1966 Game of the Century 50th Anniversary Celebration

15 09 2016

 

As we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 Game of the Century between Notre Dame and Michigan State, the university can remember it as the great national championship game that never was. Though American media outlets have gifted us with dozens of Games of the Century over the past fifty years, this one in particular is distinct. After what was a 60 minute clinical display of smash-mouth football, there was no celebration from the sidelines, no cheering from the grandstands, and no Gatorade baths. Instead, the game ended as it kicked-off: a tie. The game that would determine the 1966 college football season came and went, and in the end, settled nothing.

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MSU halfback Dwight Lee (with ball) receives a not-so-kind embrace from Notre Dame’s Jim Lynch. A001073

Certain characteristics are required to qualify a college football game as a Game of the Century. They are played between the top two ranked teams in the national polls. In our 1966 case, the Irish entered the game as the top-ranked team with the defending coaches poll national champion Spartans sitting at number two. The second characteristic is that there must be great talent on the field to constitute a Game of the Century. That may never have been more the case than the 1966 game, which featured 25 players who would receive All-American recognition, 31 future NFL players, including ten first round picks, and the future number one overall selection in the draft: Bubba Smith.  Michigan State entered the game as a 4 point underdog to a team who had outscored their previous opponents 301-28; the Fighting Irish had both the top scoring offense and defense in the nation. The country’s best two teams met in East Lansing on November 19, 1966, in 33 degree temperatures under cloudy skies, in front of an attendance of 80,011. However, since both teams had already used their allotted national broadcasts, ABC could not televise the live game nationally. So instead of leaving the other regions of the country in the dark, the network made a decision to air the game after it had already ended. That evening, in a time very different from the modern college football landscape, more than an estimated 30 million people watched the ABC tape-delayed broadcast.

Both the Spartans and the Irish were steered by legendary coaches Duffy Daugherty and Ara Parseghian, respectively, and each had assembled outstanding defenses. The game lived up to its billing as a defensive struggle from the start and never yielded. Some of those who played in the game have recalled it being the most physical they had ever competed in, and that is confirmed by the violent sounds of crashing bodies described in college football folklore by players, coaches, and spectators. Early in the first quarter, Notre Dame’s star quarterback Terry Hanratty was hit particularly hard by defensive end Bubba Smith and linebacker Charlie Mad Dog Thornhill, separating his shoulder and ending his season.

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From the November 19, 1966 Spartan Gridiron Souvenir Program

In the second quarter, Michigan State ended a drive with a 4-yard rushing touchdown by Regis Cavender. Shortly after, Dick Kenney kicked a 47-yard field goal to extend the Spartan lead to 10. The Fighting Irish would strike back, however, with a 34-yard touchdown strike from backup quarterback Coley O’Brien to Bob Gladieux, which proved to serve as a crucial change in the momentum in the game. In the middle of the third quarter, O’Brien would orchestrate a long 70 yard drive that ended with a 28-yard kick from Joe Azzaro to tie the game 10-10 at the start of the final quarter. Spartan quarterback Jimmy Raye later threw an interception that set up Azzaro for an attempt to take the lead; however the kick went wide right from 42-yards out.

With a minute and half left in the game, Ara Parseghian’s team had possession of the ball near their own 30-yard line. Parseghian elected to call handoffs up the middle, instead of taking a shot at putting together a game-winning drive. Thus, the Game of the Century ended in a 10-10 tie. The Spartans won the total-yardage statistic 284 to 219. The crowd watched in disappointment as the two frustrated teams walked back into the tunnel. John Hannah and Father Teodore Hesburgh together visited both locker rooms to congratulate the players on an outstanding effort and competition.

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MSU fullback Reggie Cavender (25) hurtles past the Norte Dame defensive forward wall on his way to an 11-yard gain to the Irish 9-yard line early in the second quarter.  A001072

Parseghian’s play-calling in this game would go on to earn him a lifetime of scrutiny, and to this day, he has had to defend his decision making. The following Monday, the State News wrote, “A modification of an immortal plea keeps running through my mind: ‘Go out and tie one for the Gipper.'” However, the State News understood what many emotional football fans did not. Michigan State’s season was over. Notre Dame, on the other hand, still had a trip to Los Angeles to take on a tough Southern California team. When the polls came out, Michigan State sat atop of the coaches’ poll and Notre Dame sat atop the AP poll. After the following Saturday’s Trojan beatdown at the hands of the Irish, Notre Dame was able to swing the coaches’ poll in their favor, as well. Neither school could play in a bowl game. Notre Dame did not partake in postseason games at the time, and since Michigan State had played in the Rose Bowl the year before, in accordance with the Big Ten’s policy at the time, they could not go again in a consecutive year.

Michigan State did win the vote of other polls, granting them the rights to some share of the national championship, which the university proudly remembers on the plaques outside Spartan Stadium. However, this  Game of the Century is primarily remembered for what it was not. In what was to be a national championship game played at the end of the regular season, two of the best teams in college football history came out even and  left empty-handed. Despite this disappointment, nevertheless, the Game of the Century legend will continue to live on in the memories of Michigan State University.

Written by Nick Kurtansky

gotc-event-flyer_revcgOn October 12, 2016 the University Archives will be hosting a 50th Anniversary Celebration of the 1966 Game of the Century at Michigan State University’s Conrad Hall.  The main program of the event will feature a discussion of the game by 1966 MSU Spartan Football players, including Jimmy Raye, Clinton Jones, Jerry West, and Sterling Armstrong. Sports radio broadcaster and author Jack Ebling will serve as moderator. Tom Shanahan, author of Raye of Light, will also join the discussion to provide insight into the historical importance of the Game of the Century.  The event is free and open to the public.  More information about the event is available at 1966gotc.eventbrite.com.  Kindly R.S.V.P. by October 5th online (1966gotc.eventbrite.com) or by calling the University Archives at (517) 355-2330.  We hope to see you there!





October is American Archives Month

4 10 2009

The mission of the Michigan State University Archives & Historical collections is to preserve the history of the University and make it available for researchers.  Founded in the fall of 1969, the University Archives & Historical Collections (UAHC) has materials dating back through all of MSU’s history.  This year American Archives Month coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections.

To celebrate American Archives Month, the MSU University Archives & Historical Collections is holding a trivia contest that is open to MSU faculty, staff and students; MSU alumni; and the greater Lansing community.  The theme of the trivia contest is MSU in 1969, the year of the archives’ creation.  The contest will end at 5:00pm on Friday, October 30.  Three winners will be chosen at random from among the correct entries and will be notified the following week.  This year’s prize is a 2009 Spartan Trivia Champion t-shirt.  Winners will be notified the week after the contest ends.

The questions are available online or as a PDF document.

Good luck and thank you for playing!!





Upcoming Events: Ag Expo and Great Dairy Adventure

13 07 2009

The University Archives will participate in two events next week that celebrate MSU’s agricultural heritage.  Ag Expo is on July 21-23 on the MSU Campus in the area north of Mt. Hope near the intersection with Farm Lane.  This year is the 30th anniversary of Ag Expo, which is the state’s largest and longest running outdoor farm show.  The MSU Archives will have a booth in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) tent.  The theme for CANR is “Family Futures,” so the theme for the archives is “Ensuring Family Futures by Preserving Family Pasts.”  Handouts about preserving family history for both children and adults will be available at the booth and archivists will be on hand to consult with people on their preservation and research needs.  On Tuesday, July 21, the MSU Archives will be celebrating its 40th anniversary with free cake in the CANR tent.  The cake will be served at 1:00pm.  For more information you can visit the Ag Expo website.

The Great Dairy Adventure will be on Wednesday, July 22 in the MSU Pavilion.  Focusing on dairy, the Great Dairy Adventure will allow children to pet different breeds of cows, milk a cow, be a milk mustache celebrity and more.  There will also be free dairy treats available.  The booth for the MSU Archives will feature facts about the history of dairying at MSU.  A handout/coloring sheet featuring Belle Sarcastic, a famous MSU dairy cow, will be free to children.

Admission and parking are free for both events.  Directions are available on the Ag Expo website.  The two activities are located near each other and families could easily visit both in one day.  We hope to see you next week!





Upcoming Events

30 01 2009

Now that the archives reading room is reopening, we thought we would share more of our upcoming events with you.  The University Archives was founded 40 years ago in November 1969 and as part of our anniversary celebration we are offering several lectures and other events.  First up is a class offered through the Evening College program.  Public Services Archivist Portia Vescio is teaching a three lecture class beginning Wednesday, February 18, 2009.  The class is, Beanies to Bodypiercings: 150 Years of MSU Student Life. 

 

The class will explore 150 years of Michigan State University student history and culture.  Historical highlights will be provided via diaries, letters, scrapbooks, newspapers, and other publications.  Beginning with 1857 when the first students entered MSU, through the underground culture of the 1960s, and 1970s and beyond, we will explore topics such as student rules and regulations, curriculum, activities, athletics, women and minorities, and civil disobedience.  Participants will also learn about the MSU Archives and its resources and how to locate materials online.

 

You need not be affiliated with MSU to register for the course.  For more information please contact the Evening College Program. 





Almost Finished

27 01 2009

The renovations are actually proceeding on schedule.  The installation of the carpet finished over the weekend thanks to the willingness of one of our staff members to spend her entire Saturday at work.  The rest of the staff appreciates your sacrifice. 

We are in the home stretch now as the new cubicle, excuse me, open office space, walls are being installed.  The furniture installation will finish today.  Staff will use the rest of the week to move into their new offices and to set up the resources in the reading room.  We plan to reopen to the public on February 2, 2009 as scheduled.  We hope that you will stop by to see the new reading room.  We also hope to host at least one open house this year in honor of our 40th anniversary.  See you soon!

The new reference area is being set up.

The new reference area is being set up.