The Great Rose Bowl Hoax - The College Prank that Set the Standard


The Great Rose Bowl Hoax
The College Prank that Set the Standard

Picture it: The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, January 2, 1961. The game is being played on the 2nd day of the New Year due to the 1st falling on a Sunday. The stadium is at capacity for the college championship battle between the Washington Huskies and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. NBC is televising the game to millions of viewers nationwide.

The Huskies cheerleaders had planned an elaborate flip card presentation for the half-time show, utilizing 2,232 Washington students in a designated area of the stands. At the end of the first half, Washington was up 17-0 and the audience, both live and in TV land sat back to soak up the entertainment. As the band played on the field, the cheerleaders gave signals to the students in the stands to hold up numbered flip cards. This gave both the crowd at the game and the television audience a view of the huge imaged the placards created. There were a total of fifteen images carefully choreographed by the cheerleading squad.

Images one through eleven went without a hitch, but the twelfth, which was supposed to show a huge Husky dog, the Washington mascot, the audience instead saw a creature that looked surprisingly like a beaver. Determined not to miss a beat, the cheerleaders continued on through their bewilderment. The next presentation was supposed to spell out "HUSKIES". Instead, the world saw "SEIKSUH". The placards were totally backward. When the signal was given for the fourteenth set of cards to be shown, the giant word "CAL TECH" was broadcast to the shocked crowd. Cal Tech was the small technology college located near the Rose Bowl.

The Washington band was so flustered that they stopped playing in the middle of the field. Dead silence fell over the stadium. Then, the entire crowd, with the possible exception of the Washington fans, broke out into uproarious laughter. The band left the field without playing another note.

The fifteenth display was never shown. After the laughter died down the game continued and Washington won the championship with a final score of 17-7.

Who was behind this diabolical scheme? A group of Cal Tech students now known as the "Fiendish Fourteen", who were upset at not being well represented in the Rose Bowl Parade, that's who. One of the students obtained an original instruction for the entire flip card presentation from a Washington cheerleader simply by asking for it. Of course, the cheerleader thought that he was being interviewed by a reporter, not a spy. Once the original sheet was theirs, they went to a copy shop and had 2,232 copies made. Then, in a marathon of mischief on New Year's Eve, the group of students hand-marked all of their own designs on all 2,232 copies. When all the changes were made, three of Cal Tech students snuck back to the Washington cheerleaders' hotel while the squad enjoyed a day at Disneyland and replaced the original instruction sheets with their own.

The plan was carried out so smoothly, and the results were so perfect, that to this day it is still known as the greatest college prank ever pulled off

The Great Rose Bowl Hoax - The College Prank that Set the Standard

The Great Rose Bowl Hoax - The College Prank that Set the Standard

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