Monday, January 4, 2010

All-American Bowl Drama, 1/3/70

As 1969 turned into 1970, the city of Tampa prepared to host the second annual Lions Club All-American Bowl at Tampa Stadium. Just hours into the new decade, however, an unanticipated controversy threatened to overshadow the event.

Organizers of the game, as well as coaches, players, and fans, were stunned to find out that four of the five African-American players representing the South team had quit and decide to leave town. Without even checking out of their hotel or informing the bowl organizers, the players took their belongings from their rooms at the Sheraton Motor Inn on Ashley Drive and left in the early morning hours.

The players – Ron Shaklin and Glenn Holloway of North Texas State, Arthur James of East Texas State, and Ron Gardin of Arizona – had been involved in a dispute at the Sheraton on New Year’s Eve. According to hotel manager Louis Hautzig, the players tried entering private parties in the hotel and were asked to leave the ballrooms by security. Shanklin, for his part, offered a different account of the events.

He said that the players – just curious about the evening’s events going on in the hotel -- were grabbed forcefully by security and wrestled out of the room. Holloway had also complained to Shanklin of rude treatment by a waitress in the hotel coffee shop.

Clearly, the racial undertones were impossible to ignore. The players felt discriminated against and chose to deal with it by leaving town. What in actuality may have been a failed attempt at party-crashing and a random case of bad service, to those players seemed like something much more sinister.

This disturbance marred what had been an otherwise pleasant and harmonious week of events leading up to the bowl game on Jan. 3. Organizers were excited that the game – featuring top-shelf talent players -- would be broadcast to a nation-wide audience. Unlike the previous year, the game achieved official certification from the NCAA. This enabled player participation from Big Ten schools such as Ohio State, Iowa, and Purdue.

The North squad came in armed with talent from some of the best schools in the country. Starting at quarterback would be Dennis Shaw of San Diego State, who led the nation in total offense in 1969. Winners the previous year, the North was installed as a 13-point favorite over the South. Few could have anticipated how the game eventually played out.

In front of 17,642 fans on a cold and gloomy day, the South rose to the level of the heavily-favored North. That is, at least, after a rock first half in which the North raced out to a two-touchdown lead. After spotting the South an early three points, the North rallied behind a 52-yard touchdown pass from Shaw to Jerry Hendren, a 2-yard touchdown run by Bob Anderson, and a field goal by Jim O’ Brien to take a 17-3 lead into the half.

The South turned the game’s momentum around in the third quarter, when North quarterback Gary Baxter of the Air Force fumbled a snap on forth down at the South’s 26.

Florida State quarterback Bill Cappleman led the comeback for the South by connecting with Dennis Hughes of Georgia on a 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter to cut the lead to 17-9.
Larry Stegent of Texas A&M – who’d rush for 114 yards on the day and earn the game’s M.V.P. honors -- scored from five yards out with just over nine minutes left in the game. A successful two-point conversion toss by Cappleman notched the game 17-17.

It didn't take long for the North to get back on top, as Shaw connected with Hendren again, this time on a 72-yarder to give his team a six-point lead. He bobbled the snap on the extra point attempt, however, and his pass attempt into the end zone fell incomplete, leaving his team ahead by a count of 23-17.

Cappleman answered right back just three minutes later for the South, hitting Eddie Ray of LSU on a 48-yard touchdown pass with 4:24 left in the game. Kicker John Riley of Auburn added the extra point, giving the South a one-point lead.

With the North driving towards the winning score, a controversial call with just 1:46 left in the game proved to be a turning point in the game. On second and goal from the four, Shaw found tight end Jim McFarland of Nebraska in the back of the end zone for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown. End zone markings, of all things, may have contributed to the decision by back judge Whib Robertson – a junior high school principal during the week -- to call the pass incomplete.

A full yard of green grass sandwiched between the decorative white end zone paint and the back line is where McFarland said his feet landed. The referee, perhaps confused by the field markings, called him out of bounds.

“I’ve never seen a field marked like this,” North head coach Duffy Daugherty said after the game. “There should be a different color designating the end line.”

McFarland said that game film would prove he came down in bounds. Shaw, for his part, flippantly suggested that the game ball be awarded to the officials.

Still, the North had a chance to take the lead on a field goal attempt by Jim O’Brien of the University of Cincinnati, but his kick went wide and the South held on for an improbable 24-23 victory.

Although he missed on the final kick of his college career, O’Brien found redemption one year later. The goat of the 1970 All-American Bowl, as a member of the Baltimore Colts, O'Brien kicked the game-winning field goal in Super Bowl V to give his team a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

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