Mike Leach addresses state Senate.
OLYMPIA — The Washington Senate elevated the 1915 Cougar football team to the status of National Champion today, honoring the team that went undefeated and won the 1916 Rose Bowl.
With current WSU Coach Mike Leach at the rostrum, the Senate passed a resolution honoring the 1915 team as the first West Coast team to win a Rose Bowl, beating Brown University 14-0. That victory “helped restore the nation's faith in college football and put an end to the practice of celebrating the Pasadena Tournament of Roses with events such as ostrich races, polo matches and chariot races, beginning the annual tradition of the Rose Bowl Football Championship”, the resolution said.
Technically, Cornell University was the national champion in 1915 — at least according to CollegeFootballPoll.com, which lists champions recognized by the NCAA. That team went 9-0, but didn't play in a bowl.
Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, acknowledged that the practice of naming a national champion didn't take hold for decades after the 1916 game, but for much of the last half century, any team that went undefeated AND won the Rose Bowl would have been declared the national champion.
Leach started his remarks by saying he watched “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in preparation for his visit to the Senate chamber. “So I stay up here and talk until I collapse,” he said.
But he didn't. Leach thanked legislators for everything they do to support higher education and said he hoped “to put a team out that everybody can be proud of” in the fall.