1902: The first Rose Bowl game is played. The game played on this date was called “Tournament East-West football game” and was played between the Michigan Wolverines and the Stanford Cardinals. Fielding Yost had coached at Stanford before moving to Michigan for the 1901 season. The Wolverines had played undefeated prior to this game while Stanford had a 3-1-2 season. Michigan trounced the competition. The final score for the game was 49-0 when Stanford quit in the third quarter. Michigan’s record for the season now stood at 11-0 and they were crowned as the national champion. The game was so lopsided that it was not played again the following year, or the year after that. In fact, it wasn’t again played until the State College of Washington (now Washington State University) defeated Brown University in the 1916 Rose Bowl, the first time the name was used.
Between 1916 and 1922 the games were played in Pasadena’s Tournament Park located about three miles away from the specially built Rose Bowl stadium. An January 1, 1923 the game was played at the new venue, near to Caltech. The new stadium was needed because crowd sizes were increasing and all the fans did not fit in the older arena. The 1923 game had Penn State losing to USC 3-14 in front of 43,000 spectators. The seating at the stadium has been altered several times since the original game with peak seating capacity at 104,594 between the years of 1972 and 1997. At one time it was the largest seating capacity in the country but was superseded by Michigan Stadium in 1998. Today, with a capacity of 92,542 it ranks seventh in the US list of football stadiums and is the largest post-season bowl game venue.
The games have been played yearly since 1916. Between that time and 1946 (except during World War I), the game was always played between a member of the Pacific Coast Conference (now the Pac-12 Conference) and a team from the Eastern US. The teams were not necessarily the conference champions. During World War I, military bases sported teams which also played at the Rose Bowl. Another war caused another problem. In 1942, just weeks after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the attacks on Pacific Ocean and West Coast shipping lanes, the venue was moved. It was assumed such a massing of Americans would make an ideal target sitting on the West Coast and so the 1942 game was played in Durham, North Carolina.
Today, there are a number of Bowl Games available but the Rose Bowl remains the highest attended college football game. Known as The Granddaddy of Them All, it is played on January 1 unless that day is a Sunday, in which case the game is moved to Monday so as not to compete with professional football games. Beginning in 1998, teams were chosen by the Bowl Championship Series. It was hoped teams would still be from the East and West with Pac-12 vs Big 10 if possible. This was replaced in 2014 with the College Football Playoff in which four teams are selected for two national semifinal games which then leads to the championship game. In this arrangement, the Rose Bowl is one of the semifinal games every three years and if not hosting, has other top contenders play. Those first teams who met on this date have returned many times over the years. USC has the most wins of this game at 24, but Michigan is second with 8 wins and Stanford is third with 7. Interestingly, Michigan also has the most losses at 12.
The Rose Bowl is the only bowl I’ve ever seen that I didn’t have to clean. – Erma Bombeck
You can learn a line from a win and a book from a defeat. – Paul Brown
Football is not a contact sport. It’s a collision sport. Dancing is a good example of a contact sport. – Duffy Daugherty
A good football coach needs a patient wife, a loyal dog, and a great quarterback – but not necessarily in that order. – Bud Grant