For those who may not be aware, this is the 50th Anniversary of the undefeated Rutgers Football Team from 1961. To that end, a thread was been started over on ScarletNation.com that discusses the history around this season. To ensure the information contained in the thread is not lost, I am taking the liberty of reprinting a number of the posts here for reference. The content is historical and provides a wonderful insight to the life and times of college students during that time.
The thread was started by a well-known poster on the site with the handle “Source.” Indeed he is a wonderful source of historical information regarding all things Rutgers University. So here we go:
With the 50th anniversary of the undefeated 1961 Rutgers Scarlet Knights coming up this season, I thought folks might be interested in this Time Magazine article a week after Rutgers finished 9-0 in exciting fashion against Columbia. I don’t know if there are ceremonies in place to honor the 1961 team, but in my opinion, there should be. 50th anniversaries only come around once and should be remembered as something very special.
“…Last week Rutgers seemed to be up to old tricks. Sporting an 8-0 record and the championship of the eight-team Middle Atlantic Conference, they were favored by two points to defeat Ivy League Co-Champion Columbia in their 1961 finale and, after 93 long years, to nail down their first undefeated season. They had a solid line, the East’s best center in hard-hitting, hard-nosed Team Captain Alex Kroll, and a backfield that combined speed, drive and deft ball handling. Coaches thought enough of the team to rate it among the top 20 in the U.S…”
(more at link) Dec. 1, 1961 – Time Magazine: Doing For Old Rutgers
I was there – most all of the players on that team were personal friends – and the “comeback” from a 19-7 deficit at the beginning of the 4th quarter was something to behold – Kroll, Simms, Mudie, Speranza, Curley, Frauenheim etc (I believe Pierce Frauenheim, the legendary football at Immaculata and still coaching) and Alex Kroll went on to become CEO of Y & R advertising and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as well as the Rutgers Football Hall of Fame – I would expect there would be some kind of recognition for this team – obviously a different time and a different emphasis but this was a remarkable accomplishment for Rutgers University – during those (4) seasons – 1958-61 Rutgers defeated Princeton each year which was another major accomplishment after years of frustration!
One of only two undefeated seasons in the long history of Rutgers football!
Can remember that game still… 8 yrs old at the time my mom had sewn a #51 on an almost replica Rutgers jersey that my dad had picked up at Cheap Johns in NB and always wore it to the games since can remember. We always sat up top towards the ramp to the field, After the game the kids would all go down the bottom corner to see the players close and on the last game of the year they would usually throw their chin straps up to us kids. After the Colombia game Alex saw I was waring the 51 jersey and pointed to me to get a way from the other kids to hand me his chin strap. A moment I will never forget…
Rutgers was a very different school back then – a total of 6,000 students all men – just about all of the classes (with the exception of the “Ag School (Cook), parties, fraternities, dorms on the College Ave campus – the football stadium, baseball field, golf course and lacrosse and intramural fields along with the Institute of Microbiology and I believe Chemistry building were all that was on the “heights” (Busch) campus- there was also the married student section consisting of the former barracks at Camp Kilmer – all women went to Douglass College as Rutgers was strictly all male at the time – wasn’t that long ago!
Football played a 9 game schedule – mostly Ivy League teams along with Lehigh, Lafayette, Delaware, Villanova, Colgate – we also had basketball, baseball and lacrosse rivalries with Penn State, NYU, Army, Syracuse – in those years – Rutgers baseball 3rd in College World Series in 1950 and lacrosse was always a top 10 program.
Crew and wrestling were also strong programs – just about everyone I knew from those years – loved Rutgers – great academics, small college environment with many out of state students even though Rutgers had been designated “the State University of New Jersey”
Believe it or not, we either would drive our cars right up to the stadium or walk across Landing Lane Bridge for football games – and basketball games held at the College Ave gym (now known as “The Barn”)
Several All-Americans in Football – Billy Austin, Alex Kroll – quite a few All-East including the Simms Brothers – Bob and Steve – baseball All-Americans – Ray Van Cleef, Jim Monahan, Pete Hall, Jeff Torborg and numerous first, second and third team Lacrosse All-Americans – Jack Daut, John Howland, Bob Naso, Dick Pencek to name just a few – I know there were many others!
The 1961 RU-Columbia was the most exciting sports event that I have ever witnessed. Imagine, being down 19-7 after Columbia had returned an interception for a TD near the end of the 3rd quarter. Our diminutive returner (Dave Brody) returned the ensuing kickoff to about the Columbia 21. Then it was 4th and and 1 around the 12 yard line. The 3rd quarter ended. The first play of the 4th quarter was a pass into the end zone at the closed (North) end of the stadium. Lee Curley caught it and raised his hand with the ball to celebrate. We dominated from then on, winning 32-19.
Simply unforgettable. I even remember what I wore to the game and what those who were with me drank (to soften the despair) from my pocket flask after we fell behind 19-7!
RU was a wonderful place then, but “ever changing yet eternally the same.”
Can you tell us about ties, jackets and beenies?
Did you wear an actual tie and jacket to class?
Who wore beenies?
Most Rutgers alumni aren’t aware that the “big school” Rutgers really didn’t begin until the 1970s. In fact, many probably aren’t aware Rutgers College was all male until 1972.
Princeton, Yale, Michigan, etc. All of those schools were “giants” among the colleges in student body. That’s why Rutgers lost 32 straight games to Princeton over 69 years. They were at 1,000+ students by the 1880s. We didn’t get to that number until the 1920s.
That matters a lot when you picked your sports teams without benefit of purely athletic scholarships (Rutgers 1st full football scholarship wasn’t until 1966). We were plucky, but small, when it came to competition. And of course, those larger alumni bodies begun in the latter half of the 19th century paid off handsomely in the century to come when it came to school donations.
The February 12 and January 23, 1903 Targums reported Yale had 2,754 students enrolled that year and Princeton 1,378. In 1901, the Targum reported the total number of living and deceased Rutgers alumni was 2,969 since the school was chartered in 1766. The New Brunswick Daily Press of December 15, 1904 said Michigan had 15,000 living alumni, Harvard 14,000 and Yale 11,000.
Frosh were obligated to wear the freshman beanie, known as the “Dink.” For even year classes, e.g. 1964, that hat was black with red trim and a red “19R64.” Odd year classes were reversed, red hat with black trim and lettering. We were also required to wear the freshman tie (mostly black with red stripes.) We wore both until the Class Tournament in later September, which was the week before the Princeton game.
Jacket and tie to class were not obligatory, but it was not unusual to wear them, anyway, from time-to-time.
Yes – freshman were required to wear a “dink” and “freshman tie” but many freshman athletes wound up not wearing them at all – not certain why but I remember having them and never wearing – as for jacket and tie – we did wear on occasion (and not only freshman) to class and I can remember wearing jacket and tie to football games – especially if it was a “big weekend” with girls on campus – such an innocent time but so many great Rutgers memories!
Fraternity parties were “keg” parties – regular weekends – so many kegs – “big weekends” – probably double or triple the number at least! No drugs, no hard liquor – only beer games – Thumper, Wales Tales were the two popular beer drinking games I remember
An editorial in the October 7, 1955 Targum mentioned that for tomorrow’s home opener against Muhlenberg, “… there is a traditional frosh custom which bears mentioning. The freshmen, wearing dinks, usually form a double line on the field to greet the team. This is a practice by which the actual spirit of the freshmen can be gauged. And it means a lot to the team as a show of confidence.” But in the October 10, 1962 Targum, the freshman protested, “…we won’t wear dinks!… anything that the upperclassmen do now will be completely resisted.” And thus, the decades long-time tradition of freshman dink-wearing met its Waterloo
Another great thread on Rutgers football history- thank you source!
To honor the undefeated ’61 team, the freshmen should wear jackets, ties, and dinks! And form a double line to welcome them out of the tunnel!
Amazing how things changed in just a few years! I started in September, 1962. We were told we had to wear the dink and tie. It took us about 20 minutes of walking around to decide to ditch both of them. By the second day, no one was wearing them. They were good keepsakes though.
We always wore a jacket and tie to the games. I don’t remember tailgating, though we may have; but I do remember always having at least one flask of rum in my jacket pocket to mix with Coke at the game.
I never wore a jacket and tie to class. I think jacket and tie were required for dinner at fraternities, but I did not pledge. However the fraternity parties were the key to weekend social life. Many of my friends were “brothers’, so I was always welcome – as long as I was accompanied by at least one appealing young lady. Homecoming was a big deal, and we spent many hours working on the floats. I am not sure when that died out.
By the time I finished my graduate degree in 1969, we were in the love and hippie generation – a 180 degree change from the formality at the beginning of the decade. Many of my friends also ended up in Vietnam.
Chi Psi fraternity always had candlelight “formal dinners” Monday-Thursday – jacket and tie required – taught table manners – what fork went with what, how to eat soup properly etc – always followed by a “song fest” (college songs – “On The Banks”, “Hymn to Queens”, “Wiffenpoo”, “Maine Stein Song”, “Roar Lion Roar” etc – (never a Princeton song!) – usually some traditional fraternity songs as well – I think if it was a “big weekend” and we had dates, we also had a formal dinner on Friday to show how “civilized” we were!
At my house we had early dinner (5:00 p.m., wear whatever) and late dinner (6:00 p.m. by candlelight and jacket and ties – and waiters (usually pledges) wearing waiter’s jackets. Our housemother was not shy about teaching manners.
On big weekends (Soph Hop in November, Junior Prom in March, and Mili Ball in May) the guys would clear out and our dates would stay in the rooms from Friday into Sunday. Like Chi Psi and the others, there would be a dress-up dinner on Friday.
Then, a major party with a band on Saturday night. At about 10:30 p.m. a commercial photographer would arrive and take a Party Picture of everyone crowded together in the living room. During brunch on Sunday, the photographer would drop off many copies of the photo, distributed to each of us and to the dates.
The Yearbooks (the Scarlet Letter) from those days have two pages devoted each house and would contain one of those big weekend Party Pictures.
Those were the days! I guess the Scarlet Letter (our yearbook) is no more – for anyone interested in seeing what Rutgers was like as a much smaller school – possibly there are archived copies somewhere – this was a time for classes, football, fraternity parties, blue books (finals), the grading system (the reverse of most other schools) A – 1, B – 2, C-3, D -4 therefore a highly sought average was a 1.5 or better – in other schools probably a 3.5 – does anyone remember All-American tailback Billy Austin ’58 and his famous quote? “At Rutgers, football is a part of college – not college a part of football” In those years, Rutgers ran the “single wing” under John Steigman and then the t-formation under Dr. John Bateman – many players played on both sides of the ball – called one platoon football!
We had to actually go to the library to study, do research for our papers by checking out books, type our papers on typewriters with carbon paper for a copy and, yes – giving the fraternity rooms to our dates for a big weekend while we sought housing in a dorm, a park bench or maybe someone’s car!!!!
This is a post that could go on forever!! I can remember as a lacrosse/football recruit being brought over to Chi Psi in 1966 and yes…all were wearing ties and jackets in the house. Regarding dinks…I think a lot of the football players, since we ate together and hung around together…did not do the dink thing for more than a day or so, though you would see many of the freshman wearing them around the campus. For ANYONE who has not seen Animal House…you would be missing what was a mirror of college life from the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s. then in the late sixties we had an earthquake of change across college campuses in the U.S., between the drug revolution, anti-war unrest, civil rights struggle and the sexual revolution. One of my brothers played football at Lafeyette in the 50’s against the great R.U teams of late 50’s, one at Princeton for the ’60 and 61 teams and one at Harvard from ’63-’66. We would all tell stories about how things were and the amazing changes that occurred. The ’60-’61 seasons represented a great time to be in college
“Animal House” was hilarious and I’m certain there were a few such houses across college campuses during those years – I can’t remember the name of the fraternity that attacked Belushi’s “Animal House” member and some of the scenes were rather outrageous but really funny! I remember we used to have snowball fights with other fraternities on College Ave and we sometimes would “crash” other parties and often we would travel down to Princeton to “visit” the Eating Clubs – occasionally there would be some sort of altercation although nothing too serious – and we could count on our “friends” from Princeton doing the same thing!
I do not remember a similar situation at Rutgers with a dean threatening “double secret probation” although once we thought we were going to be expelled because we staged a panty raid at Douglass with the help of some of our Douglass friends – women’s underwear was hanging on the antlers of our moose in the living room when a dean just happened to make a visit to our house!!!!!
Such good fun and a time that I’m certain will never happen again!
Here are your grade point averages.
MNTHOUGHT: two C’s, two D’s and an F. That’s a 1.2. Congratulations, you’re at the top of the Delta pledge class.
rc 64 – has no grade point average. All classes incomplete.
rc 63 – zero point zero.
In the March 16, 1956 Targum it was announced that Douglas College had approved of its students joining the all-male Rutgers cheerleaders for the start of the fall football season. The vote was 752-33. Three days later, 300 Rutgers students celebrated spring by going on a panty raid at Jameson and Gibbons dorms, climbing through first and second floor windows and stealing bras and panties later displayed on main campus. The permanent mix of Douglas and Rutgers cheerleaders wouldn’t take place until 1971 just a year before Rutgers became co-educational.
Update: July 26, 2011
RUJohnny99: “Who were the members of the Middle Atlantic Conference?”
Rutgers played, from 1958-61, in the University Division of the Middle Atlantic Conference and won with 4-0 records in 1958, 1960 and 1961 from amongst games played against Delaware, Bucknell, Lafayette and Lehigh.
Temple, Muhlenberg and Gettysburg were also in the Division. MAC’s two other divisions were North and South and included teams such as Susquehanna, Lebanon Valley, Widener, Albright, Wilkes, in addition to others. To win a title, you had to play four of your nine games against Conference opponents.
The Time Magazine article cites an 8-team conference. It was actually 19 teams in three M.A.C. divisions.
In the trophy case in the “barn” – at one time there was a trophy – Rutgers “Middle Three” champions – in those years – 1946-47-48-49 Rutgers, Lafayette and Lehigh known as the Middle Three – Harvard, Princeton, Yale – known as the “Big Three”, and Williams, Amherst and Middlebury known as the “Little Three” – not certain, but I believe, the designation was based on enrollment – maybe someone knows for sure! I haven’t been in the “barn” for many years so possibly the trophy case is no longer there
RC63: “Rutgers, Lafayette and Lehigh known as the Middle Three – Harvard, Princeton, Yale – known as the “Big Three”, and Williams, Amherst and Middlebury known as the “Little Three” – not certain, but I believe, the designation was based on enrollment – maybe someone knows for sure! I haven’t been in the “barn” for many years so possibly the trophy case is no longer there”
The trophies are still in their case in the College Avenue Gymnasium case. The Middle Three had more to do with history than exact enrollment numbers. Rutgers, Lafayette and Lehigh played sports against each other from as far back as 1883 when Lafayette’s first ever football game was played against Rutgers. The following year, Lehigh’s first game ever was against Lafayette and then Rutgers. The schools were approximately the same size. By 1929, they decided to formalize their play with an in-season round robin Middle Three Championship (think Commander-In-Chief trophy played for each year by Army, Navy and Air Force).
Rutgers donated a cannon known as the “Little Brass Cannon” that RU had been using since 1931 as the Middle Three Trophy in 1940. It was lost in Lehigh’s possession in the mid-50s and replaced in 1960.
There is little mention of when the Middle Three officially ended. But since 1975 was the last year that all three schools played in football, it brought the Middle Three to a quiet close. By that time, Rutgers was well on its way to Division I-A status while Lafayette and Lehigh sizes kept them as Division I-AA schools.
And the second cannon? Nobody knows where that one went either!
Thanks for the information – I’m certain only a few of us have ever seen that trophy – as far as the cannon – the only cannon I ever knew about was “our cannon war” with Princeton – and for many years. it was tradition to have the photo of the Rutgers team football captain standing with “our cannon” in front of Old Queens – this photo I believe always appeared in our football programs.
The one exception to that Captain photo came on the 100th Anniversary game with Princeton when our captain (Pete Savage) posed on one side of the cannon with the Princeton captain (twin brother Paul Savage)! both in uniform.
btw…what’s this about having to sneak hard liquour into game? Heck, our fraternity rolled a portable bar into the stadium…and one of the brother’s father (an Episcopalian priest in his collar) would often serve as bartender.
Yep…coat and ties to the games on a wonderful Fall day. My freshman class was 1,750 strong in 1962…but less than 760 graduated. One is three was bumped by end of the freshman year.
Was with a group that smuggled a quarter keg into Palmer Stadium for the last Rutgers-Princeton game there (under a wheelchair).
It’s not gonna be an orgy…. it’s a Toga party.
BTW, I thought the Savage brothers were captains of Rutgers and Princeton at the 1965 game instead of 1969. Maybe I’m mistaken.
Don’t fret folks…Rutgers Athletcis is doing it right. There will be a special gathering of the 1961 Team at the Rutgers-Pitt game on October 8 where the returning memebrs will be honored at halftime. Our team will also have a special team dinner of its own on Friday evening where we will once again replay many of the games and again become legends in our own minds!!
All I can add is this is a special group of players who belived they should also have been udnfeated in 1960 and therefore focused on 1961 as the year to be the first Rutgers Undefated Football Team. In fact, this team may have been the first Rutgers undefeated team and season in any major sport at Rutgers up to that time…..for footbal it took 92 years with teams coming close 4 or 5 other times without succeeding. the fact that the 1961 team got to the last game at 8-0 and came from behind to go 9-0 was icing on the cake. The team finished the season ranked in the top 20 and despite some bowl inquiries and potential invitations the athletic depart nixed any bowl talk. The players were ready to go if the school had given the ok.
That’s great news RU62. I still think the current team should play the RU-Pitt game in throwback 1961 uniforms (as close as rules permit) in their honor. The uniforms can be auctioned off to cover expenses or given to members of the 1961 team as gifts.
There is a 30 minute black and white highlight film. I’ve seen it at Special Collections at the Alexander Library. I think the video folk at Rutgers should cut the highlight tape up into 9 1-minute parts and add in some shots of the game programs and run the spots on the scoreboard for the fans to enjoy during the game.
I also think those Rutgers football shows should be aware of all this and possibly do a feature, or a show, on the 1961 season with player interviews from today included.
Great to know – that team certainly deserves to be recognized by the university – as has been said before – one of the most exciting games ever (along with the 2006 Louisville game) coming from behind 19 -7 in the 4th quarter to win 32-19 and finish undefeated for the first time in the long, long history of Rutgers football – also I think there is a link to our other undefeated team – Head Football Coach, Frank Burns was an assistant coach to Dr. John Bateman in 1961 and quarterback Bill Speranza, who led the comeback in 1961 was an assistant to Frank Burns that other very special year!
A classic photo! Looks like “Animal House” but it really was Zeta Psi. In the 1950’s-60’s fraternities were very strong on college campuses – including Rutgers. All of the fraternities participated in building floats for Homecoming (not like the Animal House float!)most of the Rutgers College academic, social and athletic events revolved around fraternities and their members – honor societies, “big weekends” with “theme parties” like Zeta Psi’s toga party, Chi Psi had a Hawaiian, Viking, and “Roaring 20’s” theme that I remember and various athletic teams had a significant number of fraternity members – there was also a yearly fraternity pledge basketball tournament and very competitive intramural competition – I know that is totally not the case today – many colleges have, in fact, closed fraternity houses and/or banned them from owning fraternity houses and probably the majority of students in college today are NOT fraternity members.
At Soph Hop weekend on a Saturday evening in November of 1962, Phi Ep at 4 Mine Street had a beach party. We had sand delivered and poured into the basement through the windows to create a beach. Sun lamps were strung from the ceiling – unforgettable. I suspect that, 49 years later, some sand can still be found in the flooring of what is now a sorority house.
Building the Homecoming floats was a blast! When did they start? I know that a good friend (Sheldon Baker, RC60 and Student Body President had a hand in that as he was a SoCal guy and familiar with the Rose Parade). We used crepe paper rather than flowers, of course. And chicken wire….lots of chicken wire.
CalRU66: “Building the Homecoming floats was a blast! When did they start?”
And here’s your answer:
The Queen and her court along with football floats made their first appearance at the October 13, 1956 game against Colgate. Delta Phi won with their 30 foot great white whale draped over a pick-up truck made with wooden splints, chicken wire and 15,000 crushed paper towels and named “Moby Rutgers.” Ida Balogh was float Queen along with her four male attendants. But Colgate spoiled things 48-6.
and the next year, 1957, RU beat Colgate in Hamilton, NY by the same score, 48-6!
Update: July 27, 2011
Article mentions “championship of 8 team Middle Atlantic Conference” but I am guessing that did not exist. I know that Rutgers had the Middle 3 with Lehigh and Lafayette and 3 or 4 Ivy games each year so that would have been it.
Source….you’re wonderful and thanks for the info. btw, I think I stand corrected on the Savage photo year…just recall that the parents spent one half on one side, then the other half on the other. Must have been a couple of really proud folks!!! Will have to dig into my treasure trove next week to find that program….but I know better than to question you on history!
The parties stuffing colored crepe paper into chicken wire still are vivid in my memory. Fun stuff. The timing of the first float parade seems to jive with my recollection that fellow SoCal native Sheldon Baker was somewhat instrumental behind the scenes.
Thanks CalRU66…. very much appreciated. Here’s what impressed me about Rutgers students and Homecoming in the 1960s. Hard to believe some student arranged to have some of these acts come in for a party weekend. Otis Day and the Knights would be proud:
The September 26, 1966 Targum announced that Alpha Phi Omega had organized the first Homecoming Concert weekend and planned a Friday night show in the College Avenue Gym by securing Ray Charles & the Raelets, complete with full orchestra. . “A float building party will follow the concert and therefore the concert will be informal.” Later years would feature such acts as Woody Allen, Simon & Garfunkel, Mountain, Hugh Masekela and Country Joe and the Fish.
I remember sitting in the Ledge a couple of times when Hootnany was filmed there. Judy Collins, Judy Hentchky, Smothers Bros., etc. Folk was big then. The Ledge wasn’t big…but we got floor space in the front row.
The Ledge – what great memories – spent a lot of time there as a freshman – located between Frelinghuysen and Livingston dorms “on the river” where most of the freshman were housed – is it still there? I also remember the third “river” dorm – I believe it was Hardenberg (sp?) There had also been a basketball court at the end of the river dorms and many pick up games were played there especially with a few incoming basketball players often playing in order to judge the talent level of other freshman basketball players! I recall that many freshman athletes were on the 6th floor of those dorms because the coaches knew that it wouldn’t be long until the elevators stopped working and we had to do “the stairs” for conditioning!
“The Original Ledge” to my knowledge has no longer existed for many years since the redesign of that area. For those back in the day do you remember Magee O’Rourke who worked there? She was my aunt and married to Peter who was the sportswriter for the Home News, Lived on Handy st across from the old armory and spent many Saturdays there after RU football games.
“The Ledge” as many alumni from 1957 through the 1980s would know it as, is today’s Student Activities Center. It’s different inside but there are still things that haven’t changed all that much.
I’m not sure if it was the ABC-TV show “Hootenanny” which ran from 1963-64 or its relative “Shindig” (1964-66) that was done from The Ledge. They were musical/variety shows that blended rock (like the Mama’s & The Papas) with comedians and TV actors and actresses who hosted the show.
mkollar (that would be me)
Ah, the history in this thread is wonderful to read.
RC63, as Source notes, the physical building is still there and is now known at the “Student Activities Center.” The inside has been redone several times with the latest iteration being “Meh.” Barnes & Noble has a coffee shop/quick mart there and there are several offices for student organizations as well as “Student Affairs.”
Update: July 29, 2011
I was a local guy, that hung around Yusko’s Tavern, back then. A lot of the players that lived in Figi, came in there then, and I remember playing then in the City basketball league. For the Columbia Game, some of us worked the game as ushers, so we were sure of getting in, and not have to pay. I remember that Z Phi people also came into Yusko’s.
Anyone remember Luke’s Haberdashery, across Easton Avenue from Yusko’s? Knew someone who said he went to Luke’s to buy a tie but the place was empty. So, he went across to the street to Yusko’s to bring back the salesman!
Luke was a Yusko’s regular, As well as Steve from the hobby shop, And Gussie from the lunch shop.
I cannot imagine trading my four years on the Banks for any other college experience. What a fun, and enriching time. We learned so much about so many things. So many events seem like they happened only yesterday! There were a couple of shows on 60 Minutes this year about people with Perfect Autobiographical Memory. Sometimes I think that I have that for those four years!
I’ll continue to update this post as more comments are added.