In 1932, Colgate Was Unbeaten, Untied, Unscored Upon and Uninvited
Thirty-six Division I college football teams will play in post-season bowl games and it’s possible two will emerge undefeated and untied.
That would mean that either Oklahoma, Miami or Syracuse would have the disappointment of having a perfect record and not being the top-ranked team in the nation.
But at least they would have been to a bowl game. That’s more than the 1932 Colgate team could say. And all they did was finish the year undefeated, untied and unscored upon, beating their opponents by a combined 264-0.
Until the last game of the season, no team got inside the Colgate 20 yard line.
Ah, but that was also when only two teams got to a bowl--the Rose Bowl.
And while time may heel all wounds, it doesn’t erase the memory of the injury.
“We thought we should have been invited,” Bart Ellis, a 195-pound tackle on that team, recalled last week. "(Colgate Coach) Andy Kerr and Howard Jones, the coach of Southern Cal, I don’t think they got along very well. Andy coached at Stanford for a while under “Pop” Warner, and I think that was part of it.”
Kerr, who learned his double wing football strategy under Warner at Pitt and Stanford, quickly transformed Colgate into a powerhouse after he arrived in 1929. Colgate had a student enrollment of about 1,000, but won 47, lost 5 and tied 1 in Kerr’s first six years, regularly trouncing teams with student bodies several times larger.
Colgate began the 1932 season by crushing St. Lawrence, 41-0, rolling up 23 first downs to none for the Saints. That in an era when 20 first downs was considered amazing.
Football was a different game then. Overall, the scoring average in 1932 was only 12.83 points per game. Gordie Lockbaum would have been a standout, but only because of his size (the Colgate line averaged 180 pounds and the backfield 176) because everybody played both ways and statistics were superficial at best--individual accomplishments went unnoticed most of the time.
“We weren’t concerned with much, except winning games,” said Robert Rowe, a retired university professor and the starting fullback in 1932. “We were isolated in the Chenango Valley and didn’t get much information. We weren’t really aware that nobody had penetrated inside our 20-yard line until the Brown game. We read about it afterward.”
Colgate beat Case, 27-0, for its second win and easily ran through Niagara, 47-0, a week later. Lafayette fell, 35-0, the following week, then it was on to Yankee Stadium to play New York University.
The Violets were the toast of the town--they also were unbeaten, untied and unscored upon. But Colgate prevailed, 14-0, before 35,000 spectators. The score was misleading. The Red Raiders outgained N.Y.U., 306-70, the Violets never got past the Colgate 40, and the game ended with the ball at the N.Y.U. 7.
Colgate destroyed Penn State, 31-0, a week later, outgaining the Nittany Lions, 481-89. Mississippi A&M; fell, 32-0, the next week and the Red Raiders squeezed the Orange, 16-0, at Syracuse’s Archbold Stadium for their eighth victory.
The Eastern title hinged on the outcome of the season finale--a Thanksgiving Day battle at unbeaten Brown. It was almost a foregone conclusion that the winner would go to the Rose Bowl--after all, Brown had played in the second Rose Bowl in 1916, losing to Washington State, 14-0.
The Red Raiders stunned an overflow crowd of 26,000 with a 21-0 victory, thwarting a Bruin drive at the one-yard line near the end of the first half to preserve their unblemished record. The team ran from the field with dreams of the Rose Bowl--the only postseason game in 1932--shining before them and behind them one of the greatest records of modern years.
But from 1923-46 the western champion picked its Rose Bowl opponent, and USC reportedly favored unbeaten Michigan as its first choice. The Wolverines had won the Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy (symbolic of the national championship), but Big Ten rules prohibited postseason play then, and the Trojans didn’t think Michigan could get the rule reversed.
Colgate was rumored to be the second choice, Alabama Poly the third and Pitt fourth. The stunning news came in early December--Jock Sutherland’s Panthers were going West.