Imagine next season USC president Carol Folt apologizing to a school the Trojans just defeated over the objections of Clay Helton?
These circumstances existed in 1959, when relations between USC and Cal got so bad for a few days, there were newspaper reports the Berkeley school might sever all ties with the Trojans. It started on October 31, when USC defeated Cal, 14-7, at Memorial Stadium.
USC All-American Mike McKeever controversially hit Cal’s Steve Bates and left the halfback with a “broken nose, multiple fractures of the bones that make up the right side of the face. The plate of bone that holds upper teeth was fractured. The right side of the face was distorted, flattened and twisted by the fractured parts that hold the face in contour,” according to a physician at Cowell Memorial Hospital.
Cal charged McKeever intentionally hit Bates late with his elbow.
“‘It was one of the most flagrant violations I have ever seen in football,” Cal coach Pete Elliott said.
USC coach Don Clark said, “A review of the films with university administrators indicates no misconduct on the part of Mike McKeever. He played one of the greatest offensive and defensive games of football that I personally have ever seen.”
“In my mind there’s no doubt that there was no malicious intent to hurt Bates or any Cal player,” McKeever said in a statement. “I have always tried to play hard, aggressive and clean football. It’s unfortunate that this accident happened.”
Cal president Clark Kerr said, “McKeever was ejected the week before from the Stanford game. Films of last year’s University of California game with the University of Southern California show McKeever undertaking the same tactics against Joe Kapp as were used against Steve Bates.”
Cal athletic director Greg Engelhard even flew to Los Angeles four days after the game to show game films to the media in a downtown hotel. The films were showed at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. for maximum exposure.
While tensions rose during the week, USC president Norman Topping issued an apology without consulting Clark.
“(USC) is truly sorry for this most regrettable incident,” Topping said. “This, as well as other incidents in the game, we feel, could have been avoided. To the extent we are responsible, we apologize.”
The apology infuriated Clark, according to a friend, who told me he always thought Topping’s statement played a part in Clark’s resignation after the season.
The day after Topping’s apology, Clark said, “I, personally, don’t feel I must apologize for our team in Berkeley.”
NOTE: The picture above is the 1960 Playboy All-American team. Mike McKeever is No. 68 and his twin brother, Marlin, is No. 86.
- Why didn’t USC include the salary of Lynn Swann on its federal tax returns? A former USC teammate believes Swann’s salary is paid for by a USC donor.
- The USC men’s track team finished fifth at the Pac-12 track championships. That is the men’s team’s worst finish in the conference since it was seventh in 2012. Remember that when people say what an “amazing” job track coach Caryl Smith Gilbert has done.
- Last week I listed as the celebrity speakers USC had at commencement. One I didn’t know about until later was cable-TV host Ali Velshi speaking at the School of Engineering. “We need you more than ever,” Velshi told the engineers.
- USC guard Kevin Porter spoke at the NBA combine Thursday: “A lot of people say I’m one of the most talented in the draft but I have a lot of red flags in my character. I’ve just been working on that and trying to prove that they can trust in me.”
- I.M. Pei, the world-famous architect, died this week at age 102. Did you know he designed Hoffman Hall at USC? Here’s a picture below.