The Pac-12’s Stanford Cardinal and the Big Ten’s Michigan State Spartans have proven on the playing field that they belong in the 100th game of college football’s Granddaddy of Them All, the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.
However, when you think about Rose Bowls, it’s hard to ignore that the University of Southern California Trojans have appeared in 33 Rose Bowls, more than any college football team in the land.
It would have be a nice touch if the Trojans could have appeared in the 2014 Rose Bowl, but it wasn’t meant to be, even though the Men of Troy stunned Stanford, 20-17, in that memorable Coliseum game on Nov. 16.
It’s not, however, like the Trojans in spirit won’t be in Pasadena during the famous parade or game. You see, the Rose Bowl has announced its All-Century team, and there are three honored Trojans who are part of this once-in-a-lifetime team.
Former USC head football coaches Howard Jones and John McKay along with Trojans wide receiver Lynn Swann will be honored as members of the Rose Bowl’s All-Century team. By coincidence, all three also adorn the front cover of the 2013 USC media guide, a tribute to their enduring greatness.
From 1930 to 1940, Howard Jones led USC to the Rose Bowl game five times, winning all appearances by a combined 95 points. Just know that prior to Jones arrival, Trojan football had not captured a national title nor featured a single All-American.
But there is more and it really puts things into perspective why Jones and his Thundering Herd have branded their era into college football history.
After 16 seasons under Jones, the Trojans won eight Pacific Coast Conference titles, produced 19 All-Americans, and were undefeated in Rose Bowl play. In fact, three of those Rose Bowl victories (1932, 1933, 1939) captured national championships for the Men of Troy. Jones, whose name adorns one of two USC practice fields, was an inaugural member of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1989 and is also a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Then there is Mr. I-formation, the man who turned USC into Tailback U., the legendary John McKay, whose larger than life statue resides on campus in front of the athletic building bearing his name.
In his 16 years as head coach for the Trojans, McKay’s teams won nine Pacific 8 Conference titles and led USC to eight Rose Bowl game appearances, including five victories -- four of which captured national titles (1962, 1967, 1972, 1974).
The Silver Fox was the first coach to take four consecutive teams to Pasadena and he is tied for the most wins (5) in Rose Bowl history. His eight appearances in the Rose Bowl are tied for second all time.
One of McKay’s biggest coaching rivals, Ohio State’s Woody Hayes, is also on the Rose Bowl’s All-Century team. For those baby boomers and beyond, those epic early 1970s Rose Bowl games featuring the Trojans and the Buckeyes were the War of the Worlds. To add a little All-Century spice to the intense competition, it wasn’t a friendly rivalry. On the contrary, it was a don’t invite ’em to dinner rivalry.
And then there is the wide receiver who McKay would always affectionately refer to as “Swannie.”
Being inducted into this year’s Rose Bowl Hall of Fame, the incomparable Lynn Swann was a member of two Rose Bowl teams during his playing days at Troy. Many consider the 1972 Trojans the greatest college football team of all time, and Swann was a major player in the 1973 Rose Bowl game that brought the Trojans yet another national championship by crushing Ohio State, 42-17.
In the 1973 Rose Bowl, Swann, a junior, led the Trojans in receiving, catching six passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, in a dominating win over Ohio State. In that glorious 1972 season, the Trojans became the first team in college football history to be unanimously voted as the No. 1 team.
As a senior, Swann played in the 1974 Rose Bowl, but Ohio State was too strong for the Trojans, winning 42-21. However, Swann didn’t go quietly, as he caught five passes for 47 yards. In 1973, Swann was a consensus All-American and recipient of the Pop Warner Trophy, given to the most valuable senior on the West Coast.
So while the Stanford and Michigan State bands and floats head down Colorado Boulevard in the chilly San Gabriel Valley morning on New Year’s Day, the memories of Jones and McKay will be front and center, as the Rose Bowl Game’s All-Century Class will be recognized at the 125th Rose Parade during the closing show float, which will honor these two legends. Jones, McKay and Swann will be recognized during the Rose Bowl Game as well.
The USC Trojans may not be playing in the 100th Rose Bowl Game, but their Pasadena tradition will certainly continue and that probably brings a grin from the stoic Jones and the wisecracking McKay.