Today at 4:30 p.m., Pac-12 Champion Stanford will take on Big-10 winner Wisconsin in the 2013 iteration of the Rose Bowl Game. Meanwhile, Brown’s football season ended before Thanksgiving. This unfortunate contrast, however, was not always the case. Our own Bruno, in fact, graced the 1916 Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the first since 1902. The game ended up starting off a run of annual New Year’s Day games that continues to this day, the “Grandaddy of them All.”
Led by All-American halfback Fritz Pollard, Brown was riding high after a 3-0 victory over Yale and a 38-0 spanking of URI (sound familiar?) back in 1916. Brown was, if you can believe it, actually favored over its opponent, the Washington State Cougars. On a muddy field, the Cougars were able to hold Pollard, the first African-American to play in the Rose Bowl, to a mere 47 yards on 13 carries. Punching in two rushing touchdowns in the second half was enough for Washington State to beat Brown 14-0.
In case you’re not capable of dredging up the Wikipedia page on the game yourself, here’s another solid tidbit about the Greatest Game in Brown History: we were selected on the strength of our victories over Yale and something called “Carlisle,” an “Indian training school” that once competed with the Ivies and other northeastern football powerhouses. That’s right, “Ivies,” “Carlisle,” and “football powerhouses” all make sense together in the same sentence when referring to pre-WWII era football.
Meanwhile, the Washington State team spent their Rose Bowl prep week shooting a movie as extras for 100 bucks in the mornings and practicing in the afternoons. We did not make this up. Not sure how the NCAA would feel about “student-athletes” taking that paid gig nowadays.
Anyway, the awesome thing is, Brown basically played in the first game of the modern Rose Bowl tradition. The “first Rose Bowl” was an isolated event held over a decade earlier; after the “Bruins” rocked the house with their negative-fourteen-point victory, the Tournament of Roses crew decided to throw a football game fiesta every year. Granted, it was actually called the “Tournament East-West Football Game,” and granted, only 10,000 people attended the 43,000-person-capable stadium, and granted, most attendees were still much more interested in a goddamn rose-growing competition sideshow, but WE STILL PLAYED IN THE ALMOST-INAUGURAL ROSE BOWL DAMMIT.
So yeah. No big deal or anything. But it is. And we’re awesome. Or at least our 85-year-old football team is.