Chapter 28

Back To Louisville- Virginia Tech- November 20, 1920

Centre had bounced back nicely from Harvard and Georgia Tech and now stood 5-2, with Virginia Tech and Georgetown still to play.

Uncle Charlie and the Chief spoke in chapel Monday after the Kentucky game and thanked the students and faculty for their support of the team, especially the showing they made in Lexington.

"It may have been Homecoming in Lexington, but from the sidelines, we heard as much support for our team as was given Kentucky."

Then the Chief made an announcement that even the players hadn't known about. 

"We have been in contact with the Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and a committee of prominent citizens and are pleased to report that we've been invited to play a bowl game in that city on January 1, 1921."

A bowl game? What is that?

There had been several Rose Bowl games in the past, but that was an event out in California and it received little publicity in Kentucky. What did a bowl game mean for Centre?  And, Texas Christian University?

Most of those in chapel that morning had never heard of Texas Christian, so the Chief gave a little history about the college and added, "Their football team is undefeated. They will be a worthy foe, and the game will give Old Centre even more recognition. I think we have become known in the Northeast because of the Harvard game. Now we have a chance to let people know more about our college in the Southwest by traveling out to Texas and play in a post-season game. "

First Harvard! Now a bowl game! 

Who would have ever believed it?

However, there was a regular season to complete. After the wonderful reception the previous year in Louisville, the Centre administration was anxious to cement the relationship between the college and Louisville, so the Colonels were to travel to the Derby City on November 20 to take on Virginia Tech.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute, VPI or Virginia Tech, and Centre had never played before. VPI was founded in 1872 and was located in the far western part of Virginia, in Blacksburg. The college had gone through an evolutionary process in coming up with a name for itself. It was first Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, and in 1896, Polytechnic Institute was added, giving the school the rather awkward mouthful, Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical Polytechnic Institute, with the initials VAMPI, certainly a less than desired acronym. It would have naturally followed that in any sporting contests, VPI's teams would have been referred to as "Vamps," and since one of the definitions of the word was "a woman who uses her sex appeal to entrap and exploit men," a hastily called meeting resulted in shortening the name to Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

After the name of the college was determined, the school officials decided it would be nice to have a new nickname and cheer. A contest was held and a senior, O.M. Stull, won the competition when he submitted the "Hokie Yell."

Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Hi!

Tech, Tech, VPI 

Sol-a-rex, Sol-a-rah

Poly Tech Vir-gin-ia

Ray Rah VPI

Team! Team! Team!

Stoll admitted later that he had no inkling what "Hokie" meant, but rather, "It was a product of my imagination, and was an attention-getter for my yell." Whatever the reason, the cheer caught on, and the school's nickname, "Hokies," is now well into its second century of use.

As the Louisvillians were getting ready to welcome the Colonels, they were pleased to read about the team during the week preceding the VPI game when they opened the November 13 issue of the "Literary Digest," a weekly news magazine. The "Digest" had a circulation of 2,000,000 copies. ( The magazine was merged with another newsweekly, "Time," in 1938. )

Distributed nationally

There was a significant article under the heading, "Centre College Gives Harvard a Tussle."

Twenty-seven husky youths from Danville, Kentucky, clad in weird gold jerseys, and led by a wise and valiant coach from Horse Cave, in the same state, a few days ago swarmed into Harvard Stadium and met the powerful Crimson eleven in a football game variously described as "one of the most spectacular games ever fought in the Stadium,and as "one of the most dramatic moments in football history. "

The long story then recreated the game in vivid prose. Above the article was a two-column photograph of the starting eleven, with Uncle Charlie in an overcoat and wearing his fedora. Below the picture was captioned, "Kentucky stalwarts who almost defeated Harvard."

Photo which was part of an article in the "Literary Digest," a weekly magazine with a circulation of 2,000,000 copies.                       Bottom row- left to right- Terry Snowday, Bill James, Stanley Robb, Red Weaver, Clayton Ford, Sully Montgomery, George Chinn                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Top row- left to right- Tom Moran, Red Roberts, Bo McMillin, Army Armstrong, Uncle Charlie Moran

The Harvard game had generated such excitement in Louisville that it was decided the high school facility used in the 1919 DePauw game wouldn't come close to handling the crowd expected for the VPI game. The stadium with the greatest capacity in Louisville was Eclipse Park at Seventh and Kentucky Avenue, just a few blocks south of the downtown area. Eclipse Park was named for Louisville's original professional baseball team, and could be adapted for football. From pregame ticket sales, it was realized that the demand was going to exceed the seats available, and when additional temporary seats were constructed on the east side of the field, the capacity exceeded 10,000, and standing-only fans increased the attendance by several thousand more. 

The game was going to be a moneymaker for Centre. VPI was guaranteed $1,500, the stadium expenses would be $1,200, and Centre figured that $2,000 would cover the team's travel, lodging and meals plus any promotional expenses and incidentals incurred in putting on the game. With ticket sales generating close to $25,000, Centre would have a very profitable weekend.

VPI began playing football in 1892. The school had mainly played a regional schedule over the years with opponents primarily being from within Virginia or from the neighboring states of Tennessee and the Carolinas. When the Hokies traveled to the East, they had met no success, losing to Princeton three times, Yale twice, and once each to Bucknell, Cornell, and Rutgers.

VPI had started out the season with three straight wins over weaker teams, but then lost three straight against better programs to go 3-3, beat Richmond, lost to North Carolina State, and came to Louisville with a 4-4 record.

VPI  35          Hampton-Sydney 0
VPI  21          William and Mary 0
VPI  75          Emory and Henry 6
VPI    6          Rutgers 19
VPI    0          Maryland 7
VPI    0          Washington and Lee 13
VPI   21          Richmond 0
VPI    6           North Carolina State 14

There were some interesting sidelights to the Centre-VPI game. Uncle Charlie had been a star halfback on the University of Tennessee team that defeated the Hokies in 1897, 18-0. Tech had some unique players. Tex Tilson and Red Deer Tilson were full­blooded Indians from Texas. In the days of less sensitivity, the Danville "Advocate" stated, "It will be worth the time and then some to journey to Louisville to see these aboriginals in action."

There was a tackle named Henry Crisp who had but one hand, having suffered an accident while a child. And there was George Washington who claimed to be a descendant of George, the original.

Henry Crisp was the captain of the undefeated 1918 VPI team. After graduating after the 1920 season, he began a long career at the University of Alabama, serving as an assistant football coach under five Crimson Tide coaches as well as being the Athletic Director from 1931-39 and again from 1954-57. Crisp was also the Alabama basketball coach from 1924 to 1942 and again in 1946. His career record as head of the roundball program was 266-129 which included winning the SEC title with a 20-0 record in 1930.  

The Colonels left Danville in a private car on the Southern at 5:25 Friday afternoon. They ate in the dining car and were met by a boisterous crowd at Louisville's Central Station along the Ohio River at 9:10 P.M. The alumni had arranged for a caravan of cars to get the team shuttled to the Seelbach Hotel which had been taken over again by Centre as headquarters for the team and fans.

The team arrived at the Seelbach in the evening prior to the game

Saturday, November 20, was another of those perfect days for a football game. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the temperature was in the mid 50's with a minimal breeze, and it was an excited crowd that filled Eclipse Park.

15,000 in attendance, with people squeezed into every possible site in and around Eclipse Park

An unusual event took place prior to the kickoff.

Dr. Ganfield, the Chief and Uncle Charlie had been so upset by what they considered unsportsmanlike conduct that was experienced during the Georgia Tech game in Atlanta that they got together and vowed that it would never happen again in any game in which they participated. VPI had brought no cheerleaders, and Centre decided that it would forego any organized cheers during the game. If fans wished to cheer after individual plays for either team, so be it. But the Centre cheerleaders were instructed not to involve the fans in any coordinated cheering.

"None at all," Dr. Ganfield and Chief Myers explained later to the press. "It was the decent thing to do." 

The newspapers dubbed the VPI contest, "The cheerless game."

It may have been "cheerless," but the play, especially by Bo, was enthusiastically appreciated by the crowd.

Bruce Dudley of the Louisville "Herald" led off his coverage by writing about Bo's humility and dedication to teamwork for the Sunday morning edition of his newspaper.

Very frequently, Bo McMillin has called the press down for heaping so much praise of the success of the "Wonder Team" to himself individually. He does not like it at all,  for he believes like Kipling:

It ain't the individual, 
Or the army as a whole,
But the everlastin' teamwork 
Of every bloomin' soul.

But it must be said that Alvin Nugent McMillin gave a sparkling exhibition of his super greatness against the heroic Virginia Polytechnic Institute at Eclipse Park. The largest crowd that ever witnessed a football contest in Louisville was elevated repeatedly by the dazzling advances of the Kentuckians and the courageous defense of the Virginians.

Centre was denied a score in the opening period, but McMillin crashed through for two touchdowns in the second period, and in the third, he stupefied the Virginians with his aerial attack and registered two more bell ringers. The visitors won unstinted admiration in the final quarter by refusing to yield to the Gold and White onslaughts. Only the stoutest hearted of teams, beaten 28-0 after three quarters, could have come back as the Virginians did and hold the opposition scoreless in the last period.

The game was one of the cleanest ever contested. Not a single penalty was called on the boys from Blacksburg, and only three on the Colonels, all for off-sides.

The statistics for the game told the tale of the Colonel's 28-0 win

Centre had three and one half the yardage gained by VPI, 458-131. The Colonels had 19 first downs. VPI had but 4, two in each half, and one was helped along by an off-sides penalty.

The closest that Tech got to the Centre goal was the 33-yard line when the Hokies recovered a fumble. The one-handed Crisp tried a field goal from that position but it failed.

Bo hit on 8-15 pass attempts for 135 yards which included TD's to Lefty Whitnell and Stanley Robb.

Red Weaver was 4 for 4 and ran his streak to 86. 

Centre was now 6-2 on the season.

Centre's alumni put on quite a feast after the game in the Seelbach's Red Room. The place was hopping as a jazz band belted out lively tunes while the team and alumni hosts went through a buffet packed with every conceivable type of food.

After the dinner, the chairman of the Louisville alumni club, Nick Dosker, asked Dr. Ganfield to speak. He reviewed the progress that Centre's athletic program had made over the last few years.

"And finally, by the courageous, clean fight displayed in the Harvard game, there came the satisfaction of winning the great enthusiasm and devotion throughout the nation for a small college, and now everyone knows who and where we are," a reference to Howard Reynold's comments about "Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, wherever that is."

Uncle Charlie spoke about the team. "I love them, fuss at them, fight with them and sometimes even agree with them. The one thing I never do is lie to them. Whenever a coach does that, he immediately loses the confidence of his team."

Bo was called on to say a few words and his comments were met by a standing roar of approval when he said, "Everyone who can, is coming back to play another year, with our goal being to beat Harvard. We had a meeting and I got commitments, and I made a commitment. I'll be back. Red Roberts will be back. Army and Ben Cregor and Bill James will be back. All of our guys from Owensboro have made a pledge. We have gotten nearly everyone to agree. We will go to Harvard and…."

Bo stopped in mid-sentence. It didn't need to be said, because his grin said it all.

The room echoed with a spontaneous- BEAT HARVARD! BEAT HARVARD! BEAT HARVARD! BEAT HARVARD!

The jazz band picked it up and would play a few chords, and then- BEAT HARVARD! BEAT HARVARD! BEAT HARVARD! BEAT HARVARD!

The dignified Red Room of the Seelbach had never seen such a demonstration.


When the Colonels got in their private day coach the next morning for the return trip to Danville, they had to agree that their reception in Louisville had been wonderful. But then, that's what they had said about Boston and Indianapolis. That was what they said about their treatment in Lexington. It was what they were experiencing everywhere they went.

There is no doubt that the Centre College Colonels had quickly become one of the most loved groups of athletes anywhere, of any time, in any sport.

"WE ARE CENTRE!" was beginning to be the slogan of people everywhere.