Artifact Spotlight: Program and ticket for USC-Cal football game, 2 November 1929

The headlines in local newspaper sports pages have been filled with the difficulties surrounding the University of Southern California football program. Matters were not helped by the recent defeat the Trojans suffered on the road to Notre Dame.

Back in the late 1920s, USC was a national football power. In 1928, the Trojans were 9-0-1, with its lone blemish being a scoreless tie against the University of California, Berkeley, at the latter’s field. The team did score a decisive 27-14 win against Notre Dame and its legendary coach, Knute Rockne, at the Coliseum and only allowed 59 points all year. Though USC did not participate in a bowl game, it was generally acknowledged as the highest ranked team in America and claimed an unofficial national championship by virtue of its win against Notre Dame.

USC-Cal football ticket, 1929.
USC-Cal football ticket, 1929.

In 1929, the Trojans had an even more remarkable start to the season. Its first five games were shutouts while the team racked up a remarkable 214 points, with the only competitive game being a 7-0 nail-biter on the road against Stanford. The team looked unstoppable coming into its November 2 home game against Cal, but a shocker awaited the Trojans as the Bears pulled off a 15-7 upset.

Two weeks later after another easy victory, the Trojans traveled to Chicago and its now fabled Soldiers Field to meet Notre Dame. Before the largest crowd to see a football game to date, estimated at some 113,000 fans, the Fighting Irish scored a touchdown in the third quarter to take a lead of 13-6. While USC scored a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, the extra point attempt failed and Notre Dame held on for a 13-12 win and revenge for the previous season’s bitter defeat.

The Trojans went on to three more easy victories and then looked to a rematch against Notre Dame again in the Rose Bowl. The schools, however, could not agree on the terms of the arrangement and USC faced undefeated Pittsburgh. Before a crowd of 72,000 in the 16th edition of the classic New Year’s Day contest, USC scored early and often and went on to an easy 47-14 victory. The Trojans finished the year with 492 points to their opponents’ 69. Because bowl games were considered exhibitions and were not determining factors in national championship rankings (which were not unified as today), Notre Dame and Pitt both were recognized as champs by most authorities.

USC-Cal football program, 1929. Check out the local landmarks.
USC-Cal football program, 1929. Looks like traffic, parking, and mayhem on the road were problems for sports enthusiasts of the ’20s, too!


Thanks to Coach Assistant Director Paul R. Spitzzeri for this contribution. If anyone can get you to the game on time in LA traffic, it’s him!

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