First Rose Bowl, 1902 Michigan Beats Stanford by “Too Much”
Trailing 49-0, Stanford Captain Asks for Game to Be Halted with 8 Minutes Remaining
Michigan Completes Season Undefeated, Untied, and Un-Scored-Upon
Rose Parade Organizers Won’t Stage Another Football Game Until 1916
“In New York, people are buried in snow,” announced Professor Charles F. Holder at a Club meeting. “Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”
In the beginning it was all about the parade and the flowers. Then came the marching bands and the floats. At Tournament Park there were Polo matches, bronco busting demonstrations, tugs-of-war, foot races, greased-pig catching, even a race featuring and elephant and a camel. (won by the elephant)
In 1901 the festival organizers decided to include a football game as part of the “entertainment package”. Billing it as “The Tournament of Roses East-West Game”
They invited the Michigan Wolverines to play Stanford, Champion of the Pacific Coast Universities. A crowd of 8,000 showed up for the game even though Tournament Park was a facility that was really intended to hold about 2,500 people. Most football historians consider this to be the first Rose Bowl game.
Stanford had a 3-1-2 record and was hopelessly over matched by Michigan who was unbeaten in ten games, having outscored opponents by 501-0.None the less, Stanford put up a good fight. The game was scoreless until late in the first half when Michigan scored on a 21-yard run. At half the score was 17-0. The Wolverines piled it on in the second half. With eight minutes remaining, Stanford Captain Ralph Fisher walked over to the Michigan bench and asked if they could call it a day, and the Wolverines obliged.
Despite having made a profit of more than $3,000 on the game, the organizers decided that they had scratched the football itch. They went with a polo match in 1903, and between 1904 and 1915 they offered Ben Hur Style, Roman Chariot Races.