It’s been 33 years since Erik Affholter made one of the biggest catches in USC history and the Crosstown Rivalry.
And one question remains: Did he actually catch the controversial touchdown?
“I felt like I caught the ball but it bounced off (UCLA cornerback) Marcus Turner’s hands, off my shoulder pads and my face mask,” Affholter said.
“I secured it but I didn’t know where I was on the field. I didn’t know where back of the end zone was.”
Affholter’s watched replays of the catch and says he goes back-and-forth trying to decide if he caught the ball.
“Watching it is like an optical illusion,” he said.
Although he was known for The Catch, Affholter has a lot more to say and recently wrote a book, “America’s Miracle: College Football, Where Race, Creed and Color Vanishes and Love Reigns.”
“I just love college football,” Affholter said. “I’d really like to see people get along. I’m not for separation of people by color or religion or country of origin. College football is a moment where that all goes away.”
You can access the book at noon Saturday on the website, CollegeFootballPlayersUnion.com.
The book covers some crazy aspects of his student days. He got thrown out of the freshmen dorm (Flour Tower) for throwing furniture out of his 10th-story window. The window was closed.
He got his own apartment and quickly became involved in the drug world around the campus.
He said it eventually became part of the football program until disciplinarian Larry Smith was hired as USC football coach.
“Drug use really started to affect the team,” Affholter said. “Larry Smith really saved me. We’d have never beat UCLA if he hadn’t been the coach.”
Affholter told me some stories Thursday night that are not in the book:
- Affholter said he used to go to the old 502 club, which was in the old University Village and drink beers with the USC coaching staff. Imagine that happening today with cell-phone cameras?
- When USC went to Tokyo for the Mirage Bowl in 1985, Affholter visited the Hard Rock Cafe and met a Japanese girl. They left the Hard Rock and went back to the team hotel.
“We messed around and then I asked her to leave because my roommate wanted to come into the room,” Affholter said. “About an hour later we get a knock on the door. It was three giant Japanese guys with guns. She was a hooker and they wanted money. I had to go get the money.”
And now for some history:
- Here is my own personal picture of “The Catch.”
It was on the wall of the Los Angeles Daily News office for years. When the Northridge Earthquake struck, it was among many damaged items thrown out so I rescued it. I had to cut off a torn part of the photo that included a recruit on the sideline named Todd Marinovich.
Here are some of the best-known pranks that used to happen between the schools.
- In 1941, six USC students stole the Victory Bell, which was given to UCLA by its alumni assn. in 1939 and part of an actual Southern Pacific Railroad locomotive.
The bell was hidden for the next year at various locations and UCLA students would sometimes raid the USC campus and fraternities to search for the bell. Pranks began to get out of hand and USC president Rufus B. von KleinSmid threatened to cancel the USC-UCLA game if this vandalism did not stop.
When UCLA students made threats to kidnap USC student body president Bob McKay, a cease fire was declared and USC returned the bell on the condition it be awarded to the winner for a year.
- In 1958, UCLA students rented a helicopter and tried to drop 500 pounds of manure on Tommy Trojan. Some say it missed the target. Others say some of the manure blew back towards the people in the helicopter.
- In 1989, USC students released thousands of crickets in UCLA’s Powell Library. As recently as 2016, dead crickets were reportedly still found in older books in the library.
- Last week, I mentioned quarterback Mike Rae played on the 1970 USC freshman basketball team. It turns out there were three football players who started on that team.
Tight end Charle Young, who is in the College Football Hall of Fame and played 13 seasons in the NFL, was a forward. So was defensive end Avery Clark. Tailback Rod McNeil came off the bench.
In their first game, they defeated Cal State Fullerton’s freshman team, 73-54, after leading 47-17 at halftime.