League champions over many years, World Champions over none. Dodger fans just said, "Wait 'til next year." When Southern Cal went to Berkeley, it was 17 days removed from the Dodgers' devastating loss to the New York Giants on Bobby Thomson's "shot heard 'round the world."

Brooklyn would wait until 1955. Cal would wait forever. 

It did not look good at halftime, with California leading 14-0. Shades of South Bend, 1931. 

"We thought all along we'd win," Gifford said at the time. "No, we didn't have any doubt, even at the half."

Half way through the third quarter, the triple-threat tailback Gifford broke for 69 yards and a touchdown. With the momentum shifted to USC, the Cal fans, never known for an abundance of class, decided their teams failings could only be explained by the "dirty Trojans," a chant they built up with no effect on the Trojans. They just pressed on in the abundant knowledge that the Truth, when witnessed in an American arena, is never misunderstood.

That Truth included the unmistakable fact that they outclassed California the rest of the way. Early in the fourth period, Gifford found team captain Dean Schneider with a six-yard touchdown pass. To the Bears, it was like a mini-version of the Dodger season, with the "creeping terror" Giants replaced by the ominous Trojans.

The rest of the fourth quarter held the promise of deciding the conference, the Rose Bowl and the national title. One out of three ain't…bad. Gifford made perfectly placed punt that set Cal back on their eight. Waldorf was afraid to get too aggressive, fearing a turnover. Cal could not dig out of their hole. They were forced to punt. Johnny William made a 20-yard return to the 22.

By this point, USC was like Patton's Army closing in on Germany: relentless. With Gifford gaining tough yards they conquered and gained real estate until, with a little more than two and a half minutes left, Leon Sellers pummeled his way in for the winning score. Gifford's kick made it 21-14. 

"Heart, spirit, morale - that's what did it," said Hill. "Determination won it for us."

Cal knew this was true, but their jealous fans would offer a myriad of reasons for this and many future losses at the hands of the University of Southern California: "dirty Trojans," academic misconduct, recruiting violations, professionalism, thuggery, overemphasis on winning, along with varying other excuses, lies, moral equivocations and like garbage.

USC would just react with class, above the fray. Other national rivals would replace Cal as the important games on their schedule.

Cal's 1951 team was indeed talented, and it is also true they had some wonderful young men playing for them. Johnny Olszewski was a great runner, Les Richter an All-American backing up the line. But 205-pound linebacker Pat Cannamela was their erqual at Strawberry Canyon. The writers accorded him equal praise along with Gifford.

Now 5-0, Southern California moved up to number six in the polls. They could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hill was the toast of the town. Southern California found itself on magazine covers with fancy nicknames like "Murder, Inc."  

Texas Christian fell. Then USC ventured to New York City. It was an attempt to revive the hallowed memory of the Army-Notre Dame games; the inter-sectional duels at Yankee Stadiu and Soldier Field. 

In reality, it was cold on November 3. Army had quickly slipped from their lofty perch, and a mere 16,508 curious on-lookers saw USC improve to 7-0 with the 27-6 victory. 96,130 greeted Troy one week later for the homecoming game against Stanford. The Indians were making a revival in the 1950s, spurred in large part by their 27-20 win, ending USC's highest hopes.

All the rest of their hope came crashing down when Sanders' UCLA Bruins beat them, 21-7, followed by a 19-12 defeat to the Irish at South Bend. The season ended in a dull thud: 7-3, no Rose Bowl, not even a Top 20 ranking. They had read their press clippings and been seduced by their own myths.

After the UCLA loss, Braven Dyer wrote, "If things like this keep up it won't be long before Sanders and his lads have won all four legs on the Trojan horse."

The best news of the year had been Gifford, considered the top all-around running back in the nation with 1,144 yards in total offense. This included 841 on the ground and 303 yards passing.

Gifford grew as a player and as a man at USC. In later years, he admitted that he doubted that he would even break into the starting lineup. When he did and intercepted three passes he was in. Off the field, his looks carried him only so far with the ladies and the well-heeled fraternity crowd, but he was dead broke all the time. Trying to live up to the "rich kids' school" atmosphere of USC was difficult. 

Nick Pappas put him up in his garage, which today would probably be an NCAA violation. Gifford remembered his old friends and his school. He regularly mentioned and praised Troy in long sojourn alongside Howard Cosell and "Dandy Don" Meredith of "Monday Night Football" fame.

While Gifford remained faithful to the memory of Jeff Cravath, there is little doubt that Cravath's T-formation did not suit his talents like Hill's single wing. Gifford is one of those all-time Trojan greats, like Mike Garrett after him, who never played in a Rose Bowl. Also like Garrett, though, he was part of something that succeding teams could build on. 

Jess Hill had two All-Americans in his first season, 1951. Aside from Gifford, linebacker-guard Pat Cannamela earned the honor and then went on to play for the old Dallas Texans (who were not associated with the later AFL team that became the Chiefs, nor the Cowboys).

In 1950, seven USC seniors were drafted: Jay Roundy and Jim Bird (Rams), Don Burke, Jack Nix and Jim Powers (49ers), and Bill Martin (Eagles).

In 1951, Paul Salata went to the Steelers, Bill Jessup to San Francisco, Volney Peters to the Chicago Cardinals, Hal Hatfield to Philadelphia and Johnny Williams to Washington.

The dark clouds at the end of 1951 had a silver lining that would come to light in 1952. Five Trojans were drafted by the NFL, including first round pick Gifford to the New York Giants. Hill's first team also saw Cannamela go to Dallas, followed by Bob Hooks (Los Angeles), Al Baldock (San Francisco) and Dean Schneider to the little-remembered Boston Yanks.  

 

Out of The Giffer's shadow: Jim Sears

"It's kind of funny," Jim Sears said. "I came to USC as an offensive back and became an All-American defensive back. Gifford, who came to USC with me, began as a defensive back and ended up as an All-American offensive back."

While Gifford wore the "golden halo," Sears was actually the "master of the big play," according to Ken Rappoport in The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football.

In 1950 he ran back a kickoff 44 yards to lead USC's 9-7 squeaker over Notre Dame. Two years later against California his punt return set up Troy's only touchdown in a defensive struggle over the Bears, 10-0. That same year against the Bruins, he scored and passed for both touchdowns in the thrilling 14-12 victory. 

Sears was not a big man. He came to Southern Cal despite advice that he not get mixed into such a competitive situation. The 5-9, 164-pound left halfback was a Los Angeles native who prepped at Inglewood High School, where the Lakers' longtime home, the Forum, and adjacent Hollywood Park Race Track are located. 

His coach at Inglewood was a USC man who encouraged him, against most of the other opinion, to try for USC. He gave him a good game plan. Instead of getting lost in the shuffle with the USC freshmen, Sears spent a year at El Camino, a longtime California junior college football hot spot. His accomplishments at El Camino attracted the notice of Southern California recruiter Ray George, resulting in the invitation to University Park.

Jeff Cravath admired his pluck. While others wilted during his four-hour practice sessions in the SoCal heat Sears, who called himself a "prune picker" because he was used to the conditions, stuck on the roster. Like the Allies at Normandy, Sears  had his "beach head." Next would be his "breakout."

Sears made his presence known in both the 39-0 1950 loss to UCLA and the redeeming win over Notre Dame. After running for a touchdown against the Irish, Sears just wanted to make sure there were no thrown flags. The 70,000-plus fans made their presence known, just as he had. 

"Then, after it's over, you feel the people," he said.

Sears journeyman approach served him well when Hill replaced him with Gifford in 1951. Sears adjusted, learned Hill's system, and in 1952 made himself a potent pass/runner, earning All-American honors and finishing seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Sears did it all on special teams and as a defensive safety, too. Unfortunately, he was injured in USC's 7-0 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. Sears did recover in time to earn the MVP award in the College All-Star Game. He coached the SC frosh, played professionally for the Chicago Cardinals, and served in the Army. After that, he was on Don Clark's staff at USC, then came back to play for Sid Gilman when the Los Angeles AFL franchise played briefly at the Coliseum. He is one of those "three-timers": high school, college and pro football games played in that stadium.

Sears helped lead the L.A. Chargers to the 1960 American Football League title game. The Chargers under Gilman were extremely exciting, and one of the main reasons the league thrived until it merged with the National Football League (effectively becoming the American Football Conference) in 1970.

When the Chargers moved to San Diego after one season of poor crowds in L.A., Sears injured his shoulder, was traded to Denver, then retired. His youngest son's name? Gifford Troy Sears. 

Sears bridged a gap of true greatness that included Frank Gifford, himself, and the legendary Jon Arnett. In 1952, he spearheaded one of those "close but no cigar" teams that reach for greatness and have immortality elude their grasp. 

The 1952 Trojans gave every indication that they could win the national championship, just as the previous year's squad had until the end. This time, they were a major force. With the loss of Gifford, USC's sports information office promoted Sears as an All-American. Ranked 16th to open the season, they put on a run reminiscent of the defensive juggernauts of the Thundering Herd. Four teams fell by shutout. Four others scored either six or seven.

The demographic changes of a new America were at play. Cal was expected to be strong again, but they could not score against USC. Stanford was no match, falling 54-7. USC benefited from a strong recruiting base. Midwestern football was slowly ceding power back to the West.

That no longer meant Cal and USC. It was UCLA and USC. Sanders had experienced a rough patch in Westwood, but with his recruits firmly in place, he was bound and determined to extend Bruin football well beyond the confines of regional notoriety. His goal was a national championship, nothing less. He had ushered the program into a golden age, and with it a golden age of rivalry in the City Game.

96,869 football fanatics arrived to see two 8-0 teams on November 22, 1952. The teams split the two polls (AP and UP) between third and fourth. Competition was fierce for number one, with Michigan State, George Tech and Notre Dame also jockeying like thoroughbreds heading down the backstretch.

The "rules" of 1952 forbade the kind of final showdown fans yearned for. Michigan State would not be allowed to return to Pasadena. Notre Dame of course still did not go to bowls, so the last two games of the regular season offered the promise of being de facto national championship games for USC against its two main rivals.

The UCLA contest mirrored the season, in that it was mostly a game of defense won by a team with a great one. USC had outscored opponents, 233-26 coming in, but the Bruins had only allowed more than one touchdown once. Sanders was looking for a third straight victory over their cross-town rivals.

Furthermore, television was now in vogue. The 1951 Notre Dame game had been USC's first-ever TV broadcast. The nation watched the 1952 contest against the Bruins with rapt attention. USC's marching band gave them something other than the game to watch by introducing new uniforms that set the current style: the Trojan helmet outlined by a traditional, military-pageant style outfit. The helmets were replicas of those worn by Trojan warriors in the battles with Greece made legend by Homer's Illiad and the Odyssey. 

The creation of TV would prove to be one of the true wonders promoting both USC and UCLA football. Eastern audiences, sitting in cold, often snowy or rainy conditions, three hours later and in the dark, would observe a stadium washed in sunshine. It was like postcards from an island paradise. When color TV became popular, that really did it. The sight of those Cardinal and Gold jerseys mixing with the baby blue; celebrities, pretty girls in the stands and cheering on the sidelines, world class marching bands, the sky the color of the Pacific Ocean; the image of USC-UCLA games, along with the Rose Bowl, would fire up America with the "California Dream."

Further pranks and Hollywood hi-jinks accompanied the game. Former child star Shirley Temple loaned UCLA an eight-foot teddy bear, which USC promptly stole from a Westwood movie house. A wild chase ensued from Westwood to South-Central L.A. on surface streets in the days preceding the Santa Monica Freeway. 

In the '52 game, SC took an early lead on Jim Sears's toss to Al Carmichael, who after seeing Bruins closing in pitched it back to Sears, who then took off for 70 yards, making it 7-3, SC. A safety and a touchdown gave UCLA the halftime edge, 12-7. When they opened the third quarter by marching to the USC 18, it was Elmer Willhoite's interception that turned the tide for Troy. Sears hit Carmichael for the go-ahead score and it held up, 14-12.   

"The play separated the men from the boys and the heads from the shoulders," wrote Jack Geyer in the Los Angeles Times.

At 6-2-1, Notre Dame found itself playing underdog against Southern California, a role in which they have consistently shown a dangerous bite. Southern California rolled into South Bend ranked number two, but strategizing that a win over the Irish followed by a Rose Bowl victory would elevate them over number one, stay-at-home-for-the-holidays Michigan State. It was not to be.

Notre Dame's fans, coaches and media went into full Rockneesque psychology mode. Gasps were heard all around town about the size of the Trojans, and all the old Grantland Rice saws about "California supermen," ultra-violet rays and vitamins were brought up. USC's players were not buying any of it. They knew the Irish could play with anybody, because they could.

The connection between Sears and Carmichael, honed to a fine pitch against UCLA, ran off-kilter at Notre Dame Stadium when Sears' lateral on a punt return combo hit the ground instead. Notre Dame recovered and it led to a touchdown. The Irish added a field goal, and thwarted USC with a goal line stand. Their defense picked five passes. The freezing November weather gave Notre Dame an additional advantage.

The 9-0 shutout was a thud felt in Los Angeles like dead weight.

Southern California trained back to L.A., but all hope was not lost. A Rose Bowl date with the Wisconsin Badgers awaited them. Jut as it was USC football that would provide the Pacific Coast with its greatest source of prestige, it would be USC that would restore integrity back to the conference with this game. The Big 10 had signed a 10-year deal to play, beginning with the New Year's Day game of 1947. 

In the first six years, it was popular. It was a financial success. It was all Big 10 all the time. As Slim Pickens might have said, "What in the wide, wide world of sports is goin' on here?"

Illinois and Michigan had won twice. Ohio State and Northwestern each had a victory. Big 10 6, PCC 0. They call that the "donut." Scoreboard. What was to be made of this? It was the PCC's party, but they did not seem to be invited. The Big 10 could not come out and play non-PCC teams, not in Pasadena, California. They could disengage from the contract when it ran out, but the crowds of 100,000 and now the TV revenue made it a game they needed. Furthermore, it was helping to solidify them as a conference of champions and Heisman Trophy winners. 

It most certainly was proving to be a setback for the PCC. Every time they would field a "great" team, whether it be California or USC, leading the media to state that the power shift was a done deal, the Midwestern brutes had pricked the air out of the bubble.

Richard Nixon was the Grand Marshall of the Rose Parade the morning of the contest. A huge sports fan, Nixon's wife, Patricia, had graduated from USC. Because Nixon had a car, he had chaffeured her on dates with other men before they had gotten serious. Some of those dates had been USC football games in the Howard Jones era. Nixon was a big Trojan fan who had represented a Congressional district that extended from northwest Orange county, into southern L.A. County (Artesia, Whittier) and into parts of L.A. city proper. In 1950 he was elected to the U.S. Senate. A little less than two months prior, he lent his popularity to President Eisenhower's winning ticket. Now he was the Vice-President-elect, a young man with a future. He symbolized the post-war political and social importance of the ever-growing electoral juggernaut of California.   

Things looked untenable for the Trojans when Sears broke his leg on the ninth play of the game against Wisconsin. Enter Rudy Bukich. His third quarter touchdown to Carmichael was the game's only score

It was a hard-fought game. Willhoite, who got married that day, was tossed out for using his fist. USC's defense earned its moniker, the "Wrecking Crew," winning this as they had in a season in which they allowed a mere 47 points. Alan Ameche, who would go on to win the Heisman and score the winning touchdown in the "greatest football game of all time," the 1957 televised NFL title game between Baltimore and Gifford's Giants, gained 133 yards. Outside of a 54-yard burst, though, he was contained by the "bend but don't break" Trojan D.

"USC was as potent on the ground as an airplane," wrote Geyer in the L.A. Times. "Victory came to the Trojan in the third quarter when they forgot what laughingly can be called a running attack and struck by air. Nixon's party won this year, too, after a long wait - 24 years to be exact."

Nixon visited both team's locker rooms afterwards, basking in the glory of politics and sports, a world of strange bedfellows. He preferred the manly football heroes to Hollywood celebrities, who more often than not voted Democrat.  

An amateur photographer managed to fall out of his airplane trying to take pictures of the game. He landed outside gate nine and was, remarkably, not seriously injured.

Hill, who played in the 1930 Rose Bowl, became the first man to play and coach in winning Rose Bowls. The team finished 10-1, good for fifth in the Associated Press and tied with Oklahoma for fourth in the United Press International polls.

Most of Hill's greater 1952 squad had been recruited by Jeff Cravath, which further strengthens the argument that he deserves a higher place in Trojan grid annals than many would grudgingly accord him. Left halfback Sears was a consensus All-American, living up to the hype. He earned the Voit and Pop Warner Awards, ostensibly given to the best player on the Pacific Coast. 

Right guard Elmer Wilhoite had come out of the dusty Central California town of Merced to make All-American in 1952.  

No less than 15 Trojans were drafted in the spring of 1953, including Carmichael as the seventh overall pick to Green Bay. Aside from Sears, the Cleveland Browns chose Wilhoite. Second round selections were back Jim Psaltis to the Chicago Cardinals and quarterback Rudy Bukich to Los Angeles. Washington selected Ed Pucci, Walt Ashcraft and Bob Buckley. Charlie Ane (Detroit), Bob Van Doren (Cleveland), Jim Sears (Baltimore), Bob Peviani (New York Giants), Lou Welsh (L.A.), Don Stillwell (San Francisco) and Al Barry (Green Bay) rounded out the bumper crop of talent. By 1952, the great tradition of USC, breeding grounds of professional football - indeed, pro sports and Olympic competition - was firmly established. 

 

Here come the Bruins

1953 saw the end of the Korean War, and while many soldiers took advantage of the G.I. Bill, it did not produce the influx of "football vets" that World War II, or even World War I, had. But it was a time of peace and prosperity. The California "good life" became more coveted than ever. The building of the highways and the expansion of the suburbs continued at a feverish pace. 

Number eight USC began with very high hopes. When they beat two Big 10 teams and opened 3-0, expectations were quite glorious. A trip to Seattle, where Husky football was getting better and better, left with that old "kiss your sister feeling" - a 13-13 tie. They stepped it up to shut out Oregon State, 37-0, before making the trip Berkeley.

Ranked number 11, they took care of the unranked Golden Bears, 32-20, but fell victim to the sense of expectation and resultant letdown. The next week, Southern California went to Oregon, a place where rain, drizzle, fog, or mud must sometimes be contended with. The Trojans were non-plussed before a small crowd of 17,772 at an off-campus site, Multnomah Stadium in Portland. The 13-7 defeat might have taken the air out of their tires, but Jess Hill was not the kind of coach to let his charges lose their will for very long.

79,015 Coliseum fans made a homecoming appearance to see Stanford, ranked 11th; a program back on the rise, "replacing" California as the Bay Area's best. Over the years, USC and Stanford have played some of the most exciting, dramatic games on the West Coast. Come-from-behind wins, last-second touchdowns, game winning fields; these are traits that have made USC colorful and have often marked the Stanford Indians/Cardinal too. The two programs have played many of these kinds of games against various opponents, but they have played their fair share against each other.

Stanford has always been on the margins of college football power. The Vow Boys were legends. They would be known for great quarterbacks, ranging from Frankie Albert and John Brodie to Jim Plunkett and John Elway. They would also have great coaches. Pop Warner elevated them. Bill Walsh put them on a national stage.

While they have never been the equal of USC, they do not seem to know it. They come to play every time. L.A. Times sports columnist Jim Murray would call them "the opponent," a boxing phrase referring to a fighter who is not as good as the champ, but beating him is always a high profile. 

The 1953 USC-Stanford game was called by a sportswriter of the day, "one of the greatest gridiron games ever played." SC won by virtue of five-foot, seven and one-half inch Sam Tsagalakis's field goal with 35 seconds on the clock, 23-20. The Times' story reported that fans first knew it was good because Tsagalakis jumped "eight feet off the ground and waved his arms to the Heavens."

Ranked number 11 prior to the SC game, Stanford still had a shot at Pasadena, but they tied the Big Game, 21-21. Red Sanders' number five Bruins were a great defensive team with three shutouts under their belt prior to the game vs. ninth-ranked USC. The game had all the flavor of a "changing of the guard" event. Sanders was determined to see to it that his team was the new conference power, replacing the "old order": Cal and Southern California.

He and his team succeeded.

Southern Cal could not pass on the athletic Bruins. 38 yards in the air was as they got in a 13-0 washout. UCLA headed to the Rose Bowl, but lost to Michigan State in Pasadena. Maryland captured the 1953 national championship. 

UCLA fans never would have guessed it, but 1954 was the zenith of their program. In all the years since, they won conference titles, Rose Bowls, All-American honors and the Heisman, but they never finished number one again.

For USC, the distressing new landscape demonstrated that UCLA continued to recruit more and better black players. They were faster and more athletic. In the sense that California was growing and producing more and better high school heroes, it was UCLA and their shiny campus next to Bel Air - not USC in their increasingly-rundown neighborhood - that was ahead of the curve.

The 17th-ranked Trojans started impressively again; 39-0 over Washington State, a 27-7 win over visiting Pittsburgh, and a road win over Big 10 foe Northwestern. Texas Christian upset them, but the rest of the league fell. 

102,448 filled the Coliseum to see a game, played on November 20 in 100-degree heat (kind of putting a crimp on 21st Century global warming arguments) for all the marbles. The seventh-ranked Trojans were 8-1, but UCLA was undefeated, in a battle with Ohio State and Oklahoma for poll position. The AP and the UPI could not decide. The Bruins tried to make the point crystal clear for them.

The temperature seemed to affect USC and 51 fans treated for heat prostration (including two who suffered heart attacks). UCLA was as cool as a cucumber. In the third quarter, with the Bruins ahead, 7-0, USC's Jim Contratto threw an interception that Jim Decker returned 98 yards for a touchdown. The score was nullified by a clipping call, but the floodgates were open. The rest of the day was a Bruin pageant, 34-0. There was nothing more that Sanders' team could do to impress the voters, except to beat Ohio State for the national title in the Rose Bowl.

The powers that be, in their infinite stupidity, had taken a bad idea and made it worse. Things worked out for Ohio State, who had not gone in 1954, so were free to meet UCLA in '55. Except that "creeping fairness" of the athletic variety inculcated itself into the Pacific Coast Conference. They decided to institute a no-repeat rule of their own. It all makes the people who came up with the BCS system in the 1990s look like geniuses.

USC, humiliated by UCLA, would go to play in their place. First they had to play at Notre Dame. Hill had lobbied to move that game up in the schedule in order to get better weather, but these kinds of things take years because of scheduling. In the rain, Southern Cal played for pride against the fourth best team in the nation, but it was not enough. The Irish prevailed late, 23-17. 

Enter Woody Hayes. Controversial, combative, opinionated, blustery; these are all accurate descriptions of Ohio State's legendary coach, and they were all on display at the Rose before, during and after the game played January 1, 1955. First of all, since Ohio State was locked in a mortal struggle with UCLA for the hearts and minds of two sets of pollsters, Hayes made it his duty to inform them that the Buckeyes were, indeed, the best team in America; therefore worthy of an undisputed national championship ring. Off to the side, unable to effectuate the outcome on the field, the Southerner Red Sanders, who could bluster a bit himself, lobbied for the Bruins.

Caught in the middle, to some extent, was the mild-mannered Jess Hill. On the one hand, he wanted to beat Ohio State and give UCLA the title. It would be good for conference prestige. On the other hand it would give his cross-town rival a big upper hand. The prestige would be theirs, not USC's. It would be a recruiting coup.

Hayes was still a relatively young coach in 1954. He wore a white, short-sleeved shirt with a tie and a baseball cap with the school logo "O" on it. The Buckeye marching band was famous for spelling out O-H-I-O through formation. Dotting the "I" is considered one of the biggest honors at the school.

Hayes, as some wags have said, "was about as conservative as Attila the Hun" (a common expression that makes little sense, as Attila never advocated tax cuts or empowerment zones). He made no bones about his preference for Republican Presidents. Democrats had no stomach for war, in his view, and it was war that tested America's meddle, made young men great, and differentiated us from Godless Communism.

The term "field general" was created to describe Woody. He kept the ball on the ground, thinking in terms of an infantry officer or a tank commander like his hero, George Patton. Hayes probably thought that Patton being from San Marino, little more than a stone's throw from the Rose Bowl, was a conspiracy. His hero could not be one of these Socialist Californians. Real men came from sturdy Midwest stock. They could not emanate from the loins of Hollywood or its morally questionable "beach and bungalow" communities. San Marino is not Hollywood, is about 40 minutes' freeway drive from the nearest beach, has mansions, not bungalows (and votes about 70 percent GOP), but Hayes's mind was set on the matter.

Further descriptions of Woody will have to be put off for now, but he would be inextricably linked over the next 25 years with the rivalry between his conference and the Pacific 8; with John McKay and Southern Cal; and with the L.A. Times. He would become a symbol of the cultural difference between California and the Midwest, a pre-cursor of the "red state vs. blue state" divide, if you will; between old fashioned values and the 1960s, which he blustered through, giving as well as he got.

Woody would be venerated, but he and his Bucks got their licks in. They could be counted on for that. Hayes seemed to have made a deal with God before the USC Rose Bowl. No 90-degree sunshine for him. No girls in skimpy outfits or heat-addled ninnies wasting themselves on conspicuous consumption. He could not summon forth snow or animals to "creepeth the Earth," other than the "Buckeyes" who made up his talented squad, but he seemed to bring some good ol' fashioned Midwestern mud and rain. The Bucks, led by running back Hopalong Cassidy (a Hollywood appellation Woody probably discouraged) indeed manhandled Troy in these familiar conditions, 20-7. When it was over Hayes had no humility to show. 

"My coaches who sat in the press box said we would have beaten USC by a higher score on a dry field," said Woody. "They thought our men would have gone a little farther on every play. There are about four, possibly five, teams in the Big 10 that could beat USC… Big 10 teams are better in the Rose Bowl because they are raised on tougher conditions."

Obviously, Woody was not an advocate of the "ultra-violet rays and vitamins" theory. Woody had further criticism for USC's band before stating unequivocally that, "Ohio State definitely is number one in the nation." The fact that a Southern California school was his competition stuck in his craw like John McGraw's disrespect for the upstart American League in the early 1900s.

Jess Hill maintained supreme calm and class when the remarks were relayed to him. He agreed that Ohio State was as good as Woody said they were, although he did state that he would like a shot at them on a dry field. But he defended UCLA and the conference while disputing that half the Big 10 could beat his team. After all, he had shut out Wisconsin two years prior to this.  

Exactly where Woody was trying to go with these comments is a little confusing. No doubt he wanted to influence the polls, but it was a double-edged sword. If SC was not as good as the lower score might indicate, then the lack of competition would not make Ohio State look good. On the other hand, if he said the Trojans were a fine club, then UCLA's more-impressive 34-0 victory over them would be all the more influential. 

In the end, Woody was just Woody. The AP went for the Buckeyes, the UPI chose UCLA. Oklahoma, who might have beaten either of them, had to settle for third. Further fallout resulted in more self-examination of the PCC and why they did not "hit harder" than the Big 10. The no-return rule would be rescinded. UCLA began to question why they were traveling to SC's campus for home games. Talk of an on-campus football stadium went for a couple of decades without resolution.

USC had six seniors picked in the 1954 draft:  George Timberlake (Packers), Tom Nickoloff and Charlie Weeks (Rams), John Skocko (49ers), Des Koch (Packers) and Jim Gibson (Giants).

The following season, seven players went. Back Lyndon Crow was a second round choice of the Chicago Cardinals, followed by Ed Fouch to the Rams, Mario DaRe to the Chicago Cardinals, Aramis Dandoy to the Browns, Frank Clayton to the Rams, Frank Pavich to the Eagles and Bing Bordier to Washington.

 

"Jaguar Jon" Arnett: local kid makes good 

Jon Arnett is another one of those Los Angelenos who played in the L.A. City play-offs (for Manual Arts High), in college with USC, and in the pros with the Rams; all at the venerable Coliseum. He is also another example that refutes the jealous assertions of lesser lights and unimpressives that the University of Southern California does not produce excellent stucent-athletes.

Arnett was a Renaissance man; an All-American who may have won SC's first Heisman but-for unfortunate events beyond his control. After football he would lead the life of a gentleman-by-the-ocean, a connoisseur of fine wine, writing poetry, quoting Emerson, and enjoying lively debate.

Arnett would stay in shape playing volleyball on Manhattan Beach's famed sand courts, but did not gear his football alumni life around USC, the Rams, or anybody else. His attitude stemmed in part from the fact that he was caught up in a scandal that rocked Pacific Coast football, revealing layers of corruption that have never been washed away in succeeding years.

Arnett was a "big man on campus" with close-cropped, blonde 'n' boyish good looks comparable to Gifford, but it did not get to his head. He played for fun, he took school seriously, and he treated people with respect. He was the team captain in 1956, and All-American in 1955. Arnett was the two-time winner of the Voit Trophy, given to the outstanding player on the coast, as well as the recipient of the Pop Warner Trophy. He made All-PCC twice, went into the College Hall of Fame in 2001, and was drafted in the first round by the hometown Rams at a time when they were an NFL powerhouse.

Nicknamed "Jaguar Jon," he was a star for the Rams. He was a member of two USC national title track teams (long jump) and is in USC's Hall of Fame. Arnett always spoke his mind, whether conducting interviews or working in the broadcast booth, sometimes at a cost.

He made no bones about the National Football League, expressing the opinion that players were "chattel" who had to "pop pills" in order to play, long before Jim Bouton's book Ball Four, or the movie North Dallas Forty described such realities. Throughout his 10-year pro career, Arnett always mentally prepared for the day he would "have the ability to walk away." His philosophy was that it all was not as big a deal as alumni, fans, media and the money make it out to be.

In 1954, Arnett was having a sensational sophomore year. The press touted him as an All-American. The coaching staff "coddled" him. He was named National Player of the Week. Then he got hurt, and he felt forgotten by everybody. When he caught himself "crying myself to sleep," Arnett knew it was time to mature and take stock of his priorities. 

Arnett also had the advantage of growing up in a diverse place with black teammates, classmates, and friends. Manual Arts is a school located "in the shadow" of USC, and its students have always rooted for the Trojans. Arnett never doubted that SC was for him. 

Arnett had a fine junior year, carrying 20 times a game, but he later wished he could have played for John McKay, who could give the pigskin to his best runners more than 30 times a game.

In 1956, Arnett was getting under-the-table payments. The practice was widespread at USC, UCLA and Washington. All were penalized for it, and it may have cost him the Heisman. Arnett scoffed at the idea that the schools that were not caught were more pure.

Because he had made it so clear that he was headed to USC, the school made no illegal offers to him. Stanford wanted to steal him away and offered him a wide variety of payoffs to come to Palo Alto, but Arnett was set on USC. Then, it was Stanford that exposed USC, all the while claiming to be the "Harvard of the West," an academic institution that was above such scofflaws.

After the scandal hit, the Canadian Football League offered him $50,000 to play up north, but USC's coaches asked him to stay, which he did out of a sense of loyalty and love for the school. But later he made people uncomfortable with his on-air commentary as SC's color man for football broadcasts. In a "political" move, not only was he fired from the job, but his younger brother, who according to Arnett had excellent grades, was denied admittance to USC.

Joe Jares, then the editor of the student newspaper Daily Trojan and a longtime Trojan historian, said that Arnett wept when addressing the student body after his last game before leaving because of the NCAA-mandated suspension. 

Throughout his career with the Rams, Arnett cultivated an off-season career in the stock brokerage industry, parlaying that into successful entrepreneurial ventures. Despite his obvious business talents, literature and the arts were his romantic side. Arnett's wife, Vicky, was a California graduate, making for interesting fall conversations.

Arnett, the erudite white fellow who grew with blacks up in what he described as a "ghetto," a few blocks from the University, teamed with a great black running back at USC. Arnett and C.R. Roberts might have led Troy to the highest pinnacle of glory, but events (the "scandal") would hold the program back.

 

C.R. Roberts make a statement at Austin

While John McKay is credited with creating the greatest opportunity for black athletes, Hill certainly should be given his due, too. After Brice Taylor, UCLA had done better, but Hill was determined to rectify the situation. Roberts is not as well known as some of SC's legends, but he should be.

"We played in Austin, Texas, in 1956, and things went smoothly," Hill told Ken Rappopport in The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football. "No racial problems at all."

Others remember it differently, but in studying race and the South, the discerning historian quickly discovers that the "white experience" and the "black experience" are as different as…black and white. In fact, Hill did deal with a major brouhaha, but "we beat Texas really badly, something like 44-20, and Roberts had gone crazy that day - ran for 257 yards. After the game, Roberts was sitting in a restaurant with some of our people, and this guy who had been at the game walks up to the counter and says, 'I don't know too much about this thing, segregation, integration, and that. But whatever it is, I've been watching that Roberts guy - and I believe in HIM.' "

Indeed, C.R made an impression on September 22, 1956, the opening game of the season. History records a groundbreaking football game between USC and Alabama, played at Legion Field in Birmingham 15 years later. On that day, Sam "Bam" Cunningham would demonstrate what his teammate, linebacker John Papadakis, has said in the years after the game: "The truth, when witnessed in an American arena, is never misunderstood."

The ebb and flow of history revolves around circumstance, opportunity and timing. Roberts was every bit as spectacular as Cunningham, probably more so, in an environment that was more inhospitable. His performance was important, but not groundbreaking on a national level like Sam's. The time was not right. Still, honoring his efforts is a truly worthy effort, because the freedom of others down the road came about because of events like the one Roberts made happen.

Roberts said that he faced great prejudice at USC, but he felt a duty to his race to go there, deal with it, and forge a path for others.

"I felt that somebody had to go and it might as well be me," Roberts said. "I wanted to contribute something."

Art Spander grew up in Los Angeles and attended UCLA, where he worked in the sports information department. Later, he worked for the Santa Monica Evening Outlook before moving to the San Francisco Examiner, where he worked for decades.

"The modern black athlete doesn't know any of this," Spander says. "In 1997 there was a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson entering the Major Leagues. I thought it was wonderful that blacks in 1997, who knew very little about him, unless their fathers told them about what he did, were able to be part of that, but he's not as acclaimed today as he was at that moment. 

"I covered Elgin Baylor, he and <Jerry> West. He was Michael Jordan playing a different game, averaging 30 points and 19 rebounds. The thing is, he was great but almost forgotten. I digress, but the 49ers in 1996 announced their 50th anniversary team. They asked us to get involved. I said you can't have one team, kids today all just know Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, and Ronnie Lott, as great as they were, but I know they had guys like Jimmie Johnson, who was there when I was at UCLA. John Brodie was fantastic, but in today's world, unless you're watching Sports Classic on ESPN, nobody goes to the history books. Robinson made it so that some blacks never had to understand what had gone on before them. Also, this is like saying, 'When we were growing up we had to walk 10 miles to school in the snow,' and I know things changed, but it does not matter as much unless they understand how segregated America was like. That's why so many blacks rooted for the Dodgers, because of Jackie.

"Not to take a knock at SC, but the Trojans were late at integrating until C.R. Roberts. UCLA remained competitive in basketball and football because they brought in lots of blacks. Rafer Johnson and guys like that. They got the best black athletes in Southern California."

Spander, being a Bruin, may be excused for taking a shot at USC. The school had provided opportunities for black athletes and black students for half a century prior to C.R. Roberts. But Spander was right in that it was UCLA who had provided the most opportunity up until this time, and this was the pillar of their rapid rise in all sports. 

Roberts gained 1,309 yards in his career, averaging 6.5 per carry, but it was a struggle. As a freshman, he found himself on the second string, and strongly suspected that race was at issue. He received anonymous letters urging him to quit school. He claimed that in practice his blockers "laid down for me" and tipped the defense off as to the play, causing him to get gang tackled. But by late 1955 his talents had shone through. He got significant playing time in the UCLA and Notre Dame games.

By the time USC traveled to Texas in Roberts's junior year, he had earned the admiration of his teammates. Now it was time to reach out to the rest of the world.

"This was one of those rare times when an integrated team came down to Austin, and I was supposed to stay somewhere else than where the team stayed," Roberts said. "But the team said they'd prefer to have me with them, and the team wouldn't go unless I stayed in the same hotel. It was quite a problem then, because the whole team got hate mail after all - all from California. The guys didn't get excited, though.

"Black people from Texas came in and took me out. That took the edge off everything. It was one of the most wonderful road trips I ever had."

Hill's assertion that there had not been any racial problems may have been viewed through the prism of rose-tinted glasses. The fact is, there were problems, and his response to it was heroic. When Roberts was barred from the team hotel, at great expense and logistical trouble, Hill moved the entire team to other lodgings. This no doubt took away from the team's concentration and the staff's preparation, but rather than leave the Trojans befuddled, it seemed to coalesce them as a group.

Roberts played only 12 minutes, all in the first half. In that time - and this is not a typographical error - he gained 251 yards! The joke was that he set a record for yards gained, but did not get enough playing time to earn a varsity letter.

"Most of my runs were like for 60, 50 and 47 yards," Roberts said. "Hill took me out early because he thought there might be trouble. Actually I was glad to get out. The other players said a few bad things. I expected it."

When Hill reached 250 yards, he said Texas actually started saying "nice things" to the stocky-legged running back from San Diego County. According to reports, the Longhorns were convinced by Roberts's performance; they offered congratulatory handshakes, saying he was a "good man" and "a better man than me."

The difference between C.R.'s game and Cunningham's in 1970 was the response of the fans. They continued to catcall Roberts to the end. The response of the fan in the diner may have been an isolated incident, but not one reflective of a whole state. 

Marv Goux was a teammate of Roberts's in 1955. He was not at the game in Austin, but he had the unique perspective of being C.R.'s teammate and Cunningham's coach at Birmingham. Goux would be an assistant under John McKay and John Robinson until 1982.

"C.R. was a competitor," Goux said in one of the last interviews he granted, in 2000, prior to his untimely passing in 2002. "A man like that, when he earns something, he's gonna take what's his without asking. That was our philosophy at USC. We played clean, we played hard, we played to win.

"The fact is, C.R. played a better game against Texas than Sam did against Alabama, but Sam's game is the one we remember, because the time was not right in the 1950s. Later, with Vietnam and the protests, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, Sam was the right man in the right place at the right time. But C.R. Roberts was an extraordinary player, man and Trojan!"

The USC-Texas game is an important benchmark in the integration of college football, but the last hurdle would not fully be overcome until well after it had happened in baseball, basketball, pro football, boxing, track and tennis.

However, there were other landmark events, such as the 1955 Navy-Mississippi Sugar Bowl and the 1956 Pitt-Georgia Tech Sugar Bowl. The former was the first major game in the South where there was not segregated seating because Navy had distributed its tickets without racial consideration, and the bowl honored that. The latter was the first major game in the South with an African-American (Pitt's Bobby Grier) starting for one of the teams. After that game Louisiana passed a law not allowing integrated play, but the "genie was out of the bottle." The Supreme Court struck down that law later on.

 The role of the Sugar Bowl was huge in both drawing attention to segregation and (reluctantly at first) helping to eliminate it. The Sugar Bowl, being the premier college game in the South at the time, had a national significance that other games did not. Until the Pitt game, teams from the North who played in the game would either not bring their black players or agree not to suit them up. In the years after the war, St. Mary's and the University of San Francisco had dealt with problems trying to play in Southern bowl games.

Other great black stars made major marks on the game. Syracuse built themselves into a huge powerhouse with Jim Brown. Brown is probably the greatest running back in NFL history. He was just as good at Syracuse, but did not win the Heisman Trophy, mostly because he was black.  Later, the black running Ernie Davis would win the coveted Heisman for Syracuse in 1961. He was the first black recipient of the trophy.

Roberts would have other great games, but none as spectacular or as important as the Texas game. Prejudice did not end that day in Austin. He continued to find it, sometimes in unlikely places, such as when a Washington player bit him in a pile-up. 

Interestingly, Roberts "chose" USC, not vice-versa. A top notch student at Carlsbad High School, he  was hoping to go to West Point, which was making a major push to integrate its school after the war years. But he wanted to make the point, that being that a black player he could succeed not just at an egalitarian public school, UCLA, but at a private one, USC. He was weak in math, but the school offered him a tutor and he made it through.

For all of his talents, however, Roberts unfortunately, like Arnett, was caught up in the payola scandal.

"The players involved in the scandal had jobs and were making over $75 month, more, I guess, than what they were supposed to be getting," he said. "I didn't play in 1957 because of the scandal, but I was happy that Jon Arnett was able to get five games out of it in 1956. Jon was a senior and given the option of playing either the first five or last five games of the season. He and some other seniors made a deal for some information. Everyone else lost their eligibility. There were something like 10 or 12 players involved."

The scandal cost the team a chance at greatness, and led to Hill's resignation in order to become athletic director. Roberts missed his last year, playing for the Toronto Argonauts in Canada.  He returned to finish his business studies at USC, then signed with the New York Giants. He was not Frank Gifford's teammate very long, though. He was traded to Pittsburgh, but left because he claimed Pittsburgh's racial climate was "intolerable."

Roberts landed on his feet with the San Francisco 49ers, where he teamed with Y.A. Tittle, R.C. Owens and J.D. Smith in the great all-initial backfield that earned fame in the years prior to Vince Lombardi's Packer dynasty. He played alongside Stanford's John Brodie, but after settling their Trojan-Indian differences it worked out well.

R.C. (R stands for "nothing" but C stands for Cornelius) played briefly again in Canada, then returned to teach at Lawndale High School, near the Los Angeles Airport. 

"I'd do it all over again," he said. "It was a tough road to hoe, but it was worth it."

 

Scandal

"The scandal" was a turning point at USC, in the Pacific Coast Conference, and in college football. Coming some 25 years after the Carnegie Report, it was the end of any last vestige of "innocence" that still revolved around the idealistic nature of college football. It came on the heels of gambling scandals in basketball, revealing layers of corruption and money behind the old college game, which had started as an Ivy League pastime.

It would lead to the NCAA becoming a strong institution of enforcement, perhaps overly so. The NCAA saw itself as the thin gray line between anarchy and order, just as Baseball Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis had seen his office after the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal.

While it hurt all the teams involved, striking at the PCC's prestige, in the end, as the German philosopher Nietsche (and C.R. Roberts) says, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger." The conference learned its lessons, re-grouped, and come back stronger than ever.

The Oakland Tribune investigated the scandal extensively. They determined through interviews that most athletes, especially in the higher rent cities of the West Coast - Seattle, the Bay Area, L.A. - could not make ends meet for $100 per month. Students living in these cities dealt with rent, food, and "keeping up with the Jones's," often sophisticated college girls who expected to be wined and dined, in competition with the rich fraternity boys who could do just that.

Athletes, often on scholarship and not from blue blood families - "Old Blues," "Scions," legacies - could not compete. In 1956, players from California, Washington, USC and UCLA were all penalized for taking the payments. As Jon Arnett pointed out, schools like Stanford were just hypocrites who offered as much or more but did not get caught, often accusing their rivals in order to divert attention from themselves.

Arnett was the biggest name among the "USC 12," seniors who were given the option of playing the first five or the last five games of the season. Other players were involved, too, snitching on each other or other programs in a sad tale reminiscent of criminals ratting each other out for better deals.

With four of the top programs in the conference under penalty, Oregon State won the PCC. Washington was given a two-year probation. UCLA was hard hit. Red Sanders had not taken warnings of his questionable ways seriously, but when the you-know-what hit the fan his program faced three years probation and a $15,000 fine. Cal took two years and $25,000, USC two years and $10,000. Later, the PCC made an in-depth investigation and determined that USC had transparently self-reported. The sanctions were reduced and the fine lifted. 

The NCAA had been concerned since the end of World War II, when the G.I. Bill created a new era of student-athlete subsidization that quickly was abused. Various codes were written, and in 1952 the situation on the coast became one of concern. Commissions were set up to deal with the matter. After the 1956 Rose Bowl national headlines detailed illicit payments, phony job rackets and illegal raffles. The old saw was that players had jobs "keeping the snow off the Coliseum." Similar remarks concerned non-existent "work" at Berkeley. When the L.A. District Attorney's office got involved, players and their parents began to "confess." 

Cal-Berkeley, longtime avatar of education, was at least as hypocritical as Stanford. This was proven when grade fixing at Berkeley and in admissions came out of the investigation. 

You'll never have "financial worries," you'll be "taken care of," grades will be "helped" by the "Berkeley registrar's programming," all because we're "trying to build up a good football team" at Cal, Pappy Waldorf was quoted telling players in some of the most straightforward evidence of football corruption on record. 

Cal offered the mother of one recruit a job if her son chose Berkeley. She refused and told investigators, "it was just like selling your own child."

Entire families, however, were actually moved to Berkeley, brothers were "sponsored," sisters flown in for free, summer 'jobs' paying $400 to $600 a month were attained for no work. Women were used as enticements.

The scandal would be the final "nail in the coffin" of Cal athletics, so to speak. It was the end of Waldorf. They managed to sneak into the 1959 Rose Bowl and win a surprising NCAA basketball title, but in the ultimate aftermath of the scandal, the socialists of the 1960s, who despised football and all of its militaristic implications, turned the campus into the de facto staging grounds of American Communism. Cal football and basketball would become a joke. Their great baseball program would fall precipitously. Oddly, they would win the NCAA track championship, only to have it taken away - because of NCAA violations!    

While Cal was the worst offender, USC and UCLA were no angels. They ran phony raffles that "earned" upwards of $50,000 for the school, only to be used as "walking around money" for recruit enticements. Fake prizes like trips to Mexico, mink coats and Cadillacs were never paid out. Besides, raffles were illegal anyway, so the matter was not just a college sports infraction. UCLA and USC both disputed the report from state Attorney General Edmund "Pat" Brown's office. But the damage was done. 

Washington's "downtown fund," used for the same purposes, was exposed. Coach John Cherberg and athletic director Harvey Cassill were fired.

UCLA's recruits said they would be guaranteed $115 per month, but not to say anything about it. Westwood rents made it imperative that they get more than most schools paid out. "Warehouse jobs" and "file clerk" assignments were just cover-ups for straight payments. Addresses were given in secret for players to go and collect money. UCLA's recruits reported that the same offers were made at Berkeley, too.

California Governor Goodwin Knight was called the "Jefferson Davis of the West" when he suggested that a "rebel" conference be set up with offices in the state capitol, Sacramento, in order for the four schools to "secede" from the PCC. Oddly, Knight was a Stanford alum, but he knew the economic and public relations power of his state's football rivals.

In 1955, USC finished 6-4. They beat Cal but lost to Stanford. They lost to UCLA but beat Notre Dame, 42-20.

The 1956 Trojans were 8-2. They beat Washington and Cal, but lost to Stanford. Stanford was in a hot period in the early-to-mid 1950s, partly helped by their "escape" from the penalties. UCLA lost to Troy, 10-7 and Notre Dame fell, 28-20. 

Arnett, the 1955 All-American, is a lesser-known Trojan because of the scandal. He might have competed for a Heisman. As it was, he still won the Pop Warner Award, competed on SC's NCAA track champions, played a decade in the NFL (Rams, Bears), and earned a place in the SC and College Football Hall of Fame.

In 1956, three USC players were drafted. End Leon Clark was a second round selection by the Los Angeles Rams, followed by Chuck Griffith to the Browns and Gordy Duvall to Green Bay.

The "scandal" seniors of 1956, aside from Arnett (the second overall pick by Los Angeles) included Dick Enright (Rams), Karl Rubke (49ers), George Belotti (Packers) and Frank Hall (Eagles).

The last game of the 1959 season, a miserable 16-6 loss played before a less-than-capacity crowd in a freezing South Bend, was also the final end-of-the-year game at Notre Dame. In all the succeeding years, the game played in odd years would be held under blue, gray October skies.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

DON CLARK AND AL DAVIS

The McKeever twins are recruited by USC in a "crusade to regain lost glory."

- Sports Illustrated

 

The payola fallout included UCLA and USC becoming also-rans and eventually the formation of the Pacific 8 Conference. Jess Hill moved on, and Don Clark took over. It was a strange time. Notre Dame, despite Paul Hornung winning the Heisman Trophy, played subpar ball. Still, they rose up in 1957 to end Oklahoma's 47-game winning streak. The Sooners were the national champions in 1955 and '56. 

Auburn returned the number one spot to the Southeastern Conference for the first time since Tennessee in 1951, although Ohio State took the UPI version of 1957. Louisiana State showed the South had most definitely risen again when they captured the 1958 crown with the great Billy Cannon. That was Army's last hurrah. Running back Pete Dawkins won the Heisman for the Cadets. Syracuse won it in 1959 (Cannon was that year's Heisman winner) followed by Minnesota, making a bid for a return to glory, in 1960.

Clark very well may have been given one of the worst situations any coach has ever had to contend with in his first year. Despite the penalties and the question marks, however, he found himself dealing with USC alumni who still clung to the traditional belief in Trojan superiority. Despite this, the athletic budget was cut. There was serious consideration that USC do as Cal was in the process of doing: de-escalate sports. 

What may have saved the school from fully downgrading their athletic program - salaries, facilities, scholarships, marketing, the whole nine yards - was the fact that sports other than football were still dominant. There was great pride in Trojan basketball, a top American power in the 1950s, as well as the national championships regularly won in track. Rod Dedeaux's baseball team was the cream of the crop.

Clark found himself at odds with school administrators who "weren't working properly." Clark ended up raising funds privately in order to feed his program. Clark worked his team tirelessly in practice, but the Trojans were 1-9 in 1957. 

Clark hired a strange little man whose job it was to make the team "run, run, run," according to guard Lou Byrd. The man was from Brooklyn, New York. He had never played football at any real level. At Virginia Military Institute, he was the student manager, but wore the same outfit as the coaching staff. He kept veering beyond his student manager duties, insinuating himself into the coaching side of the equation. When the team picture was taken, he positioned himself not with the water boy and other orderlies, but with the assistant coaches.

Upon graduation, he made his resume look as if his duties at VMI were more football-related than towel- and water bucket-related. Including the photo with his credentials, it looked like he had been a VMI assistant coach. He scoured the country looking to get a coaching gig.

With the loss of Hill and of course his staff, as always happens when the head coach leaves, and with the scandal downgrading the program, the man was brought on at USC. His status was somewhere between volunteer assistant and graduate assistant. He might have received some stipend, but he had money of his own. This was not his concern. He needed to build up a reputation as a "football man."

The little man hated losing more than any man on the staff. Since this included a young Marv Goux, that is saying something. He yelled and pushed the team. They were the best-conditioned 1-9 team ever.

Indeed, the little man became a valuable member of Clark's staff from 1957-59. He knew football and was a quick study. He used his three years at USC to build contacts and create a reputation as a football coach, a football man.

In 1960 he left USC. He had money saved up and he knew some rich people interested in buying a franchise. The American Football League started. The little man talked some of his "angels" into buying a team, which he in turn would run, coach and derive profits from, since he would be given a slice of the ownership.

The little man's name is Al Davis. The team is the Oakland Raiders.

In 1958, the first real step toward regaining respectability as a school and as a football program occurred when Dr. Norman Topping took over as president at USC. He was the same Norm Topping who lay on his death bed listening to the 1939 Rose Bowl game, credited Doyle Nave and "Antelope Al" Kreuger's heroics for the "miracle" that led to his recovery. Obviously, the recovery had taken and now he stood astride the hallowed shrine that is the University of Southern California. It was a sleeping giant but it would wake up under his stewardship.

Topping's first order of business was to create a compliance liaison between USC and the NCAA so that violations such as had just occurred would not be repeated. The importance of football, financially and psychologically, was not lost on Dr. Topping. He knew that it had to be protected. 

With Dr. Topping's cooperation, Clark led his team out of the wilderness: 4-5-1 in 1958, and 8-2 in 1959. 

"I believed that success was built out of habit," Clark said in The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football. "When we played or practiced, we didn't take our helmets off until we were off the field. Our practice sessions were highly structured - no wasted time. I was kind of heavy on organization."

Clark was still in his 30s, so he related to players, but he was not considered a "player's coach." A comparison with Jon Gruden might be apropos. His mindset came from being a lineman under Jeff Cravath in the 1940s. He came to USC from George Washington High in L.A., where he was All-City and met Howard Jones before the "Head Man's" passing. His emphasis was on defense, not flash.

Clark's disciplinarian approach was also honed at the Battle of the Bulge, where he and the rest of George Patton's forces saved the 101st Airborne Division, defending Bastogne, Belgium from a surprise Nazi winter offensive.

After the war, a beribboned Clark returned and played alongside John Ferraro. He won the coveted Davis-Teschke Most Inspirational Award and the Peter K. Thomas Outstanding Lineman award.

Clark also coached at Navy, so he saw the Army-Navy rivalry up close.

"But I put the Southern Cal-Notre Dame series on a higher plane," he said.

Clark had waited years, including service time, to play in the Rose Bowl, but the 1948 49-0 loss to Michigan did not meet his expectations. USC had injuries, so they lost on the depth chart against a team introducing a new wrinkle: the platoon system. 

A mechanical engineering graduate, Clark also played for the 49ers before moving on to Annapolis and then USC when Jess Hill took over. It was a bit of a transition for Clark and his team when he became the head coach, though. As an assistant he maintained a close relationship with them. He played there only a few years earlier. His pro experience gave him extra respect.

In 1957, not only did Clark lose eight players for various reasons related to the scandal, but many seniors graduated, too. NCAA penalties strangled the program, and when C.R Roberts went to Canada, "We could never get any speed," he stated. His greatest accomplishment, however, was recruiting the McKeever brothers. They were Catholic boys who might have gone to Notre Dame, but Clark kept them at home. He also brought in Ron Mix, the "finest offensive tackle of the day." 

The late 1950s were a time of recovery for the Pacific Coast, but the scandal had not changed the fact that the Golden West produced the best athletes in the world. The USC-UCLA game got excellent national TV ratings, and terrific athletes played on all the conference rosters. 

In 1958, Cal under quarterback Joe Kapp pulled a major upset. They went to the Rose Bowl, although they were badly beaten by Alex Karras and Iowa. Kapp eventually achieved a rare trifecta: playing in the Rose Bowl, Grey Cup and Super Bowl. He led Minnesota to Super Bowl IV, became an actor with a role in The Longest Yard, and coached Cal's 1982 team that won the Big Game over Stanford on The Play.

In 1957, Cal's baseball team won the College World Series. In 1959, Cal upset Ohio State to win the national championship in basketball. However, the 1950s would prove to be the final glory days of Cal, and also San Francisco/Oakland prep sports. Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, San Francisco had nearly equaled Los Angeles as a hotbed for prep athletes. Many great Italian-Americans, like Joe DiMaggio, and Irish-Americans, like Hall of Famer Joe Cronin, prepped at the legendary old Big Rec Park in The City. In the 1950s and early '60s Oakland, a smaller, grittier city across the bay, had an incredible run that may be unmatched. Baseball stars like Vada Pinson, Joe Morgan, Willie Stargell and Frank Robinson, along with basketball stars like Bill Russell, had starred at Oakland Tech, McClymonds, Encinal and other East Bay schools. 

While the surrounding Bay Area; Contra Costa County, the Peninsula, and the South Bay/San Jose area, would emerge as a major breeding grounds for prospects as well as a destination for scouts and recruiters, San Francisco proper (with a few exceptions, like O. J. Simpson), would fall drastically. Cal, a school that traditionally used The City as training grounds for its star players, would see their fall off coinciding with it. 

They would never again win a national championship in baseball or basketball, or return to the Rose Bowl in football. Their only track national title would be taken from them for violating the NCAA rules.

In the mid-1950s, Stanford's John Brodie was the best quarterback on the coast, if not the nation. The University of San Francisco basketball team won 60 straight games and two national championships, utilizing a totally integrated squad led by Bill Russell and K.C. Jones. The 1950s would be just a warm-up for the 1960s, when UCLA's basketball and USC's football programs would create a paradigm shift in the power structure of collegiate sports.

The fallout of the scandal broke up the PCC. For a short time there was a split between the California and Northwestern schools, resulting in bad feelings, but the league was put back together, eventually becoming the Pac 8. In 1959, bad feelings made their way onto the field when Cal's Steve Bates had his jaw wired shut and his nose broken, with multiple fractures on the side of his face, when he got the worse of a confrontation with USC's Mike McKeever.

According to Cal, McKeever was a dirty player who caused the injury to Bates after the whistle blew, when he threw his elbow at Bates. McKeever was called a gorilla. Lawyers got involved. 

Clark, after reviewing the film, said it "indicates no misconduct on the part of Mike McKeever." He added that McKeever "played one of the greatest offensive and defensive games of football that I personally have ever seen."

Ron Mix agreed with Clark, calling the accusations against his teammate "absolutely and entirely unjustified." Reviews of the film exonerated McKeever. Observance of the truth, however, did not prevent the dissemination of lies about McKeever from the Berkeleyites. 

Without the benefit of SportsCenter-style TV replays, obstructed views from fans and word of mouth lent credence to the view of McKeever as a thug. Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown, a San Francisco Democrat with no natural sympathies for Republican USC, jumped into the fray, all but accusing Clark of "teaching these young men to play dirty…" 

California coach Pete Elliott said McKeever committed "one of the most flagrant violations I have ever seen in football…"

University of California President Clark Kerr and Chancellor Glen Seaborg claimed footage of McKeever from the previous season showed him elbowing Joe Kapp. On top of the fact he had been thrown out of the Stanford game, they determined that this was evidence of McKeever's criminal actions. 

Sports Illustrated came out against McKeever. McKeever had a twin brother, Marlin, who was also a star player. The brothers were painted as the face of "dirty football" at USC, which certainly would have disappointed Howard Jones. They editorialized that these kinds of incidents were part of their "crusade to regain lost glory." 

The McKeever's were described as "twin holy terrors of Los Angeles' Mount Carmel High School (both were schoolboy All-Americans)" who "were recruited by Clark to lead USC back to glory." The press built the brother act with enthusiasm. "Galahad and Lancelot" were coming to the Trojans' rescue. USC was dubbed the "University of Southern McKeever."

When Marlin was quoted saying the twins got "sheer pleasure" out of "knocking people down…it's just plain fun," well, the bull hockey hit the proverbial fan. Despite the film exonerating McKeever, the punditry mostly carried the day. In the end, however, the McKeever's proved themselves to be a class act. They were both All-Americans who played for John McKay.

Marlin was also an Academic All-American, further disputing Cal's attempt to paint Trojan football as brutish. A first round pick by the Rams, he was a star in the National Football League for years. Mike, a College Hall of Famer, also earned awards for his high grade point average, but he sustained a blood clot injury in 1960. He was drafted by the Rams, too, but the injury prevented him from playing in the pros. In 1967, Mike sustained a serious injury in an auto accident. After spending 18 months in a coma, he passed away.

Ron Mix made All-American, was a first round NFL draft pick, and went on to an All-Pro career with the Oakland Raiders, eventually making it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

The decade of the 1950s was one of ups and downs for Trojan football. While they did not win national titles or as many Rose Bowls as their fans felt they should, there were many positives. The Coliseum had been expanded to its greatest capacity, and  some of the biggest crowds in Los Angeles history, exceeding 90,000 and 100,000, came to see shootouts with Notre Dame and UCLA. The first night game ever played at the Coliseum was in the 1940s, and over the next years USC regularly played on warm Southern California evenings, all of which added to the pageantry of college football.

In 1958, the Dodgers arrived in L.A. They would be a welcome addition to the rich sports heritage of Southern California. In 1959, playing at the Coliseum (Dodger Stadium was built in 1962), they set numerous all-time attendance records for single games, the All-Star Game, and the World Series (which they won over the Chicago White Sox).

The 1958 NFL Draft saw seven USC players chosen. The New York Giants liked C.R. Roberts, who had previously gone to the CFL, as well as Dick Bronson. Mike Henry went to Pittsburgh, Walt Gurasich to Detroit, Dick Dorsey stayed in L.A., while San Francisco picked Henry Schmidt and Hillard Hills.

The 1958 squad produced three draftees. Future pro head coach Monte Clark was drafted by San Francisco, followed by tackle John Seinturier to Pittsburgh and center Joe Chuha to the Chicago Cardinals.

In 1960 five SC players went in the NFL Draft, eight in the AFL Draft. Tackle Ron Mix was the first pick of the Baltimore Colts. Al Bansavage also went to Baltimore. The Eagles went for John Wilkins, while the Bears selected Jim Hanna and Angelo Coia.

In the first AFL Draft, Mix was also a first selection (the Boston Patriots). The Buffalo Bills picked Hanna and Jim Conroy. The new Dallas Texans (later Chiefs) picked halfback Clark Holden. Wilkins was chosen by Denver, Don Mattson by the Oilers, Bansavage to the Minneapolis franchise, and Coia to the New York Titans (later Jets).  

In 1959, USC finished 14th in the nation. However, the UCLA and Notre Dame games went poorly in Clark's three years. In 1957, they lost to the Bruins, 20-9 and Notre Dame, 40-12. In 1958 they tied UCLA, 15-15, in a terrific contest, but lost to the Irish, 20-13. In 1959, Clark's team was 8-0 until losing defensive battles against UCLA (10-3) and Notre Dame (16-6). Hill's recommendation would finally take effect in 1961, when the game at South Bend was moved to October in order to be played in better conditions. South Bend at that time of year is described as perfect college football weather. It is indeed a spectacle.

The transition from the late 1950s would see the end of one era and the beginning of another. Certainly, college football historians tend to point to 1960 or thereabouts, as the demarcation point of the "modern era." At UCLA, their short-lived period of dominance came to an end first with the scandal, and then with the 1958 passing of Red Sanders. At 36, Clark decided to quit coaching and take over the family's ailing business, which he turned around, earning him more than coaching ever paid in his day.

The All-American Mix, a 6-3, 215-pound right tackle out of Hawthorne High, had grown up with the Beach Boys, the famed surf band that was made up mostly of guys from that school. Fred Dryer, later an All-Pro with the Rams, grew up in those neighborhoods, as well. Another Hawthorne graduate from that era was Mike Gillespie. He played for USC's 1961 national championship baseball team and eventually become their head coach.

Because of the Beach Boys, many people assume that Hawthorne is on the beach. It is actually about seven miles inland, slightly east of the San Diego Freeway. It was an easy-going, mostly-white suburb in the 1950s. The kids would make the casual drive to nearby surf spots; Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo. Over time, Hawthorne, Inglewood and environs, towns where many of the L.A.P.D. settled their families, has become grittier, known for increased gang activity and nefarious strip clubs of dubious ownership.

Mix, the team captain in '59, was a perennial AFL All-Star and later All-Pro who also played for Al Davis and the Raiders. He is in the USC and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Further integration of Trojan sports occurred in the late 1950s. Among great black athletes, there was Willie Wood, who was one of the first African-American quarterbacks in major college football. He later was a star defensive back for Vince Lombardi on the legendary Packers' World Championship teams.

 

Other sports 1940-1959: the College World Series and Hall of Fame Trojan hoopsters 

In the 1940s and '50s, as the population exploded, the University of Southern California, like the region as a whole, dominated the "warm weather sports." In 1948, Rod Dedeaux and Sam Barry co-coached the Trojans to the first of their 12 national titles in baseball. Troy defeated Yale in the College World Series. Yale's captain and first baseman was the eventual President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. Bush's Yale team lost in the first College World Series championship game, losing to 1947 national champ Cal. 

Dedeaux took over as the head coach. With Ron Fairly in 1958, the Trojans won again. Fairly became the Dodgers' excellent first baseman and eventually the Giants and Angels announcer. 

In the late 1950s, USC had a player named Bruce Gardner. He was one of their all-time greatest baseball players, but his career would be star-crossed. Gardner grew up in L.A., the son of a single Jewish mother. He starred at Fairfax High School, and was offered a large bonus to play professionally. His mother, however, wanted him to pursue higher education and become a doctor or a lawyer. 

Rod Dedeaux recruited him hard. Gardner really wanted to play professional baseball, but Dedeaux played the "mother angle." Gardner felt "guilty" about disappointing his mom, so he accepted the scholarship to USC. He set the all-time record for career victories, starred on the 1959 Trojan team that went 29-6-1, and in 1960 was named the National Player of the Year. 

However, Gardner hurt his arm at Southern Cal. His record was still spectacular, but scouts noticed a reduction in his fast ball in his senior year. The huge bonus offers of four years before did not materialize. Gardner did sign for a low amount with the White Sox. He played in the minor leagues, but he was subject to the military draft. While serving in the Army at Ft. Ord in Monterey, California, Gardner fell off a truck, injuring himself, and effectively ending his pro chances.

Over the next decade-plus, Gardner tried his hand selling insurance. He hoped to make use of what notoriety he had achieved as a Trojan baseball star, but he was quickly forgotten. Hounded by guilt and a strange obsession, he "blamed" Dedeaux and his mother for "conspiring" to get him to go to college instead of pursuing his pro baseball dreams. In the mid-1970s he got drunk and drove to USC's then-new baseball complex, Dedeaux Field. He went to the pitcher's mound, surrounding it with his All-American and Player of the Year plaques; his diploma and other memorabilia. He shot himself dead.

A groundskeeper at first thought the body, discovered in the wee hours, was a student sleeping off a drunk, until he saw the blood. The letter to his mother and Dedeaux found by his side read, "This is what I think of your USC education."

The Bruce Gardner story was one that became utterly taboo within earshot of Rod Dedeaux. 

Don Buford played baseball and football at USC. He went on to become the stalwart left fielder of Earl Weaver's great Baltimore Oriole clubs of the late 1960s and early '70s. In 1969, Buford led off the first game of the World Series against the New York Mets' Tom Seaver, a Trojan of the 1960s. Buford homered and the Orioles won. That night, Seaver spotted Buford having dinner with Coach Dedeaux in a Baltimore restaurant.

"Front runner," Seaver joked to the laughing Dedeaux and Buford. Seaver had the last laugh. The "Miracle Mets" won four straight after that, and with it the Series. Buford became an assistant coach under Gillespie. His son, Damon, played for USC and reached the Major Leagues with the Cubs. 

From 1954 to 1957, USC's baseball team, led by Tony Santino (.360 batting average), captured three California Interscholastic Baseball Association championships. During those years, college baseball was dominated by USC, California and Oklahoma. 

In 1958, Troy went 28-3, beating Missouri to take their second College World Series. Southpaw pitcher Pat Gillick became the successful general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, and in 2005 was named G.M. at Philadelphia. 

USC tennis teams won four national championships between 1946 and 1959, the last two under legendary coach George Toley. The track team won the national championship under Dean Cromwell four times in the 1940s, twice under Jess Hill, and six out of seven years in the 1950s under Jess Mortensen. The volleyball team won two national titles (1949-50).

 

USC's basketball team played its games in the Olympic Auditorium, near downtown L.A., prior to the erection of the Sports Arena, located adjacent to the Coliseum. The Olympic would continue to be put to use after the Trojans left. Many famous boxing matches have been held there.

UCLA played at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in West L.A., but in the late 1950s John Wooden's program, which was growing in stature, played home games at the old Men's Gym on campus. The circulation there was terrible. The place was not-so-affectionately nicknamed the "B.O. Barn."

USC has never won the national championship in basketball. They have proven to be an enigma, of sorts. Despite all the hoops talent in Los Angeles, they have consistently underperformed. UCLA's baseball program has faced a similar conundrum. However, just as UCLA has not won it all but produced great players, so too has USC's basketball team.

Basketball was very successful on the West Coast. One of those great San Francisco athletes, Hank Luisetti, came out of Galileo High School in the 1930s. Galileo also produced the DiMaggio brothers and O. J. Simpson. Luisetti is credited with "inventing" the jump shot, which he perfected while starring at Stanford.

Stanford earned a national championship in basketball, as did Oregon State. USC fell short, but in the 1940s they were a major national power. Basketball games between USC and UCLA in the late 1930s and early '40s meant beating their best player, Jackie Robinson. He was their best player in football, baseball and track, too. 

In 1942-43, USC had a terrific team led by Alex Hannum. Hannum would go on to star for the St. Louis Hawks, then coach Wilt Chamberlain and the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA title. After World War II, players returned from the service, as did coach Sam Barry. Barry is said to have started the "triangle offense" at USC. The Trojans produced no less than three basketball Hall of Famers: Hannum, Barry and Bill Sharman, plus Tex Winter.

Winter entered coaching. He took Barry's "triangle" theory with him to Chicago and Los Angeles. He was an assistant coach under Phil Jackson on all the World Championship teams that Jackson coached with Michael Jordan in Chicago, then Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in Los Angeles.

Sharman was also a baseball star. He had moved to L.A. from Porterville. After a superlative prep career at Narbonne High, he moved on to USC. After leaving school, he first tried pro baseball. In 1951 Sharman was a rookie on the Brooklyn Dodgers' bench when Bobby Thomson hit the "shot heard 'round the world." Later, Sharman starred for the Boston Celtics in the heyday of Bill Russell's championship years. In 1971-72, he became the second ex-USC player to coach Chamberlain's team to the NBA championship. 

The Lakers had Chamberlain, Jerry West and former Bruin Gail Goodrich. After winning a pro sports record 33 straight regular season games, they finished an NBA-best 69-13 en route to the title. They are ranked among many historians as the greatest team ever assembled. Their main competition for that honor? Hannum's 1967 76ers at 68-14, and Tex Winter's 1995-96 Chicago Bills at 72-10. Not bad for a few old Trojans.

When John Wooden came to UCLA, it would of course be the beginning of the greatest collegiate hoops dynasty of all time, but in the early 1950s, USC continued to dominate. The team easily could have won the NCAA title with a few breaks here or there. Fate took a major turn in these years. Wooden was hired under several provisos. First, he was told that a special student fund had been set up for his retirement. After several years he learned that the money had been spent. He had nothing to fall back on.

Also, he had been told that a new arena would be built within a few years to replace the Pan Pacific, the "B.O. Barn," and their other home away from home, Santa Monica City College. Pauley Pavilion did not go up until 1965, and only because Wooden had directed his team to a couple of NCAA titles, thus engendering the necessary "enthusiasm."

Finally, as Wooden showed his coaching skills, his alma mater, Purdue pursued him. Coach Wooden was not cut out for the fast lane of Los Angeles. He may very well have taken up the offer. However, he was a man of honor who felt he had committed himself to UCLA, so he stayed on.

Henry Bibby played for three of Wooden's national title teams at UCLA. He was a member of the 1973 NBA champion New York Knicks, and was USC's coach from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. Bibby said if Wooden had come to USC instead of UCLA, he "would have won 14 or 15 national championships" instead of the 10 he captured in Westwood.

Sam Barry died in 1952. Barry, like Jess Hill, was a versatile coach of several sports. In his 17 years coaching USC basketball, the team was 260-138, winning PCC championships in 1930, 1935 and 1940. They placed third in the 1940 NCAA Tournament. He is also responsible for ending the practice of a jump ball after baskets made. Barry is also the inventor of something that is not so positive: "the stall," which led to the shot clock. 

His baseball teams were 219-89-4 from 1939 to 1950. He had had been an assistant football coach under Jones for 12 seasons.  

Barry was succeeded by Forrest Twogood. A star player for the Trojans was Ken Flower. Twogood's team dominated UCLA and won the Pacific Coast Conference, but lost to Bradley in the 1953-54 Final Four. However, by the second half of the decade, Wooden's Bruins showed the upper hand.

Sprinter Mel Patton came to USC in 1946. He set a 100-yard dash world record with a time of 9.4 seconds. He won Gold medals at the 1948 London Olympics in the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter relay. In 1949, Patton broke Jesse Owens's world record in the 220 (20.2). He anchored USC's world record-breaking 880-yard relay team. 

In 1947, UCLA made a major step towards competing with USC when they hired track coach Ducky Drake. At the 1952 Helsinki Games, Trojan athletes included high hurdles champion Jack Davis, discuss champ Sam Iness, and shot put winner Parry O'Brien. When Rafer Johnson arrived at UCLA in 1954, UCLA started to make real improvement. In 1955 they finished second in the NCAAs…behind USC. By 1956 USC had won 24 straight dual meets vs. UCLA. However, later that season UCLA beat the Trojans to earn their first national title under Drake.

At the London Olympics, USC athletes captured 10 Gold medals and two Bronze. Diver Sammy Lee, who later would become USC's team doctor, earned a Gold and a Bronze. At Helsinki in 1952 and Melbourne in 1956, Trojans earned 11 Golds and 24 overall medals. O'Brien earned Golds in both games. Their medal count was spread between track, diving, swimming, water polo and rowing. 

Peter Daland took over as USC's swim coach in 1958. His Trojan swimmers and divers would capture 93 NCAA individual and relay titles, finishing first or second in the country 21 times in his 35 years. Daland would coach John Naber, four-time Gold medallist at Montreal '76. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART FOUR

 

CONQUEST! 1960-69

The monarchy of John McKay: the first decade of the most dominant 20-year dynasty in history

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

THE "LITTLE WHITE-HAIRED MAN"

"I never worry about being hung in effigy. Every year I send my team out to buy up all the rope in Los Angeles."

- John McKay

 

During pre-game warm-ups on September 12, 1970 at Legion Field in Birmingham, a white player from the segregated Alabama Crimson Tide approached Sam "Bam" Cunningham, the black fullback of USC's integrated Trojans. 

         "I bet you're shakin' in your boots havin' to face the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide," he said to Cunningham, trying to shake him up. Cunningham just pointed to John McKay. 

          "I'm only scared of one thing: the little white-haired man over there," he replied before rushing for 135 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to a historic 42-21 trouncing. 

           McKay was a cigar smoking, whisky drinking, duck huntin', iconoclastic, conservative Republican West Virginia Catholic. He was known for his sharp quips to the media. He was a favorite of the writers who came to him for good quotes. In light of his success and great reputation, it seems incongruous that McKay was not enamored with the "Knights of the Keyboard," as Ted Williams had disparagingly referred to the Boston press.

         But McKay did not trust the press. This attitude stemmed from his early experiences with them. When he came to USC, McKay installed a revolutionary new offensive scheme called the I formation. It totally veered away from the age-old concept of a "triple-threat" quarterback/running back. It placed a tailback well behind the line. In the eyes of lesser lights in the press box, the "I" in the I formation stood for "incompetent, intolerable and ineffective." McKay never forgot the barbs.

 

           There are college coaches who are considered greater legends, among them Knute Rockne, Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno. This is only because McKay chose to move on to the National Football League when he could have cemented his legacy for another decade at USC. 

McKay's Rose Bowl battles with Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Michigan's Bo Schembechler are what makes college football great. The Notre Dame rivalry, which was down because both programs were down prior to their arrival, became the greatest in the nation because of what McKay and Ara Parsheghian meant to it. It is always more heated when both teams are at the top, playing for number one. Every season from 1966 to 1974, the game had a major impact on the chase for number one.

The same thing can be said for the UCLA game. The Bruins made a major bid for national supremacy, but McKay's Trojans, with a few exceptions, managed to keep the Barbarians from breaking through the gates.

McKay, who would serve for four years as athletic director, led USC to the ultimate heights of football and athletic glory. The period from 1962 to 1981, the last five years in which McKay's handpicked successor, John Robinson, was at the helm, represent the most dominant 20-year run in the entire history of college football. The Trojan won five national championships and earned four Heisman Trophies. But victories are only part of the story. They also became the team of excitement, of last-minute drama, of ultimate glory, and Hollywood glamour. The prestige of the school itself owes much of that panache to the image created, fostered and led by John McKay. 

McKay would, like John Wooden across town, adapt to a changing game and a changing roster. He always won with great tailbacks, but when football in the Pacific 8 Conference opened up, he never missed a beat.

"He was dedicated to execution and that's what John believed in," said Lynn Swann on The History of USC Football DVD. "He believed in fundamental football. He was a very conservative coach with regards to offense, but allowed his defense to be aggressive, and they played with that emotional aggressiveness. He wanted his reigns on the offense, but every once in a while, when he needed a great play, he wanted that great receiver who could make it for him. Somebody he could go to."

"He was an extremely competitive man," said his son, John K. "J.K." McKay. "It wasn't that he so much hated to lose, which he did, but he loved to win and he loved to compete."

 

Furthermore, McKay the Southerner is seen through history as a modern day "Moses of progressivism" when it came to providing opportunities for black athletes, sometimes at the expense of criticism and resistance from both within and outside the Trojan Family. McKay forged a special relationship with Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. Between them, they oversaw seminal events that transcend football, changing American society and politics.

McKay was aloof, arrogant, condescending, a smart aleck, and by no means a "player's coach." He instilled fear in his men. 

McKay has his detractors, but only grudging ones who hedge any criticism of his communication skills with acknowledgement that his way produced All-Americans, Heisman winners, national champions, first round draft picks. He was laconic, possibly even clinically depressed, subject to wild mood swings. He is credited with saying some of the funniest things in the history of coach-speak, but what only those in the room knew was that his commentary often came affixed with an icy stare and a heaping helping of ironic sarcasm.  

Along with the great fighter pilot Chuck Yeager (who broke the "sound barrier"), McKay may well be the most famous person ever to come out of West Virginia, but he was made for L.A.; the perfect press conference sound bite and banquet speaker, a man who conspired with his friends in the media to create an image that is larger than life.

McKay was only 5-9, pleasantly handsome, and a high school football player with enough game to take it to the University of Oregon. McKay was a coach on the field, a description that was also applied to one of his contemporaries, Tom Landy, who was said to virtually call the shots for the famed "New York Giants defense" that he played for in the 1950s. 

McKay's future in football was obviously as a coach, although he was a good player. He hooked on with Oregon's staff, and quickly became one of those guys whose star rose, his name bandied about as "the next big thing," the logical replacement wherever a coaching job opened up. 

Fate and timing made the University of Southern California the place where his star would shine. Don Clark had taken the Trojans back in 1959, but he had a cloud over his head. He failed to beat Notre Dame or UCLA, Cardinal Sins at University Park. The "McKeever incident" tarnished him with the reputation of being a "dirty coach," which was unfair, but Clark left. The decision seems to have been a mutual one. He took over his families' business. The fact that he never returned to coaching indicates that he actually did choose to leave the profession on his own. But the brutal USC alumni wanted national championships and victory over their fierce rivals from Westwood and South Bend.

"A couple of bad things happened," said writer Joe Jares of the Clark years, on The History USC Football DVD. "There was a period he got in trouble with the NCAA, it was relatively minor. Don Clark resigned to go into the overall business with his brother. There'd been an assistant on the staff for one year, a former World War II tailgunner and a former Oregon star runner on the same team with Norm Van Brocklin, and his name was John McKay."

"He had a great background, coming from Oregon under a great coach, Len Casanova," said Orange County Register sports columnist Steve Bisheff. "It took a while, a couple of seasons, but once he took hold he captivated the town. He was great, wonderful with the media. I always said it was like having George Burns or Johnny Carson as the coach. You didn't have to come up with lines, he came up with all the one-liners, he was very funny."

"McKay had a very tough veneer, a tough exterior, and I had the opportunity to do his coaches' show and I'd ask him a question and it was only a half hour long and he'd still be answering the first question at the end of the show," recalled longtime TV sportscaster Stu Nathan.

"He was fabulous speaking to a room of strangers," said assistant coach Dave Levy: "But to people on his staff or in his inner circle, he felt he had the right to be himself. He could be a dominating person: definite, rude; and then he'd allow you to forgive him and you'd go and have a drink together."

 

 

'The first time I met him, I met him at Julie's across the street, which was an old longtime Trojan hangout," recalled offensive lineman Allan Graf, now a movie director who at the time of this writing was developing a film about the 1970 USC-Alabama game.  "And he was recruiting me out of San Fernando High School, and I went in there and he was just bigger than life, and I was a big SC fan all my life growing up, and I met him and I sat down and he said, 'You wanna play with the best, don't you?' And I said, 'Yes sir,' and he said, 'You know where the best are, don't you?' and I said, 'Yes sir, right here,' and he shows me a '67 national championship ring and he says. 'You want one of those, son?' And  I said, 'Yessir!' and he said, 'The only place you're gonna get it is right here,' and I said, 'Where do I sign?' It didn't take much!"

"He reached back and he told stories; there's only been one other guy in the world who could tell stories like that, who could tell stories about anything that could motivate his team, besides John McKay and that's Tommy Lasorda," said Nahan. "They’ll make up stories when their doing a halftime speech, they’ll tell a story about an incident that never happened, except in their own figment of their imagination; just to get the team riled up and eat raw meat when they get back on the field. And McKay was a master at that, at motivating a team, and he'd tell the team you 'wouldn't believe what happened back in 1922 when one team was winning 122-0 and the other team came back to win 123-122,' and it never happened, but he'd get the team to believe this, and pretty soon you could see the eyes on the ball club as they came out for the second half, and their eyes are bulging and they're like the lions eating the Christians: we're gonna get 'em, ya know what I'm saying?"

Levy: "He was kind of old-fashioned in that when he first took over he ran everything. Offense, defense, he was involved in every single thing. Consequently, you met forever. I remember our first staff meeting in February 1960, I looked up and it was a quarter to three and I lived in Long Beach, California about 25 miles away. And he looked at his watch and he says, 'Oh gosh, I didn't realize it was that late,' and he says, 'Think it over tonight and we'll discuss it in the morning.' And I thought, 'I'll get home by 3:30 and get in by bed by at least four and I gotta be back here at seven.' There's not gonna leave a lot of time for thinking."

While McKay was well known within coaching circles, there was no ESPN, no web sites, blogs or other media feeding the appetites of football fans eager to know the inside scoop on recruiting and other details of their favorite teams. The average fan, even the average USC alum, really did not know who McKay was. Previous USC coaches had come to the job with plenty of bells and whistles.

Howard Jones was the famous Iowa coach who had beaten Rockne, who recommended by him. Jeff Cravath had starred for Jones. Jess Hill had, too, in addition to being a Major League baseball player, a track star and coach of the two-time national champion USC track program. Don Clark was a Trojan and a pro football player.

McKay had come over from Oregon to coach USC's backfield in 1959. Jess Hill had it in mind that if Clark left, McKay would succeed him. For that one season, McKay was a coaching colleague of Al Davis. They both adhered to the famous "just win, baby" motto.

McKay indeed took over in 1960. He installed the I-formation offense.

"The attack should be as complex as possible," he said. "That's why I favor the I. The fullback, number two behind the quarterback, and the Z deep man are able to break in either direction."

Woody Hayes eventually had to admit that his "three yards and a cloud of dust" offensive schemes were passe.

"No coach in the country does as good a job tying up his running game with his passing game as John McKay," said Hayes, who would have preferred to put the ball in the air four or five times a game and grind out wins. McKay's teams denied him that by stopping his predictable offenses, then throwing wrinkles that his defenses could not stop.

Hayes said McKay "has done more to open up college football than any other man," which is interesting because the only criticism that seemed to be leveled at him was that he emphasized power running too much. Hayes went on to say that he learned and borrowed liberally from McKay. By the time Hayes left Ohio State (albeit after punching a player from Clemson for intercepting a Buckeye pass), Hayes had advanced from the predictable offensive schemes under quarterback Rex Kern to a more-open offense. Under his successor, coach Earle Bruce and quarterback Art Schlichter, Ohio State came within a breath of a national championship the next season. 

Frank Broyles of Arkansas and Bear Bryant of Alabama freely admitted borrowing from McKay, even though "I don't think McKay's borrowed anything from us," said Bryant. 

Other coaches begged McKay to "help" them install his offensive schemes, but of course he kept his trade secrets at University Park. McKay was a product of his environment, which meant hard work, work hard, and work harder! 

Despite the Depression era hardships of growing up in a family of five kids after his father passed away when he was only 11, and having to work his way through high school, McKay was an honor student. He served in the Air Force during World War II. He claimed that being a tail gunner in the South Pacific made him a deep thinker and a cigar smoker. 

He was one of those guys who might not have gone to college had he been five years older, but as a war veteran he was determined to expand his horizons in the brave new world of post-war America. A West Virginian going to college in Oregon would have been unlikely before the war, but McKay was part of a newly mobilized society. As a halfback with the Ducks, he played alongside the great quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, a future coach himself.

McKay was an All-PCC selection on a Ducks team that went to the Cotton Bowl. The New York Yankees of the All-America Conference drafted him, but he decided to direct Oregon's offense and pass defense. He also developed a reputation as a master recruiter. He could charm parents with his living room skills. 

When McKay was named USC's head coach, he "broke the mold" of what a coach was supposed to be, said Jon Arnett. Coaches were usually alumni, but they also were often dour men, or colorful personalities, or hard-driving taskmasters. Read:  Howard Jones, Red Sanders, Jeff Cravath.

McKay was different. He was one of the first coaches who might be called a "politician." His was a new era. His youth, his attractiveness, his media skills, and his lovely blonde wife with the descriptive nickname "Corky," made him one of the New Breed. In New York, the ancient Casey Stengel had worn thin on Yankee management, so he was replaced by a man similar to McKay, Ralph Houk. In McKay's L.A. years, he would stand out from some of the other coaches. Wooden was a sainted figure, but dull. Dodger manager Walt Alston made Wooden look like Casey Stengel. Ram coach George Allen was so consumed with work that he gave the media nothing more than blandishments.

The shame of it was that Sanders had died, never squaring off against McKay. Those two may very well have had a fist fight at mid-field if they had coached in all those USC-UCLA games of the 1960s. 

McKay had nobody singing his praises in 1960 and 1961. He called them "rebuilding" years, but going from 8-2 to 4-6 and 4-5-1, when viewed through hindsight, has distinctive Tollnerian overtones. Which is not good. There was a glimpse of the future in 1961 vs. Iowa, however. The Hawkeyes were a powerhouse. USC was weak. USC trailed 21-0 before rallying for 34 points in the 35-34 loss. When USC scored late, they had a choice of going for a tying point-after kick, or a game-winning two-point conversion. McKay, who would be described in later years as "a gunslinger," went for two. The Trojans failed, but the fight of the team, the comeback against considerable odds, and the gutsy choice to make it win-or-else, impressed a few of the writers who had been lambasting McKay. 

 

But in 1962, all the demons were exorcised, the past injustices - losses to Notre Dame, allowing UCLA to ascend above them, the scandal - all of it was washed away by a perfect 11-0 season and USC's first national championship in 23 years. 

McKay would recruit players of such marvelous abilities that his own achievements in this regard came to be used against him. When O.J. Simpson led Troy to another national title in 1967, followed by a year in which USC seemed on the verge of the national title until the Rose Bow, followed again by an undefeated season, critics said that the talent was so great anybody could do it. Beating Indiana, 14-3, in the 1968 Rose Bowl was not a big enough score. The 10-3 score over Michigan at Pasadena two years later brought similar grumbles. 

When McKay's teams floundered, he was almost a victim of his success. Writers could not believe that the collection of prep All-Americans he collected like so many bubble gum cards could not win national titles, much less perform better than the mediocre level that their 1970 and '71 records might indicate. McKay shut the critics up in 1972 when he coached what, until the Pete Carroll era, is generally considered the greatest college football team in history. It was ateam, too. There were stars, but no Heisman winners, no overwhelming personalities, just 11 guys on offense and 11 guys on defense and 11 guys on special teams operating like well-oiled machinery from the season opener at Arkansas to the complete demolition of Woody's Buckeyes.

McKay would coach his son and his son's best friend. Their best friend would lead UCLA to victory over him. He did it all in college. He could have stuck around long enough to make himself the winningest college coach ever. He certainly was young enough to eventually break Amos Alonzo Stagg's record, as Bear Bryant eventually did. McKay realized that Los Angeles was a town with two major colleges, two big league ball clubs, an NBA franchise, an NFL club and a hockey team. In such a place, the kind of pagan idolatry reserved for Bear Bryant in Tuscaloosa or Joe Paterno in State College is a lot harder to come by, but he did not work and coach for those reasons, anyway.

He would spread his wings into the National Football League, taking over one of the worst teams in history. When asked what he thought of his team's "execution," he said, "I think that's an excellent idea."

That comment, like so many of his over the years, would draw laughs in the re-telling, yet when spoken it was not meant as a joke. It came with the steely-eyed stare, the resolve, the sarcasm that comes when answering a stupid question.

"In fact I damn near took the Ram job," McKay told Ken Rappoport in The Trojans: A Story of Southern California Football, when he was still at USC. He went on to say that he had other offers. McKay did not subscribe to the "never say 'never" philosophy, but that "Southern Cal is the school that gave me the opportunity, and I'll forever be grateful." At the time, McKay was also the athletic director.

"Lean years come and go like they do for farmers," he philosophized, although this theory was meant as much to "educate" spoiled alumni as any other reason. 

McKay was a new kind of coach, a coach for the 1960s, the New Age, a California-style guy in many ways. He was not a major disciplinarian. His practices were nails, his demands great, but he treated his players like men with no restrictions on hair length or curfews. USC football players enjoyed themselves with the ladies, they partied, they were seen around town. Blacks and whites hung out, socialized. They would go to Westwood on weekends and hang out with UCLA players on occasion, since many of them were high school acquaintances. He wanted them ready for practice and on Saturday. He expected them to take care of their academic business.

"Our youngsters…are very polite," McKay said, "and we are very polite to them. We’ve never been one of those hard-type coaches."

McKay said something telling, though, which was that if a player was not as good as expected, there was "no reason to get angry with him…so, we don't worry about that."

This approach may appear to be fair on the surface, but engendered criticism from some who experienced it in practice. Hal Bedsole was an All-American wide receiver in 1962, but in 1963 he slumped. He claimed McKay stopped communicating with him when what he needed was to be yelled at, coached, dealt with. Instead, McKay's philosophy was that his roster was loaded with stars who could step right in if a player underperformed. Indeed, he did have coaches who were emotional and yelled, like Marv Goux, but Bedsole wanted to hear it from the main man. McKay was not a big-time cheerleader either way. On the flip side, when Bedsole was named All-American, McKay offered "congratulations," handed him a plaque, and left within a minute. In 2005, Bedsole said he "would give anything" to have played for a communicator like Pete Carroll.

McKay was a leader in the use of weights, organizing off-season training programs for his players. Today, every program from high school on up considers such a thing to be indispensable, but when McKay started it, the off-season was the off-season. 

McKay the psychologist did not always start the "best player" or recruit for position. He went for the best athlete and molded him. McKay also disliked huddles, stating that the chosen offensive play is based on the defensive alignment.

"In some games we've audibilized as much as 75 percent on the plays," he stated. McKay liked bright quarterbacks. He felt comfortable letting the likes of Pete Beathard, Craig Fertig and Pat Haden call their own plays. McKay also was into statistics, ratios, and mathematical variables before it was popular with football coaches, baseball managers and scouts in later years. McKay told Ken Rappoport that running the football, the seemingly "safe bet" that Woody Hayes believed it was, was in fact a statistical loser. 

"This seems radical," he said. "Ordinarily, you think ball control on the ground allows you to stagger in. The statistics we kept at USC averaged seven yards a pass and only 4.1 a carry. During the test period we ran 497 times and lost possession some 18 times on fumbles. We threw 199 times and had only three interceptions."

This was during the period of USC's famed "Student Body Right," in which the Trojans supposedly had the best running attack in the country, and only a modest passing game. Indeed, McKay's teams went to the air more towards the end of his reign, when Pat Haden had two great years. But he had effective passers on most of his teams, and in Haden's time great running backs, too.

In McKay's day, USC was known for the tough schedule they played. The Pacific 8 Conference was the best in the nation in his heyday, plus USC faced Notre Dame in prime years in addition to high quality non-conference games. Independent Notre Dame, on the other hand, played a fairly weak schedule in his years. Today, Notre Dame plays one of the toughest schedules in the nation. In those pre-BCS years, McKay openly said that he would have loved to fill the schedule with Rice, Navy, Temple and the other "weak sisters" that made up the Irish docket.

He could have lightened it up. As athletic director he had some control over the situation, but he was a competitor. Teams wanted to test themselves against the Trojans. They wanted to come out to L.A. and play in the Coliseum, a big payday in front of a huge crowd. They wanted big, bad Troy to come in and play in front of their fans. Games with Southern Cal meant TV revenue. Therefore, McKay lamented his tough schedule and said he wanted to play "a tough game, a couple of easy ones, a real tough one, a couple of easy ones" as the recipe for "a better record." In reality his teams played mostly tough ones. 

McKay took exceptional umbrage to the popular conception that in his day USC benefited from "unlimited scholarships." He told Ken Rappoport that USC has "fewer scholarships than any university in the country playing big time football," claiming that only 24 or 25 subsidized players came into the program each year - approximately 18 freshmen and six or seven JC transfers. USC has always been one of the wealthiest colleges in the world. Recent records have indicated that they still are in the top three in athletic department endowment, but two of the others, Stanford and North Carolina, are not football powers, so there is limited value to it. 

Certainly, McKay thought the idea that USC could "buy" any player was "stupid." He certainly discouraged alumni recruiting efforts, for several reasons. He wanted to scout and recruit using people he trusted, did not like meddling, and most important, knew that alumni do not know NCAA rules. That meant they could jeopardize the program.

"I could stand on a soap box for the rest of my life trying to explain our situation as a private school, but what would be the use?" he complained. According to McKay, USC's athletic teams "rented" office space and facilities, had to "pay for our training table meals," and did not get to "keep money taken in by our athletic teams." If they did, USC would be the "richest department in the world," he claimed. "But as it is, all our profits go into a general fund that helps support the entire University."

As anybody who has ever attended USC and spent any time on the campus knows, it is a first class operation with state-of-the-art facilities. The University skimps on nothing, offering the finest academic experience possible to its undergraduate and graduate students. McKay's assertions certainly indicated that the football program, while not poor, was a major benefactor for a great college, not a hoarder of the profits (even though they earned most of them). In the years McKay was there and since, USC received enormous gifts from celebrity graduates like filmmaker George Lucas, as well as other Hollywood celebrities, like Steven Spielberg and Johnny Carson. Major political and business figures, some graduates and some not, gifted the school. Former diplomat Walter Annenberg, Dart Trucking president Justin Dart and Fluor Corporation head J. Robert Fluor were just three prominent contributors (according to inside sources, it was an argument with Fluor that pushed McKay out of USC). The school has also earned its way into that pantheon of major research institutions that receive federal grants for myriad projects benefiting Mankind.

McKay had a frail side, in that "fear of defeat" drove him. He speculated that this was what drove Vince Lombardi, and that Lombardi and certainly Frank Leahy left early because of this overriding emotion. This is not unusual in athletic greats. Oakland A's Hall of Fame relief pitcher Dennis Eckersley openly admitted to being "scared to death of failure" every time he took the mound.

To Rappoport, McKay said that, "I know there are millions of people on this planet who don't even know or care there is such a thing as football." This mirrored his famous 1966 statement, following a brutal 51-0 loss to Notre Dame, that "a billion Chinamen couldn't care less who won" the game. McKay was a philosopher who was influenced by his Catholicism. He was able to separate the "importance" of football from truly meaningful life events, but his profession was coaching. He took it as seriously as a man can - without going insane.

"At least four months every year you're completely separated from your family," he said. "You end up in a little world of your own, and I've always felt that people who do that are on their way to oblivion. I stop and ask myself if I'm such a bad person. The more you win, the worse it gets. Your personality changes. I catch myself thinking 'I can't lose…I can't lose…' Why can't I lose? The world won't come to an end."

One pundit said that John McKay had "as many one-liners as Bob Hope." McKay was described as a coach who did not take himself too seriously. At USC, he was nothing less than a monarch, but a Southern California-style one. In Alabama, Bear Bryant was depicted on billboards along the Alabama highways sipping a Coca-Cola…while walking on water. McKay was part of the L.A. sports scene, which is entirely different than anything in Tuscaloosa, "Happy Valley," Austin, Lincoln, Norman, Ann Arbor, Columbus, Knoxville, Baton Rouge or South Bend. It is a big league town, an industry town, and the industry is Hollywood. It is a town of celebrity, of front runners, and of transplants from all over the world; people whose favorite teams may just as likely be the Yankees, the Bears, the Packers…the Irish. Their favorite sports might be ice hockey or soccer. It is a town of talk radio and editorialists, a town divided by two colleges that, according to Keith Jackson, "don't like each other very much," and promote the misfortune of the other sometimes. It is a city in a state divided by north and south; a state in which San Francisco and San Diego fans chant "beat L.A."; in which Fresno people take offense at the attention accorded life in cities 200 miles north and south of them.

While all of these factors make a man like John McKay something different than a man like Joe Paterno, it also means that, like Frank Sinatra saying of New York, "if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere," well, that philosophy applies to L.A. too. In the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, maybe more so. So a John McKay in his own way was bigger than a Bear Bryant or a Woody Hayes, because he had to overcome more, dealt with higher expectations, more pressure, and faced greater detractors if he failed. He was not a god, a Pharaoh, but his success had a more democratic flavor to it. History says that some coaches - Bryant, Hayes, Paterno among a very select group - rate higher, but only because McKay left early. He did not care to build a shrine to himself.

McKay said of opening games, "I'd rather open with a second game." When his 1962 Trojans won the national title, he wanted to send a message to his detractors: "I guess I wasn't so dumb after all." He enjoyed a form of "gallows humor," too.

"I never worry about being hung in effigy," he said. "Every season I send my players out to buy up all the rope in Los Angeles."

Of emotion, McKay bluntly stated that if it won football games, he would start his wife, Corky. 

The divisive nature of Los Angeles and California as a whole cost him recruits. Families are split by the USC-UCLA rivalry. Unlike Pennsylvania, where every kid dreams of playing for Joe Paterno; or Michigan, where everybody wants to be a Wolverine; or Ohio, where being a Buckeye is the ultimate; there are plenty in the Bay Area, and in pockets all over the L.A. Basin, who see USC as the "enemy" either from the standpoint of traditional rivalry, or as something they do not want to be aligned with. They are "too rich…too conservative" in a socialist "blue state." They are too successful. They are too arrogantIt's just not fair that they win so much.

McKay lost players to this mindset. Kids have chosen UCLA, Stanford and Cal for these reasons, which is a problem Alabama or Texas probably never really had. One recruit declined USC because his father did not like McKay's coaches' show. 

On the other hand, McKay's mindset (USC's traditional premise comes from this) was always that he did not want that kind of guy anyway. He wanted the best, a guy who wanted to be the best, to compete with the best. He may have lost some players with petty attitudes to Stanford, but he would get three national recruits from Ohio, from Pennsylvania, from Texas. He "stole" many more players from Bryant, Darrell Royal and Joe Paterno than he ever lost to them. As for Notre Dame, he beat 'em on the field and played 'em at least even up in recruiting.

One player from Cleveland came to McKay because his father was a photographer, and Woody Hayes had tried to punch a camera guy at the Rose Bowl. McKay recruited athletes more than positions. If a guy lost his "job," he was given a shot at another one. A quarterback could be a wide receiver. A ruining back could be a linebacker. One bad game meant the second guy got his shot, so it was intense all the time. Black or white never entered into the equation, at a time when it most definitely did just about every place else.

     He was unafraid to bring in new starters. Inexperience was not a hindrance to McKay, especially if the veteran was not that good in the past. 

"Experience at losing isn't as important as experience at winning," he said. Americans love competition, he said, "but not at his position." But McKaymade them compete, and out of that, friendships, a family, was forged. McKay loved John Wayne, politically and artistically. He also despised hypocrisy. Nobody embodied hypocrisy to John McKay more than the so-called "Harvard of the West," Stanford University.

 

"I want to beat Stanford by two thousand points."

California was a state of unrest in the late 1960s, its campuses embroiled in protest over the Vietnam War. Out of the civil rights movement grew the anti-war, free speech, women’s rights, and gay liberation movements. Liberalism mixed with radicalism at the “open-minded” California schools, Berkeley and Stanford. USC, a conservative institution, remained peaceful. Yet the image of an idyllic racial climate in California was marred by some uglier realities. 

McKay disliked Stanford’s liberal elitism, which he regarded as academic snobbery. In the late ‘60s, he brought his Trojans, filled with powerful black athletes, to Palo Alto for a game on The Farm. 

“As the team emerged from the locker room,” McKay recalled, “my team was peppered with the most vile, disgusting racial epithets that I’ve ever heard in thirty years of college and professional coaching.” The man who once said “a billion Chinese couldn’t care less” whether his team beat Notre Dame certainly cared about the bigotry coming from the allegedly enlightened Stanford liberals. 

“I felt that the liberalism at Stanford was an example of academic hypocrisy,” McKay said. “These were people who put down those who didn’t share their ideals, who told everybody else how to live. But now I was hearing the exact opposite of what that school supposedly preached. They ridiculed us as a 'football school,' said we were spoiled rich kids, but we were giving more and greater opportunities to blacks at that time than they were or anybody else, for that matter. The whole thing made my blood boil, and that’s why I later told the press I wanted to beat Stanford by two thousand points.”

"His quote about wanting to beat Stanford by not one thousand but two thousand points, he said it because he was getting abused by the Stanford rooters," said his son, J.K. McKay, a legendary USC wide receiver in his own right. "I've heard tell him that story. He talked about the things that were said. He was criticized for having too many blacks, as if Stanford was providing more help to blacks by not having so many. But he provided more opportunity having more blacks than not just Stanford but other programs, some of whom were more liberal than he was, but were not doing much for minorities."

 

Legend: A Conversation With John McKay By Steven Travers

In the spring of 2000, this author conducted an interview with John McKay for StreetZebra magazine. It was done by phone, as McKay lived in Tampa Bay, Florida. Aside from an interview McKay granted a few months later with Loel Schrader, it was probably his last, as he passed away a little over a year later. The interview is re-printed in its entirety: 

****

He was an Irish Catholic from West Virginia, with a gift for wit and humor. For 16 years at the University of Southern California, John McKay was one of the greatest football coaches of all time. Steven Travers talks to this legend, now in his twi-light years, about O.J., John Robinson, Bear Bryant, Sam Cunningham, integration, and whether his teams were the best of all time.

 

The conversation takes place during March Madness, and the subject of Pepperdine's victory over Indiana is brought up.

TRAVERS: What is your opinion of Bobby Knight?

McKAY: I like him personally. I know him through <former USC basketball coach> Bob Boyd, and we're friends

TRAVERS: When USC hires a football coach, his record the first two years is favorably compared to your losing record in 1960-61, yet they never live up to what you accomplished after that.

McKAY: What people forget is that we had a losing record for most of the six seasons before I got there, plus we were on probation my first two years, so it's hard to get guys steamed up. We just didn't have enough speed.

 

SC had been penalized by the NCAA in the wake of a conference-wide recruiting scandal dating back to Jon Arnett's career in the mid-1950s. Even USC'S 29-6 1959 baseball team was banned from post-season play.

 

TRAVERS: You have always said that you recruit great athletes, regardless of position.

McKAY: I respect high school coaches, who know that the best athlete on the team is usually the quarterback.

TRAVERS: Similar to youth league baseball, where the best athlete is usually the pitcher.

McKAY: Bobby Chandler was a quarterback in high school. Hal Bedsole was a junior college quarterback. Lynn Swan and Anthony Davis were high school quarterbacks.

TRAVERS: How did your philosophy apply to linemen, who because of their size do not play skill positions?

McKAY: We looked for guys who could run, cover kicks and had the ambition to do those things. Linemen were not as big then. Now I see some fat guys playing. Ron Yary would be just as good today, given training techniques. Weight training was not the thing to do. Billy Fisk was an All-American lineman who played at 245 pounds, but most linemen were 235.

TRAVERS: Tom Seaver was a baseball Trojan who was one of the first to lift weights, back in the 1960s. You won the national championship in 1962 alternating quarterbacks. In general, do you favor the practice? 

McKAY: Well, we had three "teams." Pete Beathard went both ways. Bill Nelsen ran the gold "team," and Craig Fertig was on the third "team." That was a special season, we beat Notre Dame, 25-0.

TRAVERS: You beat Wisconsin in a wild Rose Bowl. Tell me about that.

McKAY: We were up 42-13, but Marv Marinovich got kicked out for punching a guy and Kerner wasn't suited up. We lost all our tackles, had guards playing tackle, so we couldn't rush the passer, and Ron VanderKelen just sat back there and passed. Willie Brown saved us with an interception at the end. He never got the publicity he should get.

 

MVP VanderKelen set the Rose Bowl passing yardage record, but never did much past that game. Brown played for the Eagles.

 

TRAVERS: Some players and others have said that given almost unlimited scholarships, USC could recruit so many great players that their bench guys were better than most teams they played, and that you would recruit a player for the sole purpose of keeping him off a rival's roster.

McKAY: I've said it a million times, that's baloney. The budget was for 100 scholarship, and I never used more than 72. I allocated the rest for baseball and track. I recruited Mike Holmgren, who sat on the bench for four years, but it was never my intent to do that. No kid will come to school just to ride the bench, the excitement is to play. Jim Fassel, who coached with the New York Giants, sat on the bench before transferring to Long Beach State.

TRAVERS: How good was Bishop Amat High School in the late 1960s, where Adrian Young, J.K. McKay, Pat Haden and John Sciarra played?

McKAY: Bishop Amat was great, they had very good teams, and some of the best high school passing teams ever. They were coached by Marv Marinovich's brother.

TRAVERS: Tell me about your relationship with legendary SC baseball coach Rod Dedeaux.

McKAY: Dedeaux was my buddy. We both got along with the kids, and liked to have a good time.

TRAVERS: Like Dedeaux, you had a gregarious personality, you had a sense of humor and got along well with the press. Tell me about your famous, "A Billion Chinese don't care" remark.

McKAY: When we lost to Notre Dame, 51-0, I told the team to take their showers, that "a billion Chinese don't care if we win or lose." The next day I got two wires from China asking for the score.

TRAVERS: I guess Chairman Mao was taking a break from the Cultural Revolution, which started that year, 1966.

Pat Haden was the best prep quarterback in America, his father was transferred to San Francisco, but he wanted to keep throwing to your son his senior year at Bishop Amat. He moved in to your home, which made it hard on recruiters from Stanford and Notre Dame.

McKAY: I thought we had a good advantage. We were close with the Haden's, and later my son Richie was going to stay with the Haden's instead of transferring when we moved to Florida. Haden was a great player in college, and an accurate passer in the pros. He's a very intelligent guy.

TRAVERS: At 5-11 he was considered too short to be a successful pro quarterback.

McKAY: That's a bunch of baloney. Doug Flutie proved that wrong, too. Fran Tarkenton's not six feet tall. You throw passes through the creases, not over linemen.

TRAVERS: The same is said of wide receivers, yet Lynn Swann never had a problem at 5-11.  Tell me about two players who had a reputation for being kind of crazy. Fred Dryer recently told me he heard Mike Battle was institutionalized. Tim Rossovich was once featured in Sports Illustrated eating glass and setting himself on fire.

McKAY: Well, Fred has a sense of humor. I heard Battle was married, but I don't know. I don't really know what was up with Rossovich. Once I was called to his dorm because he had "mooned" some girl, but then I found out the girl mooned him first. Neither one was ever arrested, and they were both fine players.

TRAVERS: It must have broken your heart when the O.J. Simpson case hit the news.

McKAY: I still don't know what happened with O.J. I do know this, the guy I knew and the other players knew, never would have done anything like that. It was just terrible, he was one of the most admired guys in America.

TRAVERS: 1974, the greatest, most exciting sporting event in L.A. history. 55 points in 17 minutes against Notre Dame. To what extent do you feel that the hand of God just controlled your team's destiny, and to what extent do you think you controlled the outcome of that game?

McKAY: If I was in control, we'd have scored more than six points in the first half. I told the team at half time that A.D. <Davis> would return the second half kick for a touchdown, and we were going to win that game.

TRAVERS: Ara Parseghian must wake up in a cold sweat thinking about it.

McKAY: Ara never coached again. I hear from Ara every once in a while, but I try to be kind about reminding him.

TRAVERS: You had made a vow after the 1966 Notre Dame debacle.

McKAY: I told the press we'd never lose, 51-0, again, but over time it was changed to "We'll never lose to Notre Dame again." We almost never did.

TRAVERS: College football dynasties. Knute Rockne, Notre Dame, 1920s. Howard Jones, USC's Thundering Herd in the '30s. Bud Wilkinson, Oklahoma, 1950s. In recent years, Miami dominated the 1980s, and now we are seeing the Bobby Bowden Era at Florida State. Still, I believe that Trojan football from 1962 to 1981, which encompasses your tenure and that of John Robinson, and includes four Heisman Trophy winners ending with Marcus Allen, is the greatest era of dominance in history.

McKAY: Well, I guess that's true or close to being true. At least we never had a player go to jail. We did have very good players.

TRAVERS: Ronald Reagan looked at George Bush as a continuation of his Presidency, and Bill Clinton views Al Gore the same way. Did you look upon John Robinson the same way?

McKAY: No. At one time were close, but now I don't know what's going on.

TRAVERS: I want to talk more about Pat Haden, a Rhodes Scholar. Bill Bradley, another Rhodes Scholar, was viewed as a future politician, and I know Pat's name has been brought up in that context. Did you think he would go in that direction?

McKAY: Pat Haden's a wonderful young man who I never had to worry about. In all honesty, Bill Nelsen, Craig Fertig, Mike Rae, Vince Evans, etc., we never had anybody who was trouble. They were all smart guys. Haden went to law school, but he was never really a political person. Bradley, too, he's a quiet guy. You have to wave your arms around and pound the table to be heard in politics.

TRAVERS: Your son, J.K., went into law and practiced at the same downtown L.A. firm as Haden at one time. Tell me about that.

McKAY: J.K. went to Stetson Law School and practiced a few years. Now he's in Beverly Hills, and he works with Ed Roski's company. He was involved trying to get a professional football team in Los Angeles. It's a tragedy that they don't have one.

 

J.K. McKay, a star receiver at USC, played for his father with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

TRAVERS: What is the greatest college football team, for a single season, of all time?

McKAY: The 1972 USC Trojans.

TRAVERS: Who is the greatest writer of all time?

McKAY: Jim Murray.

TRAVERS: You had good relations with journalists, let me ask you about some of the greatest writers in the Los Angeles press corps. Bud Furillo says hello.

McKAY: Bud and I were friends. He was around a long time, with the Herald and all over.

TRAVERS: Furillo may be, now that Murray has passed on, the man who has seen it all longer than anybody else in L.A. How about Mal Florence, a Trojan?

McKAY: A good writer and a friend with great knowledge.

TRAVERS: John Hall of the L.A. Times, another Trojan?

McKAY: A great guy.

TRAVERS: Bob Oates?

McKAY: I never knew him that well 'cause he covered pro football.

TRAVERS: Jim Perry, USC's former sports information director?

McKAY: He and I wrote a book together.

TRAVERS: 1976, you have left SC and taken the Tampa Bay job, only before free agency it was harder to build an expansion team quickly in those days. The team starts off with 26 consecutive losses. Regrets?

McKAY: Yes. When I assembled the team and got my first look at them I knew I'd made a mistake.

TRAVERS: Didn't you say something like, "We stunk and then it got worse"?

McKAY: Yes. However, we were the fastest expansion team to make the Play-Offs in 1979, and we made it three times.

TRAVERS: Do you consider yourself a Trojan for life?

McKAY: Yes. I still follow them on TV. The best part of my life was being a Trojan. We would walk through campus to go to lunch, and you could just feel the great atmosphere, everybody was electric. That's something I'll always miss.

TRAVERS: USC was named "College of the Year" by the Princeton Review, and our school is really involved in a positive way in the surrounding community near campus.

McKAY: What people don't realize is that, with all those riots that have occurred all around that neighborhood, nobody ever touched the University, because people in that area know what the University means to the area.

TRAVERS: Do you stay in touch with athletic director and former Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett?

McKAY: I heard from Garrett recently about a re-union of the 1974 team. 

TRAVERS: I know you were close with Bear Bryant. I want to touch on the role that the 1970 USC-Alabama game played in civil rights progress, but first let me tell you that I heard Reggie Jackson tell a story about how he knew the South would integrate. He played for the A's Birmingham farm club in 1966, and Charlie Finley brought Bryant into the clubhouse. Bryant met Jackson, who had played football at Arizona State, and told him he was the kind of black player he could use. Fast-forward four years. Sam "Bam" Cunningham scores two touchdowns in SC's 42-21 victory at Birmingham. What happened after that?

 

Cunningham was black. Alabama was still all white.

 

McKAY: Bryant came in to our locker room and asked if he could borrow Cunningham. I said sure. He took him into the Alabama locker room, and had him shake hands with each player, and he introduced him by saying, "Fellas, this is what a football player looks like." Bryant always said Cunningham did more to integrate the South than any speech.

TRAVERS: You once said that you wanted to beat Stanford by "two thousand points." I heard that you felt that way because they had made racist remarks to your team. Can you elaborate?

MCKAY: As the team emerged from the locker room, my team was peppered with the most vile, disgusting racial epithets that I've ever heard in 30 years of college and professional coaching.

I felt that the liberalism at Stanford was an example of academic hypocrisy. These were people who put down those who didn't share their ideals, who told everybody else how to live, but now I was hearing the exact opposite of what that school supposedly preached. They ridiculed us as a "football school," said we were spoiled rich kids, but we were giving more and greater opportunities to blacks at that time than they were or anybody else, for that matter. The whole thing made my blood boil, and that's why I later told the press I wanted to beat Stanford by two thousand points.

TRAVERS: Staying on the theme of race, more specifically the 1970 game, I understand that it was Bryant's idea.

MCKAY: I told <assistant coach> Marv Goux that I didn't know what Bear was up to, but the whole thing had the feel of a spy novel. Bear asked if the Trojans would like to travel to Birmingham to open the following season. The NCAA had just granted an 11th game, and Bear wanted that game to be against us on their home turf. I agreed to the match-up. What I didn't realize was that it was all part of Bryant's own plan to desegregate his program. Despite his popularity, he'd never been able to do it before, despite his desire to. He'd expressed to me that he'd wanted to do it for years. I can't say that I knew Bear's intentions fully at the time, but I did suspect it. It was a delicate situation and required just the right timing, but if any man understands how to do something like that, it was Bear Bryant.

TRAVERS: If anybody could pull off such a thing, it was Bryant.

MCKAY: Bryant "walked on water" in Alabama. He could have been Governor had he chosen to run. He could have been King.

TRAVERS: Ironically, it would effect recruiting in the West. No longer did you have "free access" to talented black athletes in the South.

MCKAY: Oh my, recruiting changed, yes. There was a time in which we could pluck black athletes from anywhere in the country. They wanted to play for the Trojans. Jimmy Jones from back East. O.J. Simpson from San Francisco. Tody Smith from Texas. It was a combination of things. They heard that USC accommodated blacks, that life there was pleasant in every way; the school, their classmates, the press and fans, everything, and they were right. It provided an urban environment, nightlife, pretty girls of different races. Plus, they knew that the coaches were fair and if they measured up, they would play and get all the recognition they earned. If their goal was to play in the NFL, SC was a place that showcased their talents.

Over the next 10 years, USC and other West Coast teams no longer could pick black stars who were turned away in the South. You see not only Alabama's resurgence after a down period, but the rise of teams like Georgia, LSU, all those Florida schools. USC eventually went into a down period of their own, as did the whole conference, and one of the reasons for this is because the talent pool became limited.

TRAVERS: The recruitment of black athletes revived the Alabama program, too.   

MCKAY: Alabama came out to the Coliseum the next year, and they gave us a big surprise. They had a terrific team that year.

TRAVERS: USC, and UCLA with Jackie Robinson and Kenny Washington, has a long history of providing opportunity for black athletes. 

McKAY: SC's first All-American in the 1920s, Bryce Taylor, was black. Back then, you never heard of civil rights. Nobody was let in because of their color, they had to qualify like everybody else. Like Simpson, he had to go to a junior college before he could get in.

TRAVERS: Last question. Your other son, Rich, is having success as general manager of the Buccaneers. Tell me about him.

McKAY: Well, he played football in high school and at Princeton. He's a smart kid, and he's doing very well in his current job.

* * * *

He Was A Legend Of the Old School Variety By Steven Travers

When John McKay passed away in 2001, this author wrote the following obituary:

 

He was a cocky Irishman who liked to pull a cork.

"We were friends," says his long-time associate of the coaching profession, and fellow USC legend Rod Dedeaux, "because we immediately recognized in each other that we liked to have a good time."

His name was John McKay. He passed away Sunday at 77 because of liver damage complicated by diabetes. He presided over the University of Southern California's football program in the 1960s and '70s during a time in which the Trojans may have been the most dominant, and certainly were the most exciting, program in the history of this nation.

He was a legend, pure and simple.

As a youngster, I grew up on Trojan football. On a sunny Saturday in 1974, I watched McKay's Trojans score 55 points in 17 minutes to deliver the most devastating blow Notre Dame has ever received on the gridiron. I became a Trojan that day.

In the succeeding years, I attended USC, and later covered SC sports in the Los Angeles media. Last year, for no real reason other than a sense of homage, I called McKay in Tampa and talked to him for an hour. I do not know whether it is or not, but it may be his last interview.

If you are of a mind to enjoy all that is splendid about USCs sports history, McKay is a figure of epic proportions. Trojans take regular trips back in time to McKay's tenure at University Park (1960-75); like Christians to Lourdes, Muslims to Mecca.

In 1966, the Irish came to L.A. and beat SC, 51-0 at the Coliseum. After the game, McKay said, "There's a billion Chinamen who couldn't give a damn who won this game."

Or something like that. He also said USC would never lose to Notre Dame again. At least, not like that. From 1967-75, his teams dominated Notre Dame. At half time of the aforementioned '74 Notre Dame game, with his team trailing 24-6, McKay told his beleaguered troops, "<Anthony> Davis is gonna run the second half kick back for a touchdown, and we're gonna win this game."

McKay actually said if Davis runs the kick back his team would win, but like everything else that day, his words are not the words of mortals, but rather the timeless chant of historical hyperbole.

McKay was old school. He liked to drink, often with the writers, which is why guys like Bud Furillo and John Hall were counted among his best friends. Imagine Bill Plaschke or Glenn Dickey being best friends with today's college coaches. Doesn't happen anymore.

One of McKay's favorite drinking buddies was John "Duke" Wayne, who shared his conservative political views and love of USC football (Wayne, as Marion Morrison, having played at pulling guard for Howard Jones teams in the 20s). In 1966, before the opener between the two top-ranked teams in the nation, Wayne gave a speech to SC before they took on Texas at Austin. It was at the invitation of McKay, who just had a sense for when those kinds of things would play.

It did that day. Southern Cal, 10-6.

McKay was O.J. Simpson's coach from 1967-68, when Juice was an All-American and Heisman Trophy winner.

"The O.J. I knew never would have done the things I've read that he did," McKay told me, and his voice had a strange combination of resignation and rebellion to it.

Neither of McKay's sons got into coaching, instead pursuing the law.

"I didn't want them having to move their families like I always had to do," McKay explained. Younger son Rich used his legal and football acumen to become the successful general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team McKay coached in the mid-1970s. His team was woeful at first, and after a dreary loss McKay was asked about the Bucs' execution.

"That's a great idea," he deadpanned.

McKay also presided over the integration of Southern colleges, in a way.

In 1970, SC went to Birmingham to play all white Alabama. His black sophomore tailback, Sam "Bam" Cunningham, went for well over 135 yards and two touchdowns as SC destroyed Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide before a packed house of chagrined 'Bama fans.

The next day, Jim Murray wrote in the L.A. Times, "The Constitution was ratified yesterday. We welcomed Alabama into the Union."

That was because Bryant "borrowed" Cunningham after the game, took him into his team's locker room, and before his defeated charges announced, "This here's a football player."

McKay was accused of being a "n----r lover" for bringing so many black athletes into his program.

"Its funny," he told me, "I used to hear that at Stanford and Cal, so-called liberal bastions."

Yeah, right. John McKay is an important figure in American sports history not just because of his winning record. Jimmy Johnson and Bobby Bowden have similarly outstanding records. Rather, like John Wooden and a handful of others, he negotiated the time warp from the 1950s to the '70s in a manner that allowed his teams to compete at his standards while bridging the generation gap.

Mostly, for young USC fans like I was, and alumni like I became, he represented excellence, something to be proud of, something a little better and more colorful and, yes, maybe even a little cockier than the varied alternatives.

* * * *

Rich McKay By Steven Travers

In 2000, this author conducted a phone interview with John McKay's son Rich, then the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rich McKay was in his Tampa office, Travers in his Hermosa Beach, California residence:

 

If the last name sounds familiar, it is because it is. The McKay name evokes tradition and success like few in Southern California. John McKay was the greatest coach in the history of USC's storied football program. His son, John (known as J.K.), was a star receiver for the Trojans' national championship team in 1974. There was another McKay, however, and his path - Bishop Amat High to USC and success in Los Angeles based on name and talent - was interrupted.

Rich McKay was indeed a top quarterback at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente. He was good enough to compete for the starting job with Paul McDonald, who would go on to an All-American career leading SC's 1978 national champions, before taking over as the Cleveland Browns' starter. But when McKay's senior season rolled around, something happened to disrupt what appeared to be his destiny. His father retired from USC to take over the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976. Rich followed his dad to Tampa and enrolled at Jesuit High School.

J.K.'s path was already laid out - a stint in the pros followed by law school and a career working for Ed Roski (the real estate mogul trying to bring the NFL back to the Coliseum).

Rich would not attend SC as planned, choosing instead the Ivy League and law school, followed by employment as the Buccaneers' attorney. However, the fact that his father had been Tampa Bay's coach, combined with the knowledge and skills acquired over years of learning from the master, made him the logical choice to take over as the team's general manager. Today, he is considered one of the keenest minds in the National Football League. The Guru caught up with him in between the draft and training camp, and the conversation went from USC to Tampa Bay's recent transactions, the trends in college football, and the glory days of Bishop Amat.

The Buccaneers' recently picked up Keyshawn Johnson, USC's former All-American wide receiver, from the New York Jets. McKay was asked if Keyshawn's Trojan history was a factor in his getting picked by Tampa Bay.

"He was a great player at SC, and of course we scouted him," said McKay. "I like to see Trojans in the professional ranks, and it was easy to evaluate him at SC, where he was very productive, one of their all-time leading receivers. Mainly, though, we need his aggressive personality. Keyshawn brings to us what we thought we were missing. We have an expectation level for him on offense, where we have not been productive because we lack the kind of aggressive mindset that we do have on the defensive side of the ball. When he became available, it became a fit."

McKay was then asked about the current down state of Trojan football.

"I've known Coach <Paul> Hackett for a long time," says McKay, "and I've seen his ability wherever he's been. I've seen the program struggle ever since the teams in the Pacific Northwest started taking players who traditionally go to SC. It still gets down to who gets the players, and Don James changed things when he built a powerhouse at Washington. When they got on a roll, they became dominant and it's been hard to get back to where they were before that."

What about the state he lives in now, Florida? California kids are going to Florida and SEC schools, and many say that it is because of the increased enthusiasm for football in that region.

"Florida is unique," is McKay's take. "The key is they keep players within the state. Florida State seems to have won that battle the last few years. It used to be that many good players would go out of state. In assessing the enthusiasm level of Florida football fans vs. California, there's no doubt that football comes number one in Florida. That's not true in California, but in terms of creating atmosphere, I remember the USC atmosphere to be the best around."

This comes from a guy who has seen his share of football at every level.

"If the Pac 10 can get back to the success they've had," he continues, "then the enthusiasm will be just as tremendous as ever."

McKay is then asked to a take trip down Memory Lane. Bishop Amat was a great power in the 1960s and '70s. SC's All-American linebacker Adrian Young came out of the Lancers' program. Gary Marinovich, the brother of Marv and uncle of Todd, was their coach. Pat Haden was the nation's top high school quarterback in 1970, and his favorite receiver was his best friend, J.K. McKay. Haden's father was transferred by his company to Walnut Creek, but Haden did not want to go to Acalanes, Northgate or any of the other school's of choice in that area. He wanted to stay at Bishop Amat. A solution was found. He would become 11-year old Richie's roommate at the McKay home.

That year, while Haden lit up the prep football world, the recruiters from Stanford, Notre Dame and Nebraska found that in order to get a sit-down with Pat, they had to trek to SC coach McKay's house, sit in his living room, and drink his coffee.

"Pat lived at the house," recalls Rich. "He was my roommate, and he and my brother were inseparable buddies who had experienced tremendous success together. I think they lost the <CIF-Southern Section> finals to Blair at the Coliseum, and there must have been 40 or 50,000 people in the stands. It was natural that Pat wouldn't move, and natural that he lived with us. The NCAA may have questioned it, I think Stanford made an issue of it, but Pat was a smart guy who made the decision on his own and nobody could dispute that. I think he did visit Notre Dame, and in fact his mom wanted him to go there, because of the Catholic connection. Ara Parseghian was their coach, and it was an attractive option. Tom Osborne was Nebraska's top recruiter back then, Bob DeVaney was still their coach. He came to the house.

"As for J.K., he caught 96 balls one year, then 108 the next at Bishop Amat. He was a fullback, but Gary Marinovich put in a passing scheme and made J.K. a receiver. I remember a game at Mt. SAC, in the first round of the play-offs, where opponents would triple-team J.K. They'd line up two guys at the line to try to stop him, and another in the backfield. He didn't catch any passes in the first half, but made 11 receptions in the second. It was a lot of fun, seeing my brother have that kind of success.

"I saw Adrian Young at SC, but not at Amat, because we lived near South Hills High and were not aware of Amat until the decision came to go there after moving a mile from the school."

The program was so competitive that John Sciarra had to sit and wait his turn to play.

"John's a nice guy and a good friend," says McKay. "He transferred in his junior year, and played behind Haden. He also played defensive back and returned kicks and punts; he was a great athlete. I also remember him playing for the Eagles against my dad."

This was after Sciarra finally got to play his senior year at Amat, after Haden's graduation. Naturally, John McKay came a-calling to try and get the kid to play at USC. Sciarra was a terrific baseball shortstop, and McKay tried to lure him with the promise of also playing for a national championship team under Rod Dedeaux. Sciarra would have none of it, because he had had enough of playing behind Haden. He went to UCLA, where unseating the starter, Mark Harmon, was a lot easier. He capped his All-American career there with a 1976 Rose Bowl victory over Archie Griffin and Ohio State.

"I had a good career at Amat myself," Rich recalls. "Paul McDonald was a year ahead of me, but my sophomore year he hurt his leg against St. Paul, and my junior year I alternated with him. We went to the play-offs. McDonald and Haden were better athletes than they were given credit for. They were both very good basketball players with similar work ethics, who were very intelligent. In the summer, Paul and I would throw three, four, five times a week, and that work ethic carried over to beyond those years." 

Rich was asked about growing up around football, and how much of an advantage this was in grooming for his present position.

"It's a natural advantage," he says, "but my dad was actually discouraging us, he didn't want us to pursue careers in coaching because you have to move your family a lot. He wanted us to pursue another profession. Both J.K. and I went to law school, and I did in fact become a lawyer, working for the Buccaneers on player contracts. I've been around football as long as I can remember, and I just gravitated toward the job I hold now.

"I was aware of my dad's presence when I was a kid, you were always John McKay's son, and since we almost never lost at SC, it was a good thing. But certainly when you lose 26 straight games in a row at Tampa, that was a big turnaround. The toughest thing of all was how much time my dad spent on the road, he was always gone."

Rich has managed to establish stability for himself in Tampa Bay, where his father also lives, and considering his success so far, one can imagine that he may be there a long time.

* * * *

USC Loses One of Its Legends With the Death of McKay By Jim Perry

 Trojan Tail, 2001

Jim Perry, USC's sports information director when McKay was at USC, co-wrote McKay's autobiography, McKay: A Coach's Story. The following is his loving obituary of McKay. 

 

…Typical…John McKay - deflecting the pressure of his job as USC's head football coach with humor. What he didn't say, however, was that there was no reason to hang him in effigy, because he won almost all the time.

When McKay, who died in June at the age of 77, succeeded Don Clark as head coach after the 1959 season, USC hadn't won a National Championship in football in nearly 30 years.

In 1962, his third season, McKay won his first - and went on to win three more (1967, 1972, 1974).

He and his teams also had three unbeaten seasons, won nine conference titles, went to eight Rose Bowls and had a 16-year record of 127-40-8, making McKay the winningest coach in Trojan football history. His record in his last 14 seasons - before he left to coach the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers beginning in 1976 - was 119-29-7.

Many people still call USC's 1972 team the greatest in college football history. The Trojans went 12-0, outscored their opponents, 467-134, and never trailed in the second half.

As a coach, McKay was demanding, decisive, stubborn in his beliefs and creative. As the inventor of the modern I-formation, he was a firm believer in the running game and was the first coach to prove that great running backs could carry the ball 25, 30 or 35 times in a game.

Some observers were appalled. "Isn't there anything you can do besides run the tailback?" they asked. "Why is he carrying the ball so much?"

McKay's answer has become a part of football lore.

"Why not?" he said. "The ball isn't very heavy. And besides, he doesn’t belong to a union."

McKay had five outstanding tailbacks - in order, Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Clarence Davis, Anthony Davis and Ricky Bell. All were first team All-Americans.

Garrett and Simpson were also USC's first two Heisman Trophy winners. Anthony Davis was a runner-up for the award. Bell finished third and second.

McKay's teams also played consistently good defense - "I've never drawn a new play without drawing a defense to stop it," he said once - and, like so many great defenses in football, they were built on speed. When no one could stop the wishbone attack in the early 1970s, McKay and his teams stopped it.

More than 25 years after playing for McKay, former USC quarterback Pat Haden is still awed by another of McKay's abilities.

"I think he was the best evaluator of talent I've ever seen," Haden says. "He would recruit some freshman who was an All-American linebacker in high school, and the first day he would watch him practice and say, 'you're a tight end.' Two years later, that kid was an All-American tight end.

"He had a great knack for putting a team together."

He also had a great knack for getting your attention.

"He had absolute charisma," Garrett, now USC's athletic director, says. "His personality dominated a room.

"He was also a brilliant man. People underestimated how brilliant he was."

When McKay's team went to see Patton, with George C. Scott, there was an instant flash of recognition among the coaching staff.

"My God," they said, "that's Coach." And, in many ways, John McKay was Patton."

One of his greatest feats was turning the Notre Dame series around. The Irish, who dominated USC before he arrived, also won five of their first seven games against McKay, including a shocking 51-0 defeat in 1966.

Coached by Ara Parseghian, Notre Dame was the national champion in 1966, but the score kept growing because McKay kept gambling. He wouldn't give up.

After the game, he wouldn’t give up either. For the next year, the Trojan coach watched a film of the game at least once a week. He was determined to beat Notre Dame in 1967.

"For a year, there wasn't a night I went to bed or a morning when I awoke that I didn't think about 51-0," he said later. "It was still stuck in my throat."

In 1967, he and his team had to play in South Bend, where no USC team had won since 1939. A lot of people at the time said the Trojans couldn't win in South Bend, no matter what year it was. The oddsmakers agreed. Although ranked number one, USC was a 12-point underdog.

"But I never believed in jinxes," McKay said. "We should be good enough to play football anyplace and win."

They were. Simpson rushed for 150 yards, linebacker Adrian Young intercepted four passes, and USC won, 24-7. The Trojans went on to win the national championship.

In his last nine years, McKay lost to Notre Dame only once, going 6-1-2 against Parseghian (eight years) and Dan Devine (one).

One of those six victories was the Trojans' incredible 55-24 blitz in 1974. Trailing 24-0, they scored 55 points in less than 17 minutes to win.

"The man could coach football," former USC quarterback and assistant coach Craig Fertig says. "He coached every day of the week, 365 days a year. That's what made him so special.

"You expected a lot out of yourself because of him. He expected you to come through. There were no excuses. The bottom line was, 'We're going to win the damn game.'"

John McKay, God rest his soul, won a lot of them.

* * * *

Cast a giant shadow

There is the University of Southern California before John McKay. There was what USC became after he arrived; both during his 16-year reign, and in the shadow he casts on the 31 years that have passed since the left. Two of his successors are bona fide legends because they lived up to his standards. Three are not because they failed to do so. One of those two legends saw much of his luster tarnished by the fact that he came back for a second try and did not live up to the standards set by himself or McKay. One of McKay's players ascended to McKay's old job of athletic director. It was not until he found a man with McKay's star quality that he, too, saved himself from oblivion.

"John McKay casts an enormous shadow over this institution," says current head coach Pete Carroll. 

What makes a legendary football program legendary is when the new guys do things as great as the old guys. When that happens, the light then shines on the old guys, who would be forgotten otherwise. This is what is happening at USC today, where Pete Carroll is surpassing the feats of John McKay, which only makes John McKay look better, because it is his standard that Carroll shot for, was inspired by, had to live up to!

It is entirely true that Howard Jones was as successful as John McKay. Compare their records. Jones was 121-36-13 (.750). McKay was 127-40-8 (.749). Neither one had a percentage as good as Elmer "Gloomy Gus" Henderson, but Jones and McKay beat Cal!

Jones won four national titles and was 5-0 in the Rose Bowl. McKay won four national titles and was 5-3 in Rose Bowls. Jones never coached a Heisman winner (the award started in 1935 and he coached through 1940). McKay had two. 

One of McKay's best friends was Alabama coach Bear Bryant, who he would be inextricably linked with for their respective contributions to football and social change. If one were to say, "Bear Bryant is the greatest college football coach of all time," they would get their arguments from Rockne, Paterno, even Bobby Bowden fans, but the statement is a worthy one, very possibly true.

Bryant and McKay were contemporaries. Of course, Bryant coached at Maryland, Kentucky and Texas A&M before coming to Alabama in 1958. McKay coached only at USC, from 1960 to 1975. Bryant stayed on at 'Bama for another eight years after McKay moved to Tampa Bay. But comparing the two coaches provides a window of analysis in the bar room argument over whether USC or Alabama deserves credit for being the "better program." Prior to Bryant and McKay, the two schools were similar. The slight edge might go to USC, but in head-to-head match-ups Alabama beat them.

In the years after McKay left USC, his successor, John Robinson, competed on an equal footing with Bryant, with the slight edge to Bryant. From 1984 to 2000, both programs experienced down periods, but Alabama beat USC in a head-to-head match, went ahead of them in total bowl victories, and won the 1992 national championship. Edge: Crimson Tide.

Since then USC has been so much better than everybody else that previous "close calls" may well be thrown out the window. Their "stretch run" is just magnificent beyond words.

But getting back to McKay-Bryant, the comparison shows that Bryant is credited with six national championships and McKay four (with his handpicked successor with one). Furthermore, Bryant had the 1966 national title "stolen" from him by the Catholic vote that gave it to once-tied Notre Dame. However, honest scrutiny of the record reveals some major fissures in their hegemony. 

In USC's case, they won national championships in 1962, 1967, 1972 and 1974.    

Three of those were consensus titles (AP and UPI). One was not. The 1974 Trojans, with a tie and a loss, captured the "coaches poll" (UPI), but Oklahoma was the writer's pick (AP). Oklahoma was unbeaten and untied but on probation. They were barred by the NCAA from going to a bowl game. For those who feel that fair play should be rewarded while cheating should not, the Trojans are the 1974 national champions, not just the AP version but the "people's choice." For those who saw what they did to Notre Dame and Ohio State that year, the question of a USC-Oklahoma play-off leaves no question that the Trojans win this one. All of USC' national titles in these years and all other in which they were number one result in their capping the season with a Rose Bowl victory (except for 1928, when they did not go to a bowl, and 2004, when they went to the BCS Orange Bowl instead).

Bryant wins "national championships" in 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978 and 1979. However, with all due respect, calling them national champions in 1973 is a joke, and frankly so too is 1964. These were titles awarded during a time in which some polls concluded prior to the bowl games, a practice finally brought to an end in the early 1970s. 

Alabama won the title in 1964, but they lost to Texas in the Orange Bowl. That's not a legitimate national title. In 1973, they lost to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, but the UPI called them national champions (the AP awarded it to Notre Dame). Two undefeated teams do not play each other, and the "championship" then awarded to the loser of that game!

The same could be said for the 1978 season, when Alabama won the AP version and USC the UPI. Both teams had one regular season loss and won their bowl games. The only problem is that Alabama's only loss was against USC at Birmingham! The writer's version of number one may be the grossest injustice of all times, although in that case it was a legitimate vote, both teams had a loss and won bowl games, so it should count. But 1964 and 1973 should not.

 The 1966 Crimson Tide has a fairly legitimate argument, in that they were unbeaten, untied and won the Orange Bowl behind Ken Stabler. Notre Dame was unbeaten with one tie, but that was the "game of the century" at Michigan State. They beat USC, 51-0 and did not play bowl games in those days. Alabama could make an argument, but the choice of Notre Dame is not tainted by illegitimacy, as a bowl loss does. Two other factors worked against Bear's team. For one, they were still segregated, a fact that impressed nobody. Second, the voters wanted to rectify the "joke" title bestowed upon them when they lost to Arkansas but still snuck in. 

****

All of the talk about titles, rivals, the comparisons with Bear Bryant; it was a long ways from people's minds when McKay first arrived at University Park.

"After his first year, he threw a big party, because he thought he might just be fired," recalled Dave Levy on The History of USC Football DVD. "But we beat a better-on-most-Saturdays UCLA team, and he kept his job."

Before McKay could get his first national title, the program went through two "wilderness years." Lost in the glow of McKay's memory is the fact that he fell drastically from where Clark appeared to have the program headed in 1959. There was only one small light of hope in those two years; a 17-6 victory over UCLA in his initial season, but Notre Dame beat him twice, and the Bruins got him in 1961. 

The only bright spot lost in the fiasco was the close, 35-34 loss to then-number one Iowa at home. When SC scored with 48 seconds to go, and McKay went for two but missed, it dissuaded some voters from keeping the Hawkeyes in the top spot. Alabama won the national championships in 1961 after Minnesota had won in 1960.

"John McKay did something in that game that most coaches wouldn't do nowadays," said quarterback Pete Beathard. "We didn't have overtime and once you go to the end of the game if your tied you're tied. At 35-34 he tried for two points."

"I was wide open in the back of the end zone but he never saw me," said receiver Hal Bedsole of Beathard and the two-point try. "If we won that game I think things would have been much better in 1961, had we beaten Iowa. We knew, those of us playing as sophomores, his first recruits, and we knew we could play."

USC's attendance was down. They looked to be headed the way of Cal-Berkeley. The conference prestige was in jeopardy. Change needed to be made. Under McKay it came in two primary colors. The first was white.

On January 1, 1961, Bob Jani, USC's director of special events, and Eddie Tannenbaum, a student, observed Richard Saukko riding a white horse called Traveler I in the Rose Parade. A light went on in their heads.

They approached Saukko and asked him to ride Traveler I around the field at USC games after touchdowns and victories, while the band played "Conquest" and "Tribute to Troy." Saukko and the original Traveler have been replaced over the years, but the tradition continues to this day.

The second primary color was black. Around this same time, McKay told his staff he needed "speed." What this meant, quite frankly, was that they were to go out and find those great black athletes whose high school heroics were lighting up the Southland's prep landscape, right under their noses. Recruits like Willie Brown and Mike Garrett were brought in. 

There were football heroes at USC in McKay's first two uneventful seasons, however. Mike McKeever, who made the 1959 All-American team, was the captain in 1960, when he won the Davis-Teschke Award. Also a two-time Academic All-American, McKeever's senior year was curtailed by a blood clot. His life was a star-crossed one. Drafted by the Chargers and Rams, he was unable to continue and play pro football. In 1967, he died after an auto accident. He made the College Football Hall of Fame posthumously in 1987. 

Marlin McKeever made his second All-American team in 1960. Also an Academic All-American, he was selected in the first round by the Rams as well as the Chargers. He played in the NFL until 1973 with Los Angeles, Minnesota, Washington and Philadelphia. 

Dan Ficca and Luther Hayes were both picked by Philadelphia and the Chargers in 1961. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

THE PERFECT SEASON

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." 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

MIKE GARRETT: POET-WARRIOR

USC embodies a new era and a Heisman finds a home at University Park

 

1962 will be looked back on as the year McKay broke the jinx and led USC to the proverbial Promised Land, but in many ways, 1965 is a demarcation point in Trojan football history. Mike Garrett was a senior that year. He was one of those great, fast black athletes that McKay knew he needed in order to succeed. But Garrett's Trojan career meant more than just success on the field. He was, in a small yet significant way, a social statement. Certainly, he was a guy who had grown up rooting for UCLA because the Bruins did a better job providing opportunities for black players. However, John McKay had impressed him while recruiting the 5-9, 185-pound All-City running back from Jefferson High School.

"When McKay asked you to play for him," Garrett would later say, "you accepted."

At Jefferson, Garrett had averaged 10 yards a carry, earning prep All-America honors. He scored 37 points in on game, 32 in another and was the L.A. City Player of the Year. He also starred in track in high school, and later at USC. 

Garrett and the legacy of McKay's I formation system are inextricably linked. While Garrett did not really "begin" the legacy that McKay may well have taken his greatest pride in, he is perhaps most associated with it. The conservative West Virginian was "totally race neutral," in the words of his son, J.K. McKay. Garrett loved him like a father. McKay loved him like he was J.K.'s and Richie's brother. In the wake of the Watts riots, it was a nice image for a city and a school that meant so much to that city. 

Garrett was not the first black Heisman Trophy winner. Jim Brown really could have, maybe should have, won it in the mid-1950s. His Syracuse successor, Ernie Davis, had earned the statue in 1961 before tragically dying of cancer. When Garrett won it for USC, black athletes around America took notice. The press made note of the fact that Willie Wood had been a black quarterback as far back as 1957-59. Black quarterbacks were all but unheard of. Minnesota had fielded one in the early 1960s, but it just wasn't done except at black colleges like Grambling. The pros took those guys and turned them into defensive backs anyway. The Packers had done that with Wood, but of course there is no argument that he was a better quarterback than Bart Starr. 

But black athletes in the South, who harbored no illusions that Alabama, Georgia, Texas were offering them scholarships anytime soon, saw USC and they saw opportunity. Nice weather. Good night life. An accommodating atmosphere. "Pretty girls of all races," as McKay said. Garrett's ascension was that final point in which the black athletes of Los Angeles no longer favored UCLA. It would foreshadow cataclysmic events with national implications.

Garrett himself was insecure.

"It's like you're in a dark alley, and you're running from trouble and you know you can get hurt if you get caught, so you keep running," is how he described his experiences as a running back. "I'm not chicken, though. I keep going into that alley."

Growing up on the tough streets of L.A.'s Boyle Heights, Garrett knew that his key to success would be football, but that it was a means to an end that would be the real key to his success: education. 

"If it hadn't been for football, I'd have been a bum," he said. Listening to tapes of a young Garrett speak, one finds this hard to believe. Even as a youthful football player, he was comfortable with the press, speaking articulately while handling himself with class. By no means did he ever give off the aura of some guy who could play sports but was out of his element in an academic atmosphere. Garrett was a guy with a social conscience and a slightly rebellious streak.

The first Super Bowl, known then as the AFL-NFL Championship Game, was held at the Coliseum in 1967. It has gone down in history as a big moment in pro football history, and one of the most well covered by the media. Old footage of the game and surrounding events survives in countless NFL Films archives. Some of that footage is of a half-dressed Kansas City Chief rookie, Mike Garrett, lamenting his team's sound thumping at the hands of Green Bay. Garrett appears to be thoughtful, gracious and conciliatory. Five years removed from Jefferson High and one year removed from USC, it is not the image of a man who would ever have become "a bum."   

"I had a long conversation with Garrett and Willie Brown," said former USC assistant coach Dave Levy, who had been Brown's coach at Long Beach Poly High before coming to USC. "I told them that they owed it to other black kids to make the most of the opportunity football gave them, through education, to pave the way for others."

Garrett then decided he wanted to live off-campus. He wanted to rent an apartment in Pasadena. Pasadena was the hometown of Jackie Robinson, but the city - at least the section where Garrett wanted to live - did not "rent to blacks," according to Levy. Garrett vented to his coach.

"I just told him that instead of getting mad at white people," Levy said, "he just had to stay with it, to give people a chance to change, and in time it would happen. He nodded and came to agree with that."

Garrett was also a baseball star for Rod Dedeaux's team. He would play briefly in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. At USC, he roomed with a young pitcher from Fresno named Tom Seaver. Seaver had been unrecruited out of Fresno High, so he joined the Marines, where he grew in height and in physical strength. After the Marines, with his newfound physical maturity, he had starred at Fresno City College and with the Alaska Goldpanners, earning a baseball scholarship from Rod Dedeaux.

A friendship bloomed between Seaver and Garrett, to the benefit of both. Garrett lifted weights for football. At that time, weight lifting was strictly off-limits to baseball players. Coaches said it would "bind up the muscles." Seaver was the late bloomer who developed his fast ball after all the muscle-building push-ups in the Marines. He made it to USC against long odds by working hard, and was always searching for an edge. He started to lift weights with Garrett. It built up his strength and his fast ball even more. By the time he left USC he was a top prospect who would be in the Major Leagues barely a year after signing his first pro contract.

Seaver was a highly intelligent young man with an extremely enlightened attitude towards race for the times. He went out of his way to include Garrett in his life, double dating with Mike and his future wife, Nancy. He would bring his roomie to Dodger Stadium every fifth day on his uncle's season tickets, to watch his favorite pitcher, Sandy Koufax. But as much as Seaver loved Koufax, his favorite all-time player was not a pitcher or a Dodger. It was the Braves' great slugger, Henry Aaron, a black man from Mobile, Alabama.

The friendship of Seaver, the mentoring of Dave Levy and Marv Goux, the father figure John McKay; through these experiences and associations Mike Garrett's manhood was formed. He was a man who took the team on his shoulders, too.

After USC beat Colorado, 21-0 in 1964, Garrett made a point of apologizing to his linemen for missing holes they opened for him. Garrett might have been described as a scatback because of his size, speed and moves, but he was willing to hit and run "between the tackles," which was the key to winning the 1964 Notre Dame game. In three years, Garrett rushed for an astonishing 3,221 yards, more than Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, "Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside" at Army (Glenn Davis, Doc Blanchard), or any other collegiate runner. 

Garrett also caught passes for 399 yards, occasionally threw the ball (48 yards), and was a potent threat returning punts and kicks. In 1965 he rushed for 1,440 yards.

"I don't think anything is more exciting than winning the Heisman," he said. It turned Garrett into a prized rookie who weighed competing offers from the Rams, who made him their first pick, and the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL. Garrett, who had never known his father, and whose mother worked as a domestic while raising her son in a $36-per month housing project, now had the things he had always wanted but never had. Garrett, however, once said, "I didn't know then that I was poor."

Garrett made some runs that McKay said "could (not) be made, yet Mike made it." Garrett was the ultimate team player, too. There was no sense of prima donna to him. He practiced hard, exhibiting leadership qualities as befitting his role as captain. He was not USC's first black captain by any means, however. Willie Wood (1959) and Willie Brown (1962) had helped pave the way for black players like Garrett.

McKay once said that Garrett was a complete football player who would have been his best linebacker, guard, and "might have been my best quarterback" if he had been installed at those positions instead. Garrett never would have complained. 

The night before the Heisman Trophy winner was to be announced, Garrett lay in bed thinking it over. The more he thought about it, the more confident he became that he deserved it. Early the next morning he got the call congratulating him from USC's sports information director. 

Garrett had just the right amount of bravado. When he won the Heisman, he said that the previous black Heisman winner, Ernie Davis "was a great man." He later stated that winning it is "like winning a Pulitzer Prize. You don't have to worry about anything else once you've won that Pulitzer." But when held to 57 yards by Notre Dame, he said, "All I was thinking about was getting off the ground. That's where I was most of the time." Garrett was always thanking his linemen, a trait that Simpson learned from him. 

Garrett's records would be broken by O.J., but he had broken the marks set by the likes of Morley Drury (1,163 yards in a season, 1927), Orv Mohler (career total of 2,025 rushing yards from 1930-32), and Jim Musick (219 carries from 1929-31). Garrett had 3,269 yards in total offense, eclipsing the record set by his teammate, Pete Beathard. He was described as being like trying to tackle "a bowling ball." Against UCLA in 1965 he ran for 210 yards. Like other class acts before and after him, he entered the UCLA locker room to congratulate the Bruins after they won. 

"He darn near had me bawling," said UCLA's great halfback, Mel Farr. 

"He's the greatest runner I've ever seen," said the Bruins' Dallas Grider. The day had been a tough one, though. Despite his yards, Garrett had coughed up the football at crucial times in the 20-16 defeat, costing Troy the Rose Bowl. 

McKay was near tears himself after the game, one of his all-time low moments. Part of his disappointment was for Garrett. Garrett would be smiling, however, when he became the first California collegiate player ever to win the Heisman. From 1965 to 1970, four Californians (Garrett in '65, UCLA's Gary Beban in 1967, USC's O.J. Simpson in 1968, and Stanford's Jim Plunkett in 1970), would earn the award. All of them were products of California high schools (Garrett and Beban from Southern California, Simpson and Plunkett from the San Francisco Bay Area). 

However, they were by far not the first California natives to win Heismans. Army's Glenn Davis had prepped at Bonita High School (prompting creation of the Glenn Davis Award, given annually to the best high school player in Southern California). Oregon State's Terry Baker, the 1962 recipient, was from the L.A. area. Notre Dame's John Huarte (1964) was a Mater Dei graduate. In later years, Miami's 1992 winner, Gino Torretta was from Pinole Valley High in the Bay Area. The 1994 winner was Colorado's Rashaan Salaam of Country Day School in La Jolla. 1998 Texas winner Ricky Williams was from San Diego's Patrick Henry High. 

USC's succeeding Heisman winners were all Californians, too: Charles White (San Fernando), Marcus Allen (San Diego Lincoln), Carson Palmer (Rancho Santa Margarita) and Matt Leinart (Mater Dei).

The nine Heismans won by California college products, and the 15 Heisman Trophies won by California natives, is just another category in which the state ranks number one by far and away. San Diego alone could boast three winners (Allen, Salaam, Williams), not to mention 2004 finalist and '05 runner-up Reggie Bush (the '06 favorite), and his San Diego Helix High teammate and '04 finalist, Alex Smith.

Garrett's All-American and Heisman selection was certainly not new for California athletes, who had been dominating football, baseball, basketball, the Olympics and other sports since the turn of the century. But it marked an even greater escalation in the state's remarkable record, largely because black athletes were emerging now in unprecedented numbers.

Aside from Mater Dei and their stands-by-itself three Heismans, Long Beach Poly has produced the most All-American and professional football players, just as the state has produced the most All-Americans and pros.

 

When Garrett won the Heisman, he said he would invite "every one in Boyle Heights," a gritty mid-town L.A. neighborhood, to "come take a look." 

"If you told me a little black kid from Boyle Heights; poor family…" said Garrett on The History of USC Football DVD, "would go to the University of Southern California and wins the Heisman… I mean that's a billion to one shot…and I'll never forget after my junior year prior to my senior year, McKay says to me, 'You could win the Heisman.' As someone who followed college football his whole life, well, that meant Howard 'Hopalong' Cassady, that meant Johnny Lujack. Are you kidding me? And I said. 'Let's see if I could do that.' I knew I could do that. And I guess that's what it means to me today, that nothing's impossible if you work for it. And put out the effort."

Garrett broke the NCAA career rushing record previously held by Ollie Matson of the University of San Francisco from 1949-51. One writer found poetic inspiration in USC's great running back tradition:

 

Howard Jones "Hubbard"

Went to the cupboard

To see if he had any backs

And he looked in

It was full to the brim.  

 

Garrett had taken that tradition one step further. Using McKay's famed Student Body Right and beginning with Garrett, USC truly became "Tailback U." 

After hitting .309 with seven home runs, while demonstrating excellent speed on the bases in 1966, Garrett contemplated pro baseball with two pro football offers. The prospect of playing in the minor leagues dissuaded him from baseball. The AFL-NFL bidding wars were still going on. Garrett received an incredible deal for that time from Kansas City: a $300,000 bonus over 20 years with a five-dear contract of $150,000 per season. It was enough to persuade him to leave L.A. and the established Rams, who also wanted him, for the Midwest. 

His first year in pro football was momentous. Hank Stram, the Chiefs' coach, was an offensive innovator. Garrett found himself running a myriad of complex schemes behind star quarterback Len Dawson. Kansas City advanced to the first Super Bowl, held in Garrett's old stomping grounds, the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Kansas City played the Packers tough for a half, but Green Bay ran away in the second half. 

Garrett would rush for 1,000 yards in a season, the statistical benchmark of the 14-game era, and more than 5,000 in his career. In 1969, he and the Chiefs defeated ex-Notre Dame quarterback Daryl Lamonica and the Oakland Raiders in the AFL title game, advancing to the Super Bowl. Then they beat ex-Cal quarterback Joe Kapp and Minnesota, 23-7, for the World Championship. Unfortunately, Stram and Garrett did not get along. Garrett was injured and felt that Stram doubted his willingness to play. 

Garrett left football and contemplated entering into politics, but sports was his passion. He decided to see if he had what it took in baseball. He played in the Dodgers' organization, but returned to football with the San Diego Chargers in 1971. In San Diego, Garrett created an organization to help disadvantaged children. He used his sociology degree after retirement, working with the community. He became a true seeker who read anything that had to do with "the origins of man" and the "profound" aspects of humanity. 

(Of course, the Stanford and Cal people would continue to try and perpetuate the myth that USC's athletes are just a bunch of meatheads with no academic record.)

Garrett was a man inspired by the country he lived in. He saw America's landing of a man on the moon and felt that if we could do that, problems of race, poverty and pollution could be tackled. In trying to find answers, he studied the way the Mormons had created their society, and became an advocate of personal responsibility.

Garrett was elected to USC's Athletic Hall of Fame and to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. In 1986 he graduated from law school, and worked in the San Diego district attorney's office. In 1993, he was named USC athletic director.

It was a rocky go at first. L.A. suffered in the early 1990s from a riot and a major earthquake. The school suffered in the prestige area. John Robinson was brought back for a second coaching stint, but it did not work out. Garrett was criticized for firing the legendary Robinson by voicemail.

USC drastically improved its admissions standards and academic curriculum during Garrett's years as the A.D. In 2000, the Princeton Review called USC the "School of the Year." Time said it was America's "hot school," but by then it was considered an article of faith that it was a "tradeoff": great academics cannot coincide with great football teams. Trojan alumni had come to grips with this "reality." Many said they were proud of the fact that the school had shifted its priorities, becoming one of the elite academic universities in the world.

As athletic director, Garrett had to balance the world of sports with the classroom accomplishments of SC athletes. There was still pressure on him to lead a football revival. The economic benefits of a winning program would pay dividends for the school as a whole, it was argued.

There is really no other way to say it other than to just state that Garrett got lucky in 2000. Three big name college football coaches turned him down when he wanted to hire Paul Hackett's replacement. Pete Carroll was not his first choice or anybody elses. Carroll, a former NFL head coach and defensive specialist, approached Garrett. His daughter was playing volleyball for the Women of Troy at the time. His father-in-law had a master's degree from USC. His wife was from Los Angeles.

"I'd fallen in love with USC and John McKay when Sam 'Bam' Cunningham ended segregation in 1970," Carroll had been quoted in his hometown newspaper, the Marin Independent Journal. The 1980s comment was in relation to the 1970 USC-Alabama game that indeed had helped integrate the South.

When Carroll restored the tradition of USC football, it turned Mike Garrett into a hero in Los Angeles. Again. While Garrett had luck on his side, it is important to note Branch Rickey's words: "Luck is the residue of design."

Garrett had prepared his whole life for the athletic director's job, in terms of hard work on the field, rigorous undergraduate and post-graduate academic accomplishments, and his personal quest for wisdom. While his handling of Robinson was clumsy, he is a man of integrity, love for his alma mater, and loyalty. Good things happen to men who possess these qualities.

   

The 1965 Trojans repeated their 10th place ranking of 1964 (ninth in the UPI), but the 7-2-1 campaign was another bittersweet one. Ranked seventh coming in, they opened with a disappointing 20-20 tie against Minnesota. At South Bend it was all Irish, 28-7 behind Larry Conjar's four touchdown runs. The game vs. UCLA turned into one of the greatest in Bruin football history. 

"If there is anything that hurts coach John McKay more than defeat," wrote Paul Zimmerman in the Los Angeles Times, "it is getting beaten with the long pass. It is for this reason that he has worked his USC defense overtime this week. Gary Beban of UCLA loves to unload the big bomb on opponents."

With the Rose Bowl on the line, sophomore quarterback Beban engineered an amazing comeback from 16-6 down with four minutes left for a 20-16 UCLA win. USC fumbled five times. USC's Troy Winslow had thrown two touchdown passes. Tim Rossovich had made a field for USC, but Beban completed a 34-yard touchdown pass to Dick Witcher followed by a two-point conversion to make it 16-14. An onside kick was fumbled by USC with UCLA taking control on the SC 48 with 2:39 left. Beban then nailed Kurt Altenberg with a quick strike and that was that. Despite losing the yardage war, 424-289 (Garrett rushed for 210 yards), UCLA would advance to the Rose Bowl, where they took on Bubba Smith and the Michigan State Spartans. In one of the great upsets ever, UCLA won 14-12.

After the USC game, 3,000 UCLA students took the Victory Bell to the corner of Westwood and Wilshire, where they held up traffic. Jim Murray banged the drumbeat of praise for UCLA's new coach, Tommy Prothro in the Times.

"They never call the team the 'Red Tide,' the 'Purple Puddle,' the 'Brown Wave,' the 'Thundering Herd,' " wrote Murray. "Or any other ringing alterations selected by other schools. For one reason. Usually, UCLA was more like a 'Pink T,' or the 'Thundering Bird.' The Red Tide was coming from its nose. If the student body rose to chant 'we're number one,' they meant in chemistry - or interior decoration…

"J. Thompson Prothro changed all that… Coach Prothro took a squad that had lost six of its last seven games and had given up 147 points in five of those games. How he convinced them they could play football has to rank as the greatest snow job since 1888."  

McKay was said to have harbored this one as long and as hard as any defeat in his coaching career. UCLA had hired Prothro, an elegant Southerner who wore a suit, eyeglasses, and an old-style hat. Prothro graciously entered the USC locker room to extend his hand to McKay. The press became enamored of him. He was genteel while McKay had a slight mean streak. The media would pick up on Murray's column, saying that Prothro was smarter than McKay, that he could out-coach him. This would stick in McKay's craw.

Garrett was of course an All-American. He and Bill Fisk had also been named in 1964. He had to settle for individual honors, as this was the time when it came down to the conference championship and the Rose Bowl or nothing. Seven Trojans were drafted by the NFL in 1966. Rod Sherman was a "future" selection of the Colts, meaning he could be "reserved" for after his senior year because, as a red-shirt, his class had graduated. Sherman was also a future number one pick of the Raiders. After one more year he did sign with Oakland, where he was a member of their 1967 Super Bowl team. He played for several pro teams until 1973. Sherman had taken a circuitous route to Trojan greatness. Coming out of Muir High in Pasadena (Jackie Robinson's alma mater), he played at UCLA, transferred to Pasadena City College, and then to USC. Today he runs the Trojan Fantasy Camp, which each summer gives alumni and fans a chance to mingle with past USC legends in mock "drills" and "games" revolving around night time revelry.

Jeff Smith was selected by the New York Giants, Ed King by the Packers, Denis Moore by the Lions, Homer Williams by the Rams, and Dave Moton by the Packers.

AFL picks: King (Bills) and Moore (Chiefs).  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

1966: "A BILLION CHINAMEN COULD CARE LESS WHO WON…"

Political divisions in California; McKay absorbs his worst defeat; the "gunslinger" goes for two in Pasadena

 

The Los Angeles Dodgers would bring ultimate glory to Los Angeles again in 1965. Sandy Koufax threw his fourth no-hitter (this time a perfect game), while compiling 26 wins, an all-time record 382 strikeouts, and his third Cy Young award in leading Los Angeles to the World Series victory over Minnesota. In 1966, the Dodgers again captured the National League pennant in a heated race with San Francisco and Pittsburgh, but fell to the youthful Baltimore Orioles in four straight in the Series. The Orioles featured Jim Palmer, at 20 the youngest pitcher ever to win a Series game when he bested Koufax. A wealthy businessman had adopted Palmer, an orphan. He grew up in luxury next door to Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and their daughter, Jamie Leigh Curtis, in Beverly Hills. He would attend USC but did not play for the Trojans.

Major political shifts took place in 1966. Three years after JFK's assassination, Lyndon Johnson's popularity began to suffer as the Vietnam War intensified. There was a draft, but most college students, particularly athletes, were able to avoid it. Pro players were able to serve in Reserve or National Guard units without being shipped to Southeast Asia. Richard Nixon, now a Wall Street lawyer, also made fact-finding missions to Vietnam. His critique of the war made him a viable alternative in the eyes of many for the 1968 Presidential election. He campaigned relentlessly for Republican candidates, and the GOP swept to big wins in the '66 mid-terms.

In California, the traditionally conservative citizenry was getting fed up with protests at Cal-Berkeley and other campuses. USC remained quiet, as it would throughout the war. Promising to get tough with the "Communist elements" fomenting student revolution, the former actor Ronald Reagan emerged as the Republican gubernatorial candidate against Pat Brown. 

Reagan had played college football and broken into Hollywood via a broadcasting stint for the Chicago Cubs. He had portrayed Notre Dame's vainglorious George Gipp, the 1919 Irish hero who, according to Rockne, had told the coach on his deathbed, "One day, Coach, when the boys are up against it, tell 'em to win just one for the Gipper."

When Army had his "boys up against it," Rockne pulled the fabricated story out of his you-know-where. With a leprechaun's luck Notre Dame rallied to win, thus immortalizing Gipp!

Reagan would win in a landslide in 1966. As everybody who knew him well also knew, he was a tremendous USC football fan, not Notre Dame's. In 1989, when Craig Fertig's nephew, Todd Marinovich, led Troy to a come-from-behind 17-16 win over Washington State, this author was standing with Marinovich when he got a phone call...from former President Reagan.

"Nancy and I are just great fans of the Trojans," Reagan said to the stunned red-shirt freshman. 

Also in 1966, USC's film school took shape, upgrading from a low-key set of classes to intense, highly specialized training for a career in the motion picture industry. Dr. Norman Topping had set out to increase the school's academic visibility eight years earlier. He had succeeded. 

In the 1960s, four colleges emerged as great film schools. In New York, that was Columbia and NYU, where a young Martin Scorsese would hire young Harvey Keitel and young Robert De Niro for his student film, Whose That Knockin' At My Door?

In Los Angeles, the film schools were UCLA and USC. Over at Westwood, the approach was more theoretical. Eventually, the drama program and film school would collaborate so directors could learn how to work with actors, thus effectuating contacts. Francis Ford Coppola met a handsome young man named Jim Morrison in their film school. Morrison dropped out and hooked up with another UCLA film student, Ray Manzarek, to form The Doors. Coppola would be influenced by his music. "The End", which bookends Apocalypse Now, is one of the most famed movie songs ever.

Meanwhile over at USC, the approach was more practical, with an emphasis on production; raising the money and dealing with the real-life obstacles of getting movies made. A tall, handsome young actor came out of USC in 1966. Tom Selleck also played baseball, basketball and volleyball. George Lucas and John Milius hooked up there, too. Lucas hailed from the Central Valley. He longed to make a film that paid homage to his youth, and in 1973 American Graffitidid just that. Milius was an L.A. native whose right wing conservative gun culture opinions would run him afoul of Hollywood's liberal establishment. He forged a successful career anyway, penning the screenplays for Dirty Harry and Magnum Force, then directing Red Dawn.  

The two L.A. film schools often collaborated unofficially. Coppola, Lucas and Milius befriended each other and another filmmaker who had to go to Long Beach State because USC denied him admission. His name was Steven Spielberg. The Coppola/Lucas/Milius trio came up with an idea, mostly Milius's, which was based on his friendship with Green Berets and Army Rangers: go to Vietnam with actors and a script, and film a war film with a real war in the background. For some strange reason the Department of Defense denied their request, so they took the project to the Philippines. Apocalypse Now debuted in 1979 with the signature handprints of Bruin and Trojan filmmakers and rock stars all over it.  

 

The connection between Hollywood and USC also played itself out at the 1966 season opener at Austin, when John "Duke" Wayne showed up the night before. To refresh the story, Wayne was filming War Wagon in Texas with Bruce Cabot. An L.A. sportswriter confronted Duke in the hotel bar, and after telling him, "You ain' s--t," a fight was broken up. After drinking all night, Nick Pappas arranged for him to speak to the team the next day. Wayne's make-up man died, apparently of alcohol poisoning, during the night. Craig Fertig was "assigned" to Duke. He had him "looking good" in a black suit with a white 10-gallon cowboy hat and boots…with spurs?

Duke had spoken to the Trojans. Then while Fertig's father, "Chief" Fertig, poured whisky into his cup while they toured the stadium in a golf cart, Duke had said, "f--k the 'Horns" while flashing the "hook 'em Horns" sign.

All of this drama seemed to befit a school from Hollywood that seemed to play the most dramatic football games in America, to boot. The game with Texas was dramatic, too, although arguably less so than the hi-jinx and melancholia that occurred in the 24 hours that preceded it. 

Before the game, Arkansas coach Frank Broyles posed a challenge.

"You can't run into the middle of Texas," he had stated.

"Yes, I can," said McKay, who indeed had run into the middle of Notre Dame two years earlier. He did not have Mike Garrett this time around, but between a well-balanced offense and an airtight defense, McKay's Trojans would get the best of Texas. For a number of weeks, they looked to have a chance of challenging Alabama, Notre Dame and Michigan State for the national championship.

Alabama was calling itself the "back-to-back national champions" with a strong shot at a three-peat behind sophomore quarterback Kenny Stabler in 1966. In 1964 they had indeed run the regular season table, 10-0, but the 21-17 loss to Texas in the Orange Bowl makes the "national championship" moniker run hollow.

If USC could make it to Pasadena, they would not get a shot at another title contender, Michigan State. The Big 10 still held to the "no repeat" rule. They would have their chance at Notre Dame, and of course Texas right here in their stadium. It was another year in which McKay's desire for a soft schedule was no place to be found. Aside from the Longhorns and Irish, Wisconsin and Clemson awaited them in a year in which UCLA and the conference also promised to be strong. Still, the Trojans had every anticipation that it would be their fans yelling, "We're number one!" at season's end.

First, of course, there was Texas. With a riot averted, a fight broken up, the ambulance called, the make-up man headed to the morgue, Duke standing like a living monument on the sidelines (presumably with Chief keeping the bottle at the ready), and an exhausted Craig Fertig just glad to be there, the Trojans now were faced with stopping "Super Bill" Bradley.

Texas is a state that treats its high school football heroes as if they are pagan idols. In the 1950s, Ken Hall, the "Sugarland Express" from…Sugarland High, set every high school rushing and scoring record on the books. He was so good that 30 years later, Sports Illustrated did a huge remembrance of him, calling him "the greatest high school football player of all time." Perhaps it was the "S.I. curse" in reverse, but Hall had not lived up to the hype. He had played for Bear Bryant at Texas A&M, and was one of the famed "Junction Boys." He was, in fact, one of those guys who skipped the fence. Later, Bryant said he was better than Aggie Heisman winner John David Crow, and that he had been wrong for being so harsh on those kids. He regretted having pushed Ken Hall away, although Hall would win an NFL title with Johnny Unitas and the 1958 Baltimore Colts.

Texas sportswriters had apparently not learned the "Ken Hall lesson." They still liked to make a "big Texas whoop-de-doo" when some new prep phenom showed up with a lot of "bells and whistles." 

"Super Bill" Bradley, as the moniker suggests (and he is not to be confused with New York Knick star and later New Jersey Senator "Dollar Bill" Bradley) had more than enough "bells and whistles." This Bill Bradley broad-jumped 23 feet, could dunk a basketball with either hand, and was a switch-hitter in baseball with a standing $40,000 offer from the Detroit Tigers. He was ambidextrous, could throw and kick with either hand or foot, and further was said to be able to think on the left and right side of his brain. 

In 1966, he was a sophomore, the "next Doak Walker." McKay was amused at the hype. He knew he had the best high school athletes in the world performing within a 50-mile radius of his place of business. L.A. area prepsters did not get this kind of attention, and in the coach's mind, for good reason.

A national TV audience tuned in to see the Texas wunderkind, but on this hot, muggy September Saturday they saw USC rise to the occasion and win 10-6. It is impressive that Duke Wayne was still awake at the end. What is more impressive was USC's growing reputation as a team that could travel into the South with black players and, against long odds, hang a lickin' on the best that Dixie had to offer. The 1966 contest was furtherance of the C.R. Roberts game a decade earlier. It foreshadowed Sam "Bam" Cunningham's historic effort four years later at Legion Field. 

Bradley had shown poise, for sure, but in the annals of Texas football history he is no Ken Hall, not to mention James Street or Steve "Woo Woo" Worster. The real hero of the game was USC's commanding defense, which "all but ran the Longhorns out to the LBJ ranch," according to one pundit. 

"When they brought it out from their goal line, ramming it right at us and kept it for eight minutes, they proved they deserved to win," said Texas coach Darrell Royal of USC's winning drive.

Afterwards Wayne, still looking like a celluloid superstar with his black suit, cowboy hat and brown paper bag made his way into the USC locker room. He was presented the game ball. 

"When, really, did anyone ever get the best of John Wayne?" one writer surmised.  

Victories over Wisconsin, Oregon State, Washington, Stanford and Clemson had the Trojans up to 6-0, ranked number five, and thinking about all the things an undefeated Trojan football team thinks about. While their defense had been solid, it would not hold up, though. The offense had been patched together. There were no Craig Fertigs, Pete Beathards or Bill Nelsens. There was most certainly no Mike Garrett.

The seventh game was against an up-and-coming program. Football in the state of Florida was exploding in the 1960s. Florida State had actually been an all-girls school until the early 1950s. They brought in boys and formed a football team. One of their first recruits was Burt Reynolds, who liked the idea of being outnumbered by women some 1,000 to one.

Florida would emerge as a national power, and in 1966 quarterback Steve Spurrier would win the Heisman Trophy. The third school was Miami, an urban college with similarities to USC: good weather, big city, attractive nightlife, and a famous home stadium that also housed a pro franchise. Miami made everybody sit up and take notice when they ended Southern California's undefeated dreams, 10-7 before 51,156 at the Orange Bowl. 

81,980 showed up to see USC and UCLA. The seventh-ranked Trojans were eight-point favorites over number eight UCLA. The reason for the underdog role was Gary Beban's broken ankle. Backup Norman Dow made his first-ever start. Dow scored a touchdown on a third quarter keeper. After USC evened things up, Dow engineered a drive with less than 10 minutes remaining. McKay warned over and over against the reverse, so that was precisely what UCLA used when Cornell Champion ran it in from 21 yards out. That was it. 14-7, Bruins. 

7,000 UCLAans attended a Monday rally to honor the senior Dow and his mates. Officially USC's record gave them the conference championship and the Rose Bowl, a reversal of their bad fortune when Oregon State had gotten the 1964 nod. The news hit the celebrating students like a ton of breaks.

"I'm honored to be on such a gutty team," Dow told the crowd.

 A popular description of the team emerged: "gutty little Bruins." Of course, USC fans have always used another word that starts with "s" and ends with "y" as their appellation. One of those "gutty little Bruins" was Terry Donahue, their future coach.

Dow enjoyed his "15 minutes of  fame." It earned him a spot on the popular 1960s TV show, The Dating Game. Pretty UCLA coeds formed his three choices. He chose the one who said that he was "my hero" for beating Southern Cal.

A man's got to derive some benefits from the student-athlete experience.

The next week would be a game that, to quote Franklin Roosevelt, "would live in infamy" for Trojan fans. It would be a smashing victory for Notre Dame, but the expression, "be careful what you wish for" applies. In winning the way they did, they ignited a fire under John McKay and the University of Southern California. It would cost them dearly. It was a turning point in the rivalry and in the history of USC football. It marked a demarcation point in which the Trojans would catch up with the Irish in terms of their all-time position in the hierarchy of the college game; then, after taking some considerable steps backward, charge forward as never before and overtake them. In the Darwinian world of collegiate football, Southern California would emerge as the  fittest of the survivors, but in 1966 that theory seemed a long way off.

A lot of pent-up emotions went into the 1966 USC-Notre Dame match-up. The Trojans' stirring 20-17 win of 1964 still hung heavy on Notre Dame. The 21-point win over USC in 1965 was not enough. Having a national title snatched from their grasp at the end of the game on a desperation fourth down toss had tested all of their Catholic forbearance.

Notre Dame was coming off the "game of the century." This is a title that could apply to many college football games. The 1931 USC-Notre Dame. The 1946 Notre Dame-Army game. In later years, the 1969 Texas-Arkansas, 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma, 1988 USC-Notre Dame, and 2005 USC-Oklahoma (Orange Bowl) games had the right build up, but not always the appropriate on-field competitiveness.

As the 1966 season had developed, with USC losing to Miami and UCLA, the three remaining contenders for the top spot were Notre Dame, Michigan State and Alabama. The whole scenario was fraught with social and historical implications. Alabama, of course, was calling themselves "back-to-back national champs," apparently hoping the country had amnesia and possessed no knowledge of their 1965 Orange Bowl loss to Texas. That may have been their right, by virtue of polls taken before bowl games, but no self-respecting college football team considers itself a true champ unless they win the bowl. It would be like the team with the best regular season record in Major League baseball losing in the World Series, then calling themselves the "World Champions." The 1954 Cleveland Indians World Champions. The 1969 Baltimore Orioles World Champions. Not. Either way, there was considerable non-Southern sentiment to vote against the Crimson Tide.

"Folks get tired of people winnin' too much," ex-Alabama assistant coach Jack Rutledge recalled. 

But the racial angle hung over them, too. Alabama was not just segregated; they were a state university in a state that was run by George Wallace, a manL.A. Times sportswriter Jeff Prugh dubbed the "merchant of venom." Wallace had vowed "never to be out-n------d again" after losing to John Patterson in the 1958 gubernatorial campaign. Changing his theme to "segregation now, segregation forever," Wallace indeed won in 1962. In 1963 he made his celebrated "stand at the schoolhouse door" to block two students from becoming the first black students in University of Alabama history.

One year earlier, President John F. Kennedy had gone backwards and forwards with Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett over the entrance of James Meredith at Ole Miss, but Mississippi was not in the limelight like Alabama was. Dr. Martin Luther King had chosen media centers in Alabama - Birmingham, Selma, Montgomery - over the rural backwaters of Mississippi, as his staging ground for the civil rights movement. What America saw was Alabama in its most exposed state. Dr. King had been jailed in Birmingham. He had marched on Selma. Riots had ensued in Montgomery, all with national camera crews delivering searing images of racist white cops, barking police dogs, rubber truncheons, and firehoses. An appalled American North watched in righteous indignation.

Bear Bryant's football team was so…classy, but they were white, white, white. Most of the pollsters were indeed Northerners who looked upon the South with  a sense of superiority. As the so-called "poll bowls," the important season-ending rivalry games approached, 'Bama's position in American society was part of the equation. It was an obstacle for them, but it was not insurmountable. They also had one advantage, which was that they would go to the Sugar Bowl against Nebraska, while neither Notre Dame (by virtue of school policy) and Michigan State (because of the "no repeat" rule) would be bowling.

Assessing Bear Bryant and Alabama's place in collegiate football history is a tricky business. Alabama fans are as touchy about this subject as a jilted bride. Bear is an icon, a god to them. 'Bama football is religion. On paper, they have few peers. Statistically, Bryant's team was the best of the 1960s and '70s, the two decades of Bear's greatest impact. Their supporters point to this as proof positive that they were the unquestioned, superior team of the land for 20 years. In the subjective world of "whose number one?" they consider their national titles, their undefeated and once-defeated seasons, their overall record, as the Holy Grail, the Word which cannot be argued with.

But there are chinks in the armor, and not just the fact that two of their national championships are tarred by bowl defeats. Certainly there are no USC fans who sit around arguing that the 1968 Trojans were the "national champions" that year because they were unbeaten going into the Rose Bowl game. They lost to Ohio State, and that was that.  Distinguishing between legitimate sports analysis and "liberal bias," when the subject is Alabama in the 1960s, is a hard separation to make. "Liberal enemy number one" in Alabama, circa 1965-66, was Jim Murray.

Murray was considered the best sportswriter of his generation. Many think he is the best who ever lived. He was a Connecticut native with a sense for social pathos. He had come up through Hollywood, where he covered Marilyn Monroe and star attractions of the 1950s for Time magazine. He approached Time-Life legend Henry Luce about a magazine with lots of pictures and short, easy prose about celebrities. Luce told him nobody would read such a thing. WhenPeople magazine was eventually launched, Murray received no credit much less compensation.

In 1961 Murray took over a column for the Los Angeles Times. Just as Dr. Topping had decided to turn USC into a top academic institution in the 1960s, so too did Times' publisher Otis Chandler. Hiring and empowering Murray was the first big step in accomplishing the task of creating a world-class newspaper on par with the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Murray quickly rose in national prominence, his work syndicated and read with great influence from coast to coast. In the days before ESPN, cable and the Internet, Murray was the king of sports media. 

The day after 'Bama lost in the Orange Bowl, as they were limping back to Tuscaloosa with the lame duck "national title" drooped around their necks, Murray's January 1965 column was a biting one:

 

Ha!

"National" champion of what? The Confederacy.

This team hasn't poked its head above the Mason-Dixon Line since Appomattox. They've almost NEVER played a Big 10 team. One measly game with Wisconsin back in 1928 is all I can find. They lost.

This team wins with the Front-Of-The-Bus championship every year - largely with Pennsylvania quarterbacks. How can you win a "national" championship playing in a closet? How can you get to be "number one" if you don't play anybody but your kinfolks? How do you know whether these guys are kicking over baby carriages or slaying dragons…?

…You can't be "numero uno" in the bullring slaughtering cows. They have to be certified bulls and they have to fight back. When 'Bama beats these, THEN we'll give them the ears and throw flowers in the ring. Until then, don't make me laugh.

 

It is does not take a great deal of knowledge about the persecution/inferiority complex of white Southerners of this era to know that Murray's column was met with about as much praise as the Emancipation Proclamation. It would not be the last time he would wound these people.

What Southerners of today say in defense of Murray's theme, which was entirely true insofar as it related to the regional nature of the Tide's schedule, especially when compared to USC and UCLA - national teams who played everybody anywhere and had been doing it for a long time - is this: the Tide did eventually integrate, they did eventually open up and play a national schedule, and their record did not get worse. It got better.

So there.

In making the argument that McKay's Trojans were the better team of the era, it is important to make note of this fact. For the most part, giving the edge to the Trojans (or Notre Dame, another mighty contender) is a matter of extolling their virtues, not putting down the Tide. There is little to put down on the field. But a couple of distinctions make the difference.

The first is the belabored fact that USC was the integrated team playing the tougher schedule, which is not a small factor. The second is that USC earned two Heismans, and Alabama none. The third is that USC had more pro players and more All-Americans. When everything else is fairly equal, all of this combined is the closer.

As for the press, Murray was of course not the only one. Red Smith of the New York Times was just as influential, perhaps even more widely read. He had no great love for what Alabama stood for in those days. 

Allen Barra, an Alabama native and respected sportswriter, called Murray's comments "cheap shots with one legitimate punch" in his 2005 biography, The Last Coach: The Life and Times of Paul "Bear" Bryant. Barra correctly pointed out that Alabama regularly traveled to the Rose Bowl in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, laying some very good West Coast teams out to waste. Barra stated that those West Coast teams were "just as segregated" as Alabama, which is not true. The West Coast teams were almost all white, but the racial climate in the West was so much better that it is not worth commenting on. There were scattered black players, including some superstars, on various USC, UCLA and other teams.

Barra did demonstrate that Bryant's team had beaten an integrated Oklahoma team in the 1963 Orange Bowl. Murray would have quibbled that OU was more South than Western, and not exactly color-blind. Bud Wilkinson is a pioneer of football opportunity for blacks in a part of the world that is much less hospitable to them than L.A. or San Francisco. The game, of course, was not played north of the Mason-Dixon Line. 

It is also true that most teams did not travel out of their regions much in those days. Airplane travel was a bit more complicated. Schools were stricter about students missing class. The TV money had not yet made it quite as big a business as it later became. But a look at USC's schedule shows that they indeed did travel. They had played Southern teams on the road for many years by the mid-1960s. The USC-Notre Dame and Big 10-PCC rivalry alone simply made inter-sectional play common for the teams in these conferences. Notre Dame traveled even more, of course, as they were an independent. 

With Notre Dame and Michigan State ranked one and two in 1966, Alabama fans hoped for a tie in the era before overtime. The Irish had a huge challenge: Michigan State at East Lansing and USC at the Coliseum.

The teams met up at Spartan Stadium on national TV, but the sight of black stars - particularly Michigan State lineman Bubba Smith and quarterback Jimmy Raye - could not help remind people that justice was being served in Michigan but not in 'Bama. 

Notre Dame had the edge over everybody going in. America was just ready to anoint them as the "kings of college football" two years earlier, until Craig Fertig & Co. had gone to work on that. This team was back, much superior to the '64 club that had essentially fooled their way past everybody. The 1966 Irish are regarded as one of the great college teams ever assembled. Sophomore quarterback Terry Hanratty was injury prone but spectacular, a much better passer than Huarte. Running backs Bob Gladieux and Larry Conjar were cut out of the "old school cloth"; bruisers. Center George Goeddeke was an All-American. Jim Seymour and Nick Eddy were potent offensive weapons. 

Halfback Rocky Bleir was as tough as nails. He would serve in Vietnam, where he was wounded. In the military hospital where he was about to undergo surgery, the doctor told him he was a USC man who had seen him beat his Trojans. The SC doctor's assurance that he would take care of him was lived up to. Bleir's surgery was successful. He rehabilitated, and made it to the NFL for a successful career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

USC running back Rod McNeill was an L.A. area high school kid in 1966, but Notre Dame made quite an impression on him. Noting the names - Gladieux, Goeddeke, Rocky Bleir - they sounded and looked like gladiators.

"To me, those were the names, Eastern European names," said McNeill, "that meant 'football players'…tough guys you didn't mess with."

They were just that. 17 years had past since their last national title. The writers wanted to see them do it again. Aside from the Northern bias against Alabama, of course, there was the ever-present threat of the "Catholic vote."

"The Pope's team" would get the vote of Catholic sportswriters in the East. In a close call it would make the difference. Everybody knew it. They would have to be beaten in order to have it taken from them.

Michigan State was just as tough. Smith and George Webster anchored one of the most dominating defenses in history. The Spartans jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but Notre Dame rallied to tie it. The teams then settled into a conservative defensive struggle, resembling armies lobbing bombs at each over "No Man's Land" in the trench warfare of World War I France. Unlike the Great War, when the Americans at the Argonne pulled the military version of the long touchdown drive to win the war, no such bold moves were attempted by Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty or Parseghian.

 The difference between Parseghian and John McKay would be made obvious on several occasions, with McKay getting the better of the comparison by virtue of his willingness to go for courage over timidity, boldness or blandness, winning over tying. Parseghian's weak-kneed efforts at East Lansing in 1966 would tarnish his reputation and legacy. It was controversial and would reverberate from Los Angeles to Tuscaloosa and all points in between.

The Irish got the ball in their own territory with less than two minutes to play. Parseghian ran it into the line, making no effort to mount a drive and a make try at the game-winning field goal. He had the "Catholic vote" in the back of his mind. According to his calculations he just needed to run out the clock not only in this game but in the national championship race.

The Michigan State people felt that such a cowardly act should not be rewarded. Of course, the fact that they were right did not mean it would happen. Alabama had gotten just what they thought they needed. A clear winner with neither of the other teams bowl-bound would leave them as "lame ducks" on New Year's. But now

Now they could say, with a Sugar Bowl victory over Nebraska, they would be unbeaten, untied and bowl victorious. It would erase the 1964 illegitimacy. Very likely this scenario would have played itself out exactly in this manner if not for the events of November 26 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

 

88,520 crossed the turnstiles to see the battered but Rose Bowl-bound Trojans take on the behemoths of South Bend, the "best of the East vs. the best of the West," as Marv Goux referred to this game. On this day, the "best of the West" was probably sitting at home in Westwood.

Hanratty was injured, watching from crutches on the sidelines. His replacement, Coley O'Brien, was up to the task. 

"The Irish lit into unlucky USC with such force it was hard to see how they could have been any better," read the game summary. "Coley O'Brien threw passes long and short all over Memorial Coliseum. End Jim Seymour caught 11 - two for touchdowns - and Nick Eddy and Larry Conjar pounded through the shocked Trojans. Net result: 255 yards passing, 206 rushing, 31 first downs and a 51-0 slaughter."

It was two points worse than the 49-0 1948 Rose Bowl loss to Michigan. Six different Irish players scored, three on passes by O'Brien. Southern California, wishing Mike Garrett was not playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, was held to minus 12 first half rushing yards and 46 in all. 

"Well, USC will show up in the Rose Bowl January 2 all right, but first we'll have to put 'em in a sack for you," wrote one biting columnist.

"It may take a while to find all the pieces. When Notre Dame got through with them they looked like a watch that had been dropped from the Empire State Building. 

"This Notre Dame can't play in states that ban capital punishment.

"USC made lots of mistakes, not the least of which was showing up. To show you how bad things were its mascot quit in the third quarter.

"Notre Dame used to win one for the Gipper. It is now winning one for Old United Press. USC scored a moral victory in holding the Irish scoreless during half time.

"Of course, the Trojans - who won the Rose Bowl bid even though they had to be revived to be told - had spent all week being told how bad they were until they vowed to do something about it. They did. They confirmed it."

"That's the best college football team I've ever see," said McKay in a statement that may have been the clincher.

The voters had a lot to think about. Beating USC 51-0 was just too much to ignore, especially in Los Angeles. Notre Dame got the nod. Of course without going to a bowl game, that clinched it for them.

What is telling, however, is the fact that both the AP and the UPI picked Michigan State number two, despite their tie (and no bowl game) over Alabama, who behind the great Kenny Stabler took care of an integrated Nebraska Cornhusker squad in the New Orleans Sugar Bowl (which is still not north of the Mason-Dixon Line). This was a testament to how good everybody really thought Notre Dame was.

Of course, the polls were a source of great controversy. Almost nobody could find a lot good to say about them. The creation of the United Press International poll in 1950 had muddied the waters. The writers voted in the UPI, the coaches in the AP. This was a dynamic in and of itself. Popular coaches (like Bear Bryant) could benefit. Regional voting was epidemic. The SEC voted for the SEC; the Pacific Coast Conference (the AAWU for a few years in between the PCC and the Pac 8) voted for itself. The Big 10 liked the Big 10. Etc., etc. 

There was the very real possibility of split national champions. There were polls that made their final vote prior to the bowls, but this practice was somewhat random; sometimes the final vote was before, sometimes after. It was not until the mid-1970s that both stuck to and stayed with the after-New Year's bowl vote policy.

But the problem had gotten worse in the 1960s. The bowl games were major spectacles, with huge crowds and student bodies chanting, "We're number one!" after victories. TV and the media had upped the ante. What seemed as obvious then as it is today was the need for a play-off. If Michigan State, Notre Dame and Alabama played each other in elimination games, it would have been a donnybrook. Naturally, the question of seeding would have been critical, but Ara playing first for a tie then running up the score on his rival would not have been necessary.

The success of the basketball Final Four, otherwise known as "March Madness," and in recent years the College World Series, would seemingly spur the NCAA into going for a January play-off, but the school presidents are no closer to this solution now than in 1967.

Three years later, the poll situation was at issue again. Texas beat Arkansas in the next "game of the century," then beat Notre Dame in their first bowl appearance since 1925, at the Cotton Bowl. President Richard Nixon had attended the Arkansas game in Fayetteville. He stunned a lot of people by "announcing" that Darrell Royal's Longhorns were the national champions.

Beating Notre Dame had seemingly clinched it, but Penn State was unbeaten and untied for the second year in a row. Despite a 30-game winning streak, coach Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions had to settle for second in the AP and UPI polls. This time, the so-called "Eastern bias" worked against Penn State; many felt Eastern football was below the standards of the West, the Midwest and the South. In 1968, despite finishing unbeaten, Penn State had finished behind once-beaten, once-tied USC in the UPI poll. 

What is a further interesting dichotomy is that Texas, a Southern school, had won in a poll over an Eastern school. In fact another Southern team, once-beaten Arkansas, had placed third ahead of unbeaten Southern California in the UPI poll. What is interesting about this, of course, is that Texas (and Arkansas) were both all white. This takes away a little bit of Alabama's argument that the 1966 vote had been based strictly on the segregation issue. Texas would be the last all-white national champion in college football history. Wilbur Jackson would break the "color barrier" at 'Bama, Roosevelt Leaks at Texas.   

 

According to Jim Perry, who co-wrote McKay: A Coach's Story, the USC boss took the 51-0 loss hard. It is said that he vowed never to lose to Notre Dame again, but this is not entirely accurate. He stated he would never be beaten in that manner again. McKay watched the game film at his home late every night for the next year, along with the 1965 20-16 loss to UCLA. He had a sensitive side. His sarcasm was cover for that. He was a moody man, perhaps even clinically depressed, but he was of the old school, the one that says "shake it off," "suck it up," and "bite the bullet."

McKay heard what people said. He had the horses (and not just their mascot), but was being out-coached by Tommy Prothro, maybe even by Ara Parseghian. He would take it personally and go back to the drawing board, but before any of that he still had to get his team ready for the Rose Bowl vs. Purdue.

USC dealt with a great deal of criticism. They had of course lost to UCLA, but snuck in on nothing more than a technicality, really. They had played one more conference game, and that alone was the deciding factor despite the fact that they were 7-3 and the Bruins a sterling 9-1. However, it seemed "fair" only in comparison to how they had been jaked out of the 1965 Rose Bowl despite the amazing comeback over the Irish.

Their opponent, Purdue, was no football power. They produced great engineers, including (like USC) astronauts. Gus Grissom, one of the original Mercury astronauts who died in a tragic launching pad fire, earned his Master's degree from there. But brainiacs were not the only thing coming out of West Lafayette, Indiana. They had entered into one of if not the best periods in the school's grid history. 

Nevertheless, like the Trojans they were a lame duck, having finished second in their conference behind Michigan State. The press dubbed it the "Vindication Game." In many ways it lived up to that billing. The Trojans entered the contest at a decided disadvantage, with nine players declared ineligible because of a failure to transfer the necessary 48 credits from junior colleges. End Ron Drake (52 catches) and safety Mike Battle, a sparkplug, were their most important losses.

"I don't pay attention to the press because they don't pay attention to me," lied McKay, still smarting from the Notre Dame fiasco, when asked to comment on the "second class status" of the game. "I know I'm angry about it all and I hope the players are, too. I expect a great game from them."

What was not "second class" was Purdue's quarterback, Bob Griese. He was significantly better than anybody at USC, Notre Dame or Michigan State. He, Florida's Steve Spurrier (the Heisman recipient) and Alabama's Kenny Stabler were the greatest talents in college football. 100,807 fans showed up with high expectations.

"Without Bob Griese, well, we just wouldn't be here," said Boilermaker coach Jack Mollenkopf.

Griese is of course remembered for quarterbacking the Miami Dolphins to an undefeated season in 1972, but the future NFL Hall of Famer was a Frank Gifford-type throwback who punted, kicked and ran like a halfback.

Griese led Purdue on two touchdown drives, with fullback Percy Williams bulling in for both scores. Don McCall made a second quarter Southern California touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Troy Winslow hit Rod Sherman (who had been drafted but would not sign until season's end), for a 34-yard gain, but they were unable to get it in once they entered the "red zone." Some miscues on both sides followed. With two and a half minutes to play, trailing 14-7, Winslow passed to Sherman for a 19-yard touchdown. Now the anti-Parsheghian, McKay, made the bold gamble to go for two.

"We had no thought of playing for a tie," said McKay. "Even if we had tied it up, Purdue could have worked Griese's short passes to the sidelines after we kicked off, and they could have moved within short range of a field goal."

Sherman Lawrence and Ray Cahill lined up right on the two-point try. Sherman and Cahill criss-crossed in the end zone. Lawrence then veered right. Winslow made a good throw, but Purdue's George Catavolos saw it develop and made the interception.

Catavolos told the media that he knew USC "couldn't run on us," and that his play was made possible by the other defender, John Charles, interrupting the best pass catcher, Sherman. 

Lawrence said Catavolos's interception was a major surprise. He saw the ball right into his hands, but the Boilermaker snatched it almost out of his hands.  

"John McKay, the old black-jack player, hit 13 and broke in the Rose Bowl," wrote Bud Furillo in the L.A. Herald Examiner.

"McKay reasserted the old credo that if a man must go, he should go with honor," wrote the Herald Examiner's Mel Durslag.   

"The Trojans died with their boots on and their guns out…let the record show that the Trojans bet the hand, and walked out the swinging doors like John Wayne," wrote Jim Murray in the Times. "They showed up for the shoot-out."

"Well, things haven't changed much in 3,000 years," another reporter chimed in, apparently in reference to Catavolos. "The Greeks are still beating the Trojans."

"In 1960 against TCU we went for two points and lost 7-6," McKay recalled. "At Iowa in 1961 we went for two points and lost, 35-34. Against Pittsburgh in 1961 we went for two points and lost, 10-9.

"If we lose, my assistants get the blame," he laughed. "If we win, I get the credit. I haven't much credit lately."

Jack Mollenkopf said he devised his offensive schemes based on McKay's appearance at a 1962 coaching clinic. Purdue went to the I formation after that. 

"McKay didn't win today," another reporter stated, "but credit must go to a man who feels that honorable defeat is not too high a price to pay for a shot at undying glory."

USC finished 18th in the UPI rankings. Nate Shaw, a fast, under-appreciated defensive back out of Lincoln High and San Diego City College, earned All-American honors in 1966. He went on to play for the great 1969 Ram team that lost a frozen December Play-Off game to Joe Kapp's Vikings in Minnesota. For six years he was on the SC coaching staff (1980-86).

In the 1967 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh chose Ray May. Don McCall went to New Orleans. Detroit selected big Jerry Hayhoe, while Jerry Homan was a choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

JUICE

The glory days of O.J. Simpson

 

What is there to say about Orenthal James "O.J." Simpson: Trojan legend, NFL record-breaker, Hollywood celebrity, infamous "criminal": that has not already been said!?

O.J. is one of those people in American society who is instantly recognizable by his first name - as in Michael Jordan - or by his initials, as in his case. That is the way it was when he was a mere college junior. The familiarity reflected nothing but a positive glow on this American icon for decades; until June 13, 1994.

O.J. is at once a source of some, if not the greatest, pride in the history of USC sports. For that very reason, his fall from grace caused great anguish, embarrassment and public humiliation for the school that made him and then suffered because of him. O.J.'s murder accusation and subsequent trial came on the heels of the L.A. riots (1992) and a major earthquake in Northridge (1994). USC's football team had fallen into mediocrity. A stray bullet from a drive-by shooting that struck a player (injuring him but not seriously) in practice just added to the feeling that the paint was peeling on the school and the city.

Opposing schools taunted USC with card tricks, chants, slogans, "mug shot" posters and marching band routines all spun around the theme of Troy's greatest hero being a man capable of double homicide. His tragedy is an American Shakespeare tale, that of a poor black kid who gets everything, then has to settle into a long twi-light zone of public humiliation and hatred.

However, O.J.'s effect on America is even worse than his effect on his alma mater. His trial revealed schisms in American racial relations that pulled the veneer of California moderation, in concert with the horrendous Rodney King beating and subsequent black reaction to its aftermath. USC has recovered from O.J. The school turned itself into an elite academic institution. Just when people thought such an accomplishment could only be done at the expense of football, they proved that theory wrong, as Notre Dame and a small handful of others have done. Too many great memories and gigantic accomplishments have since been performed on the fields of strife in front of too many people for the Stanford's, the Cal's or any other comparable unimpressives to bring up O.J. in the halftime P.R. wars.

But the racial climate, one that O.J. was so much a part of - the smiling kid from San Francisco's Potrero Hill, arm in arm with black and white teammates at USC and in Buffalo - which forged the path towards the 1970 USC-Alabama game that changed a nation; that climate was found to be a façade of sorts. Just as the 1970 USC Trojans who went in to Birmingham to foil the segregated Tide was not racially harmonious after all, neither was Los Angeles, California and points east.

Simpson is, outside of John Wayne, probably USC's most famous athlete. He held that "title" before and after his wife's murder. One can argue who is most famous among USC alumni: filmmaker George Lucas, astronaut Neil Armstrong, General Norman Schwarzkopf, director Ron Howard, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, newsman Sam Donaldson, or athletes of great fame like Simpson, Frank Gifford, Tom Seaver, and now incredibly, Matt Leinart. 

O.J.'s story began on July 9, 1947 in San Francisco. He grew up in the projects that connect Potrero Hill, Hunter's Point and Candlestick Point. Blacks had moved in to San Francisco to work the shipyards that extend from Candlestick Point, where the 49ers current stadium is, to points northward along the industrial bayshore. This is the unglamorous part of San Francisco, covering about six or seven miles to the China Basin. "Dirty Harry" Callahan was also investigating a grisly crime scene in these neighborhoods in the successful Clint Eastwood franchise, a brainchild of USC's John Milius.

Today, SBC Park (or whatever corporation has paid for the rights), the Giants' glittering ballyard, has created bright lights and nightlife in China Basin, but the building of Candlestick Park never did bring glamour to Simpson's neighborhood. No hint of it exists to this day. Factories, slaughterhouses, dangerous bars and gang activity mark the windswept neighborhoods of the Bayview. In these neighborhoods, young O.J. grew up and often got into trouble.

His father came in and out of his life, a troubled man beset by personal demons. He was never a real factor. O.J.'s mother was a typical black matriarch of the Great Society, holding together a family through work, faith and welfare checks. She had a sister who brainstormed the exotic name Orenthal James, but her own kids were all Stewart, Stanley or Pam. Simpson ran in a gang, but in those days "gangs" were semi-tough street football teams that did a little robbery on the side. Nothing serious by today's Uzi standards. O.J. did learn how to defend himself. He also learned qualities of leadership, since the others looked to him for "direction," misguided as it may have been at that time.

His buddy since childhood was Al Cowlings; a big, tall man, a follower of O.J. who idolized him. He would do anything for him. O.J. was a great athlete, good looking, smooth with the ladies. He could talk himself out of scrapes with the law. The local Boys Club, a few unsung black elders who coached teams, and sports in general, gave Simpson and Cowlings direction.

They ended up at Galileo High School, across town in the prosperous Marina District, next to the famed North Beach neighborhoods where Joe DiMaggio and the great Italian-American baseball stars of San Francisco grew up by the bushel. Galileo offered O.J. a chance to get a decent high school education in a good environment, but it was a trade-off. The high schools near his house had more blacks, and thus better teams, but his mom wanted him to be safe, not sorry.

Galileo had at one time been one of America's great sports high schools, but The City had lost its prep sports glow by the time O.J. arrived on the scene. The Irish and Italian families were all moving to Marin County or the peninsula. In their place were Oriental families.

When O.J. and Cowlings went out for football at Gal, they discovered that many of their teammates were indeed Oriental. They made great mathematicians and scientists. They matriculated in enormous numbers to the University of California-Berkeley, across the bay. They could not block for O.J. Simpson worth a lick.

Scouts were impressed by O.J. at Gal. He had size and speed, but he was not yet the talent that he would become. His teams were mediocre and so too were his grades. College feelers were put out, but O.J. was too raw to secure real commitments.

City College of San Francisco, located on a bluff overlooking a working class neighborhood that was home to the Cow Palace, where Barry Goldwater had accepted the 1964 Republican Presidential nomination, "recruited" O.J. They had no reputation in the unheralded world of junior college football. Fullerton J.C. in Orange County was strong. A few other L.A.-area J.C.'s., and the central valley, too, took their juco football seriously, but City College was an unlikely place to develop a dynasty. Certainly, the depleted talent level of The City's high school programs did not offer any kind of pipeline.

However, The City itself was a recruiting tool. Kids from all over the state, indeed all over the country, who were not quite good enough to get scholarships to four-year schools, were enticed by the prospect of a year or two in an exciting West Coast city. Today, CCSF has firmly established itself as the greatest junior college football program of all time. It is possible that they never would have gotten off the ground in their efforts had it not been for O.J. Simpson.

O.J. broke every single juco rushing and scoring record on the books as a freshman at CCSF. He literally ran wild. He was the finest junior college athlete ever. He carried his team to the state title, and in the winter of 1965-66 was America's most highly recruited, sought-after athlete. He also had terrible grades. Combined with his academic non-performance at Galileo, O.J. was just not able to transfer as an academically eligible scholarship athlete to any major school.

Marv Goux spent his freshman year all but living with O.J. Three year earlier, when USC had beaten Wisconsin in the 1963 Rose Bowl, O.J. had watched the game on TV. He had fallen in love with everything about the school; the Cardinal and Gold colors shining through on a new color television set, the bright-eyed students in a sun-splashed Rose Bowl on a day in which much of America shivers. He loved John McKay's I formation, the explosive new offensive sets that produced 42 points. He loved the horse Traveler, USC's mascot, a magnificent stallion ridden by a rider dressed as a Trojan warrior, sword in hand, who would circle the stadium in triumph whenever Troy scored, which was often.

Goux did not have to sell O.J., but the grade issue was a problem. He would have to stay at CCSF and pick up an Associate in Arts degree if he hoped to gain admittance to Southern California.

O.J. chafed to get away from home, to play against older, better players, to test himself. Idaho State stepped forward and told him that they would waive their academic requirements so he come out and play. So, too, did Arizona State and Utah. O.J. was ready to go. He even packed his bags. Goux got wind of it. He immediately took off for the airport and the next flight to San Francisco.

He caught O.J. in time, told him that good things come to those who wait, and that the University of Southern California was a thing worth waiting for. O.J. agreed with Goux.

The USC coaches "talked me into holding out for the big time," he said. "That is the luckiest thing that ever happened to me, even if I did have to spend another year going to junior college."

But after the coach left O.J. wavered. He was counseled by a group of "wise men" at CCSF that included school president Louis "Dutch" Conlan and a former prep track coaching legend, now a lawyer and business law instructor at City College, named Donald E. Travers. These influences helped convince O.J. to play one more year of junior college ball.

In that year, 1966, O.J. again led City College to an oddly-named Prune Bowl victory, a state title, and a mythical national championship. He broke all of his freshman records. Having completed another year of school with improved grades, he now was recruited by everybody with a pulse. It was, however, a fait accompli that he would be a Trojan.

O.J. moved to L.A. with his girlfriend, Marguerite, who he would marry while still in school. To the long-time denizens of Los Angeles, when asked who has presented the greatest thrills, varied answers range from "Kirk Gibson's homer in the World Series"; to the assorted basketball heroics of Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal; to John Wooden's Bruins; along with many other storied teams, players, and events. But most people tend to speak about two players: Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers and O.J. Simpson of the Trojans.

O.J. performed during turbulent times. The Vietnam War raged, the Middle East was in conflict, the nation was being torn apart. But USC sailed on calm waters. O.J. was asked questions as if his athletic prowess made him an expert, but his wide smile and quick wit served him well. When asked his opinions about the Middle East, he said that he had only been to Detroit once.

When he carried the football 42 times, McKay was questioned about it.

"The ball's not heavy," McKay drawled, "and he's not in a union."

It was a more personable variation on Paul Brown's theory regarding Jim Brown.

"When you have a big gun," said Coach Brown, "you shoot it."

"If you don't have O.J. carrying 35 to 40 times a game," said McKay, "it would be like having Joe DiMaggio on your team and only letting him go to bat once a game."

"He was big, six-twoish, lean, and ran a legit nine-four in the 100-yard dash, he was a national class sprinter, a smart runner, durable," said Levy on The History of USC Football DVD. "You can't ask for more."

"It's no wonder he fit perfectly in McKay's I fomation, carrying 30 to 40 times a game, and he was fabulous," said Garrett.

Out of the I formation, Simpson was a whirling dervish who had everything. At 6-2, 207 pounds, he possessed enough size, strength and attitude to bowl defenders over in Brown's fashion, but he was faster than Brown, with incredible moves both between the tackles and in the open field. Against UCLA he managed to carry four Bruins on his back for the better part of 10 yards into the end zone. Simpson's all-time play was called "22-23 blast." It was a quick opener, like most of McKay's schemes not fancy, based on his speedy finding of the hole. He averaged 32 carries per game over two years and dealt with pain, but he was tough as nails. He also perfected the art of the slow recovery after the tackle.

Simpson would act like a man on his last legs, meandering on back to the huddle as if unable to walk another step.  It was half-real, half-fake. When the next play started, though, he was off to the races. 

Simpson led USC to the 1967 national championship. He finished behind UCLA quarterback Gary Beban in the Heisman Trophy balloting, but that was a joke. Beban was a senior and Simpson a junior college transfer, but Simpson stood so far head and shoulders above Beban that it should not have been close.  

He won the Heisman in 1968, set national records for yards gained in a season (1,880 in 1968) and in a career (3,540, more than any three- or four-year careers prior to his). He scored 36 touchdowns.

Simpson was an Olympic-quality sprinter on USC's national championship track team, running a spectacular 9.4 100-yard dash. By the time he left, the media was strongly recommending that in the 100 years that college football had been played through the 1968 season, O.J. was the greatest player who had ever lived. This of course took into consideration such stalwarts as Jim Thorpe of Carlisle, Red Grange of Illinois, Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis of Army, Doak Walker of Southern Methodist, Billy Cannon of Louisiana State, Roger Staubach of Navy, or a host of other contenders. He was the future of football, the new breed, something never quite seen before. 

Opposing players were in awe of his ability but had only praise for his demeanor. He congratulated opponents on good hits, called them by their first names, never spiked the ball, never got in people's "faces." 

Sportswriters were equally impressed. Many stated simply that he was the "nicest," the "most gracious" and the "easiest to talk to" of any athlete they ever dealt with. Simpson gave of his time, whether the writer was with the Los Angeles TimesSports Illustrated, or the student newspaper of that week's opponent. Despite having grown up in a ghetto, Simpson quickly belied questions of his intelligence, which had been raised because of his mediocre high school grades. 

Simpson displayed intellect, articulation and ease of language. He showed humility and intelligence on a wide range of subject matter. It was a complete reversal of the caricature that USC's detractors had made of him coming in. It dispelled all the myths about his character. 

When Simpson won the Heisman, he went above and beyond the call of duty in praising his teammates, his coaches, and above all else, his linemen!

"I want to emphasize that this is a team award, and the guys on the team won it as much or more than I did," Simpson said at his news conference. This is a truer statement than many people realize. The Heisman is very much a team award, and is won by a program. Credit is due even to that school's sports information department. It is much less individualistic in nature than the professional Most Valuable Player awards. The Heisman is a major factor in upgrading a program's prestige among the press, recruits and the historians judging their place in the pantheon of greatness.

When O.J. was at USC, his initials became a catch-phrase. A popular chain of orange juice stores came into being. They made a tasty concoction of oranges and ice cream, calling it "Orange Julius." It quickly was shortened by patrons to "O.J." Whether the store was named after the player or the player was named after the store is a bit confusing to this day, but the "Juice" part stuck. Simpson occasionally signed his autographs "O. Jay Simpson," but newspaper headlines quickly threw in the "Juice" appellation when describing USC's winning ways.

Despite O.J.'s physical stature, he had been sickly as a young boy because he lacked calcium in his bones, possibly suffering from rickets. Another great African-American athlete of the era, Cardinal pitching ace Bob Gibson, had dealt with similar disabilities as a kid, but both men had grown to the heights of physical greatness.

It is important to note the importance of sports among black kids, which gets to the heart of why integrating Southern colleges became so important. In O.J.'s case, having grown up near Candlestick Park, he gravitated towards the Giants, a team in the early 160s known for having excellent black and Latino stars. O.J.'s idol was the great center fielder, Willie Mays. Mays would give of his time to the young black kids hanging around the park. O.J. was one of them.

O.J. had the good fortune of getting good advice. His coach at Galileo, Larry McInerny, talked him into believing he could play college football instead of joining the Army.

"You'll never get anywhere letting people give you stuff," people told him, and O.J. took it to heart.

When O.J. starred at CCSF, Mays got involved.

"You have an unusual talent," he told the kid. 

O.J. rushed for 2,552 yards and 54 touchdowns (national records) at City College. He carried 17 times for 304 yards against San Jose City College, with scoring runs of 73, 58, 14, 88, and 16 yards, plus 27 on a pass play! 

Goux was straight with him. Despite his talents, Goux did not fawn all over him as so many recruiters do. He recognized O.J. had a sense of pride about his ability to fend for himself, developed on the streets but nurtured by coaches along the way. Goux told him he would have to earn his chance to play at USC. The program recruited superstars from all over the country. Rumor has it that one player from Texas was as talented as O.J., but did not have his drive. According to the story, McKay spotted him picking daisies during an on-field team meeting. The kid, who by then saw that O.J. was the "the man," was quickly gone from the scene.

O.J. enjoyed "straight talk," not being "jived to." Goux was the king of straight talk. 

Regarding other schools, "They were offering me everything in the world," he recalled. "I'd get this and that, be first string, everything. But Marv Goux, an assistant at USC, made it clear." 

"We aren't going to offer you a darned thing," Goux told him. "We'll give you the chance to play for Southern Cal and become a Trojan. I watched you play and if you want you can star there. But you'll have to work. You're the one who has to make it your own way."

O.J. liked what he heard and "when I got there, the fellows I met impressed me. All of them were All-Americans."

"When he first got here and ran inside," said McKay, "he fumbled too often." O.J. was not used to the hot Southern California sun after growing up in foggy San Francisco. He later recalled practices under McKay and Goux as resembling a Marine training camp. 

"Two guys held big, five-foot-long bags," Simpson later said. "They gave you a stiff belt as you took off. You banged through with power. Another big bag was about two yards away. Now you must turn light-footed. They then threw heavy air bags at your feet and knees. You learned to hit, elude, and make moves on the defensive backs."

"He kept at and at it, as if to say: 'This is where I am going to make my name,' " said McKay. What McKay and his staff were successful in doing was turning O.J. from a strictly broken-field runner to a power back who could hit the holes.

A 49-0 win over Washington State marked O.J.'s entry into big-time collegiate football. 

Simpson's second game had national championship implications when 67,705 came to the Coliseum to watch a night game against the fifth-ranked Texas Longhorns. Texas wanted revenge, for the 1966 loss in Austin and perhaps even for the C.R. Roberts 44-20 game of 1956. Prior to the game, McKay got more involved than the usual impassive, sit-in-the-cart role he normally played. McKay the perfectionist began to see that "perfection," such as it is, could be attained. He pushed the players and his staff hard. 

McKay uncharacteristically engaged players on the practice field, shaming some, kicking them off the field for their "failures" to "show" him anything. "Super Bill" Bradley was back. Tailback Chris Gilbert gave McKay cause to worry. 

McKay could not help but get excited over what he saw in Simpson. He favorably compared his young tailback to the Bears' Gale Sayers, an unreal act of hyperbole that had the added virtue of being true. McKay told it like he saw it.

"Simpson is the fastest big man who has ever played football," McKay added. "There are some guys for whom they have made up times, but who never could achieve them if they were tested. Simpson is legitimate. "

Of Ron Yary, McKay said he was "as good as I've ever seen," and at 6-6, 255 pounds Yary was a monster of the day.

McKay switched his psychology on and off each day during the week of the Texas game. He praised and cajoled, yelled and screamed. On Friday night, he switched gears and stated that Texas was "far better." Then he followed that up by stating that while nobody was supposed to run on Texas, that was precisely his intention. It was a replay of his reply to Frank Broyles's comment that "you can't run on Texas."

"Yes I will," was still McKay's mantra.

Texas arrived at the Coliseum like a Noreaster, full of bluster and wind. They scored first but USC, led by O.J., struck back to tie it up. It was 7-7 at the half. McKay, the ultimate halftime coach, went to the blackboard and diagramed a more open second half approach utilizing the amazing speed of wideout Earl McCullough, an Olympic-caliber sprinter. First, quarterback Steve Sogge (subbing for the injured Toby Page) drew Texas in with short passes to the tight ends. McCullough could either be thrown to or made into a decoy. Then, what to do about Simpson? George Patton used to exhort his officers during battle to, "Hold 'm by the nose then kick 'em in the ass." McKay had a similar attitude: "You ran in. They could hardly walk in. Now's the time to put it to them."

It was too much for the Longhorns to handle. Rossovich began to penetrate the Texas line, putting pressure on the Texas backfield. Mike Battle was on their receivers. Sogge was efficient.

O.J. was outstanding, carrying 30 times for 164 yards in a stirring 17-13 Trojan win.

"I doubt if there is a back with more ability than Simpson in the country," said Texas coach Darrell Royal afterwards.

In a 30-0 pasting of Stanford, Simpson ran for 163 yards. USC was now ranked first.

"Winning the number one spot was in the back of our minds," said Sogge. "Even though you don't shoot for the national championship, it's always there." 

 

South Bend 1967: slaying the dragon

On October 14, USC played one of the most important games in its history. They had not defeated Notre Dame at South Bend since 1939, but 59,075 came out to see Simpson and the Trojans. McKay, the coach who watched game film every night for a year, had the All-American superstar he needed to throttle his great foe.

"They had talked about how USC hadn't beaten Notre Dame in South Bend in a long, long time," said Sogge. "It was a tough place to play in. Great for Notre Dame, of course. Their fans have such tremendous enthusiasm."

The 1967 USC-Notre Dame game started, and was part of, the greatest period in the inter-sectional rivalry's history. For McKay, who vowed to never be "beaten like that again," it set in motion a streak that had revisionists saying he had instead stated he "would never let them beat us again."

From 1967 to his last year in 1975, McKay would only lose to Notre Dame once. That was against the 1973 national champions. Some times the games were close, some times they were blowouts. A couple were classics; games that those who saw them call the "best ever played."

McKay's successor, John Robinson, would beat Notre Dame six of his seven years. From 1967 to 1982, the Trojans only lost twice to Notre Dame. South Bend, a place of intimidation, became a place of victory. USC dominated the Irish, at home and on the road. The mystique was gone, the fear replaced by confidence and accomplishment. While Robinson deserves the credit for going 6-1, it was McKay who turned the momentum around.

By the time USC had beaten Notre Dame in 1982 for the fifth consecutive year, a rivalry that had been fairly dominated by Notre Dame was now dominated by USC, and the all-time record between the two was almost even. In the pecking order of college football supremacy, Southern California had ascended to an equal historical footing with, and possibly even was now above, Notre Dame.

But what made it all so great was the fact that USC's dominance came over Notre Dame during one of the greatest eras of their football history. It included the Era of Ara, the Joe Montana years, and Dan Devine's national championship "green jersey" team. Notre Dame never went soft. They were a major power with a total shot at the national title most of those years. Both times they managed to pull off an upset over Southern Cal, they rode the wins (both in South Bend) to the national championship.

The McKay-Parsheghian years (1964-74) and the one McKay-Devine match-up, followed by the Robinson-Devine era, did more for college football than any rivalry ever. Each game was nationally televised with ratings that went through the roof. Color TV was in. The colors of the two teams; USC's Cardinal, Notre Dame's gold; sunny California, the Midwestern blue, gray October skies; pretty Trojan cheerleaders, and layer upon layer of tradition, polish, pride and mutual respect, filled the screens of America's living rooms. The game atmosphere was one like no other, with two private universities and their rich alumni bases going at it amid the pomp and glory of marching band music, student pride, and roaring, capacity crowds.

From 1964 to 1981, every game had an impact on the national title race. One or both teams was solidly in the hunt for number one when they met in 1964 (Irish), 1965 (Irish), 1966 (Irish), 1967 (USC and Notre Dame), 1968 (USC), 1969 (USC), 1970 (Notre Dame), 1971 (Notre Dame), 1972 (USC and Notre Dame), 1973 (USC and Notre Dame), 1974 (USC and Notre Dame), 1975 (USC), 1976 (USC), 1977 (Notre Dame), 1978 (USC and Notre Dame), 1979 (USC), 1980 (Notre Dame) and 1981 (USC). 

Notre Dame won three national titles after beating USC (1966, 1973, 1977). USC won four after beating Notre Dame (1967, 1972, 1974, 1978). USC knocked Notre Dame out of the national title hunt in 1964, 1970, 1971, 1978 and 1980. In the 1967, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1877 and 1978 games, the winner had the inside track and, indeed, did ride it all the way in to the Promised Land.

The beat went on under Robinson and Devine. The ratings were just as hot, the implications just as high, the rivalry just as intense, the national interest at a fever pitch. The national championship was decided or on the line at the time, in one way or another, in each of the five games played between 1976 and 1981. 

USC won in 1976 to give themselves a shot at number one going into the bowls. Both teams were unbeaten in 1977. When Joe Montana and the green-clad Irish won, it propelled them to the title. Both teams had a shot at it in 1978 at the Coliseum. SC won and finished number one. USC won in 1979 and hoped to ride the wave to the title, but a tie forced them into the second spot. In 1980, a probation-stricken USC ended Notre Dame's title hopes. 

The rivalry would become something else, in a way, after 1982. Notre Dame would run off a winning streak. The teams would play each other for number one in 1988 and both teams would still harbor national title dreams when they played in '89, but the remainder of the Lou Holtz era was all Irish. A period of stagnation would follow. The Pete Carroll era looked like a USC victory parade while the Irish struggled. The 2005 game would "wake up the echoes" from South Bend to the South Bay.

The beginning of the 1967 game marked the first of several times in which gamesmanship and team rivalries had flared in confrontation. McKay kept his team in the tunnel for six minutes as "payment" for Notre Dame letting USC stand in the rain an extra 15 minutes in 1965. 

"This time," said McKay, "if Notre Dame had not gone out there first, there just wouldn't have been a game."

In later years, particularly when Lou Holtz coached the Irish, pre-game confrontations resulted in fighting. O.J. was, of course, the star but he had help. Quarterbacks Steve Sogge and Toby Page mostly handed off to him. Page had come out of Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, the "football factory" that produced Huarte, and later Leinart. Sogge was from Gardena High.

"I thought the stands would be mile high, and they would throw rocks and bottles at us." Sogge recalled of the Notre Dame experience in The Trojans: A Story Of Southern California Football by Ken Rappoport.

Notre Dame's crowds are referred to as their "12th man."

"If you were an alien from California, you felt more or less like a man at a convention of lunatics," is how one reporter described the scene in Rappoport's book.

Notre Dame is also known for its excessive rallies held the night before the game.

"On a clear night, and if the windows are open, I can hear them a half-mile away," a South Bend policemen once said. "But that's Notre Dame. I don't worry none about it."

Indeed, Irish fans are rabid but not violent, as befitting a classy institution of wealthy Christians. The question of who has the "best" fans in sports is one that has long been argued. L.A. fans, whether they are rooting for the Trojans, Bruins, Dodgers or Lakers, are laid-back. They arrive late, leave early and are made fun of. They are much better fans than many give them credit for. This is certainly shown through the sheer numbers and dollars spent in the sports marketplace, but they are not the "best" fans.

Foreign soccer fans are probably the most rabid. Brazilians, Englishmen, Germans, Argentineans…they are just plain crazy. Too crazy, as in violent, drunken, dangerous hoodlums. By no means are they the "best."

Boston Red Sox and New York Yankee fans are knowledgeable, rabid and faithful. They are among the best, but in New York particularly can get a bit ugly with the language. The family atmosphere sometimes suffers at Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, especially on Friday nights. Chicago Cub fans are great, long-suffering enthusiasts.

Green Bay Packer fans are totally devoted. They live for their team. So, too are Dallas Cowboy supporters. Oakland Raider fans are more like a cult following, with a touch of criminality mixed in.

The Boston Celtics fans are very knowledgeable and supportive, but some of their old time black players say they could be a little on the racist side. New York Knickerbocker fans resemble 15,000 or so basketball analysts, all venting their opinions at once, in a loud manner.

The "Cameron Crazies" who come out for Duke basketball make for a terrific scene, as do the fans of Indiana, North Carolina and other powers. MacArthur Court at Oregon - "The Pit" -  is said to be the loudest college basketball venue.

In college football, Michigan routinely sells out well over 100,000 seats per game. Their fans are, of course, terrific, but there is a sense of doom; their team is always good, rarely good enough. A similar attitude pervades the Ohio State crowds. The Florida-Georgia game is called the "World's Biggest Outdoor Cocktail Party." LSU fans border on being out of their minds. Alabama lives for the religion of football.

The Army-Navy game? There is nothing to compare it, too. Texas high school fans? That's a story in and of itself.

But out of all these stadiums, one could make the argument that Notre Dame combines all the elements of a perfect sports atmosphere more completely than any other. Their stadium held some 59,000 people (eventually expanding to 80,000) and is sold out as a matter of ritual. They are a perfect blend of students and alumni, who fly in from all over the country, as well as coming in via train and car from nearby Chicago. The draw of the place makes it attractive and hospitable enough to attract the other team's fans, who may feel a bit intimidated but always say the experience is a great one.  

October weather in South Bend is just right. There is none of the oppressive heat or smog that can hang over a game in Los Angeles. The people who attend these games root for their team and razz the opposition, but without the insulting vulgarity that marks the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, or most games in the Southeastern Conference. The Notre Dame fans understand that Southern California is their biggest rival, that the two programs have each promoted the other to the top of the pyramid, and are the two greatest traditions in the land. They are knowledgeable of the game at hand and the history behind it.

Notre Dame may very well have the best fans in sports.

 

The night before the 1967 USC-Notre Dame game, former coach (and always legend) Frank Leahy addressed the rally. He called the student body the "best 12th man that any football team in the entire world has ever known."

"It was a scene that would have made a psychedelic love-in look like a church social," one observer said. "A Green Beret would have turned tail and run. Pregame pep rally? It was a riot."

Okay, sometimes they get a little out of control. Green, yellow and pink toilet tissue flew through the air amid sirens, horns and shouts. They wanted USC blood.

"Southern California has an astounding football team," assistant coach John Ray told the crowd. "And they’ve got a big back named O.J. Simpson, too. But two years ago they had a back named Mike Garrett, and he only made 22 yards here. We respect all teams here, but we fear nobody. NOBODY!"

…And the crowd went wild. 

Signs and banners read:

"Garrett Juice In '65, O.J. Simpson in '67." 

"Irish Love Canned O.J."

"The Headless Trojan" hung in effigy.

"Eat 'em up, Irish," they chanted. 

Religious invocations were shamelessly thrown about. 

"Do it again, do it again," went one chant in reference to the 51-0 beating of 1966, which was the thing that USC's coaches and players took with them, wrapped themselves around, and would use to motivate them.

The stadium on Saturday offered more of the same.

"Get A Trojan For The Gipper," read one banner. Ghosts and mysticisms worthy of Shakespeare's Macbeth were called forth. The entire dynamic of the Catholic school from the Midwest vs. the glitz and glamour of Hollywood added to the atmosphere, lending itself to the "Beat L.A.!" mentality that gave Southern Cal a professional team's aura. The Trojans entering Notre Dame Stadium, as well as most stadiums in most years, were looked upon as larger than life, conquering Roman legions. The biggest, the baddest, the best. Knocking them off their pedestal was job one.

Nicknames marked the 1967 fame. Aside from "Juice" there was Earl "The Pearl" McCullough vs. Notre Dame's "Baby Boomers," Terry Hanratty and receiver Jim Seymour. 

The 1962 season had put SC back on the national map. The 1964 game had intensified the rivalry. But the true nature of a great rivalry is when both teams are equally great, the best the nation has to offer. It is a great rivalry when one team can come into the other's "house" and carry the day. Despite the fact that USC had beaten Notre Dame in many a major victory at the Coliseum over the years, the losing streak in South Bend had hung over their heads long and heavy since 1939. The 1967 game ended it, and started a whole new trend.

Simpson's legend, like many of Notre Dame's opponents over the years, was made that day against the Irish. It turned him into an All-American and a Heisman contender, rare for a junior, unheard-of in a J.C. transfer. Despite the hoopla surrounding him and his team, the "intimidation factor" that is South Bend in Autumn; with "Touchdown Jesus" framed behind the goalposts, the crowd noise and the weight of 28 years of bad memories, was enough to make the Trojans the underdogs.

"Intercollegiate football's most colorful intersectional rivalry will be resumed here tomorrow on another of bizarre notes that have been the rule rather than the exception whenever Southern California and Notre Dame clash," read one Midwestern account.

"Undefeated Southern California, rated number one nationally, is a 12-point underdog. It could happen only in this computer age."

History looked to repeat itself when the Irish jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Then Simpson entered history. He rushed 38 times for 150 yards in a dominating 24-7 victory that left no doubt.

Early on, the game was tentative and dominated by hard defensive hitting. It looked to be a match between linebackers, USC's Adrian Young and Notre Dame's Bob Olson.

"The burly Trojans were just too fast, too quick and too determined," one account read. "It was a bitter defeat for Notre Dame, made almost humiliating by a genuine Irishman from Dublin, one Matthew Adrian Young. Three times he choked off Notre Dame scoring threats within the 12-yard line by intercepting passes. A fourth threat cracked up on a fumble on the four-yard line.

"In all, Young, born in Ireland and raised in California, made four of the Trojans' seven interceptions (five thrown by heralded Terry Hanratty)."
Indeed, Young made his legend that day, too. He was a Dubliner by birth and a Bishop Amat Lancer by high school affiliation. The coach at Bishop Amat was Marv Marinovich's brother, Gary. The Catholic school in La Puente would later be the staging grounds for J.K. McKay, Pat Haden and John Sciarra. It was the top prep football power in California in its heyday.

Young, USC's co-captain in 1967, would earn consensus All-America honors as a 6-1, 210-pound linebacker. He played in the National Football League from 1968-73, with the Eagles, Lions and Bears.

Hanratty, who would be Terry Bradshaw's capable backup on the Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl champions, spent the day clutching his helmet and throwing his hands up before Parseghian in disbelief. 

O.J. had dominated the offensive side of the ball with a one-yard bulldozing through the Notre Dame line, then a 35-yard end sweep for a touchdown. His third touchdown run of three yards in the last quarter clinched it. O.J. had really broken loose in the third quarter, eliciting groans and silence from the Notre Dame faithful. Assistant coach Johnny Ray was heard muttering, "Too many yards, too many."

When O.J. broke free for a long touchdown, Ray just shouted an agonizing, "Nooooooo!!!!"

McKay was carried off the field by his players saying, "This is my greatest win."

"We just had better football players than Ara did and that's why we won," was McKay's blunt assessment. "Southern Cal hadn't won at Notre Dame since 1939 and I was getting awfully tired  of being reminded of this."

After the game, McKay noted in his usual dry manner that at the beginning of the contest, crowd noise had resulted in several offsides penalties assessed to the Trojans. After Simpson took over and USC took command, it "had a quieting effect," he stated. 

McKay would always say this was his most satisfying victory. It was the great turnaround, the dividing line, the demarcation point of the rivalry, and that first major step toward establishing the University of Southern California as a football tradition that people could look at and argue was maybe, just maybe, equal or even better than Notre Dame's. It was that little extra ingredient that their fans could point to and say, "Well, Alabama's great, and so is Oklahoma, but we play Notre Dame, we beat the Irish at their place, we win Heismans, we've got the edge."

"We had them figured," said McKay. "Our people were able to get in the right places. Hanratty was off, and we got him to throw impatiently on a few occasions."

Memories of the 16-14 victory of 1931 were stirred up. The papers revisited the comparisons in the sweet days that followed.

A classic line was uttered by Notre Dame sports publicist Roger Valdiserri, when he said, "Simpson's nickname shouldn't be 'Orange Juice.' It should be 'Oh, Jesus,' as in, 'Oh, Jesus, there he goes again.' "

"The turning point of the 1967 season was that Notre Dame game," said Sogge, who also starred on Rod Dedeaux's baseball team before becoming a catcher in the Dodger chain. "Southern Cal feels that it has to beat Notre Dame, even though it's a non-conference game. There's a tremendous amount of pride going. Everyone talks about the UCLA game, but I never held UCLA in the same esteem as Notre Dame."

Indeed, something had changed in the 1960s. The UCLA rivalry intensified under Tommy Prothro and his successors in the 1970s. The Bruins were a national power, the City Game almost always was for the Rose Bowl, and usually had national title implications, sometimes for both sides. But the 1963 Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin and the national championship that came with it had upped the ante at Troy.

The "wilderness years" in which USC had always lost at South Bend and never finished number one had lowered expectations. The Trojans had become a program that shot for the Rose Bowl and considered that their ultimate goal. Under McKay, just getting to Pasadena was no longer enough. Now, they had a whole laundry list of goals, which included beating both the Bruins and the Irish, getting to and winning the Rose Bowl, and going undefeated with a national championship to top everything off. As unrealistic as these yearly goals may be, it did not take long for USC fans to consider it their "birth right." The fact is, in 1967 there were still plenty of old-timers from the Jones era who still thought it their birth right. Their influence had carried over to younger alums who had never seen Jones's teams. But McKay basically created a football Frankenstein like none other. The 1967 Notre Dame game was its power switch.

The success of the 1967 Trojans was a tremendous accomplishment for McKay. The team was ranked seventh coming in, but they had to replace 11 starting seniors while breaking in a running back and. On top of that, they had to break in not one but two quarterbacks fighting for the job. But the fact that a number of players had been ineligible for the one-point loss to Purdue in the previous year's Rose Bowl had, along with the 51-0 fiasco, created lowered expectations. O.J. very quickly had heightened those expectations. 

Earl McCullough was a speedster left end out of Long Beach Poly High. Defensive end Tim Rossovich from St. Francis High in Mountain View was a terror. Defensive back Mike Battle, who had played with Fred Dryer at Lawndale High, made up for a lack of great size through sheer football attitude. He and Rossovich bordered on mental instability between the lines (and sometimes off the field). Adrian Young was an All-American. Ron Yary came out of Bellflower High School, establishing himself as one of the greatest tackles of all time. McKay did not like to play the "low expectations" game of Parseghian, Rockne and "Gloomy Gus" Henderson. He called it the way it was. While this was his natural tendency, the reality of the L.A. sports market might have played a factor. A coach at Alabama or Notre Dame could say anything and his season would be sold out ahead of time. McKay needed to build enthusiasm in order to sell tickets.

"We'll be better than last year in all ways," he had said. "Better defense, better offense, better passing, better running, better punting. What else is there?"

McKay's caveat was the treacherous schedule. USC in those days played the toughest one in America. 

"It was great to have O.J., not only because he was so good, but because he was so modest," said Sogge. "We all felt very close to O.J., and we were happy that he got such publicity. We never had a morale problem. We were such a closely-knit team because O.J. was such a fine, fine person."

The national press took major attention of the Notre Dame game, calling it the "Poll Bowl." They made note of the fact that in 39 meetings since 1926, "the most important rivalry in modern college football" resulted in the winner has ending up as "the national champion in somebody's poll 14 times."

As the season went on with USC firmly ensconced at the number one position, Simpson put up the numbers and piled up the accolades. Pro scouts drooled over his power, speed and peripheral vision. He was versatile and lacked what McKay called "blinders."

"They see what's in front but can't see what's at the side," he said. "The great ones see the color and numbers of an opponent's jersey. O.J. is the only man I've known who can come back to the huddle and tell who made the key blocks."

 

"The USC-UCLA game is not a matter of life or death. It's more important than that." 

O.J had sustained a slight injury but recovered in time for the UCLA game. In terms of college football games where everything was on the line, the 1967 City Game ranks above all other so-called "games of the century." The combination of the pre-game hype, the special circumstances, the excitement of the game itself, and the results of the season based on its outcome, makes it probably the greatest game ever played at this level. Few if any pro games match it, for that matter.

In 1949, Red Sanders had said, "The USC-UCLA game is not a matter of life or death. It's more important than that." Some would call this statement over-hype. Others, sacrilegious. The City Game is indeed one of the very best college rivalries in the country. Where does it rate?

The USC-Notre Dame game is an entirely different kind of affair. Considering the tradition and sheer importance of the game to college football history, it must rank first. After that, in no particular order, rank the USC-UCLA, Ohio State-Michigan, Nebraska-Oklahoma, Texas-Oklahoma, Alabama-Auburn and Army-Navy games. 

The 2005 Orange Bowl between USC and Oklahoma matched that season's Heisman winner vs. the previous season's Heisman winner; four of the five Heisman finalists; the defending national champions, ranked number one from the pre-season on, vs. a team ranked second from the pre-season on; and both teams were unbeaten, untied, and considered two of the most storied franchises ever. It is one of the few games ever to come close to matching the pre-game bells and whistles of the '67 SC-UCLA match.

However, USC's thorough 55-19 whipping of Oklahoma ended any speculation that this would rate with the great games ever played. The 1967 City Game met all expectations and then surpassed them. The old saw is that "Hollywood couldn't write a better script." The truth is, the script at the Coliseum on November 18, 1967 was Oscar-worthy.

First, there was the Heisman campaign. Gary Beban was the pre-season favorite. As a sophomore he had engineered a stirring 14-12 "gutty little Bruin" win over Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. Now a senior, he was the perfect Heisman contender; smooth, polished, poised on and off the field. He was the epitome of what UCLA had become: first class all the way.

O.J. had entered the season a heralded junior college transfer. Heralded, for sure, but still a J.C. transfer. The idea of a J.C. transfer winning a Heisman trophy was, if not ludicrous, certainly never contemplated. In all the years since, it has never happened and no other J.C. transfer has ever even been a serious contender in his first year. 

The benefit of 20/20 hindsight now sheds light on the fact that O.J. should have won the 1967 Heisman in a runaway. Juniors had won it before, but the strong predilection of voters then was to award it to a senior. The argument that says quarterbacks are more favored, and that race could have been an issue (Beban is white) do not hold up under scrutiny. Simpson had a spectacular year, but so did Beban. It was UCLA, not USC, who was ranked first in the nation coming in to the game. Beban's thunder was loud and proud!

Folks had not yet seen O.J.'s performance in two Rose Bowls, his record-breaking senior year, or his Hall of Fame pro career. In retrospect it seems impossible that a future NFL "taxi squad" player would win a prestigious award like the Heisman over a legitimate American legend. Of course, voters did see what O.J. did that day, which really makes one wonder, "What were they thinking?"

To date, USC has won seven Heisman Trophies (including Matt Leinart's two), tied with Notre Dame for the most of any college. The fact is, they should have nine. O.J. should have won in 1967, and Anthony Davis in 1974. Furthermore, had the "payola scandal" not hit, Jon Arnett may well have won for 1956. Ricky Bell (1976) and Rodney Peete (1988) seemed to have had a strong shot at it, but in fairness the right player won it over them both years. Peete was in fact the favorite who enhanced his chances in a similar "Heisman game" with Troy Aikman, but Barry Sanders was just too spectacular at season's end to deny him. Tony Dorsett was off the charts in 1976.

Aside from the Heisman race, the game was for the national championship. Whoever won would be number one, there was no doubt about that possibility. Notre Dame, Alabama, Michigan State; the "usual suspects" of the past few years were out of the picture by November 18. 

Of course, while it was "for the national championship," that really meant that it would be for the opportunity to win the title, and that opportunity would come in the Rose Bowl. This meant that it was for just that…the Pacific 8 Conference title and with it the Rose Bowl, too. Then again there were all the usual nuggets of this game: city pride, bragging rights, family vs. family, brother vs. brother, husband vs. wife, office boasts, schoolyard shouts, neighborhood yelling, the whole nine yards. The closeness of two schools in the same city playing for such a thing gave it an aura unavailable to any other rivalry. Even if Cal and Stanford played for such stakes (they never have), while they are close geographically within the region of the San Francisco Bay Area, neither is in San Francisco.

Nebraska and Oklahoma are not close. The Red River connects Oklahoma and Texas, but it is a haul from Norman to Austin. They split it in the middle: Dallas. Alabama and Auburn are in the same state, but hours apart. The fact that two teams in the same city could attract the kind of players to make both national contenders, each with Heisman favorites, says as much about the wealth of athletic talent in California and the L.A. Basin as any other statement. It also demonstrates how, if one of the programs gets the hammer over the other and gets everybody, then no team in America can hope to match up with them.

At various times, this has described the situation for UCLA basketball, UCLA volleyball, USC baseball and USC track. It seemed to be the case of Pete Carroll's Trojan football team, but in 2005 UCLA demonstrated that the residual talent available in the region is still good enough to compete at the highest level. But in 1967, the difference between them was as thin as dog urine on the sidewalk.   

"Never in the history of college football have two teams approached the climax of a season with so much at stake," wrote Paul Zimmerman in the Los Angeles Times. 

"It was not too many years ago the Trojans owned this town," wrote Jim Murray in the Times of the fact that UCLA had won eight of the preceding 14 match-ups:

 

 Cotton Warburton, Erny Pinckert, Johnny Baker, 'Antelope Al' Kreuger, Doyle Nave, Jim Musick were heroes.

There was a time USC used to beat UCLA twice a year.

When Howard Jones left the scene momentum and the uncertainties of the war years helped conceal the fact USC's athletic program was as bankrupt as Harvard's. A succession of comic opera searches for a coach who could wear Jones' halo ended with the University hiring somebody who was standing there all the time but not before big names were tossed about.

In 1949 Red Sanders came to UCLA from Vanderbilt and proceeded to show the West how backward its coaching techniques were. He beat Southern Cal 39-0 and later a Rose Bowl-bound USC team 34-0.

USC hired its own jester type in 1960 - cherubic, cigar-smoking Johnny McKay… It was UCLA's move and they brought up Sanders' assistant, Tommy Prothro.

UCLA promptly stopped being the movable object. USC began to look on occasion as the resistible force.

They put on another one of their cobra vs. mongoose matches Saturday. UCLA's will motor eastward from a complex of soaring architecture that looks more like Camelot than a campus. Southern Cal, which has begun to cave in old buildings around its school to drown out its trolley car past, is only a short punt away. More than the Rose Bowl is at stake. The town is. The Trojans want it back.

 

McKay the brooder also yearned to shut up those critics who had taken to saying that UCLA coach Tommy Prothro was smarter than he was. 

"Well, we pushed 'em all over the field in 1965, but we fumbled on their one, seven and 17," McKay responded to media speculation that Prothro "had his number." "I guess he planned that."

Prothro, however, was hard to dislike. He was a class act all the way. Before the game, McKay unleashed Marv Goux.

The fiery Goux urged the Trojans to "win one for John." He held up a photo of McKay, dejected as he left the field after losing the 1966 UCLA game. 

"Listen, listen," Goux said in fistic rage. "The worst thing in life is to be a prisoner. Never. I would rather die. We've been prisoners to those indecencies over there for two years. Today's the day we go free."

It was almost identical to Kirk Douglas's rhetoric in front of the gladiators who he urges to initiate a slave rebellion against the Roman Empire in the Stanley Kurbick classic, Spartacus. This was not an accident. Goux had played one of those gladiators in the film.

Goux's speech did not center on the so-called "big issues" of Rose Bowls, Heismans and national titles. He spoke of pride in the city of Los Angeles. He hit closer to home than he would using any other tactic. McKay countered Goux by telling him that the walk back to the locker room after the game would either be the longest or the shortest of their lives. 

Tommy Prothro made no effort to downplay the game's importance or his team's chances behind Beban, who he said could win using the "run, pass, fake or call." Beban was indeed an expert audibler. 

"There's something about the way he manages things out there that gives everyone confidence," said UCLA fullback Rick Purdy. "You just know whatever he calls is right."

When asked, however, Beban shrugged and called himself "ordinary." 

Pro scouts called him "self-assured" on the field, though. He was a "gamer," not judged by statistics but by wins and losses. 

USC's first nine games had revealed that O.J. could run between the tackles, dispelling any question that he was strictly an outside breakaway threat.  His pre-game comments contained glowing praise for his line.  

The game this time would feature plain, old-fashioned football excellence, and none of the hi-jinx that had marked many USC-UCLA contests. No UCLA students rented a plane to strafe the USC campus with blue and gold paint. Nobody at USC sealed a UCLA sororities' doors with brick and mortar. Nobody at USC planted dynamite in the UCLA bonfire. No nuts planted a bomb under the ground of the end zone, as had happened in a previous year. On that occasion, the police had gotten wind of it and dug it up. It turned out to be a smoke bomb. The culprits in that case finally confessed after a yearlong investigation. 

UCLA, despite having a Heisman-quality quarterback, won with swarming defense. McKay used a mathematical formula to grade out position-by-position. When he was done he saw that both teams were exactly even.

"It's gonna be a helluva game," he said. Despite UCLA having taken over the number one ranking late in the season, USC was considered a three-point favorite. The "it" factor was their tougher schedule, but the Bruins had beaten Tennessee, who would finish second in the AP poll. They had also beaten Penn State, but the Stanford game had been a narrow margin.   

"We've been good when we had to," said Prothro.

"We've had to be good," McKay countered.

Despite Goux's exhortations, UCLA players demonstrated more on-field theatrics, jumping around "like thieves trapped in a corridor," according to one observer. McKay was once described as a man who watched the game looking like "a commuter waiting for the 5:15 to Larchmont." His teams reflected his businesslike demeanor on the sidelines.       

90,772 packed the old stadium. They enjoyed the added bonus of beautiful November weather. A huge national TV audience got the full treatment of sun, color, and, believe it or not, that season for the first time, the USC song girls. They have long been regarded the as most beautiful and classiest of college football cheerleaders. Other colleges have taken to dressing their hotties in skimpy outfits that more resemble something worn by strippers or porn stars. USC's girls wore sweaters, not bikinis. They could actually dance. Many public schools like UCLA have tended to take Affirmative Action to the next level, insisting that their cheerleaders include a girl of every race and ethnicity at the expense of sheer attractiveness, which is course what the (male) fans care about. Not at USC, where "the best girls get to dance." 

In 1967, a student vote had been taken allowing for female cheerleaders to replace the worn out old male yell leaders who had long handled sideline chores. According to unconfirmed lore, USC had never gone to female cheerleaders even though they were popular at high school and college sporting events long before 1967. A wealthy donor had given handsomely to the school under the proviso that the only women allowed on the field would be band members. 

Whether that anonymous donor passed away around 1967 or just relented is not known. What is known is that a few years later the USC Song Girls were winning national competitions. USC's women inspired the famed Laker Girls. In 1997 Sports Illustrated voted them the best in America. L.A. Times sportswriter Lonnie White, a former Trojan football star, said in his excellent book UCLA vs. USC: 75 Years Of the Greatest Rivalry in Sports, that the song girls were the "gold standard" by which all other squads are judged. 

 

When the thing finally started Beban, who had bruised ribs, engineered a long drive topped by Greg Jones's 12-yard touchdown run. Marv Goux grimaced at the "indecency" of it. UCLA's "swarm" defense trapped O.J. throughout the first quarter. It looked like the Trojan phenom had met his match. If so, then so had his team.

USC defense saved the day early, though. Pat Cashman stepped in front of Jones, picked a Beban pass, and raced 55 yards to tie it, 7-7. Prothro later said it was a new play that he had called. It was a "stupid play," he said, one that he took the blame for because Beban had not practiced it enough. Cashman blitzed Beban in the second quarter, and his painful ribs showed in his face as he made his back to the sidelines. Still, he had gotten his team into field goal territory, but Zenon Andrusyshyn missed.

A USC reverse handoff to McCullough netted 52 yards followed by a 13-yard pass to "The Pearl," as he was called (a reference to Baltimore Bullet basketball whiz Earl "The Pearl" Monroe). O.J. ran it in from 13 out. One writer said the noise was as loud as the Normandy landings.

After the half, Beban was effective, but Andrusyshyn was not. Tall Bill Hayhoe blocked his field goal try. The Bruins held, though, and on the next possession Beban directed a tying touchdown drive, hitting halfback George Farmer from 47 yards out.

Cashman had overstepped on the play, guessing Beban would try the same "stupid" pass he had intercepted earlier. He got burned. UCLA controlled the line of scrimmage. Beban probed patiently until he had them inside the "red zone." Then 6-8, 254-pound Hayhoe sacked. Andrusyshyn began to enter the pantheon of all-time goats when his field goal try was blocked.

Beban later said he was confident despite the missed field goals because "we knew we would score again."

He was right. In analyzing this game, one can make a strong case that UCLA was indeed the better team. If they were the better team, then they were the best in the country. That being said, the game often rides on special teams and they were found wanting. They also did not have O.J.

The teams battled in the pits. Then Beban took over again. He nailed four straight passes covering 65 yards. Dave Nuttall hauled in the last for the score, but Andrusyshyn was having one of the worst days in kicking history. Kickers dread such a day. They have nightmares about it.

Up 20-14, he kicked a low one. Hayhoe got his hand on it again. McKay told the press that even though Hayhoe was tall, the purpose was to get Andrusushyn to rush, which he did. 

"I call that brilliant coaching," McKay would say.

For every goat, there is a hero. In a game in which O.J. and Beban worked with equal brilliance, and Beban's team was a little better, O.J. was the difference. Amid the tensions and noise of a one-point game in the fourth quarter; with everything that can possibly ride on a college football game at stake; with fans in the stands looking at each other and saying, "This really is more important than life of death," O.J. separated himself from normal. He entered the shrine of immortality.

Toby Page was in at quarterback. He was ostensibly the starter, but hurt a lot, so he and Sogge both played. His plan was simple: hand off to O.J. Simpson. The big tailback was utterly winded. He carried twice to little effect, picked himself up and thought that at least, on third-and-long, he could "rest" for one play. 

In the huddle, Page saw O.J.'s hangdog expression. He decided to try something that might net seven or eight yards for a needed first down. O.J. did not seem to have it in him at this point in the afternoon. At the line of scrimmage, Page saw both of UCLA's linebackers eagerly anticipating his predictable play selection. He audibled: "23-blast."

"That's a terrible call," O.J. said to himself. But Page had called for O.J.'s favorite play. It meant running between the tackles, not always the best method for gaining eight yards, but it caught the Bruins flat-footed. O.J. took the handoff, hit the line, juked, and ran to daylight!

It was the most memorable run of his career, pro or college. It is probably the most famous in USC history, and one of the most well remembered in collegiate annals. Guards Steve Lehner and tackle Mike Taylor opened the hole. Center Dick Allmon knocked down a befuddled Bruin linebacker. O.J. headed towards the left sideline, benefited from another block that eliminated two Bruins in one fell swoop, then swerved back up the middle. McCullough hung by his side like the Marines protecting their flank against an invading army. O.J. was off to the races. 

All the commentary about the game could not match Prothro's priceless, exasperated lament to an assistant coach while the place was still in progress: "Isn't but one guy can catch Simpson now," said Prothro as McCullough whizzed by him stride-for-stride with the ball-carrying O.J., "and he's on the same team."

It was a variation on something Phillies' manager Gene Mauch said when Willie Mays had hit a home run over the fence, just beyond the outstretched glove of one of his outfielders.

"The only guy who could have caught it," mused Mauch, "hit it."

 O.J.'s dash beat UCLA, 21-20. It ranks with "The Play," the famous returned-kick-lateral-through-the-band run that gave California an improbable 1982 win over John Elway and Stanford. Sports Illustrated gave it its front cover: "Showdown in L.A." 

"All on one unbearable Saturday afternoon is strictly from the studio lots," wrote S.I.

In the locker room, Beban's ribs looked like an "abstract painting," but he had passed for over 300 yards. Simpson's foot was swollen and grotesque, but he had rushed for 177 yards. 

"They should send the Heisman out here with two straws," wrote Jim Murray.

Beban graciously visited the Trojan locker room, a practice O.J. also did regularly throughout his career.

"O.J.," he said, "you're the best."

"Gary, you're the greatest," replied Simpson. "It's too bad one of us had to lose."

"Whether that run earns Simpson the Heisman Trophy and moves coach John McKay's Trojans back as the number one team in the nation remains for the voters to decide later," Paul Zimmerman of the Times added. "But the witnesses will remember this as one of the greatest."

"Whew!" wrote Murray. 

"I'm glad I didn't go to the opera Saturday afternoon, after all. This was the first time in a long time where the advance ballyhoo didn't live up to the game.

"The last time these many cosmic events were settled by one day of battle, they struck off a commemorative stamp and elected the winner President.

"On that commemorative stamp, they can put a double image - one of UCLA's Gary Beban and one of USC's Orenthal James Simpson. They can send that Heisman Trophy out with two straws, please."

While O.J.'s extraordinary record does lead one to the conclusion that he should have been the Heisman winner, Beban, playing in pain and matching Simpson's performance, was enough to sway the voters to him in the Heisman balloting. He would have traded it for the Rose Bowl and the national championship. He goes down in history as one of the worthiest opponents ever to lace up his cleats against a Southern California football team.

"I have always said that the 1967 game was easily the highlight of my athletic career," Simpson was quoted in UCLA vs. USC: 75 Years Of the Greatest Rivalry In Sports. "It was far beyond even when I ran on the 4x100 world record team at SC and even more than the 2,000 yards. I never felt more elated or joy after any athletic event than I did after that game…

"We were coming off a real low point from a week earlier when we lost, 3-0 to Oregon State… So we were glad to have a chance to redeem ourselves and have a shot at history…

"In 1966, I attended the game as a junior college recruit for USC and saw how intense the rivalry was. I watched UCLA make a fourth quarter comeback and win. I remember thinking to myself that I would show them the next year.

Before his 64-yard run Simpson was "tired," having told Toby Page to "give me a blow. It was third and seven, and we had a passing play called. But he switched to a running play at the line of scrimmage. I was so surprised", said Simpson. 

When Page did that, "UCLA went into pass mode on defense…" he continued. "When I broke outside, I could hear McKay yelling for me to go, and I was trying to zigzag. I was tired and knew that I didn't have that burst… I was so oblivious to the crowd. I just remember that I almost collapsed when Earl McCullough hugged me in the end zone."

"To this day that USC-UCLA game was the biggest college football game I've ever seen," said Steve Bisheff on The History of USC Football DVD.

"When you sat back and looked at it, the game was everything you ever dreamed of," said Beban. "It was O.J. over there, he was established, and me, we received so much attention. It was bigger than anything we ever dreamt of, for the city, the Rose Bowl and the national championship."

"We're sitting in the film room and we have a secondary coach named Dick Coury, and we're watching UCLA kick the extra point," said Fertig, "and Coach McKay says, 'Run that back,' and we said, 'Why run that back, an extra point?' and we run it back three or four times, that's what Coach Corey pointed out, was that Zenon Andrusyshyn, the first soccer-style kicker we ever saw, kicked with a low trajectory, and we put a 6-9 guy defensive end in that gap."

"We went into formation and I had told our quarterback that if we walk out and they don't got a guy on Simpson, then run the blast and give it to Simpson," said McKay. "People always asked me was I afraid somebody would catch him, and I say the only guy who could've stopped him was on our team, Earl McCullough, an Olympic caliber hurdler."

"There was nobody gonna stop him that day," recalled Stu Nahan. "The determination in his eyes, the moves he made, he was just; I don’t think I ever saw anybody run like that."

"It wasn't just me who missed him," said UCLA linebacker Don Manning. "A couple other guys had him but missed 'cause he's so shifty."

"There was still a lot of time left but Beban was hurt, he had injured his ribs, and they never scored," said Bisheff.

"When the two best players on the field play the best they can, it's just a magnificent game and everybody produces, you have a 21-20 game that goes down in history, and why shouldn't it?" said Art Spander, who was still with the Santa Monica Evening Outlook that year. 

"The rest of the game was just like a blur," said Simpson. "I kept waiting for Gary Beban to bring UCLA back to take the lead, but it never happened."

"We came into the game confident," Beban said in UCLA vs. USC: 75 Years Of the Greatest Rivalry In Sports. "We were number one in the nation and we had beaten USC for the last two years. We were playing in a game that few college football players ever get because of opportunities that we created for ourselves.

"When we came on the field we had to cross the track that was filled with TV cables, and we felt the energy of the Coliseum immediately. You could tell it was going to be a special day.

"I never saw O.J.'s run because my ribs were always being worked on when I wasn't in the game. But when we came back, we still had 10 minutes. We still had time to score and we assumed that we were going to score.

"The seniors hadn't lost a game on California soil in our college careers. We were a relatively undefeated team - just two ties and three losses in three years - and we had always beaten SC in our careers. We didn't have a defeated attitude at all; we just assumed we would score. 

"In the end we were disappointed. It was the end of the season and the end of a college career for me. We had gotten so close. But still we had gotten so far. That game was the best of the series. Everything in college sports was on the line: the city championship, the conference title, the Rose Bowl and the national championship. Even the Heisman. There was nothing else you could put on the table. This was the pinnacle of college football. 

"What else could you ask for?"

After college, Beban was drafted by the Rams, traded to Washington, played mainly on their "taxi squad," then left the game for successful real estate career.

 

The Promised Land

USC students of the late 1960s and early 1970s would purchase their season tickets before the first game. The package would of course include the home non-conference games and Pac 8 match-ups with Cal, Stanford, Washington, et al. The UCLA game and the Notre Dame game (in even years) cost a little more than the other games. Then they would notice something really great: a Rose Bowl ticket. Before the season had started.

With McKay, it got to be a running gag. He had the advantage in Pasadena because it was a "home game for USC." It was "on USC's schedule."

From 1967 to 1970, the Big 10 sent Purdue, Indiana, Ohio State and Michigan. The Pac 8 just sent USC. Pencil 'em in. When USC had lost to Purdue on January 2, 1967, then-recruit O.J. Simpson had remarked to a disappointed player who would be returning, "Don't worry about it. We'll be back next year."

Prior to the 1968 Rose Bowl, McKay was questioned by the sporting press about his tremendous schedule: Texas (national champs in 1963 and '69), Michigan State (Rose Bowl in '65, number two in '66), Notre Dame (defending national champs), Washington at Seattle, and of course number one-ranked UCLA! 

"I told my scouts when I saw that schedule to go out and find me someone who was six-foot one-inch who weighed 205 pounds and could run the 100 in nine-four," said McKay.

Simpson scored both touchdowns and gained 128 yards in Southern California's 14-3 win over Indiana. He was named the MVP. His 1,543 yards led the nation. The game clinched another national championship for McKay. The victory had none of the Hollywood dramatics of the City Game.

"The idea is to win, isn't it?" McKay asked rhetorically. 

"It was a big deal to us, the players, a feeling of satisfaction of a job well done; having accomplished something like that," said fullback Mike Hull of the 1967 national title, "and even though I have a Super Bowl ring, I wear the national championship ring."

Five of USC's regulars missed the start of the game due to injury. Two more had to be removed during the course of the game.  Rossovich and Hayhoe contained Indiana tailback John Isenbarger. Afterwards, USC's defense was compared to the Minnesota Vikings' "Purple People Eaters" and the about-to-be three-time World Champion Green Bay Packers. Not bad company for a college team.

 

In the days prior to the "coming out early" rule that allows non-seniors to declare for the pro draft, Simpson's return for his senior season was a given. He was expected to have one of the best years ever. He did not disappoint.

Against Minnesota in Troy's opening 29-20 victory, Simpson ran for 236 yards and 367 in total offense. 

"Don't ask me to describe him," said Golden Gopher coach Murray Warmath. "Everyone already has. There is really nothing more to say."

"Simpson is better than Red Grange," wrote Leo Fischer, sports editor of the Chicago American. "I've seen them all. On the basis of his performance against Minnesota, far from the worst defensive team in the country, I think Simpson is the greatest."

Simpson dealt with a leg bruise just fine in a 189-yard effort against Northwestern. McKay gave serious thought to not playing him. He "blamed" the writers for his decision to use his star rather than listen to their backbenching.

"He approaches a hole like a panther," Northwestern coach Alex Agase said after his team's 24-7 loss to USC. "Then, when he sees an opening, he springs at the daylight."

"Simpson's the greatest back in college and the greatest I've ever played against," said Northwestern linebacker Don Ross.

"He's better than <Leroy> Keyes - although we have to meet Keyes and Purdue next week," said Wildcat end Mark Proskine.

Game three was another interesting match-up with the emerging Miami Hurricanes, led by the irrepressible Ted "The Stork" Hendricks. Sports Illustratedthought it an interesting enough intersectional game to give it major coverage. 71,189 showed up at the Coliseum to see it. 

Stories about Hendricks were already becoming part of his lore. He apparently enjoyed "dismantling" cars. He was unable to even catch O.J., though. The USC star had studied game footage of Hendricks's wild, arm-flapping style, and his desire to penetrate before a runner could get out in the open. O.J.'s studiousness paid off in a 163-yard performance. His two touchdowns fired an easy Trojan win, 28-3. 

Sogge, the man everybody thought just "handed off to O.J.," showed that he had an arm (after all, he was a baseball catcher) by hitting on a variety of efficient passes. O.J. still had 38 carries and felt pain from his hips to his feet.

Stanford was ranked 18th behind sophomore quarterback Jim Plunkett. 81,000 people showed up at Stanford Stadium. Stanford's players had, "O.J. Who?" and "Squeeze O.J." painted on their helmets. 

The walk from the locker room into the stadium runs a gauntlet past Stanford rooters who take free verbal shots at the opposing team. Their commentary is often biting and obviously partisan, but for the most part just part of the game. A disturbing trend, however, began to develop during O.J.'s year. It would continue into the 1970s. Stanford fans began to use racial epithets.

"N----r lover," some yelled at Coach McKay, because he had as many black athletes on his team as anybody in the country. It was a disgusting "performance" coming from a student body and fan base at one of the country's top academic institutions. It was further shocking considering the fact that, with the war at full throttle, Stanford had made its anti-American sentiments well known, establishing itself as a "liberal" institution.

The whole ugly scene was carry-over from the 1920s and '30s, when USC had past Cal and Stanford as the dominant West Coast power. Jealousy and recrimination had always marked the Berkeley and Palo Alto schools' attitude towards their southern neighbor. As USC continued to become the dominant "glamour school" in the state, if not the nation, those left behind found that class envy and lies were easier to toss about than genuine praise for a great program. McKay was incensed. He developed a personal disgust with just about anything to do with Stanford after that. To the credit of the Stanford players, who like athletes at Cal are not representative of the student body in general, there were no reports of racial epithets on the field. 

O.J. carried 47 times for 220 yards to just shut 'em up.

"I guess O.J. Simpson showed us on a couple of those runs why he's the man," said Stanford tight end Bob Moore after O.J.'s three touchdowns led Troy to a 27-24 win over the Indians.

The adrenaline of the crowd taunts and the atmosphere no doubt combined with O.J.'s "homecoming" to his native Bay Area to elevate his game and shake off his injuries.

"I felt kind of squeamish running early in the game," he said, "but I felt better as the game wore on."

"I think what probably happened is we ran the injury out of him," said McKay. "If we had only run him 30 times he'd probably still be hurting."

Inexperienced writers listening to this looked at each as if to ask, "Is this guy serious?" The older L.A. corps just shrugged it off as a McKay quip with a touch of sarcasm. The polls after the game installed the Trojans back into the number one slot they had finished 1967 in. 

"We knew that Simpson would be coming at us, but there was nothing we could do about it," said Washington coach Jim Owens after O.J.'s 172-yard effort in a 14-7 USC win. "He is one of the greatest backs ever to play football. Because of his size and speed, he probably improvises better than any runner I've ever seen."

Oregon managed to hold O.J. to 67 yards, but USC won at Eugene, 20-13. Games at Oregon and Washington have always been a little bit of a problem for USC, especially when played late in the season. Fog, rain, mud and crowd noise often marks the contests, making life difficult for a favored team playing a scrappy underdog.

"O.J. doesn’t like playing against a quick team like ours," said Oregon's George Dames.

O.J. classily gave full credit to the Ducks' and their speed.

"When I would get ready to turn the corner, somebody would come up from behind to throw me down," he said.

"O.J. Simpson probably is the greatest back of our time," said California coach Ray Willsey after Simpson ran for 164 yards and two scores in a 35-17 victory before 80,871 at the Coliseum. "USC beat us by 20 points without him last year, so I guess we're about 40 down this year going in."

Cal was making a bit of comeback after a decade in the doldrums, despite the fact that half the student body at Berkeley in those days equated athletic competition with bourgeois capitalist pigs! Lineman Ed White was an All-American who would star for the Vikings, and the Golden Bears roughed O.J. up. He had a bruised thigh, a twisted knee and a sprained ankle when the game was over.

"You name it, and I've got it," he stated. O.J. said that Cal hit him harder than any team he had ever played. "Maybe it's time to retire," he added with a smile.

Oregon State, led by Bill "Earthquake" Enyart, came to L.A. in a game that would decide the Pacific 8 Conference championship. Enyart scored first and it was 7-0, Beavers. Sogge controlled a game-tying touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. O.J. broke the defensive battle with a 42-yard run capped by a Ron Ayala field goal to put Troy ahead for the first time, 10-7. 

USC held. With seven minutes remaining O.J. broke a 40-yard touchdown run for a 17-7 lead. That was the winning score in the 17-13 win. O.J. had 47 carries, including an incredible 21 in the final quarter (despite the L.A heat, his injuries and obvious fatigue) for 138 of his 238 yards.

Oregon State coach Dee Andros said afterward that not only was USC deserving of the Rose Bowl berth they earned that day, but also of the number one ranking. The next week it was UCLA. This time it was all Trojans. O.J. carried 40 times for 205 yards, caught three Sogge passes, and scored three times. He broke six school records and two NCAA marks, including the season rushing record with one regular season and one Rose Bowl game still left to play. The 28-16 win made USC 9-0, firmly in the number one spot. Joe Theisman and ninth-ranked Notre Dame were headed to the Coliseum the next week.  

This game was indicative of what the rivalry is all about. Just when one team thinks they have the other's number, things turn around. Having beaten the Irish soundly in South Bend, unbeaten and riding high towards back-to-back national championships, led by a record-breaking Heisman horse; why, the Trojans were just full of themselves!

Parseghian had a tremendous team, as usual. Without a bowl game in their future, their hopes for a national title hinged on beating USC, and then in turn the Trojans beating Woody Hayes and Ohio State on New Year's Day.

The Irish gladiators held O.J. to 55 rushing yards. Theisman (who changed pronunciation of his name from Thees-man to Thys-man as part of a school PR campaign to promote his candidacy for the rhyming Heisman) made his first bid for the award. 

A sophomore, Theisman started slow by getting intercepted, but quickly shocked Troy and their fans by turning the affair from a USC coronation into an upset-in-the-making. He led Notre Dame on three touchdown drives and a 21-7 halftime lead. The tables of 1964 were turned, but one thing remained the same: a patented second half USC comeback, something that McKay and his school were becoming known for and would expand upon in the next two decades.

The star for USC was not O.J., but Sogge, who stepped up and made short passes when he had to in rallying his team to a 21-21 tie. It was enough to drop Troy to number two heading into the Rose Bowl. Woody Hayes's Buckeyes, a tremendous sophomore-led team with no losses or ties, took over the top spot.

"Deep down in my heart," Theisman said after the tie, "I think we should have won it. We had them on the run."

"I'd rather play until midnight," said McKay. "I just don't like a tie."

O.J. expressed a desire for "sudden death overtime," which in those days was used only in pro football play-off games. It had resulted in incredibly exciting affairs, most notably the 1958 NFL title game between the Colts and Giants at Yankee Stadium, and the 1962 AFL championship between the Oilers and Dallas Texans (later Kansas City Chiefs), played on a Houston high school field. 

Other than the 1962 USC-Wisconsin game, the 1969 Rose Bowl had more riding on it than any previous one in the post-war era. Hayes was in his element; still fully convinced of the superiority not just of Ohio State but Big 10 and Midwestern football as a whole. USC's wins over the "best" Midwestern team, Notre Dame, not to mention victories over Indiana, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern in recent years, had apparently not dissuaded him from his oft-aired opinions.

Woody was set in his ways. To him California was even more "out there" in 1968 than it had been when he was bringing his Bucks out to Pasadena in the 1950s. He saw the protests on the streets of California cities, which included L.A., San Francisco and Berkeley; the love-ins, the Haight-Ashbury scene, the "Summer of Love," and the acid rock music - it was all un-American to him. He could not for the life of him understand how a football team could be exposed to the physical proximity of such things and still have the desire to win. 

Hayes admired McKay and his great athletes, but he felt he had the edge when it came to toughness. In 1969 he had a point, but his theories were found wanting in later seasons. 

Woody's previous forays to Pasadena had discombobulated him. The January weather was too hot. He thought it boiled his player's blood or something. This time, he had the Buckeyes practice in their field house with hot blowers to simulate the Mediterranean weather they would deal with. 

When the team came out to Los Angeles, he put tight restrictions on them. He did not want any "Hollywood influences" that might resemble bikini-clad girls, frolicking at the beach, wild night club scenes, or even exposure to lush plants and fauna, which he thought would "mellow" his men too much.

He practiced the team hard all week, a relatively new practice for a game that coaches had always thought of as a luxurious reward for a season well played. Visits to restaurants were monitored so as not to overindulge his players. The annual "Lowry's Beef Bowl," a prime rib extravaganza that is a traditional pre-game ritual, was carefully controlled by Hayes and his staff.

Woody wanted the national championship for his program, his conference and for himself. He knew USC posed an enormous challenge to this desire. He was relentless in his pursuit of it. It would be incorrect to say that McKay took the game anything but seriously. He wanted it just as badly. He no longer approached it with the laissez faire attitude of the 1963 Wisconsin contest. He saw in Woody a natural rival, in many ways his opposite number in terms of approach, style, offensive strategy and overall philosophy. Woody was a strict disciplinarian. McKay was of course the "little white-haired man" who instilled fear in his charges. Marv Goux was a martinet figure. But their exhortations had SoCal panache attached to it; flair, a touch of humor and wit. McKay and his staff dealt with off-field issues such as hair length, curfews, partying and the like in the L.A. manner. Woody was Columbus, Ohio all the way.

It was not Richard Nixon vs. Dr. Timothy Leary. It was a little more like "The Greatest Generation" vs. "The Age of Aquarius," although nobody ever accused John McKay of being a free love-advocating hippie. 

Woody's plan was to give USC's defense the outside lanes, utilizing his strong inside running attack and the efficient, curl-in passes of quarterback Rex Kern. The 1968 Buckeyes may not have beaten some of the other strong teams of the 1960s, namely the 1966 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Michigan State Spartans, but in terms of the complete package they may well rate as the decade's best team, when one compares the records and their performance from the season's beginning to its end. 

They were young and promised only to get better, which was scary. Kern was a sophomore as was their tremendous All-American safety, Jack Tatum. Woody had recruited great black athletes, as Duffy Daugherty had done a few years earlier at Michigan State. His team was fully integrated with the very best possible talent available.

Ohio prep football was legendary. Paul Brown had coached at Massillon High School. A number of Massillon players dotted Woody's roster. They were loaded. Other stars included Jan Hayes, Jim Otis, Jim Stillwagon, Leo Hayden and Jim Roman. 

"I measure a good back by how many men it takes to bring him down," Woody said in typical Midwest-speak, "and O.J. certainly qualifies in this." Woody, however, qualified his statement by saying that he did not fear "a damn thing" about USC.

The two teams battled it out in the trenches, but in the second quarter O.J. showed why he was the very best. First, USC drove into the "red zone," setting up Ayala's 21-yard field goal. Later in the quarter, Simpson went wild. His 80-yard touchdown romp is, aside from the 64-yarder vs. UCLA, one of his best-remembered runs. At 10-0, the Trojans could taste another national championship. 

"Now we knew he was for real," Ohio State tackle Dave Foley said of O.J.'s run, as if it had taken that take to convince them. Either way, Ohio State went into high gear. 

"That run was beautiful," said Ohio State defensive tackle Paul Schmidlin. "I was pursuing all the way so I had a clear view of it. The run was simply great and it was just what we needed."

"We decided we'd better wake up," said fullback Jim Otis, "or this guy was going to blow us off the field."

Ohio State did "wake up," and quickly. They engineered drives behind Otis's power running between tackles. Before the half was over they had tied the score at 10-all. It had taken the air out of the confident Trojans, deflating the partisan L.A. crowd. 

"Tying before the halftime gun was a big lift for us," said Rex Kern. "It gave us the momentum, and it took that away from them."

The third quarter was "blood sport," with Ohio State breaking through to take the lead for the first time on a late-quarter Jim Roman field goal, 13-10. When Sogge fumbled deep in his own territory, the tide had turned. Ohio State converted the turnover into the game-winning touchdown. Kern would hit Ray Gillian for a touchdown. Sogge connected with Sam Dickerson, but it was over. The final score was 27-16. It was a game of mistakes. Ohio State played a perfect game. USC lost three fumbles, two by O.J. Sogge was intercepted twice.

"It wasn't a game for girl scouts and cookie eaters," said McKay, adding that despite O.J.'s 171 yards gained, eight passes caught for 85 yards, a 20-yard kickoff return, and an 80-yard touchdown romp, his two fumbles had detracted from his performance. Some critics expressed concern over O.J.'s running style, in which he would carry the ball with one hand when in the open field. Woody, however, had only high praise for the Trojan legend.

"It was damn near inhuman for a guy to do that," he remarked of the touchdown run, in which O.J. had cut behind eight Buckeye defenders in a sprint for glory. Steve Sogge said he thought the team was "complacent." Some "experts" conceded that if the team played six times USC would get some wins, maybe even a majority of them, but Ohio State earned their place in history.

O.J. had combined junior college and USC statistics that have never been approached: 90 touchdowns and 5,975 yards. None of that mattered to him in the locker room, where he fought back tears, acknowledging Ohio State's greatness but questioning his own errors. Just as Beban came into the USC locker room in 1967, O.J. went over to congratulate Ohio State, telling several of them, "You're the best team in the nation and don't let anyone tell you differently."

He told reporters that coming off the field for the last time as a Trojan was "strange," but that, "I can't help thinking how much the school and the other guys have done for me." 

Ohio State of course won the national title, with USC placing fourth in the AP and second in the UPI polls.

 

"I've never seen a better college football player," said Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd of O.J., "and I've seen them all."

Mike Garrett said as soon as he saw O.J. that he was "bigger and faster than me and has more moves."

"Simpson was all speed, very fast, all speed, world class speed," said Mike Hull, "and very gregarious, and very outward and very talkative. And engaged all the time, but he really depended more than anything on his speed." 

O.J.'s superlatives drew big crowds in his two years at Southern Cal. 75,287 had come to East Lansing to watch USC's 1967 win over Michigan State. 81,000 had filled Stanford Stadium for their 1968 win over the Indians. 90,772 had seen the 1967 UCLA game, and 82,659 watched the '68 Notre Dame game at the Coliseum. Both of O.J.'s Rose Bowls drew over 100,000.

The Trojans of 1967-68 will be remembered in many ways as being "so close and yet so far." They could have been back-to-back national champions, as the 1931-32 teams had been. When one considers the 1969 team, which went undefeated but missed a national title despite winning the Rose Bowl, the mind wanders to the prospect of three straight titles. This never occurred in the Associated Press era until USC did it from 2003-05.

O.J. played on teams filled with talent. His greatest teammate was Ron Yary, a late bloomer who had not thought much about college at Bellflower High School. Yary was 6-6, 285 pounds when USC recruited him out of Cerritos J.C. He chose Southern California because they were "much more organized, the athletes are better, and I felt I wanted to play with that type of people. That's why I decided to go to SC."

A defensive end, McKay saw something. He had him slim down to 255 for his junior year, putting him at offensive tackle. Yary did not like the grind at first but he fit the position like a glove. Yary earned consensus All-American honors in 1966 and 1967. In his senior year he was won the Outland Trophy and the Washington Touchdown Club's Lineman of the Year award.

"He was our quickest lineman," said former USC line coach Rod Humenuik. "For pulling and trapping, Ron has the speed to get in front of the ball carrier.

"O.J. Simpson made most of his yardage running behind Ron Yary.

"The boy is a very versatile football player. He had some great days for us. His best game was probably against Notre Dame's 270-pound defensive tackle, on his back all day and we won, 24-7."

"Ron Yary is athletic, which is hard to find in a big man," said Dave Levy, the ex-assistant who was also an assistant athletic director during that time. "Lots of kids in college are big, but not athletic. A lot of young men can't handle their growth. He has great physical attributes. I've been here since 1960 and I don't think we've had any linemen as good as he is. He has great size, strength, speed, aggressiveness and a professional attitude toward work. We think he could play offensive guard because he can pull like a small man."

Yary was the first player selected in the entire 1968 NFL Draft, by the Minnesota Vikings. He was the first offensive lineman taken number one in 30 years. Yary told the Minneapolis press that his college career had prepared him for the NFL because he had participated in a lot of "pressure games." He certainly was prepared. Yary became a perennial All-Pro on teams that always went to the play-offs. 

Yary played in four Super Bowls and is a member of the College and Pro Football Hall of fame.

Another consensus 1967 All-American was 6-5, 230-pound defensive end Tim Rossovich. Rossovich was drafted in the first round of the 1968 NFL draft by Philadelphia. He played for the Eagles from 1968-71 before moving on to the Chargers. After retirement, he made a comeback for one year with Houston.

Rossovich was a wild man, a hard charger who enjoyed life to the tilt. He was good looking and the girls dug him. On the field, he played with wild abandon. In the 1970s, Sports Illustrated did a long story about him, accompanied by a photograph of him lighting himself on fire! He had some kind of trick up his sleeve and combined that with genuine craziness. If he was not on fire, then he was eating glass (not a typo). Naturally, he gravitated towards Hollywood as a stuntman in the movies. He was an adrenaline junkie, a unique "football personality," the kind of guy who truly needed the game as an outlet for his aggressions. He had come to USC from a prestigious Catholic school (St. Francis) in the affluent Bay Area town of Mountain View.

Rossovich's kindred spirit was 6-1, 175-pound defensive back Mike Battle, another All-American (1968) whose uncle had played at SC. When asked about Battle a few years ago, former Los Angeles Ram Fred Dryer, a high school pal of his, remarked, "I think he's institutionalized now." Battle and Rossovich tore through life at USC. They were crazy on the field and still needed to let steam out when the game was over. Battle set a number of defensive records at Southern California before being drafted by the New York Jets. He was a teammate of and fellow partier with Joe Willie Namath in New York (1969-70).

The Trojans had so many players go into the NFL during O.J.'s career that it was a remarkable accomplishment for McKay to could keep the ball rolling year after year. After the 1966 team had five players drafted, the 1967 team had 11 players chosen. An unbelievable five players were taken in the first round, which of course included Yary going first, followed by tackle Mike Taylor (10th to Pittsburgh), Rossovich, running back Mike Hull (16th to Chicago), and receiver Earl McCullough (24th to Detroit). All of these players had success in professional football. 

Adrian Young was picked by Philadelphia and played until 1973 for several teams. Dennis Crane went to the Redskins, Gary Magner to the Jets, Ralph Oliver to the Raiders, Steve Grady to the Broncos and Jim Ferguson to the Saints.

O.J. had to say good-bye to all of these stars, yet he was able to lead the next year's team to within a few fumbles of a second straight title.

His team, the 1968 Trojans, had eight players picked. O.J. was of course the first player chosen, making USC the first school to ever give the draft its first selection two years running. Tight end Bob Klein was the 21st pick of the first round by Los Angeles, and would have a fine pro career. Bill Hayhoe went to Green Bay. The Saints went for Bob Miller and Jim Lawrence. Jack O'Malley was drafted by San Francisco, with Wilson Bowie going to Detroit.      

   

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY

A Shakespearean fall from grace

 

O.J. ran away with the 1968 Heisman over Purdue's Leroy Keyes. His performance at the news conference with his San Francisco wife, Marguerite at his side, won over the sporting press. 

"During the game you don't think about how many times you carry the ball," O.J. responded to an interviewer who asked about his carrying 40 times in some games. "You think about the situation - the score and the down - but you do get tired at times, especially if you have to run too many end sweeps."

O.J.'s glib media personality had shown through when he was asked if he was born with football talent. Smiling at Coach McKay, he stated that as the "little white-haired man" liked to say, "I was taught it all."

O.J. Simpson was of course the name everybody remembers, and this of course is now a wistful thought in light of his tragic life. O.J. represents so many things. He was part of the true turning point in USC's football history. He also is a bookend of American race relations; the first really marketable black celebrity who brought people together, whose trial ended up driving a wedge between those same people. His great feelings for USC, his oft-stated comments that USC had done "so much" for him could only lead people to speculate that if USC had not done so much for him, if his life had not been so successful, if fate and circumstance had not taken him to Los Angeles at just the right time, to Hollywood, the movies and easy celebrity; then he never would have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, as many have speculated was really how it all went down on that June night of 1994. USC itself has had to come to grips with O.J. He cannot be ignored. He is part of the school and its legacy, just as Bruce Gardner is. The school can at least honestly assess its role in his life and conclude that whatever happened, there was nothing that they should have done differently.

Marguerite had been 16, attending a rival San Francisco high school when she met then- 17-year old O.J. After he won the Heisman she said that he was, "a beast… A terrible person" in high school. She had given herself credit for turning O.J. from a disinterested high school student into a man who could get into USC and then handle that school's academic curriculum. O.J. revealed that Marguerite was expecting. He contemplated that the child's name might be Heisman J. Simpson. Questions of his professional career engendered controversy when he expressed the desire that a California team draft him, and that he would rather play in the NFL than the AFL. His top preferences, based on these criteria, obviously limited it to the Los Angeles Rams, a championship contender, or the San Francisco 49ers, who were on the mediocre side.

"If it weren't California," he told the press, "my second choice would be New York, Chicago, or Dallas." 

O.J. was already thinking about a career in the movies, television and commercials. He had stars in his eyes. Big cities and media capitols - L.A. or New York preferably - had his attention. San Francisco was of course his hometown.

In those pre-merger days, the two leagues competed for the top picks in a complicated system based on the worst records in their leagues. The Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL and the Buffalo Bills of the AFL were the two contenders in the so-called "O.J. Simpson Sweepstakes." Simpson had little love for the City of Brotherly Love. The prospect of Buffalo was too bleak for him to contemplate. 

Buffalo was the worst of all possibilities. For a guy from San Francisco who had tasted fame in Hollywood's shadow, it represented a "cow town" with a cow's nickname (actually a Bison); a small city with little nightlife, little diversity, little press attention, an archaic old stadium (War Memorial) and, worst of all, abominable, freezing cold weather.

Wait, that was not the worst thing of all. The Bills had O.J.'s rights because they were in fact the very worst team in pro football. They had no quarterback (Jack Kemp, once a star, was at the end of his road), no defense, no blocking, no talent, no offense. The "unfairness" of the nation's best player, the number one pick, having to go to the worst team, was discussed ad infinitum by the media.

O.J. took his hits from the press. Many posited the notion that a poor black kid from the projects should be happy to get paid, much less receive the highest bonus since the NFL-AFL began the merger process in 1966 (the season of the first Super Bowl); the by-product of exorbitant money paid to Joe Namath (who panned out) and John Huarte (who did not). 

It was the first dent in O.J.'s previously adorable public persona, but he was smart and quickly made the most of the situation. He changed his tune when he realized Buffalo had the pick and was going to take him.

"Sure, I always wanted to play in the National Football League," he said. "But if there was any disappointment about being drafted by Buffalo, it's over. I know I should accept things as they are, and I'm anxious to get started. It's a great honor to be drafted number one. I'm awfully proud of that."

O.J. was all about business when the time came, further damaging his reputation as a "holdout" and a "money grubber." When it was all over, the half-million dollars he secured from Buffalo was more than Namath had gotten from the New York Titans (now Jets). O.J. secured fringe benefits and commercial endorsements. In his early 20s the kid from Potrero Hill was worth between $900,000 and $1 million. His picture was plastered everywhere. Even before starting in the pros he began his foray into the movies. Sports Illustrated ran a long "expose" of his life. He represented an entirely different sort of black athlete. 

Until O.J., black athletes were compartmentalized into "groups." Elston Howard, the 1963 American League MVP with the Yankees, was a "company man." He lived in the suburbs with his presentable family, never complained, never held out, and fit right in to the Yanks country club Republican atmosphere.

Curt Flood, the Cardinals' All-Star center fielder, was a rebel with a cause. Intelligent, introspective and artistic, he challenged baseball's "reserve clause" and infuriated the Establishment with the statement, "I'm a slave. A $90,000 a year slave, but still a slave."

His teammate, superstar pitcher Bob Gibson, was the natural progression of Jackie Robinson. Whatever society said Robinson was not supposed to do, Gibby did do, and on his own terms. That could mean throwing at the head of the other team's high-priced white superstars, then glaring in with a "what the hell you gonna do about it?" look. 

Cleveland Browns running back par excellence Jim Brown did sex scenes with blonde bombshells in the movies. He was determined to show himself as the epitome of "black power." 

Then there was Mike Garrett, the philosopher-running back who preceded O.J. at Southern Cal. He had a little bit of Curt Flood's artistic sensibilities and Elston Howard's need to be accepted, mixed with a little bit of urban L.A.

O.J. took some of what these pathfinders had, then expanded on it. The times they were a-changin' by 1969. When he entered the AFL, he was bound and determined to make the most of his opportunities athletically, monetarily, socially, racially, sexually, and artistically. O.J. thought of himself as a kind of black Renaissance Man. 

More than anything, however, O.J. represented the first truly marketable black man in America. Cassius Clay, a.k.a. Muhammad Ali, was a loudmouth, a Black Muslim, a draft dodger, frightening to many whites. Actor Sidney Poitier was cultured, beautiful and sophisticated, but the modern "black lingo," applied to him then, would have been that he was not "real." 

Brown was the "threat" that every slaveowner felt about well-endowed slaves left to have their way with the white women. Howard was too milquetoast to sell much beyond Yahoo chocolate milk.

What Hollywood and Madison Avenue were looking for was a black Frank Gifford. That was O.J. Like Gifford he had grown up poor. He had superior athletic ability. Despite his background, he was a natural public speaker, interviewee, and on-camera spokesman. He had charisma, a great smile, and full-blown sex appeal. What separated O.J. from all the previous black celebrities was his crossover appeal. He indeed could "act white," a put-down phrase that really just means that he could carry on an intelligent conversation and glibly discuss issues. However, his on-field grace and "Age of Aquarius" style made him a "groovy Negro," a hero to "his people." In the age of the Black Panthers, he was a breath of fresh air.

All of O.J.'s off-field charisma would go for naught unless he lived up to his billing on the field. In his rookie year that was problematic. The Bills were terrible. O.J. showed signs of brilliance, but for the most part the running back's facts of life were made painfully obvious to him: no blocking, no yards.

In O.J The Education Of A Rich Rookie, he wrote, "The most striking contrast between college and pro ball was between the head coaches. USC coach John McKay was dapper and witty, always breaking up meetings or press conferences with wry jokes. He was the kind of man who could make you feel close to him without using a lot of speeches; just a few words from him could let you know what you had to do - and also make you want to do it. <Buffalo> Coach John Rauch presented an altogether different appearance."

Simpson struggled again in 1970. Jack Kemp had retired and was elected to a Buffalo-area Congressional seat that year. The Bills were determined to make the changes necessary to build a success around Simpson. They drafted well, using a succession of high picks based on poor records. Arkansas quarterback Joe Ferguson would come to the team and lead them to respectability. A new stadium would be built to hold 80,000 rabid rooters.

O.J. worked hard and proved himself to be a leader. He led his team out of the wilderness. By 1971, he was one of the best running backs in the now fully merged NFL. In 1972 he established himself as the best. In 1973 he made a serious bid to be the best who ever lived. Statistically he was, breaking Jim Brown's all-time single season record and surpassing 2,000 yards for the first time (in a 14-game season). He ran for over 200 yards in the snow and ice of Shea Stadium on a freezing December day to break the 2,000-yard mark in the season finale, putting the Bills into the AFC Play-Offs. O.J. went way out of his way to include his blockers in any discussions of his record-breaking performance. He saw to it that they were photographed, interviewed and lauded for their contributions.

O.J. became the highest-paid player in the league, and one of the highest-paid in sports. He enjoyed the beginning of the free agent period in sports (although not yet in football), which ushered in a new era of big money. He was part of the jet set popularity of pro football, a western New York black version of "Broadway Joe" Namath. He was a drawing card at the turnstiles and in the executive suites of the TV networks negotiating the league's broadcasting contracts, including the incredibly successful Monday Night Football franchise.

Throughout the 1970s, O.J. was the premier player in the NFL, quite an accomplishment since he played in the heyday of the Raider-Steeler and Cowboy-Redskin rivalries; the era of the undefeated Dolphins; and marquee names like Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Ken Stabler, Fran Tarkenton, Franco Harris and Jack Lambert.

White fans had worshipped him in college. USC became vastly more popular as a school and a football team because of him. Now, a nation of fans of every color fell in love with him. There was a time, around 1976 or so, when the question of whether O.J. was better than Brown was a legitimate one. O.J. moved into second place on the all-time rushing list with a chance to pass Brown. But all the hard hits began to take their toll. In the late 1970s he slowed down. He orchestrated a trade to his hometown 49ers, but his talent was gone and the team was awful. It was a melancholy period for an all-time great, but he handled this adversity with class.

In the end, Brown's status never changed. His single-season record had fallen to "Juice," but not the career mark. Brown had also led his team to NFL titles. O.J. sadly never played in a Super Bowl. Runners like Walter Payton and Barry Sanders have passed many of his marks (which Brown accomplished in a short career, choosing a Hollywood action career in the mid-1960s).

But O.J. never fell from the perch of public exposure. As a player, he became synonymous with the Hertz rental career agency. Running through airports in a full suit, carrying a brief case, little old ladies would shout in the popular Hertz commercials, "Go, O.J., go!"

O.J. landed legitimate roles in many films during his off-seasons, including The Klansmen and The Towering Inferno. After retiring he starred in Naked Gun. He was a frequent guest on TV shows and a regular in the "Superstars Competition" in Hawaii. He had a stint with Howard Cosell and Gifford in theMonday Night Football broadcast booth (two Trojans espousing the merits of their alma mater). For years he enjoyed steady work as a Sunday pro analyst and sideline reporter. 

As a broadcaster, O.J. was tolerable but not in Gifford's league. As an actor he had looks and screen presence, but the intangible qualities of celluloid stardom, the question of whether "the screen loves him," was answered with an unfortunate "no." He was not embarrassing, but he could not establish a great career in films. Whether he took it seriously or not has been debated. Some say he took offense to those who made fun of his comical roles in films like Naked Gun when he tried to prepare for the part in Brando fashion.

O.J. had the life. He had money, a sweet pad in the best neighborhood in L.A., women, fame and respect. What he seems to have lacked, or lost somewhere along the way, was integrity of the soul. This is a tragedy, because either he once had it and allowed it to slip away, or it was all a façade from the beginning. When it all went bad, McKay just said, "That's not the man I knew."

The Marv Goux's, the Craig Fertig's, the Adrian Young's; the teammates who knew him at USC, and indeed players and coaches (particularly Buffalo's Lou Saban) at Buffalo; they all knew the same man. He had the work ethic, the willingness to sacrifice, the desire to reach out and help people because he was admired and could use his position for good. He gave credit where credit was due.

 

Among the Seven Deadly Sins, the most common may be the sin of Lust. O.J. had an eye for the ladies and they had it for him. His first wife bore him children. She was attractive but simple. When he hit the big time she did not adjust to his place in the world. O.J. found other women and quickly made a practice of it without regard to morality. Unfortunately, this makes him no different from about 80 or 90 percent of professional athletes, who have a coterie of strippers, porn chicks, groupies, gold diggers and "star f-----s" throwing themselves at them in every hotel room from Coronado to Coral Gables.

In 1977 he met a blonde bombshell waitress from Orange County. What separated her from the others - the blondes, brunettes, and redheads - is one of the mysteries of love, but O.J. fell for her. He and Nicole Brown were married. They had children of their own. All reports were that his kids were the apple of his eye, although his children from the first marriage found problems with the new developments.

Despite marriage to a curvy goddess, O.J. had access to many other goddesses. It did not take long before Nicole, through the rumor mill and sometimes with her own eyes, learned of it. The tensions mounted. She was one of those women married to sports stars and celebs - in this case both - who must live with the tradeoff between a wealthy lifestyle and infidelity.

Reports were that Nicole drove O.J. crazy, in the sense that his feelings for her were genuine, he did love her, their life together, and their children. She was undoubtedly different to him than the other women, but O.J. also had a possessive side to him. The kind of focus that makes one a driven athlete can also make for a dangerous, jealous husband.

He hit her. The cops came. He went to counseling. His charm always mitigated the circumstances to the general public, but Nicole saw the unmitigated O.J. What exactly happened is still not entirely known, but there was a divorce, attempts at reconciliation, even some overtures from Nicole.

Nicole, a beautiful woman with money, had no absence of suitors. This drove "Juice" out of his mind. The fact her suitors were white added to the violent brew. In June of 1994, he attended his daughter's school dance recital. Afterwards, he was left out of the family party. Nicole went to a trendy Brentwood bistro and might have left her glasses. A handsome waiter named Ron Goldman may have flirted with her, may have done more than that. He may have simply returned her glasses to her because he was a Good Samaritan. He may have been having an affair with her. He may have desired to have an affair with her. Her address was well known within the restaurant's circle of patrons, which may be the explanation of why he knew where to go.

At her home, O.J.'s old house (he had moved out and lived a few blocks away), Nicole and Goldman were violently attacked with a knife and both killed. It was a gruesome crime. The L.A.P.D. may have made mistakes. O.J. quickly became a suspect. His friend and teammate from junior high, Galileo, CCSF, USC and Buffalo, Al Cowlings came by and drove O.J.'s white Bronco south, towards Mexico. The cops got wind of it and tried to flag him down. The media heard about it and the most bizarre episode in the history of a city built on the bizarre occurred.

The Bronco drove unimpeded through open, empty highways at rush hour. Every human being in the lower 48 saw it on TV. If they were asleep or camping in the woods, they were made aware of it, dragging themselves to a TV to watch it. Cowlings drove the Bronco to Bundy and Rockingham, Brentwood section, city of Los Angeles, where O.J. was handcuffed. His guilt at that moment was painted on him like the bewitching smile on the "Mona Lisa."

A white cop named Mark Fuhrman had made an intemperate remark about blacks to a girl in a Manhattan Beach bar 10 years before. O.J.'s legal defense - the "dream team" - played the so-called "race card." The evidence against him, according to much of America, was overwhelming. It had to do with DNA, hair fibers, the kind of supposedly incontrovertible facts that lead to convictions.

Somehow, the prosecution had allowed the "trial of the century" to be moved from the West L.A. jurisdiction that its crime scene location normally dictated, to a downtown courthouse where the jury pool was guaranteed to be all black. This was in the wake of the King riots, which happened after the white cops on trial for beating the black motorist had their trial switched from its gritty urban jurisdiction to suburban Simi Valley. 

O.J.'s "brothers" found him "not guilty." Millions of white Americans, good people without racist tendencies, uttered the "n" word, some for the only time in their lives, when this happened. Blacks cheered. The Age of Aquarius was dead.

O.J. was free but forced to live with himself. The case against him was solid and public opinion has never really changed. Virtually everybody thinks he is guilty, even blacks who liked the verdict not because justice was served in the killing of two people, but because it represented a bizarre "payback" for white repression - the kind O.J. had no intimate knowledge of. He had skated through life on ego, talent, football dedication and charm, coming of age at a time when white America was ready to love the kind of black man that he was.

For all of the people convinced of Simpson's guilt, most, or at least a fair portion, are not so sure of his guilt that they would recommend the death penalty. His case left just a tiny window of "reasonable doubt." If by some slim chance the jury got it right, then O.J. is a man who has been badly wronged, for the things that made him "Juice" were indeed taken from him. He is to this day a vilified character, for not only was the crime exposed, but every peccadillo, large or small, was made tabloid fodder. 

If O.J. did it and has a conscience, if he believes in God, then he must deal with what he did spiritually. His confessions and "repentance" must be genuine. Judgment will be His will, nobody elses. If he is a socio-path not "burdened" by a guilty mind, then he simply avoided another tackler and is running for daylight, only this time on a field that is not 100 yards long, but rather some 30 years long, give or take. Where his "eternal end zone" will be is God's business.

 

For USC, O.J. Simpson represents, to quote Charles Dickens, "the best of times and the worst of times." He was a marvel to brag about. On the field, O.J. was unparalleled. Off the field, here was the greatest living public relations symbol they could hope for. He symbolized what being a Trojan was all about.

After the murder, the school found itself in a sticky thicket. What to do with all that memorabilia? The photos, the Heismans, the plaques that adorned Heritage Hall? The late 1990s were not kind to L.A. or USC football. The memory of O.J.'s heroics could have come in handy. Now detractors just pointed to their "ancient history" and their problem children: Todd "Marijuanavich" and O.J. Simpson. O.J.'s mug shot, which had made the cover of Newsweek, became a popular poster in the rooting sections of Notre Dame, UCLA, Cal, Stanford and all other points.

Trojan players walking the gauntlet of fans from buses, dressing rooms and other public locations in "enemy" territory were taunted by the posters and the shouts. Rumors of an affair between Nicole and another Trojan legend, Marcus Allen, were circulated. Who knows?  

Eventually, it died down. USC regained its place as a football powerhouse. Like a political leader whose accomplishments just drown out his critics, SC was able to replace the taunts with, as Jim Rome calls it, "scoreboard." There is no substitute for it.  

The school cannot honor him. He cannot come around for banquets, awards ceremonies, halftime presentations. He would be booed unmercifully at his beloved Coliseum. In late December of 2002, Pete Carroll and Carson Palmer led USC into Miami for the 2003 Orange Bowl game against Iowa. While the team was practicing a few days before the game, an unannounced O.J., now living in semi-seclusion in south Florida, emerged and sauntered onto the field. It was an awkward moment, but the Trojan connection, especially (but not only) with the black players was made. For a few brief minutes, O.J. enjoyed some camaraderie. Carroll just let it happen, preferring not to make more of it than it needed to be. Then O.J. left.

When USC returned to the 2005 Orange Bowl, rumors were rampant that O.J. was there and would make a splash. It never happened.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

THE "CARDIAC KIDS" WERE A "WILD BUNCH"

After O.J.: the "beat goes on"

 

1967-69 was a period of momentous change in America. The Vietnam War, in the minds of many, went from being a noble effort to stop Godless Communism to immoral violence by an overbearing superpower against a small, agrarian country.

Music, hair styles, clothing, movies, TV, politics, religious values, sexual mores and the like went through drastic adjustments. A mark of great coaches was their ability to deal with the new generation of athletes. John Wooden did it at UCLA. In 1969, his UCLA Bruins won their fifth national championship in six years, but the look and attitudes of his players was vastly different from the players he had fielded in 1964.

Joe Namath of the Jets completely changed the image of the pro athlete. The former Trojan lineman John Wayne, getting the cold shoulder from the new breed of Hollywood because of his stance in the Vietnam War, made a comeback. His Green Berets had the Left wringing their hands when it was a box office hit. When he won the 1969 Best Actor Academy Award for True Grit, he lived up to what the sportswriter at Austin in 1966 had written: "Has anybody, really, ever gotten the best of John Wayne?"

Richard Nixon won the Presidency in 1968, elevating his USC alum wife, Patricia, to the role of First Lady. Nixon's staff included numerous USC and UCLA graduates. Press secretary Dwight Chapin (not related to the L.A. Times sportswriter who covered the Trojans) and Watergate figure Donald Segretti were members of what was dubbed the "USC mafia" in the film All the President's Men. Nixon disdained Harvard and the "elite East Coast establishment." He found numerous conservative thinkers who had been schooled at USC. Bob Haldeman and John Erlichman were UCLA alums. Nixon was a Southern Californian who represented the conservative, Christian-themed populace of the area. This was still a major demographic in L.A. It still is, but over time its most politically influential base has moved from the urban sprawl of Nixon's old haunts to suburban Orange County, San Diego County, the Imperial Empire, and the central valley. In the late 1960s, these were the kinds of Westerners Nixon brought with him to Washington. It was this kind of mindset that continues to be the dominant "Silent Majority" of American politics.

In July of 1969, a USC alum, Neil Armstrong, became the first man to walk on the moon. NASA had built special testing equipment, called "The Bubble," on the USC campus. Consequently several famous Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronauts earned advanced engineering degrees from USC. Another "military man" earned his Master's degree from USC, too. Norman Schwarzkopf, a West Point graduate and Vietnam vet, would command American forces in the victorious Persian Gulf War of 1991.  

As the country changed, filmmakers like John Milius, Steven Speilberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman and Sam Peckinpaugh began to replace the John Fords, John Hustons, and Daryl Zanucks who made up "old Hollywood."

In 1969, Peckinpaugh, a superb director, crafted one of the film industry's most influential movies. The Wild Bunch was a Western, but the Western was changing drastically. The genre had always been heroic in nature, depicting cowboys warding off Indian attacks; chivalry towards pioneer women endangered by desperadoes, and the like. The Western was John Wayne in Red River or True Grit

How the West Was Won (1965): now that was a Western…

But fissures in the traditional John Ford-style Western had begun to appear. Shane had delved into the psychology of the gunfighter who wants to turn over a new leaf. The "Spaghetti Westerns" of Clint Eastwood fame were an entirely new depiction of the anti-hero. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid introduced modern pop music to the genre, featuring characters filled with self-doubt headed towards inevitable doom.  

But Peckinpaugh's Wild Bunch stretched itself way beyond any previous depictions of the mystical era that formed America's psychological character, influencing the image of this country among Europeans and other people throughout the world. In the film, which stars Ernest Borgnine and William Holden, a group of American mercenaries "take a job" in Mexico. The idea is to make "one last score" before the aging hired guns retire. Calling it a Western is a stretch, since it is set in Mexico during the time of Pancho Villa's 1913 Mexican "revolution," when bandits raided U.S. border towns in an effort to regain "lost territory."

The film depicts intense violence, much of it emanating from the barrel of a machine gun. Slow motion editing of literal bloodlettings shocked audiences at the time. Bullets exploding into flesh and anguished death scenes mark the film. It is an authentic American classic, but it was very controversial for its time.

The term Wild Bunch became something of a cultural catchphrase that could be applied to any group of high-spirited, physically aggressive men. So it was that the 1969 USC Trojan defensive line became known forever as "The Wild Bunch." 

So good were these Trojans, and so well remembered are they in collegiate football annals, that a statue depicting them was erected on the USC campus. When Pete Carroll took over, he channeled that same spirit, creating "The Wild Bunch II" as he resurrected USC's football team back into national championship form. 

The 1969 "Wild Bunch" defensive front consisted of ends Jimmy Gunn and Charlie Weaver, tackles Al Cowlings and Tody Smith, and middle guard Bubba Scott. They would be a part of USC history in more ways than one.  

In 1969, John McKay did his best coaching. Just as Wooden was able to keep his Bruins on top after the departure of Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), McKay was able to do the same with a USC team now devoid of the enormous presence of O.J. Simpson. Furthermore, while Wooden was able to adjust to a new generation, so too did McKay. The Trojans of 1969-71 are a team that had many people scratching their heads. The '69 Trojans were ranked fifth coming in, but that was homage to the program McKay had developed. They were filled with question marks.

In 1969, they answered all those questions. Then, in 1970 and 1971, when they were more mature and expectations were sky high, they disappointed. Why? The answer to this question was kept under the surface for many years. 

"I always wondered why a team filled with All-Americans played so far beneath their ability," announcer Tom Kelly said of the 1970-71 teams. The answer: race.

USC had always offered opportunities to black athletes. Willie Wood was a black quarterback under Don Clark in the late 1950s. McKay was a racial hero, of sorts, when it came to providing opportunities for black players. But in 1969 USC started a sophomore black quarterback named Jimmy Jones. Jones was different from previous black quarterbacks. There were none in the NFL and very few in college ball, outside of traditional black colleges. 

Minnesota had a black quarterback in 1962. Jimmy Raye was a black quarterback at Michigan State when they played the "game of the century" against Notre Dame. But Jones was different. He was a "traditional" dropback-in-the-pocket passer. Previous black quarterbacks were thought to be "athletes," more glorified running backs than a passer in the mold of Johnny Unitas or Sonny Jurgensen. 

In truth, Jones was athletic. He could scramble and run, and often did. He was multi-dimensional, not really considered an NFL-style passer. But he did not run an option, which was a fairly new offensive scheme that had recently been introduced and would, in that year, be utilized to near-perfection by Texas.

Despite suffering injuries in high school, Jones had passed and run for 2,300 yards and 20 touchdowns in his junior year, then 2,400 yards with 40 touchdowns in his senior year. He chose Southern California because of "USC's record, the chance to live in California, the Rose Bowl, the weather, and the offense."

That about said it all when it came to the advantages of USC, especially under John McKay in the 1960s. Jones was solid playing on the 1968 USC freshman team, but it was by no means a lock that he would start as a mere sophomore, a feat in and of itself, especially under McKay. 

"If he went into a game with more than two or three pass patterns he was damn lucky," said McKay. "The freshmen here just don't work together as a unit. That's not their job. Their job is to help the varsity get ready each week."

Coming all the way from Pennsylvania, Jones was impatient. He also concerned because of the racial questions.

"Everybody used to tell me blacks couldn't play quarterback," he told reporters before his sophomore year. "They said they were going to switch me to halfback when I got to high school, but that made me more determined to show what I could do at quarterback. There are lots of blacks who can play quarterback but never do. It's just that they never get the chance. There's too many people who have them stereotyped, who think they can't do the job."

Jones earned the starting job for the "race-neutral" McKay by completing 19 passes for 392 yards and five touchdowns in 30 minutes - extraordinary numbers for the spring game!

While Jones' presence and the harmonious nature of USC football would face challenges and changes, his first year gave no indication that the good times would stop rolling at USC any time soon. 

1969 was the 100th anniversary of college football. USC introduced a few modifications in their uniform style, and in that one season wore helmets that said "100" inside a football.

Jones was the man who would lead USC. He was an enormous recruit out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and it was anticipated that he would bring about a change in USC's offensive schemes. Without O.J., the Trojans were expected to pass more. Jones was different from many of the black athletes who traveled long distances from home to play at schools in the North or the West. Many, like Tody Smith, were Southerners who were not welcome at colleges in the regions where they grew up. But Jones could have played at Pittsburgh, Penn State, or in the Big 10, which was closer to home. But like many kids in America, he was mesmerized by the images of the Rose Bowl on television. That meant: USC in the Rose Bowl on television; the horse, the cheerleaders, the success. Maybe even a Heisman Trophy for good measure?

From 1969 to 1971, Jones broke all of USC's previous passing marks - 4,092 yards and 30 touchdowns. His 4,501 yards in total offense beat O.J.'s record. But in 1969, Jones was not about statistics or even just winning. He was about excitement. 

"His stock-in-trade became known as the Jimmy Jones Late Show, which was full of surprises and spiced with as much agony as ecstasy," noted L.A. Timessportswriter Jeff Prugh. "The format generally ran like this: put 'em to sleep for 57 minutes, then give everybody an electro-shock treatment in the final three minutes."

The Trojans had always been known for dramatics and comebacks. The 1931 game at Notre Dame, and the 1964 game vs. the Irish in L.A., embodied the kind of last-minute victories that gave flair to the program. But Jones started a tradition that eclipsed all previous late-game heroics. What he started would continue, and throughout the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the Southern Cal Trojans were probably the most exciting two-minute comeback offense in the history of the game.

USC opened the season with a major challenge: Bob DeVaney's Nebraska Cornhuskers on the road. Another big challenge was Jones's throbbing back, which made him questionable until game time. Then he told McKay, "I think I can run." McKay's concern was not just Nebraska, but his sophomore's future, which he did not want to endanger in his first varsity game. Finally, the "little white-haired man" gave Jones the okay with strict orders to hand off to Clarence Davis, not run, which of course was at least half of what made Jones effective in the first place.

Before 67,058 "Big Red" supporters in Lincoln, Jones engineered a steady drumbeat of offense in a 31-21 win. In many ways, the victory foreshadowed Matt Leinart's sophomore debut at Auburn in 2003, a 23-0 victory in a hostile environment.

The game was not only the first game for Jones, but the first game for junior college transfer tailback Clarence Davis. Jones was succeeding Steve Sogge. Davis was trying to fill O.J.'s shoes in a run-dominated offense. 

The press had tried to hype the low key Davis, calling him "Lemonade," but the nickname never stuck. Davis had been born in Birmingham, Alabama, but moved with his mother to Bronx, New York as a child. At 13, he went with her to Los Angeles when she came out for a job opportunity. Davis was not big, and not a running back at Washington High School. At East L.A. Junior College he came into his own, actually breaking many of Simpson's seemingly unbreakable records set at City College of San Francisco.

In the initial drive, Davis ran for 57 of the 80 yards, with Mike Berry plunging in from the one to make it 7-0. Jones struggled with his early passing until connecting with Bob Chandler. The Trojans led 14-0. Jones was not perfect with his reads and he did fumble.

"Sophomores will do that," McKay said. "But I'd still rather have the superior sophomore to the just-average senior."

McKay told the media that he planned to stick with Jones even if he did make sophomore errors. He was true to his word. Davis added 114 yards in the win, which was pointed out to be 20 yards more than O.J. in his USC debut of 1967.

Jones struggled with back pain, but his confidence soared. 

On October 11, Jim Plunkett led the Stanford Indians into the Coliseum. 82,812 showed up to see the fourth-ranked 3-0 Trojans in a night game against a very talented 16th-ranked team. 

It was just as Prugh described. USC and Jones seemed to be in the doldrums. Plunkett drove Stanford up and down the field. The big crowd was frustrated. The talented Trojans just seemed unable to play up to their potential…until the end. Trailing 24-23 with 85 yards to go and a minute left, Jones drove the Trojans down the field while the crowd went out of their cotton-pickin' minds. 82,000 throats filled the air with every kind of invective and invocation when Ron Ayala stepped forward to boot a game-winning 34-yard field goal, giving his team victory by the narrowest of margins. 

The following week, however, the 1968 tie game vs. Notre Dame repeated itself. The Irish had been upset by Purdue, but the oddsmakers liked Joe Theisman's experience compared to the sophomore Jones. Notre Dame was a four-point favorite playing at home. 

The first half was scoreless, but Notre Dame executed a 75-yard march for a third quarter touchdown to lead 7-0. Jones responded by hitting Terry DeKraii for 18 yards to tie it. His pass to wide receiver Sam Dickerson in the fourth quarter gave USC the 14-7 edge. 

Theisman came roaring back twice. First he led a touchdown drive to tie it. After getting the ball back they seemed on the verge of victory at the USC three when the "Wild Bunch" earned their nickname, stuffing the Irish. Then they harried kicker Scott Hempel's 38-yard field goal try. The ball kicked back after striking the cross bar. 

USC had blown chances, too, which included Charlie Evans's fumble, Ayala's missing an easy field goal try, and Clarence Davis's 15-yard touchdown run nullified by a penalty.

Georgia Tech came to town the next week. The Yellow Jackets, like almost all Southern teams, were still segregated. Wake Forest had fielded a token black player. Tennessee had a wingback named Lester McClain. Alabama had a couple of walk-ons who did not play. UCLA had played some Southern teams in recent years. McKay's teams played them fairly regularly. Jones engineered a 29-18 win. Few people saw much significance in the game, but football and society would soon meet at the 50-yard line.

The 1969 City Game did not have all the bells and whistles of the 1967 clash, but it was a classic of epic proportions. Fifth-ranked 8-0-1 USC met sixth-ranked 8-0-1 UCLA before 90,814 at the Coliseum. Two of those fans were seniors from Redwood High School near San Francisco. Pete Carroll and a pal made the 400-mile drive to see this game, and it had a lasting impression on them.

There were no Heisman hopefuls and the game had little chance of affecting the national championship. Heading into the "rivalry games" of 1969, those goals seemed to be most legitimately held by Ohio State, Texas, Arkansas and Penn State. USC's tie with Notre Dame was the only thing that had marred their season.

The 1969 Oho State Buckeyes entered the season thought by some experts to be the greatest team of all time. All the stars of their 1968 title team were back. When they beat Northwestern in an early season game that engendered the gasping Sports Illustrated headline "62-0!" they seemed destined for greatness.

The no-repeat rule still stood in the way of a Rose Bowl repeat with USC, or whomever the Pac-8 sent. All the cards were on the table at Columbus when underdog Michigan came to town. Ohio State scored the first two touchdowns, but missed both extra points. Michigan rallied from the 12-0 deficit to win a shocker, 24-12.

USC still had Texas, Arkansas and Penn State ahead of them with undefeated, untied records. Texas traveled to Arkansas, and suddenly the media was saying that this was the "game of the century" only three years after the Michigan State-Notre Dame game.

President Nixon realized for the first time that the South, previously thought to be the safest of Democrat voting blocs, was a new constituency of his. It was there where he found support for the Vietnam War and the cornerstone of the Silent Majority of Christian conservatives who made up his and, ultimately, the Republican Party's strongest base. This was partially on his mind when he traveled to Fayetteville for the Texas-Arkansas game. Texas rallied from 14-0 down in the fourth quarter to win, 15-14.

After the game, Nixon told Darrell Royal that the Longhorns were the national champions. Of course, Penn State was unbeaten with the Orange Bowl still to play. They rightfully asked why the former Whittier College "tackling dummy" suddenly seemed to usurp the AP and the UPI. 

Then there was USC and UCLA. Going into their game, both teams still had legitimate hopes at finishing number one. Notre Dame decided to end their "no bowl" policy. If they could beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and if Penn State would lose, then the Rose Bowl could decide the national champion.

It was not to be. Texas rallied to beat Theisman and the Irish in a thrilling Cotton Bowl, 21-17 to earn the number one ranking. Penn State won their bowl, so their number two finish sparked plenty of bar room argument about bias against Eastern football. The need for a play-off system was more obvious than ever.

Before any of that, Southern California and Jimmy Jones had another rabbit to pull out of their hats. They called USC the "Cardiac Kids" after their 14-12 win over UCLA. It was even more amazing than the last-second win over Stanford.

UCLA quarterback Dennis Dummit threw a 41-yard touchdown strike, but Charlie Weaver broke up the Bruins' ill-advised two-point conversion try. Clarence Davis went in from 13 yards out to put USC ahead, 7-6. The Wild Bunch took over.  Highlights of the game show some blows that were truly mind-boggling, including one laid on Dummit by Weaver that is remarkable in that Dummit rose to played again.

Dummit did more than play again. He shook himself off to hit Brad Lyman for 57 yards, then Gwen Cooper from the seven. However, another two-point try failed, so the 12-7 UCLA lead was vulnerable. 

Jones had one of those "57-minute" games Jeff Prugh described. He still had the three he needed, starting it from the USC 32. Jones got nothing done. It was desperation time: fourth-and-10. He looked for Sam Dickerson and overthrew him, but a pass interference call that is questioned to this day in Westwood was called. USC had the ball on the Bruin 32. 

Given life, Jones went for Dickerson again in the corner of the end zone. This time the catch was made to give Southern California a stirring 14-12 win. 

"It was so quiet you could hear a rose petal fall," wrote Dwight Chapin in the Los Angeles Times. "The only sound in the UCLA locker room was the occasional slam of a door as the players slowly made their way out of their cubicles and to the showers. The sound of the doors swinging shut would crack and then it would be quiet - very quiet - again.

"Some of them sobbed behind those locker room doors, unbelieving, waiting in the solitude for the reprieve that wasn't to come. It was Danny Graham, the young man of misfortune, the young man guilty of pass interference that gave USC life - and later the ball game - who was able to articulate the sorrow best."

"It seems," he said, "like my whole life just went down the drain."

Not so. The USC-UCLA game is competition, rivalry and tradition at its very best. Graham was lucky to have been part of it. USC has enjoyed its fair share of glory, but so too has UCLA. The game, like the USC-Notre Dame game, has elevated both programs to greater heights than either one would have achieved without the other. Graham gave a noble effort. Those wearing Cardinal and Gold or baby blue have known this noble effort. They have known the agonies and ecstasies of a great game. It is the essence of what sports is all about. Of course, Graham's life did not go "down the drain." People do not live or die based on the outcome of a sporting match, no matter what Red Sanders used to say. 

The Rose Bowl was anti-climatic, in a sense. It was for USC after the UCLA game. Perhaps it was for a Michigan team that had given the full measure of themselves in the Herculean effort needed to beat Ohio State. Jones hit Bob Chandler, who made a long sideline run for a touchdown. 

"I showed 'em," said Jones. "I've got two years of eligibility to go in college, and I think I'll get better."

The "Wild Bunch" was too much for Michigan quarterback Don Moorehead, and USC won, 10-3. 

The Wolverines could also be excused for having their minds on the health of their new coach, Bo Schembechler. He suffered a mild heart attack and missed the game.  

"Southern Cal just punched us around and constantly kept us in bad field position," said Michigan middle guard Henry Hill. 

 

The 5-11, 190-pound Davis finished his season with 1,351 yards, earning first team All-American honors. The writers were quick to point out that had it not been for Garrett and Simpson, Davis would have gone down as the school's greatest rusher. 

"I don't want to be another Garrett or O.J.," Davis said. "Football is fun, especially when the big boys block for you. I'm not putting down how tough it is. It's a hard game. It hurts a lot sometimes. But it's the losing game that hurts more often than all the bumps and bruises. Playing is fun and winning is wonderful."

Aside from the Wild Bunch, Tony Terry and Gary MacArthur played well on defense. As the season developed, and the nickname spread, the USC fans would chant, "Wild Bunch." 

"The objective of defense is to seek out the ball carrier and separate him from the ball," explained Marv Goux. "Warner Bothers should consider our group for its next Western."

The USC publicity office set up photo shoots of the players dressed in cowboy garb complete with six-shooters. Gunn and Cowlings were both All-Americans. McKay said the Wild Bunch was the best defensive line he ever had at Southern California. Cowlings took his childhood experiences with Simpson, translating them to the football field. He was a self-described neighborhood "bully" who had learned to channel that behavior into on-field mayhem. 

The 6-5, 245-pound Cowlings continued to walk a remarkable path seemingly forged by O.J.: first round draft choice of the Buffalo Bills, where he played for three years with his friend. He then played for the Oilers, Rams and Seahawks before re-uniting again with O.J. in their mutual hometown of San Francisco in 1979. His efforts in Hollywood were a continuation of that path, with little success.

Tody Smith was the brother of Baltimore Colts' superstar Bubba Smith. 

"The only difference between me and Tody is that when I get them down I let them up," said Bubba.

The All-American defensive end Gunn, who came out of San Diego's Lincoln High (Marcus Allen's alma mater), played for the Bears, Giants, for one year under McKay at Tampa Bay, before retiring and entering USC's Hall of Fame.

6-4, 267-pound offensive tackle Sid Smith, out of Wilson High in Long Beach, made All-American. He was a first round selection of Kansas City, playing in the NFL until 1974.  

Other drafted players: Gary McArthur (San Francisco), Sandy Durko (Bengals), Tony Terry (Lions), Gary Orcutt (Falcons) and Don Crenshaw (Rams). Back-up quarterback Mike Holmgren had come to USC a highly touted prep from San Francisco's Lowell High School, but he never got the nod. He was drafted in the 13th round by Chicago, and eventually went into coaching. In 1996 he and quarterback Brett Favre led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl victory. 

Whether it was Nixon's influence or not, Texas finished number one in 1969. A review of old Sporting News and Sports Illustrated's reveals nary a mention at the time that the Longhorns were all white.

 

 

 

 

PART FIVE

 

THE TURNING OF THE CRIMSON TIDE SEPTEMBER 1970

One Night, Two Teams, and the Game That Changed A Nation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

THE UNIVERSITY OF SPOILED CHIDLREN VS. DIRT POOR

In Birmingham they love the governor

And we all did what we could do

Now Watergate does not bother me

Does your conscience bother you, now tell the truth?

- "Sweet Home Alabama,” sung by Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

Jimmy Jones had told the writers after the Rose Bowl that he expected to only get better in his last two years at USC. In the first game of his junior year, he and the team looked spectacular. They were ranked third in the nation coming in. USC seemed an excellent bet after their opener to extend their 12-game unbeaten streak and win another national championship. The forces of fate and destiny that mark the 1970 University of Southern California Trojan football team, individually and as a program, can only be assessed in the light of time's passage. They are a part of history, a part of our culture. The signs and wonders that mark these remarkable young men; what they accomplished and what they stood for, speak to the changing America of their times. They speak to matters of social significance, but ultimately it all ties together.

Six members of the 1970 USC football team became Christian ministers. Among those were quarterback Jimmy Jones, tight end Charle Young, and fullback Manfred Moore. Center Dave Brown was heavily involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

USC proudly refers to itself as "a private, non-denominational institution." It's greatest rival, of course, is the great Catholic school Notre Dame. The contrast between the two schools is often marked by Notre Dame's religious identity, denoting a certain kind of Midwestern piety. South Bend, Indiana is a tiny little town with little to do. The weather is cold. Nobody has ever accused them of being a "party school." Playboy has never run any "Girls of Notre Dame" pictorials. 

USC on the other hand, is disparagingly referred to by its jealous detractors as the "University of Spoiled Children." It has a secular reputation as Hollywood's school, where the affluent Beautiful People congregate in a warm weather paradise. Eye-popping coeds grace the campus. Fraternity parties have been known to get decadent.

However, there is a certain aura that is associated with USC, a place some have taken to call the "Hallowed Shrine." For one thing, it is an extremely conservative, patriotic institution, which separates it from many of its rivals. Liberal activism is the touchstone of Berkeley and Stanford. UCLA considers itself socially to the left of its cross-town rival. But USC has always maintained its conservative base.

John Wayne, of course, was a Trojan and a fierce patriot. Football coach Marv Goux once spurred a citywide debate in the Los Angeles Times by pulling an anti-war protestor named "Brother Lennie" off his campus soapbox during the Vietnam era. Conservative Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy was received like a conquering hero by admiring frat boys in 1983.

"You got brass b---s," they told him when he spoke of his prison experiences in the 1983 promotion of his autobiography, Will, at Bovard Auditorium. 

The next year, 1984 Democrat Presidential candidate Walter Mondale found USC to be "Reagan country," causing him to chastise the school for producing several of the President's men during Watergate.

In 2004, liberal filmmaker Michael Moore was all-but booed off the stage when he tried to show Fahrenheit 9/11 at USC. His reaction was to start wearing a UCLA cap.

But while USC is conservative, rich, and associated with the Republican Party in a way that few other major American colleges is, it is also, curiously, the "people's school." A bastion of wealth surrounded by the urban core of a hard city, yet these people have for decades come together to root for Troy.

The truth is, USC has always considered itself a school with a religious identification. It was founded in 1880 by a Catholic, a Methodist and a Jew, and until taking on the nickname "Trojans" in 1912, they were commonly known as the "Methodists." Its habit of winning last-second football victories via miraculous comebacks has provided some mystical quality to the whole idea of being "special," even "chosen." The fact that the teams they routinely beat - Cal, Stanford, the Oregon schools, for instance - are considered liberal and even unfriendly to Christianity, at least in its more fundamental forms, is seen by some as further evidence of their mystique. Of course, "miracle" wins over Notre Dame have added to the whole Catholic vs. Protestant question, leading to friendly fan arguments over who God favors, all offered with the appropriate wink and a smile! 

The school has of course produced its fair share of womanizers, partiers, and National Enquirer types, but - and perhaps it is because USC athletes get interviewed more, or are more prominent and therefore able to attract attention to their causes after their careers end - USC seems to produce an extraordinarily high percentage of former athletes extolling God, or Christian-inspired causes. 

The 1970 Trojans were a team that was indeed populated by a large number of Christian athletes. That being said, however, they were a team of divisions, juxtapositions and personal rivalries. Their fate is tied to the events of September 12, the season opener. A great season was torn asunder by racial polarization. A little-known lineman brought them together when all looked hopeless. Greatness came to them via patience and fate. The 36 years that have since marked the first game of the 1970 season reveal a mosaic of beautiful personalities, powerful men of mayhem who have found peace. A nation can point to that 1970 season opener as a metaphor for a changing America.

* * * *

The pride of the South was its colleges, ranging from venerable private institutions such as Vanderbilt to public colleges like Alabama and Mississippi. No black man or woman dared enter these hallowed halls.

After World War II, the U.S. Army desegregated. In 1954, the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision ruled that segregation of public high schools (and by extension, at least in theory, colleges) according to race was illegal. President Dwight Eisenhower understood the Southern mind-set and pursued an incremental approach to civil rights. Still, he attempted to bring forth legislation that would ensure black voting rights and other freedoms. Southern Democrats blocked his efforts.

In 1955 Georgia Governor Marvin Griffith asked Georgia Tech not to play Pitt in the Sugar Bowl because the Panthers featured a black player, Bobby Grier.

"The South stands at Armageddon," he said. "We can't risk the slightest (during) this dark and lamentable struggle."

Louisiana and Mississippi lawmakers passed laws prohibiting schools from competing against integrated teams, although Jones J.C. of Mississippi did travel West to play Compton J.C. in the Junior Rose Bowl.

In 1962, James Meredith, 28, a black Air Force vet, entered Ole Miss. He was later wounded by gunfire in 1966 march. NAACP leader Medgar Evers was assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi days after Alabama Governor George Wallace's "stand in the schoolhouse door." In September 1963, four little girls were killed in a Birmingham church bombing. In February of 1964, Black Muslim leader Malcolm X was killed after advocating that the Muslims cooperate with King's non-violent Christian movement. 

"It is hard for some to understand the kind of savage conditions that existed, the intense hatred," Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of black studies at Cal State Long Beach, told Long Beach Press-Telegram sports columnist Bob Keisser for a story on the 35th anniversary of the 1970 USC-Alabama game. "They didn't want African-Americans to excel anywhere, in school or in sports."

In 1963 Adolph Rupp asked to be allowed to play integrated basketball teams, but the rest of the SEC refused. Kentucky's football team integrated in 1967 with Nat Northington and Greg Page, but Page was paralyzed when teammates gang swarmed him in practice. He fell into a coma, dying a month later. Northington, injured in the first game vs. Indiana, later quit. Wilbur Hackett stuck it out at Northington's urging and made junior co-captain. 

In 1967, Cal's black football players boycotted spring practice because of suspension of a black basketball player. In 1969, 13 Washington blacks refused to play vs. UCLA after four refused to sign a loyalty oath for coach Jim Owens.

In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King fought for black voter registration by leading the "Freedom March" from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. He was jailed; and his supporters, white and black, met with violence. Blood filled the streets, but King insisted on maintaining the movement, in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, as one of nonviolent revolution.

President John Kennedy had made tentative steps toward legal integration. When he was murdered in 1963, an unlikely torchbearer emerged. President Lyndon Johnson, from Texas, ushered in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The South was still widely Democrat, and they opposed it widely. Republicans, however, stepped up and helped pass the law. 

At the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, African-American athletes Tommy Smith and John Carlos finished first and third in the 200-meter dash. They raised black-gloved fists during "The Star-Spangled Banner." Both were suspended and thrown out of the Olympic Village. Both athletes had been approached by African-American Berkeley sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards in an effort to boycott the games. Many black athletes, including UCLA basketball All-American Lew Alcindor, had joined the boycott.

In 1968, Richard Nixon began the tightrope act that helped transform Southern politics. He formed a delicate coalition of Republicans and supporters of Governor George Wallace who wanted their vote to count. His “Southern strategy” resulted in his election to the Presidency. Eventually, this provided the impetus the GOP needed to husband Dixie back into the mainstream.

In the mean time, Alabama under legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant established itself as a major national football power. Andy Doyle, an Emory University historian, said the success of Bryant's teams in the very face of protest served as vindication of "white supremacy."

"He was a demi-god able to salvage the honor of a society that was being forced to alter many of its most cherished traditions," he wrote.

"Bear was very late to the dance," wrote historian and author David Halberstam. "In this case, he did not lead well. He was divided and slow. He was probably the only man in all of Alabama capable of standing up to George Wallace."

Joe Namath said Bryant told him in 1962 he'd never recruit blacks as long as he could find whites who were as good. But by 1967 he was predicting integration.

"The time is coming when in this entire area," he told Ebony magazine, "you won't see too many of these <colored> boys going away (to other schools)."

In the late 1950s and 1960s, blacks made enormous strides in college football. Syracuse stars Jim Brown and Ernie Davis made their marks. Occasionally, Southern teams played integrated squads in bowl games, always with controversy and fan resistance. These contests were almost never south of the Mason-Dixon line. Great black athletes from the South and East filled out college rosters in the Pacific 8 and Big 10 conferences. 

In 1966, basketball coach Don Haskins fielded an all black starting five at Texas Western University (now the University of Texas-El Paso). He took Texas Western all the way to the NCAA tournament. His opponent was a legendary, allegedly racist Coach Adolph Rupp, whose Kentucky team had dominated the pre-UCLA and John Wooden era but was now finding itself left behind. When Haskins’s team won, the “old order” was upended. Rupp's supposedly racist reputation conflicts with his request to the SEC three years earlier to play integrated teams.    

 

In the late summer of 1963, Dr. King, that year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, had organized the "March on Washington," demanding equal rights for all Americans.

"I have a dream," King told the assembled multitudes at the Mall. The dream was that America would "live up to its creed," and that black people be judged, "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

JFK disputed with Governor Ross Barnett over Meredith's entrance into Ole Miss. Barnett, by virtue of his membership in the Democratic Party, was theoretically a political ally of Kennedy's, but he fought the President tooth and nail; albeit, in the dulcet, gentlemanly tones of Southern propriety. It was enough to make Kennedy want to jump through the roof, if only his aching back would allow such dexterity.

 

Governor George Corley Wallace had been an old style Southern populist in the tradition of Earl and Huey Long. He had reached out with the hand of racial moderation in 1958, only to be beaten in that year's gubernatorial campaign by John Patterson. Wallace adamantly declared that he would , "never be out-n------d again." 

Four years later, his campaign theme could be summed up by the phrase "segregation now, segregation forever." He was elected, and he was popular. Wallace marched to the front of the administration building and "blocked" it, so that two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, could not enter and enroll in the University of Alabama. 

Paul "Bear" Bryant and University of Alabama President Frank Rose, along with members of the board of trustees, had stood in the window of Bear’s second-story office, a building on the corner, where they were witnessing history. For better or for worse. 

President Rose was a friend and ally of Jack Kennedy's. He found himself walking a tightrope. The Democrats had ushered the South into the modern era. Franklin Roosevelt's works programs of the 1930s, particularly the building of the Tennessee Valley Authority, had made it possible for new generations of Southerners to pursue higher education at institutions such as the one he now presided over. 

But 'Bama was a state university. His boss was the firebrand two stories below making the stand in the schoolhouse door; the man with the bushy eyebrows, the former amateur pugilist, the man L.A. Times reporter Jeff Prugh later called "America's merchant of venom."

Bryant was the child of sharecroppers. His nickname, “Bear,” came from his teenage years when he wrestled a black bear at a local fair in rural Arkansas. He had befriended a black kid and almost gotten thrown into jail with him as a result of a youthful prank. He had served in the Navy, managed a blues band. He had been a star end opposite Don Hutson, playing in the 1935 Rose Bowl. He had coached at Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas A&M  - where he tried to integrate those programs - before returning to ‘Bama in 1958. He was, despite his impossible-to-understand Southern mumble, a worldly man who, like Lyndon Johnson, sympathized with the plight of minorities because he too had come from the wrong side of the tracks. 

In 1959, Alabama faced Penn State in the Liberty Bowl. Bryant was criticized for facing an integrated Nittany Lion team with five blacks. Local "citizen's groups" (read: the KKK) in Tuscaloosa objected. Alabama lost the game, 7–0.

But in 1961, Bryant had won a national championship, and when you do that in Alabama you can walk on water, which Bryant did in Coca-Cola billboards along the Alabama highways. To top that off he had landed the most blue chip of all blue chip recruits, a hotshot with bedroom eyes from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania: Joe Willie Namath. Namath, a junior that fall, was creating quite a stir by making quiet, solo visits to the black neighborhoods of Tuscaloosa, where he mingled with the local citizenry.

"He looks like a cool jazz singer," said Sylvester Croom, who would go on to become an Alabama All-American and the first black football coach in the Southeastern Conference at Mississippi State. 

 

Dr. King had studied Mahatma Gandhi, how he had forged Indian independence through passive resistance. Satyagraha. The delicate art of putting your morality on the other guy, of making his crimes against you crimes he was committing against himself. Dr. King saw in his approach a morality not just attached to his cause, but to his "enemies," who he did not see as his enemies, but as his brothers. In the Christian South, Dr. King saw humanity where so many others saw hatred, violence, ignorance.

So, too, did Bear Bryant. "When people are ignorant," the Arkansas "hillbilly" said, "you don't condemn 'em, you teach 'em."

But Bear Bryant was a man who made his living orchestrating organized mayhem, but in a world gone mad, a world of riots, police dogs and rubber hoses, he wanted nothing more than to accomplish the important tasks at hand smoothly. Like a baby's cheek.

Bryant grew up dirt poor in a place where “poor” meant living off the land. He was sympathetic to poor people, a trait shared by some “poor whites” in the South. It might be said that the difference between “poor whites” and “white trash” was that poor whites empathized with others because they shared their plight, while “white trash” blamed others for their plight. The most virulent racism in the South had never come from the slave-owning classes or the aristocracy. Instead it emanated from the foremen who derived their wages and bonuses from slave toil, then pinned their economic downturn on the blacks, whom they saw as taking their jobs, their land, and their opportunity.

Bryant looked like a hound dog, his visage accentuated by the fact he wore a hound's tooth hat. He had big floppy jowls, sleepy eyes, craggy, sunburned skin. His ears made him look like a taxi going down the street with the doors open, which probably was the reason for the hound's tooth hat. 

Bryant’s football mentality worked against any instinctive racism. As a man whose entire life was football and competition, he understood fully the nature of achievement. He had seen enough athletes succeed or fail to know that the two factors that played the decisive role were physical ability and mental desire.

Somewhere, coaches were brainwashing themselves into believing that while blacks could be great pro players, that was a mercenary game. Or college blacks could compete with whites up North, out West, or in the East, but not in Dixie. Southern football was still, despite evidence piling up to the contrary, a more “manly” game than in other regions. Old notions of class and aristocracy were archaically being applied to football. 

Extensive interviews with Bryant’s colleagues and intimates, in Alabama and throughout the U.S., reveal that nobody, black or white, could recall Bryant using the word “n—” at any time. In a movie about Richmond Flowers Jr., titled Unconquered, Bryant (who helped young Richmond get a scholarship to the University of Alabama Law School) is depicted as predicting the future. 

“In a few years,” he told his players, “you’re all gonna be black.” 

Bryant did not believe the lies that still embodied part of the myth that Southern whites were still clinging to in 1970. He had tried to integrate Kentucky when he coached there in the 1950s. He often spent Friday nights watching all black high school games. But Bear also installed a drill called “The Cage.” It was supposed to determine the strongest willed and most able-bodied players.

Racism, an evil disease that makes good people believe lies about other people, inculcated the logical reasoning ability of otherwise-intelligent men and women. These people had grown up with separate drinking fountains, restrooms, schools, and churches, sheltering them from blacks. Whites certainly had no desire to share lockers, showers, sweat, and blood with blacks.

For centuries, including the better part of the previous hundred years, blacks believed these lies too. But society had changed. It had changed because of two world wars, books, mass communications, human nature, sports, and American politics. But most of all, it had changed because of Christianity. No longer did the blacks believe in their own “inherent” inferiority. Their brand of Christianity - self-affirming, loud, and proud - had begun to develop a pride in themselves. They were itching to prove themselves. They knew that on the “other side of the tracks” on Sundays, white folks were worshiping the same Christ they were, and sooner or later the twain shall meet. 

 

John McKay: iconoclast, cigar-smoker. Conservative Republican. West Virginia Irish Catholic.  A good ol' boy at heart and by Southern upbringing. He liked to sip whisky. How much he liked to hunt and fish may be debatable. 

In the modern era McKay would have been given the heave-ho after his first two losing years. 

"I need speed," McKay told his staff. 

Speed? Read: black athletes. When John McKay said he wanted speed, his recruiting staff knew exactly what that meant. It took a couple of years, but by 1962 the Trojans had speed: Willie Brown from Long Beach Poly High School and Mike Garrett from Roosevelt High in L.A. 

 

In the late 1960s, Bob Troppman was an innovator. A native of San Francisco, he had grown up in the glory days of the city's high school sports, days when the likes of Joe and Dom DiMaggio, Frank Crosetti, Joe Cronin, Jerry Coleman, and Tony Lazzeri competed on the windswept fields of old Big Rec Park.

Tropp starred at Lowell High School, then entered the Marines, where he served during World War II. He entered the teaching profession and became a football coach at a brand new high school in the growing suburbs of Marin County. In the 1960s, Redwood High under Bob Troppmann was a Bay Area grid power.

In the latter part of that decade, Tropp came up with a great idea. He saw the growing popularity of coaching clinics, and he started one of his own. It was called the Diamond B Football Camp. It was an immediate success because he was able to attract top college coaches, among them Bear Bryant and John McKay.

These became regular events for both coaches. Sometimes Bryant would bring his elegant Southern wife, Mary Harmon, and McKay his spunky spouse, Corky. Sometimes they did not. In the twi-light of the evening, they would relax in the glow of cocktails, tall tales and knowing laughter. A friendship was born.

Bryant admired Troppmann, who had a first class football mind and could have taken it to the next level, but chose instead to remain an unsung high school hero. Bryant was quoted saying, "When I need advice on developing the short passing game, I consult Coach Troppmann's diagrams." It was a little hokey but nice advertising for the Diamond B camp.

McKay would show up with Marv Goux. It was like a fantasy camp for kids, with Goux barking orders in drill sergeant fashion at the kids from the liberal, rich Marin homes.

"Your ass is mine for the next week."

"If you don't like it, go cry to your mamas."

One kid who loved it was Troppmann's star quarterback and safety, a bright-eyed kid with a natural mind for football named Pete Carroll.

McKay also enjoyed off-season trips to the South. He had his pick of black prep stars in McKay's neck of the woods. They were going to schools like USC and Michigan State because schools like Alabama and Georgia were off-limits. McKay would drop in on the Bear, they would head down to a lodge Bryant kept on the 'Bama coast, the "Redneck Riviera" they liked to call it. They would sit in duck blinds sipping whisky, talkin' football, women, life. They would take a few shots at the ducks. They were better at drinkin' and coachin' than huntin', but they had camaraderie.

McKay never rubbed it in, the fact that he could get the Jimmy Jones's, the Tody Smith's, the Clarence Davis's, while Bear's idea of ethnic recruiting was restricted to guys nicknamed the "Italian Stallion" (Johnny Musso) or Greek fellas from Ohio (Christ Vagotis). Vagotis was so exotic that when he was introduced by a booster at the team banquet, the drunkard stated, "Well, hell, this fella Fag-otiswhy we don' know what he is, but at least he ain' no Negro!" 

This was what Bear Bryant was up against when it came to changing the world. McKay was sympathetic to his plight. The two would talk about how, some day things would be different, and when that happened it would be better for everybody.

At the end of the Diamond B camp, a banquet was arranged. Bryant, McKay, the camp staff and other dignitaries drank, laughed and made speeches. High school coaches from far and wide would show up.

"Send you’re A students to Cal and Stanford," Bryant told the assembled coaches. "They'll get a fine education. Send your B students to Southern Cal and UCLA. Hell, I'd send my own kin there. Send you're C students to one a your fine state schools or junior colleges. They'll find themselves. But ya'll send your whisky-drinkin', skirt-chasin' D students to 'Bama, and ol' Bear'll turn 'em into football players!"

The crowd would roar in laughter, appreciating the unspoken reference to two very famous "whisky-drinkin', skirt-chasin' D students" named Joe Namath and Ken Stabler.  

Sharing a nightcap with McKay after the banquet, Bear contemplated what he had said to the coaches. Sitting next to them, like a guy in those photos of Churchill, FDR and Stalin at Yalta, with a barstool view of history, was a quiet Bob Troppmann.

"Ya know somethin', ol' buddy," Bear said. "About sendin' some a your kids to play for the Bear? We been sendin' our share to play for y'all."

McKay contemplated this meaning. Bear was talking about black players, but this was a subject that was dealt with in code.

"I think the time's a comin'," continued Bear, "when that practice is gonna cease."

McKay just tinkled his glass to the other man's. 

"From your mouth to God's ears," said John McKay. 

"We'll come out there to the Coliseum," Bryant told McKay, referring to a future with blacks wearing the Crimson Tide, "and it'll be like a high speed train."

McKay turned to Troppmann, who did not realize that he was hearing Bear Bryant talk about things in a way he never talked about in front of his staff. There was the Alabama Bear and the other Bear, the vacation Bear, the California Bear. 

"Whaddaya think of that, Coach?"

"I would have no objection," replied Coach T.

 

The NCAA announced that they were adding an eleventh game to the fall football schedule early in 1970. After hearing about the extra game, Bryant gathered his "brain trust" in his second floor office, the same one where he watched Wallace make his infamous "stand at the schoolhouse door" seven years earlier. 

Bryant once said he wanted to be the "Branch Rickey of football." In a 1965 Look magazine article, he stated, "Negro players in the Southeastern Conference are coming." Radio host Paul Finebaum, however, said Bryant could have done more sooner.

"He had more power than any football coach in the South, maybe the country, and any public declaration from him would have helped enormously," he said.

Bryant's "brain trust" included his coaches, Jerry Claiborne, Mal "Bud" Moore, Jack Rutledge and Clem Gryska. Maybe they were Bear's "brain trust," but regarding the issue of this added game, they were merely his audience when he announced that the Tide had an extra contest to prepare for, and that it would be the Southern Cal Trojans on September 12 at Legion Field.

"Coach Bryant, now hold on…" said Moore. "Let's think this thing through."

"That's what I always do, Bud," said Bryant.

"Coach," said Moore, "Southern Cal's undefeated, they're fast, they're…"

Nobody had to say it. They had blacks. Lots of fast blacks. One could hear Aunt Bea wailing about it right now.

"Andy, Andy, there's blacks at Legion Field." 

"It's the best thing for the program, Coach," Bryant said to Moore, but it was directed at the assembled staff. "It'll be a big game for our fans, like a bowl game in September."

"They got Davis," said Claiborne.

Davis was Clarence Davis. Black. Born in Birmingham. An All-American tailback in 1969. Star for the 10-0-1 Trojans.

"The papers'll have a field day," said Claiborne.

Indeed, Davis had become a poster child for a growing chorus in the media to integrate the football program. It was not just the black media, and there was such a thing. They covered the black high school stars and the black colleges. The "white" papers wondered about Davis, too. He was one who most certainly had gotten away.

"It'll help with Wilbur," stated Bear.

Wilbur Jackson. Ah, the elephant in the corner. A running back-wide receiver from Ozark, Alabama. One of the best high school football players in America. His dad was a railroadman. Big family. Conservative, very Christian.

"Yes sir, no ma'am," all the way. 

Black.

With a full ride scholarship to the University of Alabama, slated to enter with the freshman class in the fall, where he would be expected to star on the frosh team. In 1971, barring disaster, he would be on the field of play, competing at full throttle for the Crimson Tide. 

Bear Bryant never made mention of race, at least not in the context of what this game with USC would mean, but greasing the skids for Wilbur Jackson was Project 1-A, and he had his way of doing things. 

Craig Fertig was not yet 30 years old in the spring of 1970. He had engineered that miraculous victory, coming from 17-0 down at the half to defeat Notre Dame in 1964, thus denying Ara Parsheghian his first national championship. In so doing, he had earned his eternal place in the glory halls of Troy.

Now, however, he was a lowly assistant coach. He had made it past the graduate assistant stage, but not by a whole lot. He was assigned bed check duty. When McKay had his fill of whisky at Julie's, a nearby watering hole, Fertig (whose unofficial duties included keeping up with the old man) was tasked with driving him home to Covina.

On this smoggy spring day, Fertig again found himself playing taxi driver.

"Come on, Craig, let's go" McKay barked.

"Yes, sir," said Fertig. No questions asked. No details inquired of or given.

Out the door they went, to the parking lot, where McKay handed Fertig the keys to his car, a big old gas-