99 for 99 - #2 - The 1958 UB Bulls

ubathletics.buffalo.edu

1958 - The Bulls finish 8-1, win the Lambert Cup, and decline a bid to the 1958 Tangerine Bowl

Sweet yet bitter the Tangerine

A fruit yet out of reach

We wonder if they segregate them

from the plums of Miami Beach.

By Jill Rubinstein - UB Spectrum - 12-5-1958

The 1958 team has 3 legacies: The initial legacy after the 1958 season, their legacy reflected in 2008 and their place in UB history. The 1958 season was seen as the unquestioned best in UB history. The season ended in a bowl bid, but UB declined, choosing not to play, because the Tangerine Bowl would not allow an integrated team to play in their game.

The second moment in UB history will explore the 1958 UB Bulls: The Best UB Team of All Time, The Over-Blown Racial Narrative and The Legacy Reborn.

The Best UB Team of All Time


September 27, 1958 - Buffalo 6, Harvard 3

1,000 UB fans, the marching band, the majorettes, the cheerleaders and Buster, the live Bull Mascot in his second season of duty, all descended upon Cambridge, Massachusetts for the long awaited start to the 1958 football season.

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When the football team arrived at Logan Airport, they were greeted by the cheerleaders. At the hotel, they were serenaded by the band. The atmosphere was bowl like. Harvard outplayed the Bulls, scoring a field goal on their first drive. UB never crossed the 50 in the first half, however UB's defense kept Harvard off the board as well.

In the second half, Harvard fumbled on their own 41 and UB drove 30 yards before Gordon Bukaty fumbled. UB seemed to lose their best chance at scoring, however football is a magical game sometimes. Harvard couldn't advance the ball, and was forced to punt from their own endzone. Joe O'Grady broke through the line and blocked the punt and Nick Bottini returned it 3-yards for the games only touchdown.

With their final push, Harvard faced fourth down from the 11. Rather than tie the game with a 28-yard field goal, Harvard attempted a screen pass, UB made the tackle on the five, sealing the victory. The band and the UB fans in the stands stormed the field and celebrated with the team. As the Bulls returned to Buffalo, they were greeted by four busloads of students. It was one game, but it felt like UB had just won a bowl game.

October 4, 1958 - Buffalo 7, Cortland 6

In 1957 the Bulls followed a big victory with a disappointing loss to Cortland. In the 1958 game, the teams ended the first half scoreless despite to close calls. The first was Cortland's 80-yard punt return touchdown called back by a clipping penalty. The second was UB moving the ball to the 1-yard line as time ran out on the half.

In the second half, Cortland took the lead but missed the conversion. UB controlled the game, but it looked as if Cortland would steal a win. UB saw two promising drives ended on turnovers. Finally, Dick Van Valkenburg was able to convert on a 14-yard touchdown run and Bill Brogan's extra point gave Buffalo the 7-6 victory.

October 11, 1958 - Buffalo 19, Western Reserve 6

Gordon Bukaty threw a 25-yard touchdown to Carley Keats at the end of the first half to give Buffalo the lead for good, 7-6. Bukaty threw two more TD passes in the 2nd half, both to Willie Evans to give Buffalo their first comfortable win of the season, 19-6. The win was the fourth consecutive Bulls victory and the seventh straight on the road.

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October 18, 1958 - Buffalo 0, Baldwin-Wallace 26

Lee Tressel's first season spoiled UB's best season. If it wasn't for the war, Tressel might have been a Buckeye and UB might've had an undefeated season. Tressel was recruited by Paul Brown to play for Ohio State, but he left to play for his hometown team Baldwin-Wallace when BW started a team after the war. Tressel returned to coach BW for 22 years starting in 1958.

Baldwin-Wallace dominated the homecoming game at Rotary field, and the BW newspaper blamed the Spectrum for the defeat.

The first line of the Buffalo school paper issued last Friday afternoon read "Where is Baldwin-Wallace"*

Manager John Reimenschneider heard a [Buffalo] fan say this, turned around and said "I'll tell you after the game."

[Buffalo players] were still cocky when the game started. Many players on the Buffalo squad wanted to know where our varsity was when B-W ran onto the field.

By Rich Pallani - The Baldwin Wallace Exponent - 10-31-1958

BW started the scoring with a safety, which proved to provide the insurmountable 2-0 lead. Baldwin's Chuck Brady completed a record 12 for 20 passes for 228 yards and 2 touchdowns. BW gained 431 yards to Buffalo'2 169. Bob Finowski** lead BW on the ground, gaining 71 yards on 12 carries and scoring a touchdown. Bob Barrett grabbed 10 receptions including both touchdown receptions. The Bulls faced humiliation in front of the biggest crowd Rotary field had seen to date, 10,000 fans.

*When you don't get bulletin board material you fabricate it. The Spectrum article actual said "Who is Baldwin-Wallace?" The article was far from an attack on the school, the headline read "B-W A Threat to Unbeaten Bulls." The second line of the article read: "After the UB scouts viewed the Yellow Jackets of Berea, O, they could only nod in awe. The Jackets could run, pass, kick and do anything a real good football eleven can, and at time even more. Give credit to Coach Tressel for warping the praise into motivation for his boys, it obviously worked.

**B-W later forfeited the Buffalo game as Bob Finowski was an ineligible player. Finowski spent 10 days as a member of the Iowa Hawkeyes before moving to Baldwin-Wallace, as such he was subject to 1-year off of football as a transfer. In his four illegal games, he scored 44 points. In 1960, Finowski was signed by the AFL's Buffalo Bills.

October 25, 1958 - Buffalo 34, Columbia 14

Coach Offenhamer joined a group that included Ben Martin, Bobby Dobbs, Forest Evashevski and Darrell K Royal. Those were the five coaches of the week in 1958. Offenhamer earned the honor after UB rebounded to defeat the Columbia Lions at Rotary Field. UB also jumped into third place in Lambert Cup Standings with the win.

A new largest crowd in Rotary history, 13,074 saw UB drop 6-point favorite Columbia by 20. Buffalo started the scoring with a 33-yard touchdown run by Bukaty. After a George Maue kick return gave Buffalo the ball on the 17, UB found themselves in a 4th and goal from the 19. They tricked the Columbia defense with a reverse that let Ken Born walk into the end zone untouched. UB led 20-6 at the half.

Up 20-14 in the second half, Jim Allegretto stepped in at QB as Bukaty was ejected for fighting. UB's offense continued to click. Paul Szymendera and Tom MacDougall scored and the defense held Columbia at bay as UB was able to win in convincing fashion, 34-14.

True Sportsmanship

The Athletic Department must be commended for the way it handled the case of the ineligible player on Baldwin-Wallace, Bob Finowski.

B-W forfeited its three wins which were gained with the help of Finowski who was a transfer student and did not sit out the required year before playing for B-W.

Athletic Director Jim Peelle and Head Football Coach Dick Offenhamer did not accept the victory because we were beaten 26-0 on the field.

The Athletic Department gained more by taking the above stand than they would have if they had taken the victory. The student body is proud of this stand which is a great credit to UB.

The Spectrum - Editorials - 10-31-1958

November 1, 1958 - Buffalo 54, Temple 6

UB hosted a winless Temple Owl squad hoping to avoid another let down. After going up 14-6 at the half on runs by George Maue and Ken Horn, the Bulls blew the game open in the third, scoring 26 points. in the third to blow the left ht on the road. Bill Brogan scored twice, Ken Born scored his second of the game and Gordon Bukaty scored to put UB up 40-6. Jimmy Keats and Joe Oliverio closed out the scoring, in a game where Buffalo out gained Temple 411-107, and did not punt once. With the impressive win, UB moved over Lafayette to first place in Lambert Cup standings.

November 8, 1958 - Buffalo 44, Wayne State 14

For the first time in UB history, UB scored 30+ in 3 straight games as they easily dispatched of Wayne State. Only three other teams have been able to score 30+ in 3 straight in 1981, 1998 and 2008. The 1958 Bulls would break 30 points for a UB record five consecutive games, and they scored 20+ in 10 consecutive games stretching into 1959, a record that stood 50 years before the 08-09 Bulls scored 20+ in 14 consecutive games.

Consecutive 20+ Point Scored, UB History
# YEAR OPPONENTS STREAK POINTS Pts/Game Coach
1 2008-09 Temple, Missouri, CMU, WMU, Army, Ohio, Miami (Oh), Akron, BGSU, Kent, Ball St, Uconn, UTEP, Pitt 14 Games 416 30 Gill
2 1958-59 Columbia, Temple, Wayne St, Lehigh, Bucknell, Temple, Cortland, Bucknell, Baldwin-Wallace, Western Reserve 10 Games 349 35 Offenhamer
3 1986 Cortland, Buff St, Rochester, Nova, Canisius, Ithaca, Brockport 7 Games 190 27 Dando
4 2009 Gardner-Webb, Akron, WMU, BGSU, Ohio, Miami (OH) 6 games 187 31 Gill
5 1946-47 Wayne State, Bethany, Alfred, Carnegie Tech, Johns Hopkins, Niagara 6 games 163 27 Peele
6 1965-66 Delaware, Colgate, Nova, Kent, Cornell, Nova 6 games 146 24 Offenhamer/Urich
7 1992 New Haven, Lafayette, Mansfield, Morgan St, Colgate 5 games 180 36 Ward
8 1980-81 Alfred, Cortland, Grove City, Hobart, Wayne St 5 games 175 35 Dando
9 1960 Youngstown St, Western Reserve, Colgate, Uconn, Gettysburg 5 games 164 33 Offenhamer
10 1998 Umass, Cornell, Morgan St, Canisius, Liberty 5 games 164 33 Cirbus
11 1996-97 New Haven, Maine, Lock Haven, Illinois St, Delaware St 5 games 157 31 Cirbus
12 1982-83 Albany, Alfred, Cortland, Baldwin-Wallace, Rochester 5 games 148 30 Dando
13 1967 Boston College, Holy Cross, Delaware, Nova, Colgate 5 games 143 29 Urich
14 2011-12 Akron, BGSU, Georgia, Morgan St 4 games 158 40 Quinn
15 1992-93 Hofstra, C. Conn. St., UCF, Maine 4 games 134 34 Ward
16 1990 Canisius, Ithaca, Brockport, Mercyhurst 4 games 129 32 Sanders
17 1991 Brockport, Duquesne, S. Conn. St., E. Stroudsburg 4 games 125 31 Sanders
18 2012 Toledo, Miami (OH), WMU, Umass 4 games 105 26 Quinn

Gordon Bukaty only played 30 minutes, but he made the most of his time, running for two touchdowns and passing for three more. Szymendera also ran for a touchdown and Bottini and Born collected Bukaty passes for scores. The most admirable opponent the Bulls faced that day were the refs, who penalized Buffalo for 149 yards and called back two touchdowns.

November 15, 1958 - Buffalo 34, Lehigh 26

UB traveled to Bethlehem looking to get an Engineer off their back, both in UB history, and Lambert Cup standings. UB was 0-4-1 in their last 5 games against Lehigh, and Lehigh was the only team other than UB to receive a first place vote in the previous week's Lambert Cup rating.

UB played their finest game of the season according to Coach Offenahmer. Willie Evans broke the game open late in the first quarter with a 59-yard run, and two plays later, a 2-yard TD run. In the beginning of the second quarter, Sam Sanders sprung Evans for a 72-yard touchdown run and a 14-0 UB lead. After converting on fourth down, Paul Szymendera scored to put the Bulls up three touchdowns and Nick Bottini scored on a 34-yard reception to put the Bulls up 28-0 at the half. In the second half, Bukaty found Bottini again, this time from 27-yards out and as the third quarter ended, UB prepared to enjoy another easy victory...

With 15 seconds left, Lehigh finlly found the end zone, then in the fourth, Lehigh rattled off three more scores to bring the Engineers within one possession 34-26. Lehigh had the ball, and 150 seconds to score the tying points, but their furious comeback ended when George Maue intercepted a Lehigh pass. UB dominated, then escaped Lehigh, for their ninth consecutive road win which broke the UB record, and still stands today.

Consecutive Road Wins, 4 or more, UB History
# YEAR OPPONENTS STREAK Coach
1 1957-59 Carnegie Tech, St. Lawrence, Alfred, Temple, Harvard, Cortland, Western Reserve, Wayne St, Lehigh, Temple 10 Offenhamer
2 1942-47 Johns Hopkins, Rensselaer, Rensselaer, Hobart, Bethany, Carnegie Tech, Moravian, Alfred 8 Peele
3 1962-63 Temple, Bucknell, Gettysburg, Ohio, Holy Cross (tie), Nova 6 Offenhamer
4 1986 Cortland, Nova, Canisius, Alfred, Albany 5 Dando
5 2008-09 Ohio, Akron, BGSU, UTEP 4 Gill
6 1949-50 Alfred, Rhode Island, Ohio, Cortland 4 Clair/Wilson

November 22, 1958 - Buffalo 38, Bucknell 0

Buffalo easily dispatched of Bucknell to close out the season and clinch the Lambert Cup.

December 14, 1958 - President Furnas, Dick Offenhamer, Jim Peele, Nick Bottini and Lou Reale receive the Lambert Cup on the Ed Sullivan show.

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December 27, 1958 - Tangerine Bowl - East Texas State 26, Missouri Valley 7

UB accepts bid to the 1958 Tangerine Bowl, however the owners of the field, the Orlando High School Athletic Association will not allow UB's two black players to make the trip. As a result, UB as a team denied the bowl bid, opening the door for Missouri Valley.

1958 was the best season in UB history: 8-1 record, the long road winning streak, the scoring streak, wins over big city Ivy League opponents and after close victories to start the season, UB grew into a dominant force blowing teams off the field. Sadly more attention goes to the declined bowl bid than the play on the field.

The Overblown Racial Narrative

Although the best season in UB history, the 1958 team was not the best moment in UB history. This is mainly a result of the focus of the story, the Tangerine Bowl, the story about unity over bigotry. This theme is overblown in my mind for two reasons: 1) This situation at that time wasn't unique, and UB was not the first nor the last to take such a stand. 2) Racial disharmony lead to the real tragedy, the cancellation of the UB Football program in 1970 and a halt to all the momentum built up by the 1958 team.

As weather became a major factor to determine the success of a bowl game, the major games with the exception of the Rose Bowl, were all in the south. As a result, integrated teams that played in these bowl games had to play without their African American teammates, their house, their rules. Absurdly, southern teams also imposed their will when they played in the north, they would not agree to play unless northern teams agreed to bench their black players. In the 40's, 50's and 60's, SEC pride meant declining to play for NCAA Championships, if it meant they would have to play against integrated teams. The importance of the SEC and the southern way of life took precedent.

The Rose Bowl's first black player was Fritz Pollard of Brown in 1916, the second ever Rose Bowl. In the late 1930's four new major New Year's Day bowl games were established, the Orange Bowl in Florida, the Sugar Bowl in Louisiana and the Cotton and Sun Bowls in Texas.

In 1939, Boston College set a bad precedent for Northern Schools, benching starting halfback Lou Montgomery for home games against Auburn and Florida. In 1940, BC took on Clemson in the Cotton Bowl, and they willingly left Montgomery at home for the honor. In 1941, they again sacrificed Montgomery for the privilege of playing in the 1941 Sugar Bowl.

Change started after the war, in April 1947, Jackie Robinson integrated baseball and later that year Virginia hosted an integrated Harvard team, a first in the south. The 1947 bowl season saw an integrated Penn State squad (featuring black fullback Wallace Triplett and end Dennis Hoggard) play SMU in the 1948 Cotton Bowl. Penn State was a staunch supporter of democracy in sports, they declined an invitation to send the PSU boxing team to a boxing tournament in the south because black boxers were not allowed to participate. Penn State had no black boxers that year, so the move was purely on principle.

The Cotton Bowl was not motivated by principle as much as money. SMU was #3, Penn State #4, as a result of the milestone game, they received over 100,000 ticket requests for their 47,000 seat stadium. The demand for the game helped Cotton Bowl officials post a bond issue to increase stadium capacity to 67,000 seats. The following year, the 1949 Cotton Bowl again welcomed an integrated Oregon team to take on SMU, again finding commercial success, selling 70,000 tickets to the contest.

Across state in El Paso, the Sun Bowl leaders were not as progressive or opportunistic. Texas Tech declined their bid for the Sun Bowl due to segregation so College of Mines (UTEP) was selected in their place. Lafayette college of Pennsylvania was chosen as their opponent, but they had one black player, halfback and war veteran Dave Showell. Showell encouraged his teammates to go without him and the team agreed to do so, however the faculty declined the bid for a number of reasons. The president of Lafayette found a simple and easy scapegoat, the race issue, to explain why Lafayette had declined their first bowl bid since 1923. West Virginia stepped in to play the game, but the incident embarrassed the city and the bowl.

Part of the problem was the racial ban was enacted by the University of Texas Board of Regents, which meant even if the ban wasn't supported by El Paso residents, they couldn't change it, and it reflected solely on the city and their residents. After further embarrassments and game cancellations, the Board in 1950 agreed to allow integrated contests at UTEP's football field only. A year later the 1952 Sun Bowl was integrated with Eddie Macon of Pacific becoming the first black player in the bowl.

The last major bowl to integrate was the Sugar Bowl in 1956, where Bobby Grier of Pittsburgh became the first black athlete to play in the deep south. The only motivation for integration was financial, the Sugar Bowl became the worst of the major bowls, because they would take inferior games for the sake of maintaining the southern way of life. Georgia's governor tried to get Georgia Tech to pull out of the Sugar Bowl, rather than play an integrated squad. Tech played however, and won when a questionable pass interference call was called against Bobby Grier late in the game, setting Georgia Tech up for the games only touchdown and the victory.

The backlash was strong, and a law was passed in Louisiana banning integrated sports contests in 1957, a ban that lasted for 7 years. A similar situation occurred at the Orange Bowl. Miami was becoming more progressive as northerners moved to Miami, this presented a clear threat to the southern way of life. Football became the symbol of this battle. The University of Miami was granted the ability to host integrated games in Miami in 1950, and following the economic motives of the Cotton Bowl, the Orange Bowl pushed for integration as well. When the Bowl signed a deal to guarantee the game to the winner of the Big VII, it became inevitable that the Orange Bowl would see a black player. In 1955, Nebraska became the first integrated team to play in the Orange Bowl. The backlash again, was strong, the rest of the State of Florida remained emphatically against integration. As a result, the Tangerine Bowl was a white's only game well into the 60's.

Buffalo was not the first team to miss out on the Tangerine Bowl. In 1955, 9-0 Hillsdale College of Michigan refused to play in the game due to their refusal to leave behind the team's black players.

What Buffalo did was noble, and it gained the respect of the University community and the Buffalo community. The student body president of Niagara wrote into the Spectrum to congratulate the Bulls and applaud their stand for inclusiveness. In 1958, the big 3 that Buffalo wanted to be included in a decade earlier: Canisius, St. Bonaventure and Niagara, had all ended their football programs. The Bills of the AFL were still 2 years away, and the Bulls were winning. The city was there for the taking.

A dozen years later the football Bulls would be disbanded. Ironically, the city that threw stones at southern discrimination, found their own glass house tumbling down, the race riots, the sit-ins, the unequal treatment of black athletes and the campus riots destroyed the real legacy of the 1958 team, a legacy that prepared UB to develop into one of the finest football programs in the east.

The Legacy, Reborn

A year after 1958, the talk was about how many more trophies would line the halls of UB's football offices. Fifty years after 1958, the trophy cases were bare. The big wins were few, the wins in general were few, the fans, jaded. Long gone were the days of Buster the Bull, fraternities traveling to road trips and Bowl Game atmospheres for road openers. Speaking of Bowl Games, UB never received another bid.

Rotary field sits where it always had a strange flat grassy plain, with no explanation. The students playing soccer on the grass probably ignorant to the fact that they are playing on hallowed ground, on the grass where Evans and Bukaty beat the Columbia Lions in front of 13,000 fans.

Campus life is 3 miles away now, on North Campus. A commuter paradise concrete jungle campus surrounded by highways in the Buffalo suburbs. The athletic complex leaves no trace of the legacy of 1958. The Stadium is not named after Peele, or Offenhamer, it is simply UB Stadium. There are no banners hanging honoring the heroes of the past outside the stadium, just the logos of Buffalo's MAC opponents. There is no way to guess that Buffalo faced and beat the likes of Syracuse, Penn State, Louisville and Harvard.

On campus the only indication of the era is Furnas Hall, an engineering building. While Furnas was a brilliant engineer, he was also the grandfather of big time UB sports. His legacy is purely academic in 2008.

Inside UB Stadium, one banner is hung, "UB Bulls 2007 MAC East Champions." At 4-2 in the division, Buffalo had in fact earned a share of the MAC East Championship, however with losses to both of the other two co-champions, Buffalo had no real claim to the championship. I can't picture the '58 team, the team that wouldn't accept the forfeited victory over Baldwin-Wallace claiming a 2007 division championship. Alas, the dubious banner was hung, but the earned banner: "1958 Lambert Cup Champions" is no where to be found.

October 18, 2008 - Buffalo 27, Army 24 (OT) - 50 Year Anniversary of 1958 Team

At the homecoming game in 2008, the 1958 team, was there, they performed the coin toss to celebrate the golden anniversary of the greatest UB team of all time. The 2008 team was nothing like the 1958 team: the team was 2-4 and fading fast, down 24-10. The 1958 team could not relate to the culture of losing that had been built over 4 decades of UB football, but they could understand losing at homecoming, the site of the only loss of the 1958 season.

UB came back within 7, and moved 68 yards in 7 minutes but faced a 4th and 1 from the 16. Brandon Thermilus ran but was stopped for no gain. Army just had to run out the final 5 minutes of the game to win, but on their first play Justin Winters knocked the ball loose and Kendric Hawkins recovered. Buffalo tied the game, and won in overtime. They would win five straight and an outright MAC division title, and a bowl bid.

The 1958 teams legacy was reborn, a shining example of belief that became the mantra of the team 50 years later. The 1958 players supported each other and their University during a bowl game vote in 1958, and for 50 years afterwards, and although the wait was long, they finally were able to go to their bowl game.

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