Recall the L.A. Christmas Festival of 1924 vs Missouri

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College football’s history includes a lot of bowl games and one-time special events which didn’t stick around very long. Yet, those games — while not durable holiday traditions the way the Rose Bowl is — certainly meant a lot to the athletes who participated.

On this feast of Christmas in 2020, Trojans Wire notes the 1924 Los Angeles Christmas Festival, the only event of its kind.

USC was snubbed in favor of Stanford for the 1925 Rose Bowl. Stanford, not USC, played Knute Rockne and Notre Dame in one of the most celebrated — and important — Rose Bowls of all time. USC was all dressed up with no place to go for the postseason… until the Los Angeles Christmas Festival game was created.

From the Missouri Athletics website:

Southern California and Stanford had tied for the Pacific Coast Conference title and the right to play Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl took Stanford, and USC seemed to be left out of the bowl picture.

Instead, the city of Los Angeles chose to honor the Trojans in a Christmas Day game, called the Christmas Festival. The best remaining team in the nation was to be chosen as USC’s opponent. Missouri, the Missouri Valley champion with a loss to Nebraska its only setback in eight games, was chosen to play in the game.

While the selection was an honor, Mizzou had expected to be spending the holiday at home and had not held practice in nearly two weeks when the Tigers headed to California. Perhaps this should have served as a warning to the Tigers.

USC won the game, 20-7, to finish the 1924 season with a 9-2 record.

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This game is significant in USC football history because it marked the last game for Gus Henderson, the first coach in program history. Henderson finished his three-year tenure with a 25-5 record and the program’s first-ever Rose Bowl win in the 1923 game over Penn State.

The next game USC played — the 1925 season opener — was coached by Howard Jones, who built the Trojan Empire of College Football with the help of fellow USC icon Sam Barry.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Trojans Wire!

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