Part of my regular routine involves checking ebay for Rice related materials. Most of the time I see either stuff we already have or stuff that’s dramatically overpriced. From time to time, though, something that’s both interesting and affordable pops up. This is one of those.
The Woodson has a nice collection of Rice football programs but this one is something different–it’s not one of ours but rather a program from the University of Southern California, issued when the Owls went out west to play there in 1947.
It reads like a dispatch from another world, a world where Rice football was a national powerhouse. It’s almost unfathomable how far we’ve fallen:
One of the best things in the program are the pictures of the Rice players. While USC had only lame headshots of their players, we used these cool action pictures. (Note there are two guys on this page I’ve written about before, Froggy Williams and George Miner. By the way, if you click on the post about Froggy be sure to watch the video. Maybe it’s just me, but it makes me cry every time.)
If you’ve been paying any attention over the years you should not be surprised that the thing that really drew my attention here was not football at all but this grainy aerial shot of the west side of campus that appeared at the top of the first page about Rice. It’s pretty bad, probably blurry when it was taken, then printed on cheap paper, and now scanned with my iphone. But you know what you can see clearly? The barns where we kept our mules. (See here, here, here and finally, unexpectedly, here. Alert: the last one also makes me cry. I must be getting old.)
Bonus: At the beach. Back Monday.
The USC program is remarkable in its inaccuracy. Just for instance, not one of the teams it identifies as a Southwest Conference team was in the SWC.
I also questioned those names as former SWConference teams — except for Tulane. It may have been briefly a member in earlier days. MY day SWC was U.Texas, A&M, Rice, SMU, Baylor, TCU, Arkansas.
“It’s almost unfathomable how far we’ve fallen”: During my wasted (wastral?) years, Rice was the ONLY name in Houston football. UH was still ‘Cougar High’. No PRO team around! The Houston “Oilers” began the kiss of death.
Rice built its megastadium for games with UTexas, TexasA&M, Arkansas (a SWC member), LSU, etc. The NCAA gave Rice some oxygen for a while when it went to “single platoon” football — after all, Jess Neely was on the NCAA committee. (A 1952 classmate of mine had been recruited as a placekicker; he was suddenly out of a playing job. He stayed at the “Institute” as a trainer. Would Daryl Royal have done that — did any one else read that expose)
When BIG BUCKS college football heated up, big boys no longer wanted to play Rice.
(In the latter 1950s, Rice One Year played 7 of the 10 Top Ranked teams in the Nation.)
(SMU tried to compete big time and it got them the “Death Penalty” suspension for several years.)
Whenever the Rice alumni (all 37 or so of them) were polled, they voted to either stop football, or downsize the program. Older and probably more influential alumni wanted to continue; untimately Rice was one of 3 or 4 SWC teams, the others having all moved on to more prestigious competition. So Rice began getting in smaller venues. And here we are now.
Well, that’s the way I remember it anyway. Perhaps some younger OWLS will enjoy the history lesson. Correct me if you wish but please ‘be gentle’ as I am still a virgin as a historian.
I truly enjoyed the photos of the OWL coaches, many of whom I knew, was coached by, or knew their children at Rice.
If I’m not mistaken, those were all SouthEAST conference teams. So USC was only off by a couple of letters.
So, who won the game? Nobody, as it turns out, but USC was the undefeated PCC champion in 1947. Check out this link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_USC_Trojans_football_team
Alas, they were destroyed by Michigan in the Rose Bowl. I remember listening to that game on the radio as a kid. One tends to remember 49-0 routs.
G.H., you old-timers sure have good memories.
I listened to that game at the house of my then best friend in Corpus Christi. His family had told me they were going to move to California, so I was in no mood to cheer for anything Californian. I loved the way Michigan poured it on.