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Cal State Los Angeles Football, 1964 National Champions (Part III)
Part I of this story described Cal State Los Angeles and the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) in 1964. It also covered CSLA's first three games of the 1964 season, while Part II covered the next five. We recommend reading Parts I and II before reading Part III
Slippery Rock (11/28)
Slippery Rock State College of Pennsylvania began playing football in 1898, or 53 years before CSLA. The trip to LA for the game in Rose Bowl Stadium marked the first time Slippery Rock's football team had crossed the Mississippi. Similarly, the Diablos had never crossed the Rockies. However, they had played in Hawaii and been the visiting team five times in Mexico City for games with the University of Mexico and Mexico Poly.
Slippery Rock's name had long made it the butt of playful jokes. For instance, in 1959, the announcer at Michigan Stadium began mixing in the Slippery Rocky scores when reporting Big Ten and other results and continues doing so today. Under that spirit, many surf-loving Southern Californians picked up on the idea by adopting the Slippery Rock team during Thanksgiving week, with team members invited to share turkey dinner with families in the LA area.
A Friday night game followed the Turkey Day celebration before 16,000 fans, which included a segment of Angelenos cheering for their adopted Slippery Rock Rockets. Although CSLA scored quickly on their first possession, Slippery Rock immediately responded with a touchdown drive. After that, the Slip hit the fan, or a buzzsaw anyway, as Dunn Marteen ran for two touchdowns, passed for two more, and kicked eight extra points on the night. The Diablos scored six first-half touchdowns before pulling their starters. On the night, they outrushed Slippery Rock 457 to 73 yards and extended their 41-6 halftime lead to a 62-6 advantage by the end of the game.
Early the next week, the UPI officially named CSLA the national champions based on its coaches poll conducted at the end of the regular season. (They did not wait for bowl game results in those days.)
The Camellia Bowl
CSLA ended the season as the top-ranked California team and earned the right to play in the Camellia Bowl on December 12. From 1961 through 1963, the Camellia Bowl was the NAIA Championship game, but it switched in 1964 to become one of the NCAA's four regional bowls at the College Division level. Each bowl was a one-and-done affair rather than the first game of a playoff system.
For decades, NCAA eligibility rules such as freshman ineligibility applied only for sanctioned NCAA events. Schools and conferences could ignore the rules during the regular season if prospective opponents accepted those decisions. In early 1964, the NCAA tightened its eligibility rules for junior college transfer such that those who started their careers at a four-year school and transferred to a junior college had to sit out a year when they moved to a second junior college unless they completed:
24 hours of credits at their second four-year school or
36 hours of credits and graduated from their junior college.
Since the Camellia Bowl had become an NCAA-sanctioned event, junior college transfers that fell outside the stricter criteria were not eligible to play in the bowl game. The rule affected 9 CSLA players, 16 at San Diego State and 10 at Long Beach State 10, so each school declined to participate in the Camellia Bowl. Instead, Sacramento State, which won the Far West Conference, accepted the invitation to play Big Sky champ Montana State.
CSLA’s national championship season ended with their win over Slippery Rock.
Homer Beaty remained at CSLA through the 1965 season when the Diablos lost their opening game to Bowling Green and then won out to take a third straight CCAA title. The 1965 CSLA team played Sacramento State in the 1965 Camellia Bowl, winning 18-10.
Beatty resigned before the 1966 season and coached the Orange County Ramblers of the Continental Football League in 1967 and 1968, going 10-3 and 11-2 while losing the 1968 championship game. That ended his run as a head coach, though he later became CSLA's athletic director and defensive coordinator.
After playing at USC and in the AAFC, Beatty positively influenced many athletes during his coaching career. One high schooler who played for him was Frank Gifford. Gifford was a wayward youth before Beatty straightened him out, leading Gifford to claim that Beatty was responsible for everything Gifford accomplished athletically. Given Beatty's record, others could likely make the same claim.
The Drafted Players
After the 1964 season, Walter Johnson had a year of remaining eligibility but went to Cleveland in the second round of the 1965 NFL Draft as a future pick. He signed a few days later, became a three-time Pro Bowler with Cleveland, and enjoyed a 13-year NFL career. Johnson was exceedingly strong, and the story goes that Jim Brown once became upset and, while lecturing his teammates, challenged them, saying he could kick everyone on the team's ass. After pausing, he looked at Johnson and said, "Except maybe for you, Walter."
Howard Kindig went to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 13th round but signed with the AFL's San Diego Chargers. He switched from end to center and enjoyed ten seasons in the AFL, NFL, and WFL. Planning to retire after four seasons, Don Shula convinced him otherwise, resulting in Kindig being the long snapper for Miami's 1972 undefeated Super Bowl championship team.
The Chicago Bears took fullback Art Robinson in the 15th round of the 1965 draft. He signed in January and remained with the team until late in camp. Rather than give Robinson a spot on the taxi squad, they gave it to undrafted rookie Brian Piccolo.
The New York Giants drafted defensive tackle Don Davis in the second round of the 1966 NFL draft, while the Chargers chose him in the first round. He signed with the Giants, reported 60 pounds overweight, and still managed to start 12 games. He reported 60 pounds lighter in 1967 but missed the season due to injury and was cut during the 1968 training camp.
Defensive back George Youngblood went to the Los Angeles Rams in the seventh round, playing four seasons in the NFL.
The Packers took Jim Weatherwax in the eleventh round of the 1966 draft. Weatherwax, who played high school basketball under Jerry Tarkanian, spent the 1966 and 1967 seasons with the Super Bowl-winning Packers, injured his knee, and did not play in 1968 before returning for his final season in 1969. Some sources indicate that Weatherwax made the tackle on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl I - the first tackle in Super Bowl history. However, Kansas City kicked off to start the game, so the story is problematic.
Tackle Terry Parks went to the Los Angeles Rams in the 14th round of the 1966 draft. He made it to the last cut and was reportedly signed to the team's taxi squad but never played in an NFL game.
Like all their competitors during the 1964 season, CSLA faced ongoing decisions on pursuing athletics at a higher level, standing still, or reducing their commitment. CSLA initially chose to stand still and then dropped to the DII level before eliminating the program altogether in 1977.
Hawaii, San Diego State, and Fresno State chose the more aggressive path and now play FBS football. Slippery Rock stood still and competes at the DII level today. Cal Poly - Pomona football lasted through 1982, Long Beach State dropped the game following the 1991 season, Pacific made it until 1995, and San Fernando State's finale came in 2001.
Cal State LA or any of their 1964 opponents might have chosen a different athletic path, but they didn't. Whatever one might think about the choices made by particular schools, California’s massive public university system now has schools that pursue football at the highest competitive level, others that do so at lower levels, and some not at all. The result is a mix of approaches unlike that of any other state. It will be interesting to watch how that might evolve as football’s landscape continues to change.
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