UCLA Football Red Sanders Single
Wingers Reunion and Pauley Pavilion
by Tony Medley
Every year a rapidly
diminishing group of football players who played for UCLA football coach
Red Sanders in the 1950s has a reunion at UCLA. This year they met on the UCLA campus
at the JD Morgan Center.
It was heartwarming to see
these aging athletes meet and greet one another and to listen to their
tales. This year the 1952 and 1957 teams were honored. A speaker from
each team ran through the schedule and told something about each game.
The 1952 team, led by all Americans Donn Moomaw and Paul Cameron, came
into the SC game undefeated (as did SC) and were playing for the Rose Bowl, an
undefeated season and a possible number one ranking. UCLA suffered a
heart-breaking 14-12 loss. UCLA actually
outplayed USC in that game, but a third quarter interception by USC
guard Elmer Wilhoite as UCLA was driving for a touchdown that would've
increased its lead to 19 to 7, turned the game around.
That play was described in
detail by Ed Flynn, an offensive guard, who told how it was one of the most
pivotal plays in UCLA football history. With UCLA driving, on SC's 18
yard line, Paul Cameron threw a pass that was intercepted by Wilhoite,
who ran the ball 72 yards to UCLA's eight yard line. On fourth down, SC
threw a touchdown pass for the winning touchdown. Explained Flynn:
play called was a pass by Paul Cameron. I was supposed to pull and block
Wilhoite. Ike Jones (the first black graduate of UCLA Film School and
husband of actress Inger Stevens from 1961 until her death in 1970), our
end, for some reason lined up split out wide, which he wasn't supposed
to do. As a result Wilhoite did not rush but stayed back, and I could
not block him. Cameron threw the ball where he thought receiver Ernie
Stockert would be. Instead, because Ike split out when he wasn't
supposed to and because Wilhoite didn't rush, Wilhoite was there to
intercept the ball and run it all the way back to our 12 yard line, from
where USC scored the winning touchdown. We outplayed them throughout the
game, as the statistics show. We should have gone up 19 to 7, instead of
SC leading 14-12.
effect that had on UCLA football history was tremendous for several
reasons. The first was that Wisconsin and Purdue finished in a tie for
the Big Ten title (with identical conference records of 4-1-1). We had
already beaten Wisconsin earlier in the year (20-7 at Wisconsin) so we
undoubtedly would've played Purdue (4-3-2 overall), and probably beaten
even more important, the next year, 1953, we were good enough to win the
conference and go to the Rose Bowl where we lost to Michigan State.
Because the Pacific Coast conference and the Big Ten had a no repeat
rule, that meant we could not go to the Rose Bowl the following year,
1954, when UCLA had its best football team in history, going undefeated
and beating teams like Stanford and Oregon 72-0 and 67-0 respectively.
But because of the no repeat rule UCLA could not go to the Rose Bowl
that year and Ohio State beat USC.
UCLA won the 1952 game with USC, the Bruins not only would have gone to
the Rose Bowl and probably won, but it would've been ineligible in 1953
for the Rose Bowl, which would have made it eligible for the 1954 Rose
Bowl, setting up a meeting between the number one and two number two
ranked teams in the country UCLA versus Ohio State, and UCLA was so
powerful it's unlikely it would've lost.
that one play in 1952 had dramatic and far-reaching consequences.
Other players spoke about
their experiences in 1952 and 1957 and it was a fascinating meeting. But
the highlight occurred when, about halfway through, present UCLA coach
Jim Mora came into the room to say hello.
I had never met him and had
only been exposed to him through television and the ridiculous articles
by a Los Angeles Times' sportswriter who delights in writing silly
articles blasting the character of local sports figures.
Mora is especially impressive.
He's enthusiastic and personable. Before he left he asked if there were
any questions. I asked the third and last, "which is more difficult,
coaching in the NFL or coaching college?"
His answer was inspiring. I
didn't take notes but the essence of what he said was that coaching
college was far more rewarding than coaching in the NFL. The reason, he
said, is because college coaches are dealing with young impressionable
athletes, who pay attention and whose lives can be affected by what the
coaches teach. He said it's important that they not live their lives
bound up entirely by possibly playing in NFL, but that they take
advantage of the opportunity afforded them by getting a good education
at UCLA and preparing for either life after the NFL, or far more
probably life in lieu of the NFL. He also said that college players are
far more enthusiastic and it's much more rewarding to coach them and to
see that spontaneous enthusiasm than it is to coach the older NFL
After listening to Coach Mora,
I felt better about my alma mater than I have in a long, long time.
Following the meeting, we were
invited to meet outside the new Pauley Pavilion by the new John Wooden
statue. There we were given a private tour. What they have done is very
impressive. It looks nothing like the old Pauley Pavilion.
Pictures are attached.
November 04, 2012