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Iowa Hawkeyes - First Rose Bowl Invite

We are now just a few days away from Iowa's 6th Rose Bowl appearance. As I slowly get over that 22 play drive in Indianapolis a few weeks back (and what could have been) the pain has give way to excitement and anticipation. The time since has given me a chance to appreciate the Rose Bowl Management Committee's decision to invite the Hawkeyes over Ohio State and a chance to refelect on the 2015 season.

With all of the talk during their 12-0 start I often heard them compared to Hawkeye teams of the past. With the invitation to Pasadena came the question, when did Iowa receive their first invite to participate in the Tournament of Roses game?

With a search of Google I was able to quickly review their Rose Bowl history. As I looked through the years I also found that in the early 1920’s Iowa had some great teams but for some reason they were not listed as a Rose Bowl participant. Knowing that the game usually pitted the top team in the West versus the top team in the East I wondered if Iowa had been passed over in favor of more respected teams during those years. Notre Dame, Michigan and even Yale all had outstanding teams in the early 20’s so it was definitely a possibility.

As I dug deeper I was shocked when I found the truth. Iowa had indeed been invited following their undefeated 1921 season but the Big Ten Conference forbade them to go. I could not image what would cause the conference to forbid Iowa to play in the Rose Bowl?

I found that the reason Iowa could not accept the invite was because the conference did not allow their teams to participate in post season games. This didn’t really make sense though; two teams from the Big Ten had previously played in the game. Michigan beat Stanford 49-0 in 1902.. Ohio St was the second. They played in the 1921 game (just the year prior) and lost to Cal by a score of 28-0. Was it possible that the Ohio State drubbing was such an embarrassment to the conference that they didn’t want to risk seeing their top team fall to another team from out West?

No, the answer was that they had changed their policy on post season games following a series of scandals that involved college players getting paid to play in football games. The conference decided that rather than try to track their players at the end of a season that they would just ban them from participating in any games at all.

The California Golden Bears and the Washington and Jefferson Presidents ended up playing in the Rose Bowl that year. The two teams battled to a scoreless tie on January 2nd, 1922.

In the end all wasn't lost for the Hawkeyes. Some historians list Iowa as either co or uncontested national champions that year. The team went on to defeat Yale the following season in the midst of a 20 game win streak that spanned the years of 1920-1923.

* See Newspaper Scan Below...

  • The team went 7-0. They were 5-0 in the conference and the only undefeated team in the Big Ten.

  • Coach Howard Jones was well known, he had played for Yale on 3 national championship teams and coached them to another.

  • QB and Captain Aubrey Devine led the conference in scoring and was named first team All-American.

  • Tackle Fred “Duke” Slater was the key to their offensive and defensive lines and was name first team All-American. He was the first African-American from Iowa to receive that honor.

  • Iowa defeated the Knute Rockne led Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a team who had not lost in their previous 22 games.

  • Iowa was forced to turn down the Rose Bowl invitation as seen in the article below. Can you imagine if that happened to a team today! Image found in The Daily Iowan - December 4th, 1921

    Note - Aubrey Devine and Fred "Duke" Slater listed on the first team All-Western Eleven

    Daily Iowan picture of article on ban