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The 1927 Rose Bowl featured Stanford and Alabama for the national championship.
Cover Story
Courtesy: David Kiefer  
Release: 12/23/2013

PASADENA, Calif. -- The Rose Bowl signifies more than a football game. Since its inception in 1902, the game itself evokes hopes and tradition – not only of football, but of Hollywood, sunshine and the American dream.

As the 100th Rose Bowl Game nears, a flavor of its evolution can be seen through the covers of its football game programs.



Originally designed to simply help fans understand the rules of the game and identify the players, game programs have grown into beautifully-produced magazines. These artifacts help us understand what life, and football, was like through the years. Also, the cover art has been used to foster traditions and emotions that surround the game experience.

Stanford played in the first game and will play in the 100th, and each program from its 13 appearances have become part of that history, and often collector’s items as well.

1902: Michigan 49, Stanford 0

Some history is needed. The Tournament of Roses was created in 1890 by Pasadena’s Valley Hunt Club to promote Southern California’s sunny winter weather to snow-bound would-be tourists back East. It actually was patterned after the festival of roses in Nice, France.

Not only did it feature flower-decorated horse and buggies, but also some afternoon entertainment, such as foot races, tugs of war, jousts and a tourney of rings – an old Spanish game in which mounted horsemen, each carrying a 12-foot lance, try to spear three rings hung about 30 feet apart while riding at top speed. The latter event, along with the rose theme, led to the name, “Tournament of Roses.”

The parade grew in stature and attention each year, and the Jan. 1 game, first dubbed the “Tournament East-West football game,” was an extension of the tournament. Fielding Yost, Stanford’s coach the previous year, brought his undefeated “Point-a-Minute” Michigan team to play Stanford, which entered with a 3-1-2 record. Michigan featured former San Jose Normal (now San Jose State) star Willie Heston, who was brought to Ann Arbor by Yost, and dominated Stanford, finishing the season 11-0 and as the national champion. The Wolverines outscored opponents by a combined 550-0.

Organizers expected about 1,000 spectators at Tournament Park. Instead, a mob of 8,000 created something of a stampede. No one was injured, but the over-excitement of the crowd, as well as the lopsided score, convinced organizers to abandon the game in favor of chariot and even ostrich races until 1916.

The 1902 football game program is regarded the holy grail of historic college football memorabilia. It was 40 pages long and included a scorecard – to “make the game more interesting to you,” it read – and a drawing of the 110-yard long field (yes, they had a 55-yard line in those days).

There are only a handful of original programs remaining, including one that reportedly was sold for $30,000 at auction.

1925: Notre Dame 27, Stanford 10

This is among the most legendary of bowl matchups. Notre Dame featured the Four Horseman, the four-man backfield made famous in perhaps the greatest prose in sportswriting history. On Oct. 18, 1924, the New York Herald Tribune published Grantland Rice’s story from Notre Dame’s victory over Army, which began:

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”

Stanford’s star was even greater. Ernie Nevers would be elected to both the college and pro football halls of fame and would be regarded as one of the greatest players of the 20th century.

Against Notre Dame, Nevers famously played all 60 minutes on injured ankles and rushed for 114 yards, more yardage than all the Four Horsemen combined. The game also was a classic matchup of all-time great coaches, Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne and Stanford’s Pop Warner.

The financial success of the West Coast trip for Notre Dame prompted the creation of its rivalry with USC in 1926. As for Stanford, Warner called Nevers "the football player without a fault." Stanford didn’t wear numbers in those days, but the school retired No. 1 in Nevers’ honor. Stanford has retired only two others since: Jim Plunkett’s No. 16 and John Elway’s No. 7.

The 1925 program is one of the toughest to find and one of the most desirable in the college football memorabilia world. Few are known to exist and the delicate paper stock has not helped in its longevity. Fine images of the Four Horsemen, both individually and as a group, appear within the 16-page publication.

1927: Stanford 7, Alabama 7

Alabama was the defending national champion and riding a 20-game winning streak when the Crimson Tide faced Stanford, which arrived at 9-0. The game attracted a Rose Bowl-record crowd of 57,417 and was, in essence, the BCS championship of its day.

It also marked the first game broadcast coast to coast on radio, with the legendary Graham McNamee calling the action on NBC. In rural Arkansas was 13-year-old Paul “Bear” Bryant, who became so inspired as he listened that vowed to make a life for himself in football and play for the Crimson Tide. He would live up to that promise and become one of the game’s greatest coaches, also at Alabama.

Stanford took a 7-0 lead, but a blocked punt late in the game set up Alabama’s tying score. Still, Stanford was named as the No. 1 team in the nation under the new Dickinson System, created by an economics professor at Illinois and based on team records and strength of schedule. It was the first attempt by a rankings service to recognize a national champion after the season, and Stanford was awarded the Rissman Trophy.

In those days, official programs were sold inside the stadium. However, there were no copyright regulations, which meant that various groups could produce their own programs and sell them outside. The official program has a memorable two-page cover that opened into a colorful single-image spread.

1928: Stanford 7, Pittsburgh 6

Stanford earned its first Rose Bowl victory, but first let’s discuss the game program.

The 28-page program features one of the most beautifully illustrated covers in Stanford Rose Bowl history. What makes covers from this era so unique is that the illustrations were painted specifically for that game. In later decades, cover illustrations largely were mass-produced for a variety of games.

The Stanford-Pitt cover, also a two-page spread, depicts the teams against each other. About half the players are wearing helmets, indicating that the game itself was in a period of transition. It also is among the rarer Rose Bowl programs from the 1920’s. 

As for the game, Frankie Wilton, whose punt was blocked a year earlier, redeemed himself by scooping up a teammate’s fumble and crashing across the goal-line for the winning score. Walt Heinecke earlier made the play of the day by blocking Pitt’s extra-point attempt to limit the Panthers to a 6-0 lead before a record-crowd of 76,000.

1934: Columbia 7, Stanford 0

This game continues to be regarded as one of the greatest upsets in Rose Bowl history as heavily-favored Stanford was beaten on a trick play.

Torrential rains soaked the field for three days leading into the game,  and the rain limited attendance to 35,000. In all, 12 inches of rain fell on Pasadena in the 48 hours before the Rose Parade, themed appropriately as “Tales of the Seven Seas.”

The program itself, which also features a two-page cover spread, is rare because the game was so sparsely attended.

1935: Alabama 29, Stanford 13

A rematch of the 1927 showdown, Stanford and Alabama again arrived undefeated. Stanford’s Vow Boys were good, but Alabama featured one of the great ends of all-time, Don Hutson, the future Green Bay Packers star. The Crimson Tide’s other end was “Bear” Bryant, who had been inspired to play in a Rose Bowl after listening to the 1927 game on the radio.

Stanford scored first on Bobby Grayson’s short run, but Hutson caught two long touchdown passes to help the Crimson Tide bolt to a 22-7 halftime lead.

The Rose Bowl program cover was a mass-produced stock illustration that actually was used in one of Alabama’s earlier games that season. This also was the heyday of the bootleg program industry, with at least two unofficial versions sold on site.

1936: Stanford 7, SMU 0

The Vow Boys finally got their Rose Bowl victory, using a one-yard run by Bill Paulman and a strong defensive effort to beat the undefeated Mustangs from Dallas.

The interest in the game, especially from Texas, was so great that an attendance record of 84,784 was set, and there were ticket requests for 200,000 more. 

This also marked the end of Stanford’s three consecutive Rose Bowl berths, a record for Stanford.

The generic program covers largely were the result of improved technology. Because full-color printing was becoming less expensive to produce, commercial artists began creating stock covers that could be purchased by high schools or colleges with only the need to change the names of teams and game dates. The result was a dramatic difference in the quality of covers in comparison to the locally-produced covers of prior eras.

This program also is regarded as rare.

1941: Stanford 21, Nebraska 13

Stanford (10-0) completed a perfect season and ushered in a new age of offense. Clark Shaughnessy’s T-formation, which featured quarterback Frankie Albert lining up under center, was revolutionary in that it featured not only passing, but a variety of fakes and pitchouts. In other words, Shaughnessy’s teams paved the way for a wide-open attacking style of play.

Stanford clung to a 14-13 lead when Nebraska, with the ball on its own 1-yard line after a goal-line stand, decided to punt. Pete Kmetovic caught the ball at the 40 and weaved through the Cornhuskers to score the clinching touchdown.

The Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor would not occur for nearly a year, but the game program seemed to reflect a patriotic feeling of the era with a red, white, and blue ribbon across the bottom of the cover design.

It appears the Rose Bowl returned to the specially-produced cover because the illustration features a Stanford and Nebraska player.

1952: Illinois 40, Stanford 7

This was the first nationally-televised college football game in history, as broadcast by NBC.

Stanford led the Illini, 7-6, going into the third quarter. The Indians, however, were blitzed by 34 consecutive points by Illinois, including 27 in the fourth quarter.

The cover was specially illustrated for the game, with a painting of Stanford All-America end Bill McColl catching a pass over an Illinois defender. A centerfold advertisement boasts that “More college men and women buy Chesterfield than any other cigarette.”

1971: Stanford 27, Ohio State 17

A massive underdog to undefeated Ohio State, a three-loss Stanford team surprised the Buckeyes behind the play of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jim Plunkett and a defensive front seven called the Thunder Chickens.

Ohio State led 17-14 in the fourth quarter and tried to put the game away on a fourth-down run, but fullback John Brockington was stopped by Rod Kadziel. Stanford then drove downfield, with the help of a 35-yard pass to tight end Bob Moore on third-and-15, to take the lead. After an interception by Jack Schultz, Plunkett hit Randy Vataha for the clinching score.

The victory was Stanford’s first in a Rose Bowl in 30 years.

In the 1970s, program covers began to reflect extensive color photography for the first time. The 1971 Rose Bowl program is the first for Stanford with an actual photo – of a collection of red roses – on the cover.

1972: Stanford 13, Michigan 12

For the second consecutive season, Stanford beat an undefeated Big Ten power. This time, it was Rod Garcia’s 31-yard field goal with 12 seconds left that won the game. Michigan came in as a 10½-point favorite against another three-loss Stanford team.

Coach John Ralston’s Indians (the nickname changed to Cardinals the following season) again featured a strong defensive effort, which made up for the team’s four lost fumbles. Don Bunce, a fifth-year senior in his only season as a starter, completed all five passes during the winning touchdown drive.

The program cover reflected the surreal artistry popular at the time, with bold clashing designs and heavy elements.

2000: Wisconsin 17, Stanford 9

Stanford greeted the new millennium with its first Rose Bowl appearance in 28 years. The Cardinal led 9-3, going into the third quarter, but Wisconsin scored two second-half touchdowns to pull away.

The program cover, featuring Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne, displayed a mix of photos and design elements, but it probably was the least memorable Stanford Rose Bowl cover since the generic version of 1935.

2013: Stanford 20, Wisconsin 14

Stanford earned its first Rose Bowl victory in 41 years by taking an early lead and letting its defense take over. Ben Gardner made a big stop on a Wisconsin fourth-and-goal attempt at the 1-yard line and Usua Amanam clinched the victory with a late interception.

The program cover featured close-up images of Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor and Wisconsin’s Montee Ball and reflected the combination of advanced photography and digital design.

The cover reflected striking clarity in the photos, especially with tight shots that made the photographers seem on top of the action. The advanced technology created a style reflected in the hi-tech era.

For 100 Rose Bowls, the game programs have not only marked history, but have become part of it. Each cover reflects the uniqueness of that particular time, which invites another question: What will the next 100 years bring?



Cardinal AXEcess

Cardinal AXEcess
#GoStanford Student-Athlete of the Week