"I didn't catch it, Ref."

Man without a Team

Worst Program Ever

"Two-Play Tez"

Eight TDs in One Game

Greatest Turnaround Ever

Least Offense Ever

AFL Stadiums - I

AFL Stadiums - II

A Tough Decision


Football Stories – I

Football Stories – II

Football Stories – III

Football Stories – IV

Football Stories – VI

Football Stories – VII

Football Stories – VIII

Football Stories - IX

Football Stories - X


Football Magazine

Golden Rankings Home

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Interesting Football Stories– V
"I didn't catch it, Ref."

Oklahoma QB Gene Calame
Gene Calame

Ken Wineburg, TCU
Ken Wineburg

Oklahoma backup QB Jimmy Harris
Jimmy Harris

Oklahoma Coach Bud Wilkinson
Bud Wilkinson

TCU Coach Abe Martin
Abe Martin


Oklahoma holds the record for longest winning streak in college football history: 47 games from October 10, 1953 through November 9, 1957.

However, the streak nearly didn't make it to eleven games.

  • The #1-ranked Sooners met TCU in Norman September 25, 1954.
  • A three TD favorite, OU found itself in a dogfight, thanks in large measure to ten fumbles, five of which were lost.
  • Shockingly, the Horned Frogs led 2-0 at the intermission after the Sooners faltered three times in scoring territory. To make matters worse, OU's ace split-T QB Gene Calame broke his shoulder near the end of Q2.

The visitors would have been ahead 9-0 but for an amazing show of sportsmanship by TCU captain Johnny Crouch that would still be discussed fifty years later.

  • QB Ronald Clinkscale passed 38y to Ken Wineburg in the EZ, and field judge Don Rossi, just a step away, called it a TD.
  • However, Crouch immediately informed Rossi that the ball had bounced before being caught.
  • The back judge, Don Looney, also told his colleague the ball hit the ground. Looney, who had been a star E on TCU's 1938 team, was the father of Joe Don Looney, who would play for the Sooners at the beginning of the next decade.
  • OU took the lead 2 1/2 minutes into the second half when sophomore backup QB Jim Harris gathered in a punt at his 31, broke loose along the left sideline, and dodged virtually the entire coverage team.
  • Five minutes later, the visitors regained the edge with an 81y, 10-play march to make it 9-7.
  • Things really looked bleak for the home team early in Q4 when the Frogs took a 16-7 lead on an 81y pass.
But Bud Wilkinson's boys fought back.
  • With the crowd of 50,878 standing and screaming, the Sooners scored on two straight possessions to lead, 21-16, despite Harris's lisp, which made it difficult to understand his play calls in the huddle.
  • TCU wouldn't give up and reached the OU 8 when the final gun went off.
  • After the game, Wilkinson praised Crouch: "That's as good a sample of sportsmanship as I've ever seen. A lot of boys wouldn't have done the same."

To show how history is rewritten, consider how the story of Crouch's honesty has been embroidered.

  • The description of the trapped Q2 pass above (except for the reference to Back Judge Looney confirming that the pass was incomplete) is based on the wire service story transmitted the day of the game.
  • Also, the October 4, 1954, issue of Sports Illustrated included this passage at the end of an article summarizing the previous Saturday's games.

But the most genuinely amazing development prevented rather than instituted an upset; Texas Christian attempted a pass into the University of Oklahoma's end zone and was credited with a touchdown, but T.C.U. Captain Johnny Crouch honestly confessed that the ball had bounced before it was gathered in; thus, in the end, enabling Oklahoma to win, 21-16.

  • Jim Dent twisted the story in his 2001 book The Undefeated: The Oklahoma Sooners and the Greatest Winning Streak in College Football.
    • He makes Crouch himself the receiver who scooped the ball off the turf. Further, the incident occured on the last play of the game.
    • Dent adds this touch: "Crouch had actually walked up to Rossi, handed him the football, and said, 'Ref, I didn't catch it.'" The only way Crouch could have handed Rossi the ball was if Wineburg gave it to him.
    • Jim describes Wilkinson, seeing Looney talking to Rossi, decrying the fact that college rules didn't prohibit officials from working games involving their alma maters.
    • Dent further embellishes the story by describing Abe Martin, the TCU coach, dropping to his knees, pulling off his hat, and slamming it to the ground. Abe tells Rossi, "You succumbed to the pressure!" but the official replies, "No sir, Coach. Actually, I succumbed to your own boy. He's the most honest lad I've ever seen."
    • Dent repeated the errors in his 2003 article "Ref, I didn't catch it" on the ESPN Classic web site.
  • Mike Shropshire, probably following Dent's lead, also changes the facts in Runnin' with the Big Dogs: The Long, Twisted History of the Texas-OU Rivalry (2006).
    • Mike also has the apparent TD coming on the last play of the game, and Crouch the receiver. But he has Looney as the official who originally called the pass complete until Crouch fessed up.
    • Perhaps the fact that the Horned Frogs ended the game on the OU 8 infected memories, causing people to recall Crouch's confession as happening after the final horn sounded.
    • Mike writes that President Dwight Eisenhower sent Crouch a letter congratulating him on his display of sportsmanship. This may have happened. After Oklahoma suffered a controversial loss in 2006 thanks to a blatantly wrong call on an onside kick that gave Oregon a chance to win the game in the last seconds, The Oklahoman referred to the Crouch incident and mentioned Eisenhower congratulating the player.
Man without a Team

After Ken Stockdale finished his career as Baylor's QB in 1968, he became an assistant on Frank Broyles' staff at Arkansas, a Southwest Conference rival of Ken's alma mater.

  • Ken served as offensive coordinator for the Razorback freshman team and as an offensive assistant for the varsity.
  • Everything went fine until the fourth week of the season when Arkansasplayed Baylor. For that week, Ken recalled, "You would have thought I had leprosy!"

Broyles treated him differently that week.

  • Ken's office was right next to the head coach's. "For the first time since my coming to Arkansas, Broyles closed the door to his office where I couldn't see in or hear from my office. He stopped and talked to me, but only idle chatter, nothing about the game."
  • Frank gave him meaningless tasks to keep him busy during coaches' meetings early in the week when the game plan was finalized.
  • On Monday, Broyles assigned him to play QB for the scout team and throw the passes Baylor would be expected to employ on Saturday. The next day, Broyles asked Ken not to complete so many passes in practice because the secondary was losing confidence.
  • To show that his allegiance was to Arkansas, not Baylor, Ken promised all-Southwest Conference DB Gary Adams that he would get him an INT Saturday by tipping him to a pass that would be coming his way.
  • Broyles added an extra person on the sidelines to signal in offensive plays. With this decoy, plays could not easily be stolen. Ken explains, "I knew all the signals, but I would not know which person was 'live.' All this secrecy didn't bother me; in fact, I admired Broyles for being cautious, although it was unnecessary because I wanted the team I coached to win. I made certain I didn't talk to any Baylor coaches, players, alumni, or friends that week."

Ken wore his red sweater for the game.

  • Talking to the Baylor coaches on the field before the game, Ken learned that the head coach whom he had played for and revered, John Bridgers, endured severe pressure to win or be fired. Afterwards, Ken learned that Bridgers used Ken's wearing an Arkansas sweater to fire up his players.
  • Stockdale's post during the game was on the sideline next to the D coordinator/ secondary coach Hootie Ingram.
  • The first time the Bears had the ball, Ken realized to his amazement that they had not changed audibles from the previous year when he was QB. "On this day, in fact, I knew Baylor's offense better than the one I coached."
  • Early on, Baylor's QB audibled to a pass to Adams' side of the field. Ken hollered the pre-arranged signal to the DB, and he intercepted to set up a Razorback TD. On the next series, the same thing happened, and Adams knocked down the pass.
  • With the Razorbacks enjoying a nice lead, one of the Arkansas players taunted Stockdale, "Your Baylor boys aren't much competition today, are they?" Ken recalls, "I was beginning to feel like a man without a team." He decided to stop volunteering information about Baylor's O.

Either by coincidence or because Stockdale was no longer tipping the plays, Baylor fought back.

  • Trailing 28-19 late in the game, the Bears drove into Razorback territory only to be intercepted with no timeouts left.>
  • Instead of killing the clock, Arkansas threw a long pass for a TD on the last play of the game. This caused bad feelings between Bridgers and Broyles. Ken remembers: "I tried to shake Bridgers' hand, but with no success. He was the most upset I had ever seen him!"
  • When Ken hugged one of his former teammates, Baylor coach Jack Thomas separated them, calling Ken a traitor. "He's one of them." The Arkansas players and coaches razzed Ken about being shunned by his alma mater.
  • Afterwards, Broyles asked his young assistant, "Why was John so upset with me at the end of the game?" Ken told him that Bridgers had never run up the score on anyone and that the margin of defeat would be used against him by those who wanted him fired. Broyles walked away crestfallen.
  • At that point, Ken was "emotionally drained of all energy. It was like I had played a full game, only the bruises were deeper ... I went home and wept ... I truly felt Coach Thomas had been 'caught up in the moment,' and I never held it against him. I was more shaken over Bridgers' situation. Here was a good man who deserved a better fate ... For the first time, I realized that coaching is not all it's cracked up to be."

The following week, Ken participated fully in the preparations for the annual clash with Texas, which turned out to be the Razorbacks' only defeat of the season. Eventually, Bridgers was fired prior to Baylor's last game and replaced by Bill Beall, who proved to be a disaster. Stockdale coached one more year at Arkansas before leaving the profession.

>Both Bridgers and Ingram later became the AD at Florida State. In fact, Bridgers hired Bobby Bowden. Ingram also served as AD at Alabama, his alma mater.

Reference: Southwest Conference Football: The Classic 60s, Ken Stockdale
Ken Stockdale, Arkansas assistant
Ken Stockdale

Coach Frank Broyles
Frank Broyles

Cecil "Hootie" Ingram
"Hootie" Ingram>



Coach John Bridgers
John Bridgers

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Worst Program Ever

Coach Stan Parrish, Kansas State
Stan Parrish



Coach Jim Dickey, Kansas State
Jim Dickey


Coach Vince Gibson Kansas State
Vince Gibson




Coach Bill Snyder Kansas State
Bill Snyder

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On October 18, 1986, Kansas State defeated archrival Kansas 29-12 to secure the school's 299th football victory. Entering the 1989 season, the Wildcats had still not garnered win #300 - 27 straight games. Needless to say, this was the longest non-winning streak in the nation.

  • The Wildcats tied Kansas 17-17 to finish the 1987 season 0-10-1. After the season, head coach Stan Parrish announced, "I will not let it happen again. That wasn't me."
  • He didn't let it happen again. 1988 produced not even a tie: 0-11.
  • Needless to say, Parrish was dismissed as head coach with a three-year record of 2-30-1.
  • AD Steve Miller hired IowaO-coordinator Bill Snyder to right the ship.

Snyder took the job with with his eyes wide open. Miller told his new coach:

Kansas State is flat on its back. You may have heard it's one of the toughest jobs in the country. It's not. It's the toughest.

The facts amply supported Miller's contention.

  • The Wildcats' record stood at 299-509-41, putting them dead last among the 106 schools in Division I-A. (Next worst was Wake Forest with 308 victories in six fewer years of football.)
  • In the 44 seasons since World War II, Kansas State achieved exactly four winning seasons.
  • An NCAA study revealed that from 1946-1988, K-State ranked last in the nation in scoring offense and also last in scoring defense. Oh, by the way, since 1954, KSU also brought up the rear in total offense.
  • The school's only conference championship came in 1934 when it won the Big Six (Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma).
  • Since World War II, not one of K-State's 11 coaches achieved enough success to move on to a better head coaching job.
  • Snyder became State's 32nd coach in 93 years. That makes the average tenure less than three years per coach.
  • The school had played in one bowl game, the Independence in 1982 (14-3 loss to Wisconsin). The coach of that team, Jim Dickey, lasted seven years, one less than his predecessor, Vince Gibson, who won 33 games before moving to Louisville and then Tulane.

The 1988 Wildcats had trouble closing out games.

  • They led Louisiana Tech 28-7 at the half. The visiting Bulldogs won 31-28.
  • The week before, KSU had an even more puzzling loss to another Louisiana school, Tulane. State held a 16-13 lead with 1:47 to play. However, the Greenies scored to win the game 20-16 thanks to successive penalties against KSU: 12 men on the field, face-mask violation, and pass interference.

Old-timers recalled an even worse moment from October 29, 1966.

  • The Wildcats led heavily-favored Kansas 3-0 and had a first down on their own 32 with only 1:38 remaining in the contest.
  • After two plays gained six yards, a delay of game penalty made it third and nine.
  • QB Bill Nossek then fumbled, Kansas recovering on the 30.
  • With four seconds remaining, Thermus Butler - who had never kicked a college FG - booted a 38-yarder to tie the game.

Snyder started slowly but, with Miller spending close to $5 million to upgrade facilities, eventually took KSU to heights it had never experienced before.

  • 1989: The Wildcats finally stopped the winless streak at 30 with a 20-17 triumph over North Texas. However, that was the only victory in 11 games.
  • 1990: Five wins, including Big Eight victories over Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
  • 1991: 7-4, including four conference victories, for KSU's first winning season since 1982. However, K-State didn't go to a bowl since (a) there were fewer then than now and (b) bowls didn't think the team would bring enough fans.
  • 1992: Decline back to 5-6 with only two league wins.
  • 1993: Nine victories, the most since 1910, including the Cooper Bowl over Wyoming 52-17.
  • 1994: Another nine-win season, the signature victory coming in Norman 37-20. The team got a trip to Hawaii for the Aloha Bowl, losing to Boston College 12-7.
  • 1995: Ten wins, including 54-21 over Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl, for an incredible #7 ranking in the final AP poll.
  • 1996: 9-3 in the first year of the Big 12, losing to Brigham Young 19-15 in the Cotton Bowl.
  • 1997: 11-1 and #8 in the final AP poll, with the only loss coming to all-time nemesis Nebraska. The Wildcats beat Syracuse 35-18 in the Fiesta Bowl.
  • 1998: 11-0 regular season, including the first victory over the Cornhuskers in 30 years! With a chance to play in the first BCS championship game, the Wildcats fell to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship Game, then lost to Purdue 37-34 in the Alamo Bowl.
  • 1999: 11-1, the only loss coming in Lincoln.
  • 2000: Another defeat in the Big 12 Championship Game, this one to Oklahoma. A 35-21 Cotton Bowl win over Tennessee made the final record 11-3: four straight seasons with 11 wins.
  • 2001: Only 6-6 including Bowl loss.
  • 2002: Tenth straight bowl appearance, a victory over Arizona State 34-27 in the Holiday Bowl, to return to 11 wins.
  • 2003: Big 12 Champions after upsetting Oklahoma 35-7 in the championship game to earn an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl (35-28 loss to Ohio State).
  • 2004: The bowl string ended with a 4-7 record.
  • 2005: 5-6 and no bowl again.

Bill retired after the '05 season, only to be asked to resuscitate the flailing program again in 2009.

References: "Futility U," Douglas S. Looney, Sports Illustrated, September 4, 1989
"Two-Play Tez"

That was the unflattering nickname the Miami players gave to Cortez Kennedy during his first August preseason camp with the Hurricanes.

  • A transfer from Northwest Mississippi JC, the 319 lb DL was so out of shape he couldn't compete for more than two downs without needing a rest in the August heat of south Florida in 1988.
  • Head Coach Jimmy Johnson put Cortez on the scout team and ordered him to lose 19 pounds. "He'd kill you for two plays, then take the next 20 off," said Randy Shannon, a senior that season (and later the head coach of the 'Canes).
  • Kennedy played sparingly in 1988, which turned out to be Johnson's last with the Hurricanes. Jimmy left to take the head coaching job for the Dallas Cowboys.

The new coach, Dennis Erickson, thought about redshirting Kennedy for 1989. But that didn't happen because of the intervention of two other Hurricanes.

  • Shannon saw the potential in Kennedy and resolved to mold him into a force that could anchor the D-line. So in the second half of his senior year, Shannon moved in with Cortez.
  • Randy made his charge get up at dawn and run three miles. At noon, Cortez lifted weights. At 5:30, more running.
  • Shannon kept him on a low-fat diet of subs and salads. He also wouldn't allow Cortez to eat after 7 pm. Randy even slept on the sofa to make sure Kennedy didn't raid the fridge during the night. "I put a padlock on the fridge, and I took away his [car] keys so he couldn't leave. The only way he could go out was if I went with him."

In June, when Shannon left for the Cowboys training camp, he turned Cortez over to Russell Maryland, a junior DT nicknamed "The Conscience."

  • Russell got his nickname because he nagged teammates about their grades and practice habits.
  • Maryland had himself been the "fat kid from Chicago" who weighed 330 lb as a high school senior.
  • Blessed with an excellent work ethic both in the classroom and on the field, Russell dropped 30 pounds when he arrived at UM to get in shape to play.
  • Russell told Cortez, "If I could lose 30 pounds, so can you."

Kennedy also profited from the tutelage of a 'Cane graduate, Jerome Brown, who played DT for the Philadelphia Eagles. Brown, like many of the Hurricane pros, returned to south Florida to work out with the 'Canes in the spring and summer.

  • In the spring of '89, when Shannon was working with Kennedy, Brown brust into the UM weight room and yelled, "Where's the kid who's supposed to be like me?" Introduced to Kennedy, Brown looked him over and said, "You come with me."
  • Jerome taught Cortez how to read an O lineman based on his body lean, how to use his hands better, and how to navigate a double team.
  • The tutelage helped Cortez lead the Hurricane linemen with 92 tackles and 7.5 sacks during the '89 season.
  • Kennedy made All-American while helping lead Miami to another national championship.

Brown and Kennedy became so close that Jerome's mother referred to Tez as Jerome's twin brother.

  • Kennedy bought the same model car that Brown did. (One wonders where Kennedy got the money.)
  • When Tez sacked the QB, he did a dance patterned after Jerome's frolic.
  • Every Monday night during the season, they compared their weekend performances by phone.

The story has a tragic ending.

  • On June 25, 1992, Cortez, now a member of the Seattle Seahawks after they selected him #3 in the 1990 draft, planned to fly to Miami the next day to take a cruise with Brown.
  • However, Kennedy received the horrifying news that Jerome had lost control of his Corvette and smashed into a power pole, killing Brown's 12-year-old nephew as well as the driver.

Kennedy wore number 99 for the remainder of his 11-year NFL career to honor his mentor.

  • In 1992, he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
  • In February, 2010, Kennedy was one of 17 finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame.
  • Although he wasn't selected, his story was recounted to serve as an inspiration to players trying to succeed against the odds in any sport. As Jorge Milian wrote in The Palm Beach Post, "By the end of his junior season at Miami, the only Hall of Fame that Cortez Kennedy seemed destined to make was for eating."
Reference: 'Cane Mutiny: How the Miami Hurricanes Overturned the Football Establishment: Bruce Feldman
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Cortez Kennedy, Miami
Cortez Kennedy doing his sack dance for the Hurricanes

Randy Shannon
Randy Shannon

Jerome Brown, Eagles
Jerome Brown

Cortez Kennedy, Seahawks
Cortez Kennedy, Seahawk

Eight TDs in One Game
RB Howard Griffith, Illinois
Howard Griffith

Howard Griffith is the only college player to score eight TDs in one game.

  • He did it for Illinois on September 22, 1990, against Southern Illinois.
  • Griffith scored on runs of 5, 51, 7, 41, 5, 18, 5, and 3 yards in a 56-21 victory.
  • For the game, he totaled 201 yards on 28 carries.
  • He broke the record of five TDs in a game by the hallowed Red Grange in 1924.

Griffith later played in the NFL.

  • After two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, he spent two seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
  • Then he played five seasons for the Broncos, primarily as a blocker for Terrell Davis. He won two Super Bowl rings in Denver.
  • He retired from the NFL in 2002 because of a neck injury and is now a studio commentator for the Big Ten network.

Reference: Touchdown: Great Moments and Dubious Achievements in Football History, John S. Snyder

Greatest Turnaround Ever

Bill Snyder is credited by many observers with orchestrating the greatest turnaround of a college football program in history.

  • When he was hired at Kansas State following the 1988 season, the Wildcats possessed one of the most dismal histories in the game: 510 losses and only 299 wins in 93 years of football.
  • The school had been to only one bowl game, the 1982 Independence Bowl (which they lost to Wisconsin 14-3).
  • They had won only one conference title in 1934 when the Big Eight was still the Big Six.

In this 17 years at KSU until his retirement after the 2005 season, Snyder led the Wildcats to eleven consecutive bowl games (1993-2003), winning six of them.

  • The school won the 2003 Big 12 championship (when they clobbered #1 Oklahoma 35-7 in the title game) and won or shared four Big 12 North titles after the league expanded in 1996.
  • His 1998 team went undefeated in the regular season to gain its first ever #1 ranking and earn him numerous Coach of the Year awards.

One of Snyder's legacies at K-State is the list of future head coaches he mentored as his assistants:

  • Phil Bennett (former SMU coach)
  • Bret Bielema (Wisconsin)
  • Jim Leavitt (ex- South Florida)
  • Mark Mangino (ex-Kansas)
  • Bob Stoops (Oklahoma)
  • Mike Stoops (Arizona)
  • Dan McCarney (ex-Iowa State).

The day he announced his retirement, KSU renamed its stadium Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Former Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer expressed the esteem of his fellow coaches when he said: "Bill Snyder isn't the coach of the year, and he isn't the coach of the decade. He's the coach of the century."

When KSU's program slid downard under Bill's successor, the school asked him to return to the sidelines for the 2010 season.

Coach Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Bill Snyder



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Least Offense Ever

Byron "Whizzer" White, Colorado RB
Byron "Whizzer" White

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September 15, 1940: Opening game of the NFL season.

  • The Chicago Cardinals "hosted" the Detroit Lions in a game played at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo because of small crowds in the Windy City.
  • The Cardinals hoped that the attraction of Lions triple-threat TB Byron "Whizzer" White (All-American from Colorado and future Supreme Court Justice) would draw a good crowd.

Unfortunately, the game was played in a strong thunderstorm.

  • According to the Associated Press, the game "had more the flavor of water polo."
  • The two teams combined for only 30 yards of offense (14 for the Cardinals and 16 for the Lions). This is the lowest in NFL history by 106 yards.
  • Not surprisingly, the game ended in a 0-0 tie. The Lions lost eight fumbles.

This was not the first regular season NFL game in Buffalo. The Cardinals had played the Packers there in 1938, 12 days after the Pittsburgh Pirates (with rookie star Whizzer White) played the Philadelphia Eagles in the same city.

AFL Stadiums - I
The American Football League began play in 1960. The stadiums ran the gamut from a high school field (Houston) to baseball parks (Denver and Boston) to no-longer-used ballparks (New York).

Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs
Len Dawson

George Saimes, Buffalo Bills

Ed Rutkowski, Buffalo Bills
Ed Rutkowski



Bill Shaw, Buffalo Bills
Billy Shaw


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The players unaffectionately referred to War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo as "The Rockpile."

War Memorial Stadium, Buffalo

  • The stadium was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal agencies.
  • The tunnels leading to the field were too close to the fans. Len Dawson of the Kansas City Chiefs recalls: "If they introduced the offense, you never walked onto the field during the intros because it was too dangerous. You would wonder, what would they throw at you? They threw stuff at their own players, so you knew they were going to throw stuff at you."
  • Returning to the locker room at halftime and after the game posed problems as well. Dawson: "You had to walk up a ramp ... just to get to the stairs. Then you had to walk up a couple flights to get to the locker room. I wouldn't call it a locker room, not by today's standards. It had maybe two commodes, and a couple of showerheads might work."
  • The only consolation for the visiting team was that the facilities for the Bills weren't much better. Buffalo S George Saimes: "We didn't have enough chairs to go around. Guys would sit on milk cartons sometimes when we ran out of chairs doing our game plan."

The field conditions weren't the greatest either.

  • Dawson: "We played the championship game there in 1966, and that field had three different conditions: in some spots, not too bad. Or other spots where the sun never got to the field and it was frozen. Or one part was very sloppy where the sun hit the field."
  • Ed Rutkowski, who played for Buffalo (1963-68): "The lights weren't the best. I used to return punts. I think it was Jerrel Wilson from the Kansas City Chiefs, he would punt the ball so high, it would go above the lights. So you'd see the ball, and then you wouldn't see it, and then you'd see it coming back down."
  • "It was basically a baseball stadium converted to a football field," continues Rutkowski. "You got down on one end zone, and you were on a dirt infield. I played my last year as the Bills' QB, and I always said I couldn't play on artificial turf because there would be no places to draw plays in the dirt."
  • "And they always had the pitcher's mound. They never really leveled it off. They had it on a rise for a quarter foot to almost a half foot." The Bills used that peculiarity to their advantage. "We used a certain pattern down there because if you were a defensive back and you were backpedaling and you hit that pitcher's mound, 9 times out of 10 you'd fall down."

Then there was the neighborhood.

  • Gil Santos, longtime broadcaster for the Patriots, recalls waiting outside the stadium after a game to board the buses to the airport.
  • "All of a sudden, here comes three police cars zooming up the street, and they stop in front of a house which is right where we were standing next to the buses. We're watching this, and the police go charging up the stairs. A couple of shots ring out from inside the house. Well, we tear around to the other side of the bus, and we're hiding as these shots are being fired. We hear a big commotion, and we look around the buses, and here come the police, hauling this guy out. ... He had handcuffs on behind his back, and the police are dragging him out by his feet."

Broadcasting or just watching a game at War Memorial was a challenge.

  • Santos: "The stadium was built with girders, and you had to keep looking around the girders to see where the ball was and where the players were."
  • Many of the spectators had a similar problem. Billy Shaw, all-star G for the Bills: "If you tried to sit underneath the roof, then you were going to be behind a pole." Shaw knew about the problem because the players' wives were stuck behind poles and couldn't see. Shaw was the first player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame who had played his entire career in the AFL.

The Bills used the stadium through the 1972 season, which was three years after the NFL-AFL merger.

The Little League That Could: A History of the American Football League, Ron Rappoport (2010)
AFL Stadiums - II

Broadcaster Gil Santos
Gil Santos







Boston Patriots 1961
Boston Patriots 1961




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The Boston Patriots of the American Football League (1960-69) were vagabonds. They played home games at:

  • Boston College
  • Boston University
  • Harvard University
  • Fenway Park

They even played a "home" game in Birmingham, Alabama, because the Red Sox were in the World Series.

Fenway Park set up for football
Fenway Park set up for football; note the temporary bleachers
in front of the Green Monster

The games at Fenway were particularly difficult for the broadcast crew.

  • Gil Santos, longtime play-by-play broadcaster for the Patriots recalls:

We didn't have a broadcast booth as such. They put a wooden shack, maybe 12 by 12 feet, up on the roof, down the RF line and put us at midfield. There were a couple of problems - one being that you had no bathroom facilities ... At halftime, you had to scramble down and get to the fan level to use the bathrooms, then get back upstairs in time to go on for the second half. We cut it pretty close many times.

The other problem was that there was no heat in there. In the winter, it was cold as hell ... If it was a windy day, that booth would shake, rattle, and roll. There were times we'd think, "Oh, my God, this thing is going to blow over, and we're going to go flying off the edge, with no place to go." Fortunately, that never happened.

Nickerson Field, Boston University - the stands are all that are left from Braves Field, used by the city's National League entry until moving to Milwaukee after the 1952 season
Nickerson Field, Boston U.
  • One of the games at the Boston U. stadium had a bizarre ending. With the Patriots leading 28-21, the visiting Dallas Texans marched for the tying TD in the closing minutes.

With just seconds remaining, the Texans drove within the Patriots' twenty. Texans QB Cotton Davidson dropped back and rifled a pass to his WR Chris Burford, open in the end zone. Incredibly, as time was running out, a Patriots fan, who had been on the field, unnoticed, at the start of the play, jumped from behind the Boston defense and knocked the pass away! Wearing a trenchcoat, the unknown fan melted into the Boston crowd that stormed the field to celebrate the Patriots' win. The Texans protested fruitlessly: the officials had not seen the "linebacker in a trenchcoat," there was no instant replay, and the Patriots had won the game. (

More AFL stadiums to come ...

The Little League That Could: A History of the American Football League, Ron Rappoport (2010)
A Tough Decision

This article should be read before the one below on the FSU-Florida game because it tells the story of a Gator player who made a crucial decision before the game.

  • Jon MacBeth was a senior FB for Coach Ray Graves's Gators. Like most players in that limited substitution era, MacBeth (a fitting name for the story that engulfed him) played both ways, filling a LB spot on D.
  • On August 22, a little over a month before the second game of the season against FSU, MacBeth was at a fraternity house where he was an associate member (non live-in).
  • One of the fraternity brothers, Phil Silber, a junior from New York, introduced Jon to Aaron Wagman, a 27-year-old who identified himself as a vendor at Yankee Stadium. Unbeknownst to Jon, Wagman had been arrested in the Big Apple in 1954 for burglary and again two years later for assault. He was also part of a betting syndicate that extended from New York to Miami to Las Vegas.
  • Aaron offered MacBeth $1,500 to shave points in the FSU game. He could miss a tackle or block now and again or fumble to keep the favored Gators from "covering" the point spread (which would be 13 by kickoff).
  • MacBeth explained later, "It really made me mad ... I was more upset because regardless of what you are, you are a team member. It went against my loyalty."
  • He made no commitment to the plan that night.

MacBeth told Graves about the bribe offer.

  • Ray had never dealt with anything like this. "I didn't know what to think," he said later. The coach relayed the information to university VP Harry Philpott, who contacted law enforcement.
  • The authorities crafted a plan: MacBeth would tell no one else about the bribe offer. He would pretend to go along with the gamblers in a sting operation that would lead to their arrest before the game. It took some persuasion, but Jon finally agreed to play his role.
  • Wagman and Silber picked up Jon the night before the game and drove to a secluded location in Gainesville. Wagman handed over 15 $100 bills. He added that Jon could make $3,000 more by shaving points in November. When Wagman suggested that MacBeth give back the $1,500 so that it could be bet for him to increase his return, Jon declined.
  • The meeting seemed endless to the FB because he expected the police to arrive, make the arrests, and end the saga. But that didn't happen because the officers assigned to tail him lost track of Wagman's car in traffic after he picked up Jon.
  • Police finally arrested Silber at the frat house at 11:15 Saturday morning. They nabbed Wagman an hour later at the Jacksonville airport before he boarded a flight to New York.

The Florida team learned of the bribery attempt right before kickoff. (Some accounts say the information was provided "later.")

  • Dr. Philpott explained MacBeth's role in the plan to the squad in the locker room. Jon, who had lost weight as well as sleep during the ordeal, was worried about how his teammates would react. "Several of them just walked up and patted me on the butt and said, 'Way to go, Jon. Let's go.' They took it the right way."
  • MacBeth became a hero known as "Honest Jon" to a generation of Gator fans. He explained years later that he wasn't tempted by the bribe: "It would have let the team down. You know the feeling you get when a teammate pats you on the rear and says 'Nice block' or 'Good tackle.' That's something money can't buy."
  • The Orlando Touchdown Club established a sportsmanship award in MacBeth's honor. Gator coaches named a recipient each season.
  • Silber was expelled from school and received a five-year probation. The UF bribe was only a small part of Wagman's legal problems. By 1961, he had been sentenced to 370 years in prison. His primary offense was being the front man in a college basketball fixing scandal.

With a huge weight off his shoulders, the game was anti-climactic for MacBeth but not for any of the other players on the two squads. And, as it turned out, whoever took Florida State and the points won without any special assistance.

1989 Orlando Sentinel article about Honest Jon and what happened to him after college - expect to be surprised

References: Sunshine Shootouts: The Greatest Games Between Florida-Florida State,
Florida State-Miami, Miami-Florida
, Jeff Miller


Jon MacBeth, Florida
Jon MacBeth

Coach Ray Graves, Florida
Ray Graves




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