Ron Morris

Morris: Today's rules make USC a bowl regular

The finishing touches are being put on Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., in preparation for Saturday's Papajohns.com Bowl.
The finishing touches are being put on Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., in preparation for Saturday's Papajohns.com Bowl.

Let's do a little re-write of South Carolina football history. Let's suppose today's rules for bowl eligibility existed all along.

Then we would not be talking about USC's mediocre past. We would be talking about the many seasons that concluded with the Gamecocks traveling the country to play in bowl games. We would be talking about USC's bowl-rich tradition.

Following are 10 imaginary bowl games USC should have played in:

1928 Crystal Drano Bowl, Las Vegas. The Rose Bowl was the only postseason game played that season. Heck, 15 teams from the 22-team Southern Conference finished with break-even or better records and would have played in bowl games by today's rules.

Among those teams was a solid USC club led by two-way lineman Julian Beall in the first season under coach Billy Laval. The Gamecocks finished 6-2-2, although a 2-2-1 record in the league dropped them down the bowl ladder.

The opponent was Southern Methodist, which finished 6-3-1, including a 2-2-1 record in the Southwest Conference.

1933 7UP Bowl, St. Louis. Under today's rules, this would have been the sixth consecutive bowl appearance for Laval's Gamecocks. This might have been Laval's best team, with a 6-3-1 record that included the prestigious state championship as well as a 3-0 mark in the Southern Conference.

The Rose Bowl and the Dixie Classic were the only bowl games played that season. By virtue of finishing one-half game behind 4-0 Duke in the conference and having the Galloping Ghost from Gaffney, Earl Clary, USC was an attractive draw for the prestigious 7UP Bowl against 6-1-1 Purdue of the Big Ten.

1938 Breck Shampoo Bowl, Springfield, Mass. John Breck, the inventor of the shampoo, and Anya Taranda, the Breck girl that year, handled the ceremonial coin toss.

Then Rex Enright's 6-4-1 USC team took on Memphis, which was unbeaten in 10 games yet snubbed by the Rose, Orange, Sugar, Sun and Cotton bowls. Memphis, which was not ranked in the final AP Top 20, was believed to be the first team to clamor for a college football playoff.

1947 Betty Crocker Cake Mix Bowl, Chicago. The bowl scene had expanded to 13 games this season, including the Delta, Salad, Raisin and Harbor bowls. Not many were more attractive than this Solider Field showdown between 6-2-1 USC and 7-4 West Texas State of the Border Conference.

USC used the bowl to recruit Chicago native Steve Wadiak.

1953 B&O Railroad Bowl, Baltimore. This matchup annually pitted a representative from the ACC against a team from Ohio. So 7-3 USC squared off against 6-3 Ohio State of the Big Ten.

At No. 20, Ohio State was the fourth ranked opponent USC faced that season. USC had lost to No. 10 Duke and No. 2 Maryland, while stunning No. 8 West Virginia.

1954 Studebaker Bowl, South Bend, Ind. This bowl was established in an attempt to entice Notre Dame to drop its policy of not participating in bowl games. Just like the public generally did not take to the Studebaker, Notre Dame waited another 15 years before it played in a bowl game.

At 6-4, USC earned a berth in this bowl by defeating No. 18 Army in the season-opener at West Point. A 7-2 Minnesota club was the opponent.

1956 Studebaker Bowl, South Bend, Ind. The folks in South Bend were so enamored with USC and Minnesota fans in the inaugural bowl two years earlier, they invited them back for a rematch.

This time, unranked USC was 7-3 with a third-place finish in the ACC. At 6-1-2, Minnesota was ranked No. 12 with wins over No. 5 Michigan and No. 3 Michigan State.

1958 Banana Bowl, San Jose, Costa Rica. A No. 15 national ranking made this USC team most deserving of a bowl bid. The Gamecocks, led by King Dixon and Alex Hawkins, went 7-3 in the regular season and finished second to Clemson in the ACC despite defeating the 10th-ranked Tigers.

Fourth-ranked Auburn, with a 9-0-1 record, was the opponent.

1959 Soybean Bowl, Columbia. This represented the state of South Carolina's one-year foray into the bowl business, but few fans were interested in seeing 6-4 USC play 5-4 Iowa of the Big Ten.

After USC proved most inhospitable by trouncing the Hawkeyes, Iowa coach Forest Evashevski promised his team would someday exact revenge on the Gamecocks. It took almost 50 years, but Iowa spanked USC in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009.

Ten months later, Evashevski died a happy man.

1973 Pet Rock Bowl, San Francisco. USC was riding high after wins against Appalachian State, Florida State and Clemson to close the regular season at 7-4. A trip to San Francisco was just reward. A 7-4 Stanford club was the opponent.

Those were the best of the bowl games USC missed out on because of a silly belief that only rewarded teams for having outstanding seasons. There were another 20 USC teams that should have gone bowling but were denied by a flawed system.

VIDEO: Legion Field preps for Papajohns.com Bowl

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