1940 Rose Bowl
26th Rose Bowl Game
1234 Total
USC 0707 14
Tennessee 0000 0
DateJanuary 1, 1940
StadiumRose Bowl
LocationPasadena, California
MVPAmbrose Schindler
FavoriteEven [1][2][3]
National anthemSpirit of Troy
RefereeLouis Conlan (Pacific Coast;
split crew: Pacific Coast, SEC)
Halftime showSpirit of Troy
Rose Bowl
 < 1939  1941

The 1940 Rose Bowl was the 26th edition of the college football bowl game, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Monday, January 1.

In a matchup of undefeated teams, the third-ranked USC Trojans of the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) shut out the #2 Tennessee Volunteers of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), 14–0.[4][5][6][7] USC quarterback Ambrose Schindler was named the Player of the Game when the award was created in 1953 and selections were made retroactively.[8]


Main article: 1939 college football season

The Rose Bowl committee had both USC and Tennessee on their list and it was likely that USC and Tennessee would play each other.[9][10] The Volunteers were offered a berth in the Sugar Bowl on November 25;[11] they were also in the mix for the Cotton Bowl, which would have pitted them against the #1 Texas A&M Aggies.[12] But the Rose Bowl committee did not extend official invitations until December 10, 1939.[13]


Main article: 1939 Tennessee Volunteers football team

In the regular season, Tennessee shut out all ten opponents. Led by two All-American guards, Ed Molinski and Bob Suffridge, the Volunteers were forced to play without their star tailback George Cafego, who fell victim to a knee injury against The Citadel on November 11.[14] After a 7–0 win over Auburn on December 9, Tennessee officially was extended an invitation to the Rose Bowl.[15]


Main article: 1939 USC Trojans football team

The Trojans opened the season against Oregon, tying the Ducks 7–7, then scored three straight shutouts, becoming ranked #8 following the second, a 26–0 win over Illinois. A November 4 game featured #7 USC defeating #11 Oregon State 19–7. At Notre Dame on November 25, #4 USC defeated the #7 Irish 20–12. A win over Washington by scoring in the last 1:15 set up the very first epic UCLA–USC rivalry matchup.

Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Jackie Robinson, and Ray Bartlett starred on the Bruins, in which African Americans made up three of the four backfield players.[16] This was a rarity to have so many African Americans when only a few dozen at all played on college football teams.[17] The ninth-ranked Bruins also were also undefeated, with three ties. This was the first UCLA–USC rivalry football game with national implications, as it was the first with the Rose Bowl on the line for both.

The attendance of 103,303 was the second largest college football crowd ever in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. UCLA attempted a pass on fourth down, instead of kicking a field goal. Bobby Robertson of USC knocked down Ned Matthews’ four-yard pass in the end zone with less than five minutes to play to preserve the scoreless tie. The Pacific Coast Conference voted to have USC, with a 7–0–2 record play in the Rose Bowl instead of UCLA with a 6–0–4 record.[18][13] Art Cohn, sports editor of the Oakland Tribune implied that race may have been a factor in the decision, since teams from the south refused to play against African Americans.[19] After the regular season, the Trojans were named national champions.[20]

Game summary

Trojan backs Granny Lansdell and Ambrose Schindler rushed for 51 and 81 yards respectively, for a team total of 229 yards rushing. Schindler scored one touchdown and passed to Al Krueger — the hero from the previous year — for the other. Head coach Howard Jones earned his second straight Rose Bowl victory, and his fifth in as many appearances.


First quarter

No scoring

Second quarter

Third quarter

No scoring

Fourth quarter


USC head coach Jones died less than two years later, in the summer of 1941. Joe Shell, the captain of the Trojans who became an oil company owner and a state assemblyman, died on April 8, 2008.[21]

USC bases its 1939 national championship claim on winning the Dickinson System, a formula devised by a University of Illinois professor which awarded the only championship trophy between 1926 and 1940. In 1939, Dickinson was the only poll or system to rank the Trojans number one.[20] USC's stance, however, is in keeping with that of most other schools which won the Dickinson title; only Notre Dame, which won the Dickinson crown in 1938, does not claim a major national title for that year. Since at least 1969, USC had not listed 1939 as a national championship year; but in 2004, USC once again began recognizing the 1939 team as national champions after it determined that it qualified.[22][23][24]

Ambrose "Amblin' Amby" Schindler went on to be the MVP in the 1940 College All-Star Game in Chicago in late August. He was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions Breitbard Hall of Fame in 1973.[25] He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.[26] He was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2002.

Tennessee player Bill Barnes was later the head coach of the UCLA Bruins and led them to the 1962 Rose Bowl.


  1. ^ McLemore, Henry (December 31, 1939). "Trojans, Vols rated even in Rose Bowl". Pittsburgh Press. United Press. p. 5, section 2.
  2. ^ "All bowl teams rest on eve of big battles". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. January 1, 1940. p. 11.
  3. ^ Trojans Even Bet with Vols. Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1939
  4. ^ "Southern California sweeps Tennessee aside in Rose Bowl triumph". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. January 2, 1940. p. 9.
  5. ^ Jordan, Ralph B. (January 2, 1940). "Amby Schindler wrecks Tennessee dreams". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). INS. p. 14.
  6. ^ McLemore, Henry (January 2, 1940). "USC outplays, overpowers Tennessee 11 at Pasadena". Lodi News-Sentinel. United Press. p. 5.
  7. ^ "Tournament of Roses – Rose Bowl Game Photo Timeline". Archived from the original on March 11, 2008. Retrieved April 23, 2008.
  8. ^ 2008 Rose Bowl Program Archived March 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, 2008 Rose Bowl. Accessed January 26, 2008.
  9. ^ "TROJAN-VOL GAME LOOMS; COACH NEYLAND SCOUTS S.C." Los Angeles Times, November 27, 1939
  10. ^ "Kentucky Bars Tennessee's Path. Today Rain Likely for Big Game Wildcats Eager to Ruin Vols' Rose Bowl Hopes Because of 1938 Rout". Los Angeles Times, November 30, 1939
  11. ^ "Vols Sidetrack Sugar Bowl Bid to See What Coast Does" Los Angeles Times November 26, 1939. Quote:Tennessee has been invited to play in the Sugar Bowl at New Orleans on New Year's Day, but would prefer accepting an invitation to the Rose Bowl, Pasadena.
  12. ^ Homer Jacobs – The pride of Aggieland. Texas A&M University Press, 2002 ISBN 0-7607-3257-4, ISBN 978-0-7607-3257-1
  13. ^ a b "Troy, Tennessee in Rose Bowl". Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1939. It will be Southern California and Tennessee in the Rose Bowl January 1, 1940.
  14. ^ "1940 Rose Bowl". Retrieved April 23, 2008.[dead link]
  15. ^ "Tennessee Beats Auburn, 7-0, to Qualify for Bowl Bid. Vols Black Out Last Dixie Foe Butler's Scoring Run Puts Neyland's Team in Line for Pasadena" Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1939
  16. ^ B.J. VIOLETT – "TEAMMATES RECALL JACKIE ROBINSON’S LEGACY" Archived May 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. UCLA Today magazine, 1997
  17. ^ "Kenny Washington" Encyclopædia Britannica
  18. ^ "Southern California wins Rose Bowl bid; tied by UCLA 0-0". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 10, 1939. p. 14.
  19. ^ Columnist was early, angry voice against sports color line[dead link] Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2008. Quote: Art Cohn died 50 years ago today. From Long Beach to the Bay Area, the newsman afflicted the sports world with hard questions about racial equality long before the civil rights movement. ... Since the winner of the 1939 UCLA-USC game would face undefeated, untied Tennessee in the Rose Bowl, Cohn pointed out that Tennessee did not play integrated teams. If UCLA beat USC, would the Volunteers consent to play against Kenny Washington, Woody Strode and Jackie Robinson? Cohn was convinced that the Bruins would not bench their three stars. Tennessee happens to be one of the colleges that does not recognize the Emancipation Proclamation. Not only does it bar Negroes from playing on its own team, but it also refuses to compete against any college having Negro players. Below the Mason and Dixon, men feel strongly. In their blind devotion to a prejudice that makes a mockery of tolerance and justice, they gladly sacrifice everything, even $100,000 gravy-bowl games. When the UCLA-USC game ended in a scoreless tie, conference officials voted to send the Trojans to Pasadena and Tennessee had its bowl game.
  20. ^ a b Dickinson System Rates Troy Eleven First in Nation Bruins Stand Tenth in List For Third Time, South Carolina Gets Rockne Trophy; Tennessee Only Fifth. Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1939. Quote:Southern California, described as the best team in the best section, ranked first among the nation's football teams in the annual rating announced today by Frank G. Dickinson, associate professor of economics at the University of Illinois
  21. ^ Weber, Dan Captain of USC's 1939 National Champs Dies Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Riverside Press-Enterprise, April 8, 2008
  22. ^ This Just In: USC Also Is a 1939 Champion . Washington Post, July 28, 2004
  23. ^ USC 1939 National Champions. Washington Times, August 27, 2004
  24. ^ USC Now Will Recognize Its 1939 Football Team As A National Champion. Trojan have 10 national champs in the sport. USC Trojans Athletic Department, July 24, 2004.
  25. ^ "San Diego Hall of Champions - Amby Schindler". Archived from the original on September 5, 2004. Retrieved April 25, 2008.
  26. ^ 1997 inductees for the USC Athletic Hall of Fame Announced. USC Trojans Athletic Department, November 30, 1996.