Archived Story

STEPPING UP: Bartow’s take — Duke’s gridiron glory days

Published 11:25am Wednesday, May 28, 2014




Looking back across the years at those times that were so memorable in college football here in the Old North State, it’s hard not to conclude that most gridiron glory belonged to the Duke Blue Devils.

Duke? Yes. The young men in royal blue often were among the nation’s elite way back in the 30′s, 40′s, and 50′s.

Think coach Wallace Wade, who made his way up from Alabama to put the Blue Devils on the gridiron map. The Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl. As some of you know, the only Rose Bowl game played outside of Pasadena took place at Duke, in ’42, not quite a month after Pearl Harbor.

And there was that truly remarkable season in the late 30′s when the men from the Methodist Flats were undefeated, untied, and “unscored” upon.

Until . . . until that heart-breaking 7-3 loss to Southern Cal in the Rose Bowl.

There were so many – so many – outstanding players that to name just a few seems hardly fair. Three names from the 30′s do come readily to mind:  Clarence “Ace” Parker, George McAfee, and Eric Tipton. (The last named has a daughter living here now.)

The Blue Devils remained strong and competitive all through the 50′s as well. Bill Murray was at the helm. They won the ’61 Cotton Bowl. Our own Zoph Potts was a standout player in the very early 60′s.

The UNC Tar Heels have had glory days as well. The most exciting period was 1946-49, led by Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice.  He was twice runner-up for the Heisman. He was joined on those teams by big Art Weiner, and other notables as well.  Haywood Fowle of Washington played on some of those teams as a starting guard.

The N.C. State Wolfpack had good years, and some outstanding athletes.  The Wake Forest Deacons, who rarely receive the media coverage of the aforementioned schools, have won some games and pulled off some notable upsets.

The Pirates of ECU, much to the dismay of some who look upon them condescendingly, have had their brief moments in the sun. Perhaps most remarkable was the ’83 team, which fashioned an 8-3 record, with losses coming at Miami, Florida, and Florida State by a combined total of 11 points.  And they weren’t even invited to a bowl.

Of course the ’91 Peach Bowl champs, with an 11-1 record, were very good and very exciting. Very.

So. Just a bit of reminiscing by one whose current interest in sports just isn’t what it once was. Age, maybe?

Anyway, here’s to all of those who, through all of those years, made for such excitement on the playing fields of our state.

Memories . . .

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