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ROSE BOWL: MIAMI (11-0) VS. NEBRASKA (11-1) / BCS TITLE
GAME--5 P.M., CHANNEL 7 | BILL PLASCHKE

Blooming BCS

Upholding the Tradition of Bansbach, Hayes and Riegels

January 03, 2002|BILL PLASCHKE

To the nice but naive football players from Miami and Nebraska:

Before taking part in this town's most revered sports event today, there is somebody you should know about.

His name was Lewis P. Bansbach.

One hundred years ago, he shared your history.

He was Stanford's quarterback. His team was playing Michigan. He had suffered two badly sprained ankles in practice and couldn't play.

But near the end of the game, his team being whipped, he could no longer watch.

He threw down his crutches and hobbled into the Stanford huddle.

"Why do I have to sit here and watch that team running all over us?" he shouted.

The game was halted briefly while two teammates picked him up, carried him off the field, and put him in a chair.

Lewis P. Bansbach spent the rest of the game, a 49-0 Michigan victory, weeping.

That was our first Rose Bowl.

A century later, here's hoping you Hurricanes and Cornhuskers will treat it with the same respect.

Show us, Miami, that your well-scrubbed program can behave with equal dignity under a tighter collar.

Show us, Nebraska, that everything we said about you was wrong.

Give us a good game. Give us the effort of Washington & Jefferson, the inspiration of Rockne and Warner.

Those are some other folks you should know about.

In the 1922 Rose Bowl, tiny Washington & Jefferson held mighty Cal to a 0-0 tie, using the same 11 players the entire game.

Three years later, Knute Rockne's Notre Dame beat Pop Warner's Stanford in a game featuring four guys who'd once posed for a photograph on horseback.

The sports world is under the impression that a national title is at stake tonight.

We know better.

The Rose Bowl is more powerful than the BCS. It is more enduring than any poll.

Tonight is not just about a championship, but a tradition, another chapter in a legacy as rich as a New Year's Day sunset over Linda Vista.

We're all going to miss that sunset this year. The New Year's Day thing too.

The organizers sold out the date and time to be part of something bigger.

But they surely now realize, around here there is nothing bigger.

Has there ever been less local interest in the game? Anybody else have tickets they can't get rid of?

The thought of fighting rush-hour traffic instead of walking over from the parade is daunting. The idea that this is not our Pacific 10 against their Big Ten is depressing.

Do you know that this year's game breaks a streak of 55 consecutive Rose Bowl games between the two conferences?

And that, during that time, the Big Ten won 28 games and the Pac-10 won 27?

We'll miss that. But it's not the fault of Miami or Nebraska.

And despite its age, here's guessing the Rose Bowl is still flexible enough to accommodate these strangers, as long as they leave the place as they found it.

Show us, Miami, the strength of that amazing offensive line, the wits of that flagpole-looking quarterback.

Show us, Nebraska, that Eric Crouch can break the real Heisman jinx.

Nine times, this event has featured the Heisman Trophy winner. But only three times has he been voted player of the game.

Archie Griffin of Ohio State came out here after both of his Heisman wins and was jumped by the locals both times.

Not that there's ever a wet eye in our houses about Ohio State.

In the 1973 game, then-Buckeye coach Woody Hayes tried to ruin the finest day of arguably college football's finest team.

USC finished a 12-0 season with a 42-17 Rose Bowl win that featured four diving touchdowns by Sam "Bam" Cunningham.

Before the game, Hayes shoved a camera into the face of an L.A. Times photographer, sending him to the doctor.

During the game, Hayes stomped on his eyeglasses, sending them to the trash can.

After the game, Hayes answered a reporter's question about his behavior with, "Why, you dirty ... ... ... ."

Bo Schembechler was plucked more here--eight times in 10 games--but Woody will forever hold the record for most thorns.

It is, however, a wisp of a record.

The Rose Bowl is generally not a controversial game, unless you count the time in 1964, when Washington co-captain David Kopay was an escort for the Rose Queen at the same

time he was dating his fraternity

brother.

Heck, it hasn't even rained steadily on this game in nearly 50 years.

The Rose Bowl was the first intersectional postseason game.

The first bowl game to draw more than 100,000.

The first nationally televised bowl game.

And a lasting tribute to a guy named Roy Riegels.

That's somebody else you should know about, Miami and Nebraska.

Maybe you think you already do.

In 1929, Riegels was the California center who picked up a fumbled Georgia Tech punt return and ran 64 yards the wrong way.

He was finally stopped by teammates at the Cal one-yard line.

His teammates were so upset, they punted the ball immediately. Georgia Tech blocked the punt for a safety that led to its 8-7 win.

The play is the most famous in Rose Bowl history.

The photo of Riegels sitting on the goal line, holding his head in despair, is the game's most compelling.

He was so upset, he was removed for the rest of the first half.

Those who still don't understand the Rose Bowl, though, should understand what happened next.

Riegels returned in the second half and played outstanding football, even blocking a punt and recovering it.

Afterward he offered no excuses, saying he had simply become mixed up.

And not once in 64 remaining years of a life lived under that little black cloud did he hide, or flee, or change that story.

With effort and honor, Roy Riegels' wrong way has become the Rose Bowl's right way.

When he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1991, Riegels received a memorably loud standing ovation.

Even through tonight's chilly darkness, perhaps Miami and Nebraska can hear it.

*

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com.

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