Powers of Yesterday Return To Glory in Division III Bowls

Yesterday, the NCAA announced the Division III playoff field, which of course means that the Division III bowl slate was soon to follow. Several deserving schools earned their players a chance to play one more game. Among those schools were some powers of yesteryear. 

In the Asa S. Bushnell Bowl, organized by the Eastern Collegiate Athletics Conference (ECAC), the Washington & Jefferson Presidents will host Hobart College. The Presidents will play in their first ECAC Bowl game since 2019 after an 8-2 season that saw them finish in second place to undefeated Case Western Reserve in the President’s Athletic Conference. The President’s bowl history stretches far beyond 2019 and is illustrious as well.

Football diehards know that Washington & Jefferson played in the 1921 Rose Bowl after finishing the season 10-0-1. The Presidents ran through a tough slate with four wins against schools with winning records and wins over future FCS schools Bucknell and Lehigh and FBS schools Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

At the end of the season, they played 8-0 Detroit with a bid to the Rose Bowl likely at stake. The game was dubbed the “Mini-Rose Bowl.” The Presidents won 14-2 and got the Rose Bowl bid as well where they would play California who was also undefeated at 9-0.

Neither school came out on top as the schools played to a 0-0 tie. What seems like a boring 0-0 tie at the surface may have been one of the most important college football games of all time as Charles West became the first Black Man ever to play quarterback at the Rose Bowl. With less than 500 students at the time, Washington & Jefferson is the smallest school to ever play in the Rose Bowl. A record that is unlikely to be broken.

Another power of old appearing in a Division III bowl game is Catholic University out of Washington D.C., which will play in the New England Bowl Series against Bridgewater State. Catholic has not appeared in a bowl game since 2008, but before that, they appeared in the 1936 Orange Bowl and 1940 Sun Bowl. 

In 1935, Catholic went 7-1 and beat Duquesne and NC State as well as two other schools with winning records to earn a spot in the second Orange Bowl against Ole Miss, who went 9-2. Catholic beat Ole Miss 20-19 as Bill Adamitis became the first of three players to catch and throw a touchdown pass in the Orange Bowl.

In 1939, Catholic went 8-1 only losing to Saint Anselm in Fenway Park, while beating Miami, South Carolina, and Tulsa as well as two other schools with winning records. The Cardinals bowl game was not nearly as high scoring as the Cardinals played 8-1 Arizona State to a scoreless tie in the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Day 1940.

While these Division III bowl games may seem like a minor footnote in a stacked college football weekend, for some it is a rekindling of past days of glory in times way different than now.

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