With the Final Four today, here’s a story on USC’s last trip to the Final Four in 1954 about how big a hit the USC band was at the Final Four at the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium.
Popular Los Angeles radio broadcaster Sam Balter, a former UCLA All-American, broadcast the story on his KLAC program on March 25, 1954:
“I never thought I would be taking time to pay tribute to a band on this program, but the achievements of Tommy Walker and his Trojan band at the NCAA basketball tournament at Kansas City merit some special attention.
“All of those who contributed to the sending of this group to the national championships never spent their money in better fashion, for the Trojan band was the No. 1 color sensation of the tournament.
“The Trojans wound up with the only band at the tourney, constituted a vociferous cheering section as well as a musical group while the SC team was in the running, and then took over for Bradley in the final game.
“While SC and Penn State and LaSalle all had a comparatively tiny group of rooters, the place was more than half filled with Bradley fans from nearby Peoria.
“When Tommy Walker lent his services to this big bunch of rooters and came up with Bradley songs and accompaniment to special Bradley cheers, all of Kansas City could not help but admire the remarkable sportsmanship.
“The SC band was given a special citation by the NCAA at the close of the tourney for its services, and certainly deserved it. They made a lot of friends for the Trojans.
“So did the general behavior of the team and its coach. I got to know some of the boys fairly well, and found them all fine fellows, dedicated to their task.
“When they lost that heartbreaker to Bradley, they took it like sportsmen, however, considering it was a game they might easily have won.
“But all conceded that they might also have easily lost any one of a number of games en route to the championship tournament, and swallowed the bitter pill. Coach (Forrest) Twogood, who often this past season has been a whirling dervish on the sidelines, was during this tourney calm and a model of decorum. SC’s basketball was good, excepting for the first half against Penn State, as good as anybody’s, and while it may seem strange to say of a team which returned without victories, the Trojans showed strongly that West Coast bas ketball is as good as in any sector of the United States.
“I got to know something of the Trojan followers, too, who accompanied the team—friends of Toogie’s, who sat around until the wee small hours rehashing the ball game — Joe Barbado, Clem Miller, Mart Walt, Al Kennedy, Clark Conners, Bob Wood, Bill Flood, and others—and there was no semblance of sour grapes among them in their disappointment.
“Add to all that the wonderful reception of over a 1000 students waiting at the airport in the drizzle to greet the team, and you get a splendid display of spirit from beginning to end.
“Believe me, from top to bottom and all the way, the Trojans were splendid ambassadors of good will. They deserved a better fate.”
USC players receive their plaques for being in the Final Four.