Today in Sports History: January 1st

Doug Flutie's notable dropkick. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

1/01/1902 - The first Rose Bowl

The first postseason football game occurs as the Michigan Wolverines obliterate the Stanford Cardinal in the "Tournament East-West Football Game," or as it would later be called, the "Rose Bowl." The Wolverines, en route to a 56-game winning streak, were leading 49-0 when the Cards forfeited in the third quarter. Michigan outscored their opponents 550-0 that season but wouldn't play in another bowl game for 46 years, as it was against Big Ten regulations. (Incidentally, Michigan beat USC in the 1948 Rose Bowl by an identical 49-0 score.)

Over 8,000 unruly spectators packed into the 1,000-occupant stadium that day. The rowdy fans' misbehavior and the game's lopsided score culminated in the game's departure from the New Year's Day festivities. But in 1916, the game returned, and has been played annually ever since. Fondly known as the "granddaddy of them all," the game follows the Tournament of Roses parade each year; it was the Rose Bowl's success that led to the creation of other college football bowl games, which, like the Rose Bowl, traditionally fall on or around January 1st.

1/01/1929 - Roy Riegels runs the wrong way

In the second quarter of the 1929 Rose Bowl, California center Roy Riegels commits one of the most notorious blunders in college football. After being knocked to the ground, Riegels recovered a fumble from Georgia Tech's Stumpy Thomason at the Tech 30. To the astonishment of the Georgia Tech sideline, Riegels did the unthinkable and started to run in the opposite direction, towards his own end zone.

Radio broadcaster Graham McNamee, stunned at what he was seeing, captured the scene beautifully: "What am I seeing? What's wrong with me? Am I crazy? Am I crazy? Am I crazy?"

Teammates on the sideline yelled for Riegels to stop, but could not be heard over the 70,000 screaming fans. Finally California quarterback Benny Lom, who was also playing defensive back, out-raced Riegels at the three-yard line and tried to turn him around; but they were quickly tackled by a swarm of Tech defenders and were brought down at the one. Riegels had run 69 yards in the wrong direction. California's ensuing punt was blocked and Georgia Tech scored on a safety. Tech eventually won, 8-7, with Roy's mistake being the difference.

''Once I asked him why he didn't hand me the ball,'' Lom recalled years later, ''and Roy said, 'If I would have thought of that, then I wouldn't have run the wrong way in the first place.'"

Riegels was a star athlete and was eventually enshrined into the California Golden Bears' Hall of Fame. Yet from then on he was known strictly for his on-field mistake, which earned him the nickname: "Wrong-Way Riegels." Frank Capra even directed a movie called Flight that featured his blunder as the centerpiece of the plot. A decade after the error, Riegels' wife filed for divorce on the grounds of "moroseness."

Riegels was able to rebound from the infamous play and lived the second half of his life as a pilot and coach. In 1957, he addressed a letter to high school student Jan Bandringa, who had recently committed the same game-losing mistake as him. ''For many years I've had to go along and laugh whenever my wrong-way run was brought up, even though I've grown tired listening and reading about it," Riegels wrote. "But it certainly wasn't the most serious thing in the world. I regretted doing it, even as you do, but you'll get over it.''

1/01/2006 - Flutie converts unique PAT

By the final game of the 2005 season, the New England Patriots had already clinched the AFC East and had relatively nothing to play for. Knowing they could afford to potentially lose a point, coach Bill Belichick had 43 year-old Doug Flutie -- playing in his final NFL game -- take a snap for the extra point in lieu of their regular field goal kicker. The Miami Dolphins were at a loss as the aging backup quarterback received the snap, dropped the ball and kicked it through the uprights -- converting on the first dropkick extra point in modern history.

"We had a couple tryouts out there and Doug shanked a couple, but he hit a couple good ones, so I thought if we had an opportunity to do it here in of these last couple of games, we'd give him a shot," Belichick told the Boston Globe. "I think Doug deserves it. He is a guy that adds a lot to this game of football -- running, passing, and now kicking. I'm happy for him."

Not since the 1941 championship game -- two weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor -- had a player converted on a dropkick point-after try. It was a fitting bookend for Flutie, whose football career had been defined by his miraculous game-winning touchdown in a 1984 college football game. It wasn't until his very last game that he accomplished anything as historically relevant.

 (Bob Knight receives a trophy from Big 12 associate commissioner John Underwood. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

1/01/2007 - Knight passes Dean Smith

With career win No. 880, Bob Knight surpasses Dean Smith as the winningest coach in the history of Division I NCAA basketball. Knight, who had been coaching the Texas Tech Red Raiders since 2001, received a standing ovation from the hometown fans at United Spirit Arena after the game, and was visibly moved by the reception he received as Frank Sinatra's My Way played over the loudspeaker.

"Regrets?" Knight asked himself in the postgame news conference. "Sure. Just like the song, I have regrets. I wish I could have not necessarily done things different, I wish I could have done things better at times. I wish I would have had a better answer, a better way at times. Just like he (Sinatra) said, I did it my way. When I look back on it, I don't think my way was all that bad."

Knight's first 102 victories came at Army, where he coached for six years and attained the nickname, "The General." He spent the next three decades at Indiana, where he racked up 662 wins, three national championships, and enough contentious incidents that he was given a "zero tolerance" policy that eventually led to his termination.

"He's a complex package," The USA Today noted the morning after he broke the record, "someone who can hit a policeman, throw a chair across the court or be accused of wrapping his hands around a player's neck, yet never gets in trouble for breaking NCAA rules, always has high a graduation rate and gave his salary back a few years ago because he didn't think he'd earned it."

Knight would accumulate only 22 more wins. In 2008, he unexpectedly resigned in the middle of the season and handed the job over to his son, Pat, who had been working with the team as an assistant coach. The elder Knight went on to work with ESPN as a college basketball analyst and never coached again.

 (University of Phoenix Stadium prior to the showdown between Boise State and Oklahoma. Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)

1/01/2007 - Boise beats Oklahoma in Fiesta Bowl

When the Boise State Broncos defeated the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, it was a surprise. But as shocking as it was for the underdog Broncos to win, it was the magnificent fashion in which they won -- which included a trifecta of trick plays during the most critical part of the contest -- that had people in disbelief.

To read more about this story, click here for an in-depth Inhistoric article:

Also on this day:

1982: No. 1 Clemson defeats No. 4 Nebraska, 22-15, at the Orange Bowl, securing them their first national championship. The "Epic in Miami" takes place one day later at the same venue. [See: The Epic in Miami]

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