The 2015 UCLA Football Vintage Calendar features 12 teams from the past. The January page has a picture of the Game Day program from the 1947 Rose Bowl game against Illinois. Although we lost the game, it was still a remarkable season and well worth remembering. Most of the following, by the way, is from Wikipedia.
The 1947 Rose Bowl was the first game played under a formal arrangement with the Pac 12 (then Pacific Coast Conference) sending a team to face an opponent from the Big 10 (then Big 9) conference. The exclusive PCC-Big 10 tie-in remained in place until the BCS era, when teams could be siphoned off for the championship game. The tie-in remains in force today- the default for the Pac 12 and the Big 10 is for their champions to meet in the Rose Bowl, unless one or both are overridden by the Playoff Committee.
The tie-in was negotiated for the 1947 Rose Bowl, and had to be approved by the member schools. Interestingly, UCLA voted against the tie-in, because as undefeated conference champions (oh for the glory of days past), the Bruins wanted a matchup against one of the two national powers- Army or Notre Dame.
The PCC- Big 10 matchup was considered to be a meeting of like minds. Both conferences wanted strict amateurs, while southern schools were okay with more professional arrangements for their players (some things never change). And both conferences had integrated teams. The SEC did not have its first black player until 1966 (these facts get lost in the shuffle). Back in the day, there were four Bowl games- Rose, Orange, Sugar, Cotton. None of this petitioning for the chance to play in the Emerald Bowl with a 6-7 record. And of the four Bowls, the Rose was the only one which was integrated. The others followed suit in ensuing years- it took until 1956 before the Sugar Bowl was integrated.
The 1946 UCLA team was the first undefeated, untied team in school history, with a 10-0 record. The Bruins were coached by Bert LaBrucherie. LaBrucherie had graduated from UCLA, and then had coached high school football, until coming back to Westwood for four seasons- 1945 through 1948. He then moved on to Cal Tech, and coached there until 1967.
This team played in the pre-platoon era, with players on the field for 60 minutes on offense and defense. Just think of 11 Myles Jack type players, with no rest. The heaviest player in the UCLA backfield, fullback Cal Rossi, weighed 170 pounds (!). The offense featured Hall of Famer Tom Fears at wide receiver. Fears went on to fame and glory with the Rams, and was named to the NFL All-Decade 1950's team.
UCLA took an early 7-6 lead in the game, but the underdog Illinois team stormed back and won with relative ease. During the game, Al Hoisch returned a kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown, which remains a school record.
Despite being one of the older contributors to BN, I actually did not attend this game. But I did attend the next Rose Bowl matchup with Illinois, when the Bruins crushed the Illini in 1984, 45-9, behind player of the game Rick Neuheisel.
Here is to the 1946 UCLA Bruins. When people rush to glorify a program which is winning 2nd tier bowl games, it is good to remember that we do have teams which played on the highest stage in the past.
Go Bruins !!