November 1, 1924 Homecoming at Kentucky
Centre was continuing to win against Kentucky, its greatest rival, but there was a trend developing which even the most partisan fans of the Colonels had to recognize. The days of winning by 50 or so points were past, though Centre had maintained its dominance statistically even as the margins narrowed.
1917 Centre 3 Kentucky 0
1918 No game
1919 Centre 56 Kentucky 0
1920 Centre 49 Kentucky 0
1921 Centre 55 Kentucky 0
1922 Centre 27 Kentucky 3
1923 Centre 10 Kentucky 0
One may have felt that after uttering, "This is the year!" the past two seasons, and having their team come up short both times, perhaps a new slogan would have been in order, but on the campus and wherever UK fans were found, it was again, "This is the year!"
Kentucky had a new coach, Fred J. Murphy, a standout at Yale where he played from 1907-09. His head coaching experience had been at Northwestern and the University of Denver before arriving in Lexington in 1924.
Kentucky certainly wasn't going to let Centre get ahead of its football program and had started a major campaign after Centre got its new stadium's construction underway in April of 1923. Whatever Centre had, UK was going to trump and then some.
In the late spring of 1923, announcements were sent out to newspapers across the state revealing what was planned in Lexington. The fund-raising committee set a goal of $140,000 which would be nearly $60,000 more than the cost of Centre's new facility.
Kentucky's new stadium campaign
Kentucky got its new stadium up in time for the 1924 season, and named it McLean Stadium on Stoll Field. The "McLean" was in memory of the Kentucky football player, Price Innes McLean, the young man who died from a head injury suffered during the Cincinnati game of 1923. The "Stoll" was in honor of Richard C. Stoll, longtime Kentucky trustee.
The stadium was built of concrete and held 15,000. Kentucky had opened the season with four straight games in the new facility, but waited until Centre came to Lexington to hold both the school's Homecoming and the dedication ceremony of the new structure.
Having Centre on the schedule absolutely guaranteed a capacity crowd.
Arial view of the campus and new stadium at UK which was to be dedicated during the November 1 game with Centre
Coming into the Centre game, the Wildcats were 3-1.
Kentucky 29 Louisville 0
Kentucky 42 Georgetown (Ky.) 0
Kentucky 7 Washington and Lee 10
Kentucky 7 Sewanee 0
The city of Lexington was consumed by the upcoming game. Contests were held to determine which store and office could decorate most effectively in the Wildcats' blue and white. Every hotel and boarding house was booked to capacity by the influx of out of town alumni and Centre supporters coming to the weekend festivities.
A large contingent of UK and Centre fans planned to come over from Louisville, many by train. For those driving to Lexington, the Louisville papers printed the best route "for those who plan to go over by motorcar."
Drivers were advised to go to Lexington via Georgetown rather than Versailles, as "there is freshly poured oil on the Versailles to Lexington Road, certain to be splashed up on any cars using the highway."
Both Kentucky and Centre closed their practices to the public. Coach Murphy had the Wildcats on the field so late into the afternoon and early evening that he had a ball painted white so it could be seen better.
The Chief had two players injured in the West Virginia who hadn't been diagnosed until the return on Monday. Frank Rubarth had a broken collar bone and Robert Wallace had a fracture in his hand. Both had continued to play in New York. Rubarth suited up for the no-contact practice on Monday and vowed he was going to play against the Wildcats. Wallace had to sit out.
One spectator who was allowed to watch the Colonels was Lefty Whitnell who came to Danville from Fulton, Kentucky. It was Lefty who caught the long touchdown pass from Bo in the 1920 Harvard game.
Local reporters caught up with Lefty who solemnly declared that he'd give up 5 years of his life if he could "just get into the Kentucky contest for one minute."
( Lefty could have perhaps afforded to give up some of his life. In 1978, as he approached 80 years of age, he was living in Florida where he owned a resort, and wrote George Chinn, his old teammate, saying, "I sit around 80% of the time, occasionally swim in the Gulf, play golf about three times weekly, and try to have relations with my girl friend twice weekly, weakly." )
Once again, Howard King of the Southern organized a special train for the Centre-Kentucky game, this time to originate in Danville. A coach-only day train would leave Danville at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday morning and arrive in Lexington by noon, plenty of time to get to the game. There were 500 tickets available, and all were gone the day they were put on sale.
The Colonels were going over earlier. The school had chartered a coach to be hooked onto the northbound "Carolina Special" with arrival in Lexington at 8:25 A.M. The players had rooms booked at the Lafayette Hotel on Main Street. They were going to have a short skull session in the ballroom and then get naps in their rooms until going to the stadium.
There were no tickets available from anyone at any price. The 15,000 seats were gone, and plans were to sell 2,000 standing room only admissions on the day of the game which would swell the attendance to 17,000, exceeding the crowd of 15,000 at the 1923 stadium dedication game in Danville between the Colonels and Wildcats.
The sellout at the dedication of the new stadium
Rain had been predicted which would be to Kentucky's advantage. The Wildcats were larger but didn't have the Colonels' speed. A wet field would be beneficial to their more ponderous line, and the forecast affected the wagering on the game. Originally, Kentucky's bettors wanted 12 points, but when the prediction for rain was publicized, the odds got closer to even money. Bettors who factored in rain ended up factoring in the weather incorrectly, as it was dry all day.
Bruce Dudley, now with the "Courier-Journal," came over from Louisville on an early train Friday morning in order to soak up the atmosphere as preparations were being made for what he designated "the state's premiere sporting event of the year."
( Many considered the Kentucky Derby "the state's premiere sporting event of the year." Dudley apparently didn't. )
Alumni from Centre and Kentucky have come from all points of the state and from widely divergent sections in the United States to cheer their college on to victory tomorrow, and dazzling visions of triumph are being generated by every dynamic partisan, and all are partisans. There are but few towns in the state that haven't sent a student to Centre or Kentucky, and there are few towns that are not represented here in the rousing reunion of worshipers.
They are here from Rabbit Hash, Boone County on the North, straight through to Fidelity, McCreary County in the South. They are from Bugg, Hickman County in the far West, to Jamboree, Pike County in the East. They are here from Good Luck, Metcalf County, to Good Night, in Barren County.
All of the male members of the buzzing groups are composed of boys. Some, carrying gray in their hair, lean perceptibly on canes beribboned in blue or gold, but they are boys tonight, as robust in spirit as those who call them "Grandpa."
Friday night, there was a UK pep rally in the brand new 3,500 seat Alumni Gymnasium. The crowd of 2,000 sat in the bleachers as the Wildcat cheerleaders dressed in white flannel slacks, white shoes, and blue sweaters led the yells.
The new 1924 Alumni Gym at UK, used until Memorial Coliseum was opened 3 blocks away in 1950
Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah, U-K, U-K!
Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah, U-K, U-K!
Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah, U-K, U-K!
Rah, Rah, Rah, Rah, U-K, U-K!
Team! Team! Team!
Kentucky! Kentucky! Kentucky! G-r-r-r-o,o,o,o,OO,O,O,O,O,O
Kentucky! Kentucky! Kentucky!
Meow! Meow! Meow!
P-st! P-st! P-st!
Wildcats! Wildcats! Wildcats!
Fight Blue and White!
Fight Blue and White! Fight Blue and White!
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!
The pep rally ended by the UK Pep Band playing the rousing, "On! On! U of K."
On, On, U of K, We are right for the fight today. Hold that ball and hit the line, Every Wildcat star will shine, We'll fight, fight, fight for the Blue and White. We will roll to that goal, Varsity, And will kick, roll and run Till the battle is won, And we'll bring home the victory.
"On! On! U of K" from the November 1, 1924 Kentucky-Centre football program. The song was also used at the dedication of Centre's new stadium in 1923. The program recapped the results of the previous games. Of note is the highlighted 1894 contest to be mentioned below.
Programs were being sold for 25 cents to fans who began arriving for the game. There was a somewhat strange choice of a photograph of a bygone Wildcat team in the program. A group of Kentucky players dressed in a variety of uniforms was featured with the caption, "The mighty team of 1894, Geo. Carey, Capt. This team suffered only one defeat."
That defeat was the worse loss that Wildcats had ever suffered against the Colonels, the 67-0 loss in 1894.
The curious choice of a photograph for the program, a 67-0 loss to Centre
Centre's fans laughed when they saw the photo and score. Wildcat supporters said Kentucky's "Mighty Team of 1894" perhaps had an "off day," but then they confided to friends from Danville that, "It was obvious that the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing," when putting together the program.
( Kentucky actually lost 2 games in 1894, with the other loss besides the Centre defeat being a September 22 road loss to Cincinnati, 32-4. )
Blue and white was everywhere. The phone poles were wrapped and bunting decorated the buildings around Stoll Field. At various locations around the stadium, vendors sold flowers with the blue of Kentucky or the gold of Centre. There were pennants, arm bands, medallions, and pinbacks with ribbons of the team's colors with little gold footballs dangling.
Pinbacks sold with football
Wildcats' "Blue and White" pinback
Centre's "Gold and White"
Just as the year before at Danville, the dedication ceremony, beginning as scheduled at 1:30, wasn't appreciated except by those sitting nearby due to the din of the crowd.
Everyone stood as the 62 members-strong UK marching band led by Ed Gans, "the bewitching drum major from Louisville," played the stirring, "On! On! U of K." Then it was time for the old traditional, "My Old Kentucky Home," the speeches were made, Judge Stoll accepted the stadium on behalf of the University, everyone popped up again as the band then played "The Star Spangled Banner," and it was game time.
The Lexington "Leader" wrote in a story appearing the next day that, "The band had a conspicuous part in the day's program. The snappy military musical organization has become an institution at Wildcat football games and no affair on Stoll Field would be complete without it. But the spectators could do without the frequent repetitions of 'My Old Kentucky Home.' "
Bruce Dudley sat in the press box after the game and completed his story which he handed over to be wired back to the "Courier-Journal."
The Wildcats will have to wait at least one more year.
The armor of the Centre College Colonels has withstood for the seventh successive season the clawing of the Kentucky Wildcats for penetration and football supremacy.
Only a thin shield now seems to protect the state championship for Centre.
The margin of resistance today was 7 points, all of the points that were achieved in the battle.
In 1917, the margin was 3-0. In 1919, 56-0. In 1920, 49-0. In 1921, 55-0. The tide seemed to turn a bit in 1922 as Kentucky held the Colonels to a 27-3 victory. Last year it was even closer, 10-0.
The 'Cats were wildly eager for victory, as another marker for this memorable day, on which Stoll Field was dedicated before some 17,000 radiant sons and daughters of the state. Of the crowd, at least 3,000 were homecoming brothers and sisters of the University. Defeat did not ruin their day, nor lessen one whit their pride in their team and their glory in their stadium. For them the defeat will make victory, when victory comes over Centre, all the sweeter.
Gems, in Centre's rosary of joy, were dazzling dashes by Covington, vicious thrusts by Gordy, and the point after touchdown by Lemon.
Centre's touchdown came early in the 2nd quarter. A Kentucky punt as the 1st quarter ended resulted in a 15 yard penalty due to the Wildcats' "Ab" Kirwan inadvertently tacking Herb Covington before he had fielded the ball.
The Colonels wore their jerseys with the stripes on the front. Covington is running the ball. Case Thomasson is number 21 for Centre.
After the whistle and switching over ends of the field, Centre found itself in good position with 1st and 10 on the Kentucky 40.
The Colonels stuck to the ground. It was Covey, Gordy, Rabenstein, Covey, and then Gordy, each play picking up 3-5 yards.
Centre back running during the game. Frank Rubarth, playing with his broken collar bone from the West Virginia game, wears number 7 for Centre.
Finally near the goal, Minos Gordy, running with his head low, lunged forward and crashed over the goal. Lemon made it 7-0.
Minos Gordy plowed through for the only score. Reginald "Mutt" Wilson is number 10 for Centre.
Even though the score was close, and everyone conceded that Kentucky had come a long way since its crushing defeats in the past, again Centre won big when the stats were analyzed at the end of the game.
Identifiable players for Centre are Thomasson ( 21 ), Rubarth ( 7 ), and Alex Bush ( 12 )
Kentucky never got closer than Centre's 45 yard line. The Wildcats had no first downs in the 1st half while Centre got 8, and Centre had a 13-5 margin for the game.
The Colonels picked up 189 yards on the ground and 17 through the air for a total of 206.
The Wildcats got 91 yards on running plays and completed one pass for 11 yards, for a total gain of 102.
Kentucky was closing the gap, but the gap was still there.
Frank Rubarth started, broken collar bone and all.
I was in the dressing room at Kentucky, helping out. Red brought me along so I could go out with the team and sit on the bench during the game. I rode over on the train with the team and just hung out in downtown Lexington before we went to the new stadium.
Downtown Lexington where Red Robertson "hung out" prior to the game while the team rested at the LaFayette Hotel in the background
I had watched Frank Rubarth in practice the week before. There seemed no way he could play at Kentucky because it was obvious that just running caused a lot of pain, and he couldn't raise his arm. But he was one of "The Immortals" who had vowed to play every minute during the rest of the season.
Before the game, Frank begged Coach Ofstie and the Chief to let him play. He said it was his last season and he had pledged with the other seniors that he would play just as they were. He actually had tears in his eyes, and he kept saying, "I can play. Just let me start and you'll see I can play."
The Chief looked over at Red and he saw Red nod his head, yes. I don't know if Frank even knew it, but it was because of Red that he started.
Frank played with one arm down at his side and obviously favored his shoulder. But he played hard, and the coaches left him in the game for as long as he was able to be effective.
Rubarth finally had to come out in the 2nd quarter, replaced by Jim "Judas" Priest.
Unbelievably, he re-entered the game in the 3rd quarter, relieving Walter Skidmore. But after a few plays, he had to come back out and Bill Kagin replaced him only to have Rubarth appear back on the field toward the end of the game in the 4th quarter. Those were the only substitutions in the game.
Centre and the "Seven Immortals" had won the first of the four games against the Southern Conference teams, and they again had a winning record, as they'd been accustomed.
The day after the game, "Matador" wrote his impressions of the afternoon. He said he overheard "a fair maiden complaining about the officiating."
"On my, did you see that? Centre made a first down in less than four downs and the referee didn't even notice it!"
"Matador" also made note of some of the Colonels' players.
It is too bad Covington can't play another year. When they take Covington away from Centre, it will be like taking the Leaning Tower away from Pisa. And when they take Gordy and Kubale away, it'll be like taking the props out from under that Tower.
Covington was harder to stop than an ingrown toenail. He and Gordy did more things to the Kentucky line than a Chinese laundry can do to a silk shirt.
Next it was a trip to Knoxville to play the Volunteers of the University of Tennessee.