Chapter 63

The Regular Season Ends, But Plans Are Fermenting

On December 2, Bo was back in Columbus playing in still another All-Star game. The press was laudatory in describing the talent on the field.

The players represent the greatest assemblage of gridiron stars ever gotten together. In all, nineteen men whose names have appeared on various All-American teams played on the two teams.

Bo, one of those All-Americans, was captain of the West team, and his squad won when another All-American, Harold "Brick" Muller of California, blocked a punt, scooped it up, and ran 60 yards for the only score of the game.

Except for Bo’s All-Star appearance, it appeared that the football season was over for Centre as it was for most teams across the country. Many colleges shut down after their Saturday, November 19 game. For others, the Thanksgiving contest with a traditional rival signaled the end of the year.

Uncle Charlie's initial reaction on coming back from New Orleans was to shut things down, head to Horse Cave and his farm, do a little hunting, tend to his cattle, and get some rest prior to spring training ushering in another baseball season.

He knew that offers had been pouring in for Centre to appear all over the country, but Uncle Charlie felt that a dominating season in which his boys had gone 9-0 and outscored their opponents 282-6, meant there was really nothing left to prove, especially since one of the wins had been over mighty Harvard.

Also, Uncle Charlie had seriously considered retiring. His initial reason for being in Danville was to help with the team that had his son, Tom, as a member. Tom was graduating, and for that reason, the coach felt that he just might move on. He had actually expressed that he would probably retire at the end of the season while talking to reporters in his room at the Lenox after the Harvard game.

On the other hand, Uncle Charlie knew that a trip out to the West would be a great opportunity for his young men to see much of the country, and he let the Chief know that if a trip could be "first class," he'd get behind it.

"Let me know the details. Please make certain that they realize that this is a special group of young men. If they want us to come out to play, we want to show our boys the country in the best of possible circumstances."

Later, he again made the point that any trip, "should be seen as a reward, and an unforgettable experience that my boys will remember the rest of their lives."

The Chief, the student manager, Johnny McGee, and the athletic committee continued fielding offers, all being of like mind to come up with not only a post-season game, but a great adventure as well. However, even though everyone, including Uncle Charlie, had come around to being in favor of a post-season excursion, things were getting complicated in regard to just where, and when, the Colonels would go.

George Joplin, writing for the Danville "Messenger," light-heartedly summed up the current state of indecision.

There has been confusion on Wall Street. Smart financiers are refusing to buy rail stocks. They are whittling their pencils to see which roads will profit when the Colonels' travel plans are announced.

Centre had definitely decided not to go to Chicago to meet Notre Dame, or to travel to New York and play in the Polo Grounds. Neither city, in December, was seen as being an "attractive" destination which would be a reward to the players.

Fort Worth wanted to hold a second "Fort Worth Classic" after the success of the game between TCU and Centre. Of course, the Rose Bowl, on secure footing, had become a fixture and would remain so to this day.

Meanwhile, civic leaders in San Diego saw what the Rose Bowl had done for the Los Angeles area, and decided that hosting a bowl game in their city would bring favorable publicity, and could also be a financial windfall for hotels, restaurants and retail merchants. They had the perfect facility in Balboa Stadium just north of the downtown area, a classical facility built for use during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

San Diego's Balboa Stadium, proposed site for a post-season game

Centre was such a draw and had so captured the attention of sports fans all over the country that as soon as San Diego decided to definitely get in the bowl business, the first school that was contacted was Centre.

"We get Centre and our future is assured," was the comment of one of the organizers. Naturally, Centre was flattered.

Meanwhile, the Rose Bowl contacted the Chief and asked that Centre not sign anything, as there was a good possibility that the Colonels were going to be invited to Pasadena.

The Chief thought he had a solution as to where Centre should go.

"We'll play in both bowls," he told Jop. "It won't be a problem. San Diego wants its game to be on the 26th. We can play there and then travel by train up to Los Angeles and play in the Rose Bowl on January 2nd."

There was only one problem. California had definitely signed on for the Rose Bowl, but the Bears had a clause which called for them to play an undefeated, untied team, like themselves. The feeling was that it would basically be a "National Championship" game, and therefore it would be imperative for both participants to have an unblemished record when they played.

If the Colonels were to lose in San Diego, then California could back out, and of course, no one in Pasadena wanted that to happen.

Negotiations went back and forth. Centre kept hearing that the Rose Bowl committee was sending out feelers to other schools. Meanwhile, San Diego's offer was firm. Centre was their team. So Centre signed a contract which guaranteed the school $16,000 to come west.

And, it appeared that Notre Dame was going to be Centre's opponent.

The 10-1 Irish, with the only loss being to Iowa, 10-7. Coach Knute Rockne is top row, far left. 

The old saying that, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," must have entered the Chief's mind. The Rose Bowl had wavered. San Diego was firm.

Then, to complicate matters, the Chief received a signed contract from the Rose Bowl inviting Centre to play California, but a stipulation was written in that the game in San Diego was to be cancelled.

Centre felt honor-bound to live up to the contract with the San Diego organizing committee, and that is why when you look back over the storied history of the Rose Bowl, the oldest and most famous of post-season bowl games, there is no mention of Centre College.

Many people felt it was a shame then, and do so to this day.

So how did things finally work out for the Rose Bowl?

Since California insisted on an undefeated, untied opponent, the pool of teams was extremely limited. There were only six undefeated and untied teams across the country after the regular season in 1921.

               Washington and Jefferson    10-0
               Centre   9-0
               California   9-0
               Lafayette   9-0
               Cornell   8-0
               Iowa   7-0  

Centre was out. Iowa had hung up its gear and had no interest. That left just Lafayette, Cornell and Washington and Jefferson. The Rose Bowl organizers felt that the Presidents of W&J looked like the best opponent for the Bears of California that they could sign.

There was a concern, however, with W&J. It had committed to play Texas A&M on January 2 in Dallas in a  post-season game the same day as the Rose Bowl.

Things were really getting confusing!

Here's what happened.

W&J was told it could back out of the Dallas game with Texas A&M if it could find someone to take its place. Centre had meanwhile agreed to go to Fort Worth after leaving San Diego and play in two bowl games by taking on TCU in a second Fort Worth Classic, but Fort Worth let Centre off the hook, and Centre agreed to play in Dallas in the place of W&J on January 2, and there was no bowl game at all in Fort Worth. It was nice of Fort Worth, but in reality, the cancellation spared the TCU Horned Toads another pasting.

TCU cancels

So, Washington and Jefferson ended getting the nod for the Rose Bowl. The little school from Washington, Pa., 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, proved to be an excellent choice.

The 1922 Rose Bowl was the last to be played at Tournament Park with the newly constructed Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena                                                                                         hosting the game on January 1, 1923.

Bo was asked about the Presidents when the announcement was made.

"California will be meeting one of the great teams in the country, a team which will surprise a lot of the folks on the West Coast."

Bo proved to be as good a prophet as he was a quarterback.

W&J entered the game a decided underdog. The California Bears had outscored their opponents during a 9-0 season by a whopping 312-33, and had crushed an undefeated Ohio State team the year before in the Rose Bowl, 28-0.

The Presidents and Bears played to a 0-0 tie.

The performance of W&J was all the more amazing when California's record is analyzed for the 5 year period, 1920-24.

               1920    ( 9-0-0 )
               1921     ( 9-0-1 ) The tie with W&J is included in the 1921 record.
               1922    ( 9-0-0 )
               1923    ( 9-0-1 )  Tied Nevada.
               1924    ( 8-0-2)  Tied Washington and Stanford. 

California was 44-0-4 during those years, and Washington and Jefferson's performance has to rank right up there with Centre's great win over Harvard in the "David vs. Goliath" category.

Meanwhile, the folks in San Diego were having difficulty in establishing exactly what they should call their upcoming post-season game which they felt at the time was going to be between Centre and Notre Dame.

The "East vs. West Bowl" was what they had initially planned to use.

Anyone with just a rudimentary bit of geographical knowledge knew that it was perhaps a bit of a stretch to even have designated Centre as being from the East, but at least the college was located "east of the Mississippi," as someone pointed out.

But a school from northern Indiana, in South Bend? How could Notre Dame be the "West" part of the game? It's amazing how quickly one can change course when they are flying by the seat of their pants.

"Let's just call our game the 'Christmas Bowl.' "

"But it's on December 26."

It was decided that "The Day after Christmas Bowl" was a bit cumbersome, and a vote was taken and a compromise reached. It would be the "San Diego East-West Christmas Classic." If someone wanted to quibble about the two teams not really coming from either the East or West, it could just be called the "Christmas Classic," and the press referred to the game as the "Christmas Bowl."

All of the worry about what the name of the game was going to be called proved unimportant, because for various reasons, Notre Dame and the committee couldn't come to an understanding even though a contract had been sent to South Bend and the game was announced in the press.

There were monetary considerations which couldn't be worked out. Also, there was a question about some players, particularly star halfback, Johnny Mohardt.  It was being reported that he had played in a professional game with the Racine team against Green Bay which would have ruled him ineligible. Notre Dame's season was over on November 24, and Mohardt didn't realize that his team was even considering a post-season game when he suited up with Racine on December 4. 

So, Notre Dame was out. It was back to the drawing board, and another opponent for Centre had to be found. 

The western part of the country was the location of the Pacific Coast Conference ( PCC ) which was made up of California, Stanford, Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon Agricultural (State ), and two other teams which joined the Conference the next year, Southern California and Idaho.          

Washington State was the second best team in the PCC after California, but the Cougars got blown out by Southern Cal, 28-7.

Scratch Washington State.

The problem with the possibility of inviting Southern Cal was even though it was 10-1, its opponents had included two submarine bases ( or two games with one submarine base, it isn't clear), the battleships Arizona and New York, Pomona College, Cal Tech, and the Trojans had been buried by California in their only loss, 38-7.

Scratch Southern Cal.

There was a similar problem with scheduling Stanford. If the Southern Cal loss to California, 38-7, looked bad, Stanford's being trounced even worse, 42-7, against Cal was even more of a disqualifier.

Scratch Stanford. 

Oregon was 5-1-2. Not bad. But in their conference games, they were 0-1-2. 

Scratch Oregon.

Finally, Oregon State ( actually Oregon Agricultural at the time ) with its 4-3-2 record, wasn't even considered. Neither was the University of Washington, which ended up at 3-4-1, nor Idaho at 4-3-1.

So, the committee began to look somewhat inland and realized that the University of Arizona would make an attractive opponent. Its schedule may have been a bit suspect, but the Wildcats were 7-1, and their only defeat had been against a strong Texas A&M team in College Station, 17-13.

It took a few days of negotiations to get Arizona on board, but a deal was struck and the announcement was made in the December 13th papers.


1921 Arizona Wildcats

The announcement was nearly lost due to the really big news.


Bo had several offers to coach, and the position that he mentioned to the team back in 1920 regarding the professional Canton Bulldogs for $50,000 for 5 years to both play and coach was still his for the taking. He had also received a firm offer of $7,000 annually to coach Howard College, now part of Samford University, in Birmingham.

The University of Dallas was also trying to sign Bo, but the Centenary offer of $9,000, which included a housing allowance, was so attractive that he turned down the prospect of returning to his home state.

The offering and acceptance of the Centenary head coaching football job finally allowed Bo to firm up his wedding plans. Bo had dated his high school sweetheart, Maude Marie Miers, ever since they met just after Bo had entered North Side High in the fall of 1912. She was the love of his life, and he'd never seriously courted any other girl after falling for Marie.

Bo met Marie when he entered North Side High in the fall of 1912. There is some confusion about Marie's name. The wedding newspaper articles  published on January 2, 1922 about her wedding to Bo in Fort Worth, refer to her as Maude Marie Miers, with her first two names reversed, as do several other references. ( See Chapter 78 ). Either way, she always went by Marie. This above photo and comment is from the 1913 "Lasso," the yearbook published by North Side High during Marie's senior year.

Bo's long range plans had always been to achieve success on the gridiron and then parlay that success into a football coaching career. After securing the financial freedom that a head coaching career would bring, he planned to marry Marie.

The trip to the Southwest was timed perfectly in order to allow Bo and Marie to finally walk down the aisle. Bo had his job. Centre was going to be playing in nearby Dallas, so it seemed perfectly natural to include a wedding in Fort Worth when the Colonels arrived for the scheduled January 2nd game with Texas A&M.

Marie and her family would make the plans. Bo and his teammates would arrive from the game in San Diego, and it would be the ultimate "killing of two birds with one stone."

Football and a wedding. For Bo, it couldn't get any better than that.