Thursday, December 02, 2004

It's Time to Honor Hawkeyes' 1958 National Champions

University of Iowa graduate Al Schallau has what I think is a good idea.

It involves the Hawkeyes’ 1958 football team, which is generally regarded as the school’s best ever.

The ’58 Hawkeyes finished with an 8-1-1 record; clobbered California, 38-12, in the Rose Bowl; led the nation in total offense; were ranked No. 1 nationally by the Football Writers Association of America, and No. 2 behind Louisiana State by the Associated Press and United Press International.

The Grantland Rice Trophy was awarded to the team and coaches by Look magazine.

Randy Duncan of Des Moines, the quarterback who was a consensus all-American, was named the Helms Foundation Player of Year and received the Walter Camp Trophy.

However, Schallau, now a California attorney, doesn’t feel that team has received enough recognition.

So he gave me the day off today and wrote his thoughts in a guest column. Here it is:


By Al Schallau

The Iowa Hawkeyes football team of 1958 was voted the national champion by the Football Writers Association of America. But at Kinnick Stadium and Carver-Hawkeye Arena, there are no "NATIONAL CHAMPIONS--1958" banners and none of the 1958 players or coaches have ever been given any National Champion rings.

That is a major omission which should be quickly remedied by the Iowa Hawkeye athletic department. My suggestion is that the living 1958 players and coaches be properly recognized at the Iowa homecoming game and parade in 2005; that a "1958 National Champions" banner be unfurled at Kinnick Stadium; and that all of the living 1958 players and coaches be given National Champion rings the Iowa athletic department.

The precedent for this belated recognition of national champions was established in 2004 by the 1939 USC Trojans. For many years, USC has proudly displayed its national champions banners at the Los Angeles Coliseum for championships won in 1931, 1932, 1962, 1967, 1972, 1974, 1978, and now 2003. But until 2004, there was no banner displayed for the Trojans' 1939 national championship.

Some of those national championships were undisputed (1931, 1932, 1962, 1967 and 1972). In 1974, Oklahoma won the Associated Press No. 1 ranking, but the UPI Coaches Poll gave the championship to USC. In 1978, the Associated Press gave its championship to Alabama, even though the Crimson Tide's only loss was 24-14 to USC Trojans at Alabama.

The UPI awarded its championship to USC, which also suffered one loss to Arizona State. And then there is the much-debated 2003 season, in which the Associated Press named USC as No. 1, and the BCS championship went to LSU.

BUT BE ASSURED OF THIS: The National Champions banners displayed at the Los Angeles Coliseum make no distinction between those championships that were disputed and those that were not.

In 1939, the AP recognized Texas A&M as No. 1, Tennessee No. 2, and USC No. 3. Those awards were given BEFORE any Bowl games were played. Then Tennessee (unbeaten untied, and unscored upon) faced USC in the Rose Bowl game. USC shut out the Vols, 14-0, and was awarded the national championship by the Dickinson Group, which was a highly-respected football poll in 1939, which made its selections AFTER the bowl games.

Through the vigorous efforts of 1939 players Amby Schindler, Carl Benson, Joe Shell, and others, USC athletic director Mike Garrett and the USC administration chose to cure the lack of recognition of the 1939 team as national champions. There is now a 1939 banner at the Coliseum, and all of the living members of the 1939 team were given national champions rings by USC at a halftime ceremony at the USC homecoming game in 2004.


Coach Forest Evashevski is still sharp as a tack at age 86. Almost all of the 1958 Iowa Hawkeye football players are still alive. Evy and his great players like Randy Duncan, Bob Jeter, Ray Jauch, Willie Fleming and others should be properly recognized with a "1958 National Champions" banner, and each should be given a national champions ring by the Iowa athletic department.

The national championship awarded to the 1958 Iowa Hawkeyes by the Football Writers Association of America was based on the ENTIRE season, with the national champion selected AFTER the Bowl games. Thus the Hawkeyes' 1958 national championship has overwhelming validity that should be properly recognized. Doing that now is far better than never.

--AL SCHALLAU, B.A. University of Iowa, 1964

Schallau also sent a copy of the Los Angeles Times article that detailed what happened at USC. Here’s the article:

After 65 Years, Their Thundering Is Heard

David Wharton. Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Oct 12, 2004

(Copyright (c) 2004 Los Angeles Times)

You want to know about the '39 team?

Sit down a while and let the old guys tell you.

"Long time ago," Ambrose Schindler says.

Carl Benson nods. "God yes."

That season, USC defeated Tennessee, 14-0, in the Rose Bowl to finish 8-0-2, good enough to be national champions in one of the major polls of the day. Schindler played quarterback, Benson guard.

"Great team," Schindler says.

Benson adds, "Just so many good football players."

Maybe the Trojans lacked star power -- no Morley Drury or Cotton Warburton in the lineup -- but Coach Howard Jones called it his deepest and perhaps best squad ever.

The problem arose 25 years later, when USC decided to honor past champions at the Coliseum. One after another, banners were unfurled.

Nineteen thirty-nine was nowhere to be seen.

"All the guys I played with were there," Schindler recalls. "We couldn't figure out what happened. Where was our banner?

"It was like we didn't count."

At halftime of the Arizona State game Saturday, the 1939 team will finally get its ceremony. The players -- now in their late 80s - - spent years lobbying the university for recognition, campaigning behind the scenes as tenaciously as they ever played on the field.

"We all felt badly about it because we knew we were darn good," team captain Joe Shell says from his Bakersfield home. "We always felt we should have been listed as champions."

Claiming a title so many years later might seem dubious, but the NCAA lists USC among three No. 1 teams from 1939, a season in which there were myriad polls.
Texas A&M, at 11-0, was named the top team in no fewer than six of them. Cornell, 8-0, stood atop one. USC won the now-defunct Dickinson System.

The '39 players point out that the Dickinson System was highly regarded at the time. By comparison, the Associated Press poll -- which had USC third -- was new and did not count bowl games.

Frank G. Dickinson, the Illinois economics professor who created the system, said "the Trojans were the best team in the best section ... and the nation's other top teams did not play as strong a schedule."

A yearbook photograph of that team shows rows of young men in clean, white jerseys, hair combed back in the style of the times.

Football was different back then, the ball fatter and rounder. The rules limited substitutions, and coaches weren't allowed to signal in plays.

In fact, former players say, when a substitute entered the game, he could not speak to his teammates for the first play, lest he relay information from the sideline.

Also, it was a tough game, if only because the leather helmets had no face masks.

"Most guys along the line had real beat-up faces," Schindler says. "We called Charley Morrill 'Hamburger Puss' because he was all scars."

Scholarships paid for tuition and little else. Players were given campus jobs to earn money for food, books and lab fees. Those who made the 35-man traveling squad could eat once a day at a training table.

"That's the reason our practices were so rough and tough," Schindler says.
Benson adds, "If you didn't make that 35, you got nothin'."

The Trojans had endured a string of subpar seasons in the mid- 1930s, years removed from the "Thundering Herd" that won national titles in 1931 and '32.

Then Jones stepped up recruiting. His 1938 team defeated Duke in the Rose Bowl.

The '39 squad had, in effect, two starting lineups that alternated by quarter.
And though the season got off to a slow start, a 7-7 tie against unranked Oregon, the Trojans climbed back up the polls, winning their next five games by a combined 131-7.

The defense dominated, and Jones opened up his single-wing offense to allow more passing, giving his three quarterbacks -- Schindler, Grenny Lansdell and Doyle Nave -- more chances to score. At 5-0-1, the fourth-ranked Trojans set off to play seventh-ranked Notre Dame.

In those days, road games meant a long train trip, leaving on Monday or Tuesday, gone from school all week. The travel was tough on young men trying to keep up with studies. It also took them away from their campus jobs.

You could always spot the football players, Benson says, because they had no money, showing up to class in T-shirts.

On the road, however, they traveled in style.

The Trojans had their own train with one car as a dining hall and another transformed into a film room. On trips east, they stopped to practice in places such as Arizona and Kansas.

"The university bought us travel shirts, beautiful gabardine," Schindler recalls. "They made us wear hats."

The Trojans defeated Notre Dame, 20-12, and returned home to edge Washington, 9-7, the next week.

That set up a regular-season finale against ninth-ranked UCLA, also unbeaten at 6-0-3. In a scoreless game in front of 103,303 at the Coliseum, USC held the Bruins on four plays at the goal line.

After that 0-0 tie, conference members voted USC champion.
People might not know that the players almost declined an invitation to Pasadena.

"Some guys resented going to the Rose Bowl," Benson recalls.

"They wanted to study. They couldn't work at their jobs. They didn't want to bang heads for another month."

Schindler, injured for the victory over Duke the previous season, desperately wanted to accept. He had to sweat out a team vote.

When New Year's Day finally came around, teammate Shell recalls, "Amby just went crazy. They couldn't stop him."

The short, stocky quarterback had a role in all of USC's points, running for one touchdown and passing for another against a second- ranked Tennessee team that had arrived in Pasadena with a 23-game winning streak.

Now 87, Schindler still calls it one of the greatest days of his life. Maybe that's why he struggled so long for recognition.

"I was miffed," he says. "I just felt snubbed."

Several other teammates, including right end Bob Winslow, started the campaign in the 1970s. "Agitating," they call it. Schindler picked up the effort about a decade ago.

Various alumni were lobbied. Longtime sportswriter Loel Schrader was enlisted to prepare a written argument. Athletic Director Mike Garrett made the decision this summer.

"We took the matter seriously, did significant research," Garrett says.
A plaque has been added beside those of other national champions in Heritage Hall. Surviving team members -- "We've been to a lot of funerals in the last 10 years," Benson says -- will receive rings during Saturday's ceremony.

Now, when you sit on the couch in Schindler's Redondo Beach home, he and Benson can tell a story with a happy ending.

"I'm on what you call cloud nine," Schindler says. "It's all been given back to us."

Vol. 4, No. 282
Dec. 2, 2004