Rose Bowl Season Denied
Oct 3, 2019
As I approach the goal line of the editing processes of my latest book, The Dutchman and Portland’s Finest Rose, I find myself surrounded by a flood of memories.
Seventy-one years ago this fall, my father, Norm Van Brocklin, found himself caught up in the euphoria that was the magical football season of 1948. And even more amazing, this young man from Acalanes High in Lafayette, California was now the Ducks’ starting quarterback. Two years earlier, WWII had just ended, and he had been honorably discharged from the Navy, hoping to make the team as a walk-on for sixth string halfback at the University of Oregon.
This was his third season playing for the Ducks and his second as the starting quarterback when this ragtag group of seasoned vets and recently-graduated high schoolers banded together to produce an undefeated in-conference season. The scent of roses had been in the air from the beginning of that auspicious year, but as the Ducks sealed the deal, defeating their archrival Beavers on November, 20, 1948, there was no doubt they would get the Rose Bowl bid—until the votes were tallied.
The University of California also had an undefeated in-conference season and was considered Co-Champions of the PAC 8, sharing the title with the Ducks despite winning one less game. Though this selection process has changed, in 1948 each conference school had a faculty member represent them, each with one vote to cast. To this day, Duck fans everywhere think the Washington Huskies cast their vote for the Bears, and Oregon felt they had been robbed.
This Saturday, I will be cheering on the Ducks at the Oregon vs. California game! This game will be played in Autzen stadium, not on Hayward Field where my dad once played, and I will be thinking about him and that Rose Bowl bound season denied. I will wander around the Arts Quad, visit the bench underneath the Big Leaf Maple tree where Mom and Dad literally bumped into each other the first time, and I will think about the future they forged, a love story and tale of perseverance I write about in my upcoming book. And I will hope the Ducks beat California outright and win their way to the 2019 Pac-12 conference championship. Go Ducks!