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Why I'm nuts about the Rose Bowl

By Mike Downey
updated 1:20 PM EST, Tue December 31, 2013
The Stanford Cardinal celebrates their invitation to play the 100th Rose Bowl game, battling Michigan State.
The Stanford Cardinal celebrates their invitation to play the 100th Rose Bowl game, battling Michigan State.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mike Downey considers the Rose Bowl to be the ultimate in football bowls
  • The 100th Rose Bowl will be held New Year's Day, pitting Michigan State against Stanford
  • Downey lists 100 facts and figures about the Bowl in honor of the "American classic"

Editor's note: Mike Downey is a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

(CNN) -- Up to now, you've been watching ... the what?

College football's Beef O'Brady's Bowl (the who?) or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (oh, boy, Buffalo vs. San Diego State!) or the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl (which probably should be a dinner.) Later on, maybe you'll watch the Outback Bowl (which is not in Australia) or the BBVA Compass Bowl (uh, wow, Houston vs. Vanderbilt) or the GoDaddy! Bowl (which probably will have a halftime show by Danica Patrick in a bikini).

Mike Downey
Mike Downey

Ahhh, but a real bowl, a true bowl, a cool bowl, the bowl of bowls -- the "Granddaddy of Them All," the 100th Rose Bowl -- will be coming your way on New Year's Day in living color from picture-perfect Pasadena, California.

Go, Granddaddy!

I have beheld a bunch of Roses. If you love football, I bet you have, too. I've seen so many great names and great games. I have too many memorable moments to mention, although I did get to see a young guy who's a friend of mine, Garrett Green, throw a 34-yard touchdown pass for the University of Southern California in the 2008 Rose Bowl ... on the only pass he threw in his entire college career. Garrett, that was pretty awesome.

This is the best bowl in the land, bar none. Sugar Bowl's a sweet second, Orange is a delightful third, Fiesta's a festive fourth -- but don't expect "Sound of Music"-like ratings for Central Florida vs. Baylor -- and the Cotton's a fading fifth.

I adore the Rose Bowl, parade and game both. I can't wait for Wednesday's clash between Stanford and Michigan State, No. 100, or as the NFL would call it, Rose Bowl C.

This sporting event is an American classic, having provided countless New Year's spills and thrills. I don't know what kind of dynasty you prefer -- maybe Ming, maybe Duck -- but in my mind, the Rose Bowl is the game of thrones.

My favorite facts and figures, in random order:

1. No team has ever scored 50 points in a Rose Bowl game.

2. The first Rose Bowl, in 1902, was so bad, Stanford's team surrendered with eight minutes to go, trailing Michigan 49-0.

3. No more Rose Bowl games were held for the next 13 years.

4. Games began being played annually in 1916.

5. Most valuable player of the 1919 game was George S. Halas. He later helped create the Chicago Bears and the NFL.

6. Halas came to the Rose Bowl with a team from Great Lakes Naval Base.

7. 1925's coaching matchup was Knute Rockne vs. Pop Warner.

8. Alabama has won more Rose Bowl games (four) than Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue combined.

9. Alabama has won more Rose Bowl games than Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington State combined.

10. Arizona has never been in a Rose Bowl game.

11. Teams from schools like Washington & Jefferson, Brown, Penn, Harvard, Columbia, Duke, Tulane, Southern Methodist and Navy all have.

12. Established in 1781, Washington & Jefferson is a small college not far from Pittsburgh. It took on the University of California, Berkeley in the 1922 Rose Bowl.

13. That 1922 game ended in a scoreless tie.

14. The quarterback of the W & J team was Charlie "Pruner" West, believed to be the first African-American to play in a Rose Bowl game.

15. "Pruner" was a nickname based on a mispronunciation of a cough syrup West's father sold, called Peruna.

16. After college, West became a doctor.

17. Washington & Jefferson teams are called the Presidents.

18. Three games have ended in a tie: 1922, 1924 and 1927.

19. The 1942 Rose Bowl was played in North Carolina. It was the only one not in Pasadena.

20. Duke lost that one, in its backyard in Durham, 20-16, to Oregon State.

21. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, so the '42 game was moved out of fear that the Japanese might next attack Los Angeles.

22. Oregon State's head coach, Lon Stiner, was only 30 years old when he was given that job.

23. His trick play, the "Pyramid," involved having a 6-foot-5 lineman lifted by two other large players so he could block kicks -- a play that is no longer legal.

24. Duke has never been to another Rose Bowl.

25. Oregon State hasn't been in one since 1965.

26. Notre Dame won the only one to which it was invited, in 1925.

27. That was the first time a Fighting Irish team played football on the West Coast.

28. Rockne, its coach, was killed in a plane crash six years later.

29. The stadium is nestled in a part of Pasadena known as the Arroyo Seco, or dry creek.

30. Harriman Cronk, as chairman of the Tournament of Roses football committee, tried to preserve the game's name and dignity by having it "presented by" a corporate sponsor when a backer became necessary. AT&T was first. This was preferable to awkwardly renaming it something like the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl or the FedEx Orange Bowl.

31. Cronk was a stockbroker. He died November 26 at age 80.

32. AT&T stepped aside for future "presented by" sponsors Sony PlayStation 2, the Citi banking corporation and, as of now, Vizio.

33. The current stadium has been the Rose Bowl game's home since January 1, 1923 (except that 1942 game).

34. The stadium has National Historic Landmark status.

35. Roy "Wrong Way" Riegels got his name by going toward the wrong team's end zone in 1929. He ran 69 yards with a Georgia Tech fumble before his own Cal teammates could bring him down at the 1 yard line.

36. Devastated at first, Riegels handled his blunder with humor and humility over the years. He became a World War II officer and ran an agricultural chemical firm. He died in 1993.

37. In 1916, William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz led the Washington State team to the school's first and only Rose Bowl victory.

38. Dietz was said to be a member of the Sioux tribe.

39. A subsequent investigation claimed that Dietz was not of Native American heritage but a white man masquerading as one, possibly to use a noncitizen loophole to miss World War I. The dispute over his heritage was never completely settled.

40. He later coached football at Washington State, Wyoming, Louisiana Tech and Purdue.

41. "Lone Star" also was head coach of the NFL's Redskins before the team moved from Boston to Washington.

42. Columbia of the Ivy League shocked a favored Stanford squad 7-0 in the 1934 game.

43. The only team to beat Columbia that season was Princeton.

44. A record-low 35,000 people came to that 1934 game because of a torrential rain.

45. Half a century later, from 1983-88, Columbia's football team lost 44 games in a row.

46. Harvard fought fiercely to take the 1920 game over Oregon 7-6. Neither side scored a point in the second half.

47. "Dixie" Howell of Alabama was the 1935 Rose Bowl's outstanding player, passing for two touchdowns and rushing for two more.

48. Dixie's receivers were Don Hutson, future NFL Hall of Famer, and Paul "Bear" Bryant, future Alabama head coach and College Football Hall of Famer.

49. Wallace Wade was a head coach in five Rose Bowls, leading teams from Alabama and Duke.

50. Wade also would coach basketball and baseball at Vanderbilt.

51. USC's Howard Jones has the best Rose Bowl record of any head coach: a perfect 5-0.

52. The Trojans won those five games by a total 95 points.

53. Jones was a graduate of Yale.

54. A later USC coach, John Robinson, also was unbeaten in Rose Bowl play, going 4-0.

55. O.J. Simpson was named outstanding player of the 1968 game after USC's win over Indiana.

56. Indiana has never played in another Rose Bowl, before or since.

57. Simpson ran for 171 yards in the next Rose Bowl, but his team lost to Ohio State.

58. He is now in a Nevada state prison.

59. USC has won more Rose Bowls (24) than any other school.

60. Its first victory came in 1923, in the first bowl game played in the current stadium. Rose Bowls previously were on a field known as Tournament Park.

61. On the train trip to that 1923 game, Penn State's team stopped off to visit the Grand Canyon.

62. The kickoff was delayed because the Nittany Lions attended the Rose Parade and got stuck in traffic en route to the stadium.

63. It was Penn State's last appearance in a Rose game until 1995, when its coach was Joe Paterno.

64. Kenneth "Ki-Jana" Carter starred in Penn State's '95 victory over Oregon. His nickname reportedly came from a character in a 1970s "Shaft" film.

65. In a losing cause, Oregon's quarterback, Danny O'Neal, passed for 456 yards vs. Penn State, a record that stands to this day.

66. Vince Young owns the record for total yardage by one player: 467 yards passing and rushing for the Texas Longhorns in 2006.

67. Texas has won as many Rose Bowl games as Oregon has.

68. Texas and Texas Christian together have three Rose Bowl victories since 2005. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue have won six since 1902.

69. Northwestern's only win came in 1949.

70. A league rule at that time kept Michigan from going to Rose Bowls back to back, so second-place Northwestern got to go.

71. Cal's team had a perfect 10-0 record before being upset by Northwestern.

72. Northwestern's made it to only one Rose Bowl game since (1996).

73. Dick Butkus played linebacker on defense and center on offense for Illinois' victorious team of 1964.

74. Illinois hasn't won a Rose Bowl game since.

75. The 1952 Illinois vs. Stanford game was the first Rose Bowl to be nationally televised.

76. The 1988 game, won by Michigan State, was the last Rose Bowl televised by NBC.

77. MSU is in this year's game, the Spartans' first appearance in 25 years.

78. A 14-point favorite and undefeated going into the 1966 game, Michigan State was upset by a UCLA team it had defeated in the season opener.

79. That was UCLA's first victory in a Rose Bowl game. Its home field is the Rose Bowl stadium.

80. UCLA and USC won four Rose Bowls in a row from 1983-86.

81. Tennessee has played in two Rose Bowl games. It still hasn't scored a point.

82. Tulane made its only appearance in 1932, losing to USC. Its star player, Jerry Dalrymple, had recently been hospitalized with a kidney bruise that required protective padding during the game.

83. Three years later, Tulane triumphed in the inaugural Sugar Bowl.

84. No school from the state of Louisiana has won a Rose Bowl game.

85. No school from Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas or Nebraska has, either.

86. One school from the state of Florida has: Miami.

87. Minnesota made it to consecutive Rose games in 1961-62. It hasn't been back.

88. Wisconsin played in a three in a row from 2011-13. It lost them all.

89. Iowa hasn't been to a Rose game since 1991. In that one, it was behind by 33-7 by halftime.

90. A prank by California Institute of Technology students during the 1961 game, when Washington Huskies cheerleaders began a halftime card stunt, resulted in "CALTECH" being spelled out instead.

91. Charley Trippi, hero of Georgia's lone appearance (1943), is to be honored Tuesday as the Rose Bowl's top star of the 1940s. He recently turned 92.

92. The Tournament of Roses parade was first shown on local television in 1947. It was first on national TV in 1952.

93. TV sportscaster Vin Scully is this year's grand marshal. He began doing Dodgers baseball on radio in 1950.

94. The first Rose Parade was on January 1, 1890, making this year's the 125th.

95. Among the parade's many grand marshals have been John Wayne, Shirley Temple, Mickey Mouse, Herbert Hoover, Hank Aaron, Bob Newhart, Sandra Day O'Connor, Lee Iacocca, William Shatner, Kermit the Frog and Paula Deen.

96. Neil Snow was the first MVP. He scored five touchdowns for Michigan in the 1902 game.

97. Snow died at age 34, collapsing after a game of squash.

98. People felt an earthquake during the 1979 Rose Bowl game. The quake's epicenter was off the coast of Malibu.

99. The game's nickname is "The Granddaddy of Them All."

100. No one, so far as we know, has yet proposed that the game be renamed "The Grandperson of Them All." Maybe for the 125th or 150th.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mike Downey.

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