After Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl Relocated to North Carolina

In 1942, the Rose Bowl game between Oregon State and Duke was transferred from California to North Carolina in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here’s a brief look back at one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history.

Oregon State vs. Duke

Led by tailback Don Durdan and a suffocating defense, Oregon State College won the Pacific Coast Conference title in 1941. As was the custom at the time, the Beavers got to select their opponent for the Rose Bowl game to be held on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California. Oregon State invited Duke, the undefeated and untied champions of the Southern Conference, and the Blue Devils, led by legendary head coach Wallace Wade, happily accepted.

Pearl Harbor Attack

Shortly after the Rose Bowl matchup was set, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The game, it seemed, would take on a much different feel, but the Blue Devils had no intentions of canceling their trip to the West Coast. “Heck, no; we’re not scared to go out there,” one Duke player told the Associated Press. “The war situation puts a little more glamour into the game.” Indeed, the demand for tickets increased in the days that followed. Duke planned to leave for Pasadena via train on Dec. 20, making one stop for practice on Dec. 22 in Lubbock, Texas, and arriving in Pasadena on Dec. 24. Fans could purchase a first-class roundtrip ticket with stops in New Orleans, San Antonio, El Paso, Mexico, and the Grand Canyon, on a special train called “The Duke” for $126.74. A week before the team was scheduled to depart, however, the military announced that it was canceling the game out of fear of another attack on the West Coast. Game organizers began looking into alternative sites. Chicago’s Soldier Field was considered, as was New York City. A third possibility was Durham, North Carolina.

Wallace Wade’s Invitation

Before the game in Pasadena was officially canceled, Wade sent the following telegram to Oregon State athletic director Percy Locey: “We regret that conditions have developed that have influenced the military authorities to suggest cancellation of the Rose Bowl game. Duke is ready to accept the decision of Oregon State and the Tournament of Roses committee. We wish to suggest for your consideration the possibility of playing the game at Durham in the Duke Stadium, either with Rose Bowl sanction or otherwise. We can accommodate about 50,000 spectators. Our climate at New Year’s is usually favorable for football.” The military granted its approval to relocate the game and the Rose Bowl Committee gave its blessing as well. Oregon State accepted the invite. “From a football standpoint, it is a tough assignment,” Beavers head coach Lon Stiner said. “But we’ll be in there doing our best even with these added odds against us.”

Duke Heavy Favorites, Home for the Holidays

Duke was a 12-to-5 favorite when the game was first announced and the odds increased to 3.5-to-1 after the game was moved to Durham. “I don’t quite understand why my boys should be rated so low for this game with Duke,” Stiner said. “They may be light, but they are poised and tough and not upset at the prospect of meeting high scoring Duke.” Despite its two losses, Oregon State was the first team to stop Stanford’s unconventional T attack. The Beavers’ 10-0 win over Stanford was the first of its five shutouts that season. Still, Oregon State didn’t get much respect from the media. As one East Coast scribe wrote, “The Oregon entry is undoubtedly a strong, steady ball club, but it’s doubtful if it has struck anything with the impact of Duke.” As Robert Coleman, a sophomore guard on Oregon State’s redshirt squad in 1941 (and my girlfriend’s grandfather) told me, “The Beavers of OSU were often the doormat of the league, and to be going to the Rose Bowl was considered a sure chance of failure.”

Duke’s players were so unhappy that their trip to the West Coast was canceled that they initially voted against hosting the game in Durham. To appease his team, Wade gave the players time off to go home for Christmas. Oregon State’s redshirt squad was equally disappointed with the change of venue, which squashed their hopes of traveling to the game with the starters.


Image credit: Duke University Archives

Duke’s stadium usually only held 35,000, which was much less than the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest loaned portable bleachers to help increase the capacity to 55,000. The game would draw the largest crowd since 52,880 packed the stadium for the Duke-UNC game in 1939. Tickets, priced at $4.40 apiece, sold out in three days. One reporter noted that “hotel rooms are scarcer than candid camera shots of J.P. Morgan.” Duke received more than 120 requests for working press, which was double the capacity of the stadium’s press box. “The lads who will be most disappointed are those who usually see the Duke games on complimentary tickets,” another reporter wrote. “There will be no Annie Oakleys except for the working press and radio.”

Durham Hospitality

Two thousand spectators and the Durham High School band greeted Oregon State at the train station following their cross-country trip. Lampposts along Main Street in downtown Durham featured electrically lighted Santa Clauses with “Welcome Oregon State” scrawled across Santa’s waistline. Placards in the team’s breakfast room at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill read, “A merry Christmas to the Oregon State football team – with reservations about the happy New Year.” Oregon State’s players received gifts manufactured in North Carolina factories and took golf lessons one day at the Pinehurst Country Club. Duke’s players returned to campus to start preparing for the game on Dec. 26.

Tournament of Roses President Robert McCurdy, a quartet of committeemen, and 25,000 football programs printed in Pasadena made the trip East. Dolores Brubach, the Tournament of Roses Queen, was originally scheduled to attend the game with her Royal Court, but the plans fell through. “I guess it just couldn’t be arranged, and since we didn’t really plan on going, we’re not disappointed,” Brubach said.

The Buildup

Oregon State certainly had fun, but the trip was primarily business. “We feel that a lot of people around here are going to be mighty surprised,” Oregon State captain Marion Chaves said. There was a lot of buzz about the game, both locally and nationally. A few reporters dubbed it “The Pine Bowl.” Another wrote, “Tobacco town turned into Times Square with a southern accent today.”

The Game

Wet conditions in Durham slowed Duke’s vaunted offense and the Blue Devils never led. Oregon State’s Gene Gray caught a 68-yard touchdown pass from Bob Dethman in the third quarter that proved to be the difference in the Beavers’ 20-16 win, which is still considered one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history. Oregon State varied its defensive looks, from a 6-2-2-1 to 5-3-2-1 and occasionally a 7-man line, according to the game recaps. The Beavers also recovered three Duke fumbles and intercepted four passes. “I guess everybody knows now that we play in a mighty tough league,” said Stiner, who received a 4-year contract for $7,000 a year.

The War

According to Coleman, nearly the entire Oregon State team was in the ROTC or National Guard at the time. One newspaper account indicated that at least a couple Oregon State players enlisted after the game in Pasadena was canceled and were persuaded by Stiner to return to school to become eligible for the game in Durham. “We all knew we were going to be involved,” Oregon State tailback Bill McInnis told USA Today in 2001. One Oregon State player (Everett Smith) and three Duke players (Walter Griffith, Al Hoover, and Bob Nanni) died in the war.

This story originally appeared in 2011.

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Fumbled: The Story of the United States Football League
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davi_deste via eBay

There were supposed to be 44 players marching to the field when the visiting Los Angeles Express played their final regular season game against the Orlando Renegades in June 1985.

Thirty-six of them showed up. The team couldn’t afford more.

“We didn’t even have money for tape,” Express quarterback Steve Young said in 1986. “Or ice.” The squad was so poor that Young played fullback during the game. They only had one, and he was injured.

Other teams had ridden school buses to practice, driven three hours for “home games,” or shared dressing room space with the local rodeo. In August 1986, the cash-strapped United States Football League called off the coming season. The league itself would soon vaporize entirely after gambling its future on an antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League. The USFL argued the NFL was monopolizing television time; the NFL countered that the USFL—once seen as a promising upstart—was being victimized by its own reckless expansion and the wild spending of team owners like Donald Trump.

They were both right.

Getty Images

Spring football. That was David Dixon’s pitch. The New Orleans businessman and football advocate—he helped get the Saints in his state—was a fan of college ball and noticed that spring scrimmages at Tulane University led to a little more excitement in the air. With a fiscally responsible salary cap in place and a 12-team roster, he figured his idea could be profitable. Market research agreed: a hired broadcast research firm asserted 76 percent of fans would watch what Dixon had planned.

He had no intention of grappling with the NFL for viewers. That league’s season aired from September through January, leaving a football drought March through July. And in 1982, a players’ strike led to a shortened NFL season, making the idea of an alternative even more appealing to networks. Along with investors for each team region, Dixon got ABC and the recently-formed ESPN signed to broadcast deals worth a combined $35 million over two years.

When the Chicago Blitz faced the Washington Federals on the USFL’s opening day March 6, 1983, over 39,000 fans braved rain at RFK Stadium in Washington to see it. The Federals lost 28-7, foreshadowing their overall performance as one of the league’s worst. Owner Berl Bernhard would later complain the team played like “untrained gerbils.”

Anything more coordinated might have been too expensive. The USFL had instituted a strict $1.8 million salary cap that first year to avoid franchise overspending, but there were allowances made so each team could grab one or two standout rookies. In 1983, the big acquisition was Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who opted out of his senior year at Georgia to turn pro. Walker signed with the New Jersey Generals in a three-year, $5 million deal.

Jim Kelly and Steve Young followed. Stan White left the Detroit Lions. Marcus Dupree left college. The rosters were built up from scratch using NFL cast-offs or prospects from nearby colleges, where teams had rights to “territorial” drafts.

To draw a line in the sand, the USFL had advertising play up the differences between the NFL’s product and their own. Their slogan, “When Football Was Fun,” was a swipe at the NFL’s increasingly draconian rules regarding players having any personality. They also advised teams to run a series of marketable halftime attractions. The Denver Gold once offered a money-back guarantee for attendees who weren’t satisfied. During one Houston Gamblers game, boxer George Foreman officiated a wedding. Cars were given away at Tampa Bay Bandits games. The NFL, the upstart argued, stood for the No Fun League.

For a while, it appeared to be working. The Panthers, which had invaded the city occupied by the Detroit Lions, averaged 60,000 fans per game, higher than their NFL counterparts. ABC was pleased with steady ratings. The league was still conservative in their spending.

That would change—many would argue for the worse—with the arrival of Donald Trump.

Despite Walker’s abilities on the field, his New Jersey Generals ended the inaugural 1983 season at 6-12, one of the worst records in the league. The excitement having worn off, owner J. Walter Duncan decided to sell the team to real estate investor Trump for a reported $5-9 million.

A fixture of New York media who was putting the finishing touches on Trump Tower, Trump introduced two extremes to the USFL. His presence gave the league far more press attention than it had ever received, but his bombastic approach to business guaranteed he wouldn’t be satisfied with an informal salary cap. Trump spent and spent some more, recruiting players to improve the Generals. Another Heisman winner, quarterback Doug Flutie, was signed to a five-year, $7 million contract, the largest in pro football at the time. Trump even pursued Lawrence Taylor, then a player for the New York Giants, who signed a contract saying that, after his Giants contract expired, he’d join Trump’s team. The Giants wound up buying out the Taylor/Trump contract for $750,000 and quadrupled Taylor’s salary, and Trump wound up with pages of publicity.

Trump’s approach was effective: the Generals improved to 14-4 in their sophomore season. But it also had a domino effect. In order to compete with the elevated bar of talent, other team owners began spending more, too. In a race to defray costs, the USFL approved six expansion teams that paid a buy-in of $6 million each to the league.

It did little to patch the seams. Teams were so cash-strapped that simple amenities became luxuries. The Michigan Panthers dined on burnt spaghetti and took yellow school buses to training camp; players would race to cash checks knowing the last in line stood a chance of having one bounce. When losses became too great, teams began to merge with one another: The Washington Federals became the Orlando Renegades. By the 1985 season, the USFL was down to 14 teams. And because the ABC contract required the league to have teams in certain top TV markets, ABC started withholding checks.

Trump was unmoved. Since taking over the Generals, he had been petitioning behind the scenes for the other owners to pursue a shift to a fall season, where they would compete with the NFL head on. A few owners countered that fans had already voiced their preference for a spring schedule. Some thought it would be tantamount to league suicide.

Trump continued to push. By the end of the 1984 season, he had swayed opinion enough for the USFL to plan on one final spring block in 1985 before making the move to fall in 1986.

In order to make that transition, they would have to win a massive lawsuit against the NFL.

In the mid-1980s, three major networks meant that three major broadcast contracts would be up for grabs—and the NFL owned all three. To Trump and the USFL, this constituted a monopoly. They filed suit in October 1984. By the time it went to trial in May 1986, the league had shrunk from 18 teams to 14, hadn’t hosted a game since July 1985, kept only threadbare rosters, and was losing what existing television deals it had by migrating to smaller markets (a major part of the NFL’s case was that the real reason for the lawsuit, and the moves to smaller markets, was to make the league an attractive takeover prospect for the NFL). The ruling—which could have forced the NFL to drop one of the three network deals—would effectively become the deciding factor of whether the USFL would continue operations.

They came close. A New York jury deliberated for 31 hours over five days. After the verdict, jurors told press that half believed the NFL was guilty of being a monopoly and were prepared to offer the USFL up to $300 million in damages; the other half thought the USFL had been crippled by its own irresponsible expansion efforts. Neither side would budge.

To avoid a hung jury, it was decided they would find in favor of the USFL but only award damages in the amount of $1. One juror told the Los Angeles Times that she thought it would be an indication for the judge to calculate proper damages.

He didn’t. The USFL was awarded treble damages for $3 in total, an amount that grew slightly with interest after time for appeal. The NFL sent them a payment of $3.76. (Less famously, the NFL was also ordered to pay $5.5 million in legal fees.)

Rudy Shiffer, vice-president of the Memphis Showboats, summed up the USFL's fate shortly after the ruling was handed down. “We’re dead,” he said.

Arizona Teen Becomes First Female to Earn a College Football Scholarship

In recent years, women have made great strides in male-dominated sports. Currently in the NBA, Becky Hammon and Nancy Lieberman have proven their worth as assistant coaches for the San Antonio Spurs and Sacramento Kings, respectively, while Sarah Thomas made news as the first official female referee in the NFL in 2015. Now, an Arizona teenager named Becca Longo is joining their ranks.

On April 12, Longo, an 18-year-old kicker from Basha High School in Chandler, Arizona, signed a letter of intent to receive an athletic scholarship and play for the Division II football team at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. She is the first woman to be on scholarship at a Division II school or higher—a fact Longo herself didn't even realize until her high school coach informed her at the signing ceremony.

Longo’s kicking prowess in high school was highlighted by her making 30 out of 33 extra point attempts during her senior season, which caught the attention of Adams’s head coach, Timm Rosenbach. She also sent the school a highlight reel and began following coach Rosenbach on Twitter to show him what she could do.

"She's kind of put herself out there to let everyone know she wants to do this," Rosenbach told CNN. "If she's able to compete at a level we think she's able to compete at, we should afford her that opportunity to do that."

Longo’s persistence led to a visit from Adams’s offensive coordinator, Josh Blankenship, who told the young kicker that the school was interested in her being on the team. But being on scholarship doesn’t mean a spot on the starting roster is guaranteed. The kicking spot is up for grabs, according to Rosenbach, and there are two other kickers who Longo will have to beat out for the job. But despite the pressure, Longo told ESPN, "I'm ready to compete. I don't really have any expectations beyond that."

In addition to the football team, Longo has also committed to play basketball at Adams State next year.

[h/t CBS]


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