116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Rose Bowl fever swept across Iowa 65 years ago, and the Associated Press picked the Hawkeye football season and Rose Bowl bid as the “best sports story of 1956.”
The University of Iowa Hawkeyes, ranked third in the nation, were the Big Ten champions that year. Its players grabbed All-America and all-conference honors, and Forest Evashevski was named Coach of the Year.
To cap the season, the team was invited to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., to play on New Year’s Day 1957.
Iowa’s 6-0 victory over Ohio State on Nov. 17, 1956, clinched the bowl berth for the Hawkeyes.
In less than 24 hours, all the airplane reservations between Cedar Rapids and Los Angeles — from Dec. 19 through the new year — were snapped up.
The Milwaukee Railroad office in Marion reported 100 reservations — for parties of six to eight people each — had been made on the City of Los Angeles train from Dec. 18 into January. The railroad decided to look into a Rose Bowl Special.
One college student tried to rent a boxcar at the Iowa City railroad station to transport 30 people. He was quoted a price of $1,000.
An unknown number of Iowans planned to drive to Pasadena.
It was the first Rose Bowl for the Hawkeyes, and it was huge.
Anxious ticket seekers waited on a Rose Bowl ticket distribution plan while the Hawks prepared for their final non-conference game against Notre Dame on Nov. 24.
Iowa won 48-8, ending its season with an 8-1 record. Its only loss, 17-14, was against No. 17 Michigan on Nov. 3.
The University of Iowa was given 16,000 Rose Bowl tickets, and Francis “Buzz” Graham, the UI business manager of athletics, estimated only 20 percent of those seeking tickets would get them.
Iowa’s allotment of tickets arrived Dec. 7, and the athletic office tried to supplement its supply by getting more from Oregon State, the Hawkeyes’ bowl opponent.
“Even if we are successful, we will not come close to filling orders already received,” Iowa Athletics Director Paul Brechler said.
As intrepid Iowa fans made plans to get to California, the 44 Hawkeye team members, dressed in charcoal gray pants, gray jackets and black-and-gold striped ties, headed for the Cedar Rapids Municipal Airport for an 8 a.m. send-off Dec. 16.
More than a thousand fans, 98 mayors and other officials gathered. Send-off ceremonies included presentations and a performance by the 30-piece Municipal Band.
But fog foiled the send-off, at least in part. After several delays, when it was evident the fog was not going to lift, three charter buses carried the team and entourage to Moline, Ill., for the delayed flight west.
Once in Pasadena, the Hawkeyes checked into the Huntington Hotel on the south side of Pasadena, then practiced at the new East Los Angeles Junior College stadium.
The 115-member UI marching band and the 75 members of the Scottish Highlanders also made the trip, marching in the Tournament of Roses parade and performing before the game and at halftime.
The game, others
Iowa quarterback Kenny Ploen led his squad to a 35-19 win over Oregon State.
When the game was over, the Hawkeyes autographed the game ball and sent it to the mother of Iowa All-America guard Cal Jones, who had died in a Dec. 9 plane crash.
The Cedar Rapids Municipal Airport was again thronged on the night of Jan. 3, 1957, to welcome home the Rose Bowl winners.
The Hawkeyes and Evashevski returned to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1959, this time facing the California Golden Bears and again winning, 38-12.
Iowa appeared in four more Rose Bowls after that — 1982 against Washington, 1986 against UCLA, 1991 against Washington, and 2016 against Stanford — but did not win those games.
Evashevski, the only Iowa football coach to come away with a Rose Bowl victory, died in 2009 at age 91.