College football, a cyclic madness confined mostly to the autumn season, last week sent teams and coaches, sportswriters, TV and radio crews and a few early-bird spectators scurrying across the land, for the most part in a southerly direction. Destination: Bowl games.
In the van of all this were an adventurous couple of couples who set out on December 11 from Columbus, Ohio bound, in the pioneering spirit of Conestoga wagoners, for Pasadena's Rose Bowl. Their vehicle was a Ford of the Model-T formation, built in 1919, the year a Great Lakes Navy team beat the Mare Island Marines 17 to 0 in the Rose Bowl. (Temperature: 25°.) Mr. and Mrs. Al Shuman and Mr. and Mrs. Mal Riggle, occupants of the Ford, reached Tulsa in five days but only after some interesting generator trouble in Lebanon, Mo. Then, pointing for the Texas Panhandle, they chugged on out of town, first of the postseason lemmings.
The mass migration by train, plane and modern car would not take place until after Christmas. But then it would begin and, together with the normal holiday season strain on transportation, would tax all the resources of wheel and propeller. The big airlines were pestered with requests for planes to be chartered but between Christmas and New Year's such special flights are not to be had. The hotels and motels of Pasadena, New Orleans, Dallas and Miami looked to bulge as the Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange Bowls would bulge on New Year's Day, television or no television.
Sellouts were assured for the big Bowls, with such capacities as 75,504 (Cotton), 82,985 (Sugar), 68,718 (Orange) and 100,300 (Rose). Ticket prices ranged from $4 for end-zone seats in the Orange Bowl to $8.50 for "press box" seats in the Sugar Bowl.
December 27, 1954
And tickets were mighty hard to come by. The Rose Bowl, for instance, put only 3,500 tickets on public sale, the rest going to alumni groups in the two conferences, clubs, civic organizations and the like. They were snapped up immediately. The other Bowls similarly had no tickets after late November or early December.
In the Sugar and Orange Bowl sports fiestas there was more than football to be seen.
New Orleans presented six days of sports, including the Navy-Mississippi game, and starting with boxing matches between Maryland and the defending champion, Louisiana State, on December 28. In addition, there were three days of tennis featuring 16 United States and foreign players, basketball games between Loyola of the South and Notre Dame, and Holy Cross and Bradley, and a track meet in which Wes Santee was to run the mile. Finally there will be a regatta, sailed the day before and the day after the football game and featuring the "Race of Champions," an interclub affair sailed in Fish Class sloops, only boat common to all Gulf Coast clubs.
Another regatta, for outboards and inboards, is to be part of the Orange Bowl festival, which also features a junior tennis invitation tournament. These events were to start the day after Christmas and continue on to the day after the New Year's game between Nebraska and Duke.
The Bowl games are big business, and not just for the hotel and restaurant trade. For instance, the Rose Bowl will take in $875,000 from all sources, of which $800,000 will be net to be split between each participating conference. Each team in the Cotton Bowl game will receive about $158,000, and $276,000 from Orange Bowl receipts will be split between the Big Seven and Atlantic Coast conferences. In 1954 the Sugar Bowl set its payoff record with $144,669 apiece going to Georgia Tech and West Virginia.
THE FEAST BEFORE THE FAMINE
Presumably it's the festive atmosphere almost as much as football which draws such money. The most festive of all the Bowls is the Tournament of Roses, where it sometimes gets a mite chilly but the roses bloom anyhow. As a matter of fact, the best teams in the land don't necessarily oppose each other in the Bowl games. The only Bowl game with two teams from the Associated Press's top ten will be at New Orleans between Navy (No. 5) and Mississippi (No. 6).
The most venerable and wealthiest of the Bowl games is at Pasadena. The Tournament of Roses parade, five miles long, takes two hours to pass a given TV camera. This idea of a floral parade goes back to 1889, and the first football game in connection with the Tournament, which was wont to feature chariot races, was in 1902 when Fielding (Hurry-up) Yost's point-a-minute University of Michigan team creamed Stanford 49 to 0. The Tournament thereupon went back to chariot races until 1916, the year Edwin Gaffney, Los Angeles stock broker, began to function as the most persistent of all Rose Bowl game spectators. Mr. Gaffney, claiming to have attended all Bowl games, tends to denounce historians who list that 1902 affair as a Rose Bowl game. He says anyhow the 1902 game was not finished because Stanford ran out of substitutes.
Gaffney has helped out, so to speak, at some of the games. In 1924 he was told to mark off the yard lines with lime. He ran out of lime near the goal line and substituted some Old Dutch Cleanser he found in the locker room. The game ended in a 14-14 tie between Washington and Navy, and Gaffney feels he saved the day for Washington. On a crucial play a Navy lineman inhaled some of the cleanser, sneezed and fell offside. The penalty, Gaffney says, cost Navy a touchdown.
The game was moved to Durham, N.C. in 1942 because of the threat of a Japanese attack on the West Coast. Gaffney went to the Rose Bowl anyway. He sat alone on the 50-yard line with a portable radio and claims to have been the smallest Bowl-game crowd ever.
Gaffney won't be lonely in the Rose Bowl on this New Year's Day. The traffic procession to the game will start jamming the streets of Pasadena well before Pacific noon. And just before kick-off time Gaffney, settled in the stands once more, with his USC banner, his field glasses and his patient, understanding wife, will be joined by the tens of millions who will be watching on TV. Perhaps they will see another Roy Riegels run the wrong way or a Tom Lewis spring from the bench to make a rousingly illegal tackle. Whatever they see, they will be participants in the great Feast Day of Football, the Mardi Gras before the annual nine-months famine.
THE NEW YEAR'S TV BOWL
NAVY VS. MISSISSIPPI
2 P.M. E.S.T. ABC-TV
SCOUTING REPORT: PAGE 50
GEORGIA TECH VS. ARKANSAS
1:45 P.M. E.S.T. NBC-TV
SCOUTING REPORT: PAGE 52
NEBRASKA VS. DUKE
1:45 P.M. E.S.T. CBS-TV
SCOUTING REPORT: PAGE 56
OHIO STATE VS. SOUTHERN CAL
4:45 P.M. E.S.T. NBC-TV
SCOUTING REPORT: PAGE 54
HICKMAN'S HUNCHES ON THE BOWL GAMES
Rose Bowl. The unbeaten Buckeyes, champions of the Big Ten, meet the thrice-thwarted Trojans, runners-up to the mighty Bruins of UCLA for the Pacific Coast title, in the most hallowed of bowls. All signs say a sweeping victory for Ohio State. Dandoy, Arnett, Contratto & Co. could surprise. The Buckeyes have everything to lose, but won't...OHIO STATE.
Sugar Bowl. Navy vs. Mississippi. The Middies and Ole Miss have caught the public's interest. Navy, down only to Notre Dame 0-6 and Pittsburgh 19-21, has been aptly called a team named desire, but they may find out "way down yonder in New Orleans" that desire runs both ways. The Rebels, smarting under sneers of "soft schedule" and the surprising 0-6 lone loss to Arkansas, are bent on vindication. Psychology and the bigger tackles say Mississippi. But I still can't forget that Army game, so I say...NAVY.
Cotton Bowl. Georgia Tech vs. Arkansas. Two Tennesseans tangle in Texas. Robert Lee Dodd, dean of Southeastern Conference coaches, meets Bowden Wyatt, who, in his sophomore year as head coach, made Arkansas the surprise of the Southwest Conference. Rated near the bottom at the beginning of the season, amazing Arkansas won seven in a row before bowing to SMU 14-21. They were outgained by practically every opponent. But they won by a flawless kicking game coupled with an alert and sound defensive effort. Georgia Tech, hampered by early season injuries, finished strong for a 7-3 record. This Tech team is potentially better than their record shows, and the injured are healed. The Razorbacks have been opportunists all season, and Wyatt has gotten every thing out of them that is humanly possible. Maybe there is one more great effort left, but I'll have to take...GEORGIA TECH.
Orange Bowl. Duke vs. Nebraska. Last year through their affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Seven, the Orange Bowl matched the 1-2 teams in the country, undefeated Maryland and Oklahoma. This year the luck of the draw was not as attractive from a national viewpoint but it could turn out to be one whale of a ball game. Both the Blue Devils and the Corn-huskers use the split T. Both are primarily running teams. Duke has been unbeatable in the South but Army and Navy have taken them, and they were tied by Purdue. Nebraska came through unexpectedly to gain the runner-up position in the Big Seven as Biff Glassford hushed his critics. Spiritually, the Cornhuskers—but the Blue Devils are wicked. DUKE.
Gator Bowl. Baylor vs. Auburn. This one might turn out to be the best of the bowl games. I started to say the best game of the day, but it will be played in Jacksonville on Dec. 31. Last year I saw the Gator Bowl game between Texas Tech and Auburn. It approached the Army-Navy game in pure offensive onslaught. Auburn, supposedly loaded, started slowly, gained momentum and finished by wrecking Georgia and Alabama. Baylor led the Southwest Conference in total offense and also was first in defense. In Quarterback Hooper and End Cremminger, the Bears boast the best passing combination in their conference. Nonetheless, a trembling vote for AUBURN.