The game that inspired the University of Alabama fight song, “Yea Alabama,” was also Alabama’s first national championship. The 1926 Rose Bowl Game held on January 1, 1926, in Pasadena, California had an even greater impact.
It has been considered by many that this game actually ‘changed the south forever.’
1925 University of Alabama Football team
Last four lines of the song reflect the change
The last four lines of the fight song, composed by a University of Alabama music student named Ethelred Sykes after the Rose Bowl victory, reflect this change.
“Fight on, fight on, fight on, men!
Remember the Rose Bowl we’ll win then!
Go, roll to victory, Hit your stride,
You’re Dixie’s football pride, Crimson Tide!”
The win at the Rose Bowl provided an opportunity to restore prestige and honor back to the south that had been ravaged by the Civil War.i Over sixty years had passed since the War between the states, but many older southerners remembered the war and the terrible days of Reconstruction afterward.
The team represented the banner for the entire South
“The South also was motivated by a national press that was critical of almost anything associated with the South, from the size of the southern brain cavity to the quality of its football. Thus, the Rose Bowl invitation to the University of Alabama (UA), the first team in the South to be so honored, set up what has been recognized by many historians and sports fans as the most important game in southern football history. Alabama was not simply representing its home state in a football game; it was carrying the banner for the entire South. One historian, in emphasizing the importance of the game’s outcome, characterized it as an inspiration to southerners who had for so long been burdened by the combined effects of poverty and political and social isolation resulting from a demoralizing military defeat. ii
The 1926 Rose Bowl invitation to the University of Alabama was the opportunity for a southern team to play on a national stage and prove wrong the prevailing belief that southerners played an inferior quality of football.
Coach Wallace Wade
First undefeated season
The 1925 Crimson Tide football team, led by Coach Wallace Wade, had the first undefeated season in team history, yet, southern football teams were considered so inferior at the time in the ‘college football world’ that it wasn’t until Dartmouth, Yale and Colgate turned down the Rose Bowl invitation that the University of Alabama was invited.
The pressure on the University of Alabama team was heavy. Besides carrying the worthiness of southern football on their shoulders, they had to travel by train many days across the country to California and face a heavily favored University of Washington team while the Washington team practiced at home in Seattle.
Team carried the honor of the South
Before the University of Alabama team left, they were inundated with telegrams instigated by Tide booster, Champ Pickens. He urged all civic clubs in Tuscaloosa to send telegrams to players to remind them that the honor of the South was on their shoulders. What a tremendous responsibility these young players must have felt!
The UA team gave up their Christmas holidays and practiced for three weeks. They even stopped along the way to California for a scrimmage and stopped several times to jog on their journey. After reaching Pasadena, Coach Wade continued with tough practices in the week before the game.
All Alabama’s points were in one quarter
Alabama only needed the third quarter to win in the January 1, 1926, Rose Bowl game. All 20 Crimson Tide’s points were made in the third quarter when they defeated the heavily favored Washington Huskies with a 20-19 victory.
A near-capacity crowd of 45,000 watched the game on January 1, 1926. The game made its radio broadcast debut, with Charles Paddock, a sports writer, and former Olympian track star, at the microphone. Washington jumped ahead with a 12-0 lead before half time. However, in the second half, the University of Alabama came back and scored three touchdowns in less than seven minutes to take the lead 20-12.
The first touchdown was scored by Quarterback Allison ‘Pooley’ Hubert while Johnny ‘Mack’ Brown; scored the next two.
Washington scored one more time, but Alabama won with a score of 20-19. Johnny Mack Brown make a game-saving tackle in the last seconds of the play.
Johnny ‘Mack’ Brown in Rose Bowl 1926
Proud Southerners greet Alabama team
As you can imagine, the team was met with proud southerners in many southern towns they passed on their return home. They were often greeted with brass bands and speeches. Even students at rival, Tulane University, cheered the team when it stopped in New Orleans.
Once they reached Tuscaloosa, it took the train an hour to progress from the depot to downtown due to all the fans climbing on the roof to catch a glimpse of the players. A parade was held that ended in the Quadrangle with speeches and many accolades to follow.
The win raised the status of southern football forever, and teams throughout the South played in 13 of the next 20 Rose Bowls until the Rose Bowl entered into an agreement with the Big 10 Conference to provide the opponent for a team from the Pacific 10 Conference on the West Coast. This agreement is still in effect today and has been honored, with occasional exceptions.
Allison ‘Pooley’ Hubert
Allison T. ‘Pooley’ Hubert became the college football coach at Southern Mississippi and Virginia Military Institute. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1964.
Johnny ‘Mack’ Brown, born in Dothan, Alabama later went to Hollywood and had a successful career in the films. He was portrayed on the Wheaties cereal boxes in 1927 and played in silent films as Mary Pickford’s love interest. In 1930, he played Billy the Kid. He later made many Western films, with a career spanning over forty years.
Johnny ‘Mack’ Brown performing in a western movie
“After graduating in 1926, Epp Sykes studied law for a year at UA then became an account executive with Sparrow Advertising Agency in Birmingham. In 1940 Sykes was called into active duty by the U.S. Air Force. He served in both World War II and the Korea conflict, eventually rising to the rank of Brigadier General. In 1947 he donated the copyright and future royalties of “Yea Alabama” to the University of Alabama. He died on July 1, 1967.”
Alabama has played in a total of six Rose Bowl games since 1926 (1926, 1927, 1931, 1935, 1938, 1946). They have won four, tied one and lost one. Coach Wade was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1990.
In an agreement with the Big 10, the Rose Bowl avoided southern teams for many years. On January 7, 2010, Alabama defeated the University of Texas to win the 2009 BCS National Championship game played in the Rose Bowl stadium, 83 years after its first appearance.
- Remember the Rose Bowl
- Encyclopedia of Alabama
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