Cal Football: Could Old Blues Love a Rose Bowl Played on May 1?

A pregame flyover before the 2020 Rose Bowl game between Oregon and Wisconsin.Photo by Kirby Lee, USA Today

Jeff Faraudo

OK, Cal fans, bear with me, especially those of you who have been waiting since Jan. 1, 1959 for your football team to make a return trip to the Rose Bowl.

Answer this: Could you embrace a Rose Bowl appearance . . . on May 1, 2021?

The Jan. 1, 2021 Rose Bowl will serve as a College Football Playoff semifinal game. As such, no Pac-12 team will have a chance to play in the game because the conference has postponed its football season, at least until the winter or spring, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, the Big Ten’s more controversial decision to postpone its season gained further clarity on Monday with release of legal briefs that confirmed university presidents in August voted 11-3 to scrap the fall schedule. The dissenters were Ohio State, Nebraska and Iowa, according to multiple media sources.

The Big Ten also hopes to play a spring schedule, assuming health and safety conditions allow.

The circumstances have prompted some to consider an intriguing idea: A second Rose Bowl. Consider me officially on the bandwagon for this long-shot idea.

It would require the Pac-12 and Big Ten to align their spring timetables and play eight- or nine-game, conference-only schedules, running from early February through late April.

And then, a showdown of the champions from each conference on Saturday, May 1 at the Rose Bowl stadium, in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains.

The weather should be beautiful — typically in the upper 70s, according to — and fans of the Pac-12 and Big Ten champions will celebrate the reinvention of the sport’s first bowl game and one that for so long was associated strictly with these two conferences.

Assuming fans are allowed to attend, tickets would be hot. Either way, TV would eat this up.

Oregon is the universal favorite to win the Pac-12 title, whether this fall or next spring.

But Cal, with most of its starters back from an 8-5 season that ended with an emphatic win over Illinois in the Redbox Bowl, entertains long shot dreams of a conference title.

The Bears haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since Jan. 1, 1959, when they were steamrolled by second-ranked Iowa 38-12. Cal hasn’t won in Pasadena on Jan. 1 since a 13-0 shutout of Alabama in 1938.

I’m sure a few Old Blues would regard this as the ultimate Cal bad joke — finally a Rose Bowl, but in May with no accompanying parade down Colorado Boulevard.

More of them, I believe, would embrace not just playing in the game, but even the unique weirdness of the whole thing. No one else in the conference could boast their team played in the only Rose Bowl staged outside the first week of January.

A recent story by CBS Sports speculated on the possibility:

Separate sources within each the Big Ten and Pac-12 said there have only been preliminary discussions about the subject.

"There's been a conversation about that possibility," one the sources said.

David Eads, CEO of the Rose Bowl, told CBS Sports he’s been asked more than once about a second Rose Bowl. He also quickly dismissed the notion. “I don't think anybody has given any thought or consideration to that at this point,” he said.

That doesn’t mean it won’t come up . . . or that athletic directors (even chancellors and presidents) in the Pac-12 and Big Ten haven’t already tossed the idea around in their heads.

Assuming the Big Ten doesn’t cave to pressure and begin play in November, the game could provide a salve to fans from the two conferences who will ache with jealousy if the SEC, Big 12 and ACC seasons come off as planned this fall.

The first Rose Bowl game, in 1902, featured Stanford. Cal fans will be happy to know the Cardinal lost 49-0 to Michigan.

Cal’s 28-0 upset of heavily favored Ohio State in the 1921 Rose Bowl — a Bears’ team led by coach Andy Smith and star Brick Muller — gave much-needed credibility to West Coast football.

Because of the CFP, the Rose Bowl is no longer a guaranteed annual meeting of the best from the Pac-12 and the Big Ten. We already know that neither conference will be involved in the game on Jan. 1.

I don’t know about you, but the prospect of a second Rose Bowl game on May 1 has a blossoming appeal to me.


Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

With the craziness that can be Cal football, a May Day Rose Bowl sounds perfect.