Some Confused Bowl Recollections


Raleigh Register, Beckley, W. Va., Friday Afternoon, January 2, 1976


Well, thank goodness that's over. For another year at least. A man has to be some kind of a kook to sit, practically glued to his chair for nine and a half hours and watch three televised football bowl games from start to finish.


And I resolve right here and now that I'm not going to do it again. I'm sure, too, that a zillion other armchair coaches have made the very same resolution on New Year's night as they tossed and turned trying to sort out the confused memories of the day's play.


Of course I'm also sure they made the same resolution a year ago. Just like I did. But the hardest-learned lesson seems somehow to come unlearned in a year's time. Especially when bowl fever is loose in the land.


Three football games in one evening is a bit much, don't you think? How in the world can a fellow keep them separated? Let's see, now, how did they go? Oh, yes. Oklahoma walloped Ohio State 31-10 in the Cotton Bowl; UCLA upset Georgia 14-6 in the Orange Bowl, and Arkansas whipped Michigan 23-10 in the Rose Bowl!


That's the way it went, wasn't it? Or was it something else entirely? Maybe it was West Virginia that got revenge on Penn State 13-10, or Alabama upsetting North Carolina State 13-6. Or, do you like Sugar on your Peaches?


This bowl business wasn't always that complicated. I've been following bowl games for 48 years- ever since Southern California slaughtered Pittsburgh 47-14 in the 1930 New Year's Day contest.


The game I that I remember best in that long span is the 1934 meeting between Stanford and Columbia, which latter was then a major football power. Columbia won it 7-0 when Al Barabas ran 17 yards for the only touchdown on a "hidden ball" play.


There are a couple of reasons, I suppose, why that game sticks out in my recollection. For one thing, it was my senior year in high school. And for another, it was the first game I ever listened to on radio. A bunch of us had gathered to listen to it at Sam Harford's house in Beaver (Because he was one of the few whose family could afford a radio in those days) and the game was the main topic of conversation n for weeks afterward.


Of course, another thing that made it easy to remember is that there was no competition to confuse us. The Rose Bowl game was THE game then. Apologies to the Orange Bowl, but the other "major" (or "minor") bowl games had not yet come into being.


I say apologies to the Orange Bowl because I see by the World Almanac where the Orange Bowl promoters are now claiming that contest dates back to 1933. But they've lately thrown in three (1933. 1934 and 1935) postseason games played by the University of Miami, then a minor school in football prestige, as part of the record.


I lived in Miami in 1930 and 1937 and watched Duquesne beat Mississippi State 13-12 (from the vantage point of a tall pine tree at the open end of the Miami Stadium which then seated about 20,000) in what was then billed as the second Orange Bowl game.


Catholic University had beaten Mississippi 20-19 in the 1936 game which was then counted as the first Orange Bowl. They're stretching the records by counting the three Miami games. But Florida always was sort of pushy!


Now there are major bowl games galore. The Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange are still the big four, but the Peach, Astro-Bluebonnet, Sun, Fiesta, Gator and Liberty Bowls are pushing them for honors, not to mention the Tangerine and Hula bowls and all the all-star clashes yet to come.


And the Rose Bowl, granddaddy of them all and once THE bowl, is going to lose still more of its claim to preeminence unless the sponsors wise up and call off the pact between the Pacific 8 and the Big (not so big anymore) 10 conferences and open the contest to all top teams.


Ohio State saw its national championship hopes go glimmering in the loss to UCLA, and well it should have. The Buckeyes play a pretty soft schedule and it told on them when the chips were down. In fact, the Big 10 got its comeuppance in both its outings, Michigan also taking it on the chin at the hands of Oklahoma.


The East, once the patsy, did much better with West Virginia and Pitt recording impressive intersectional triumphs while Penn State gave a good account of itself before bowing to Alabama 13-6.


Happy New Year, and just wait till next.


The Big 10 biggies took it on the chin in the 1976 bowl season.