The Pac-10 has no provisions for an official protest, so none was filed. The best Stanford could do was persuade conference Executive Director Wiles Hallock to issue a public statement acknowledging that Cal had only four men in the restraining area on the fateful kickoff. Hallock added, however, that it was a violation that required no penalty. And, he said later, "I'm pleased that in all the confusion, the officials never stopped officiating." As for the play? "Well, it was just one of those marvelous things that happen in football."
Wiggin, his opportunity for a bowl bid gone and his job and those of his assistants in jeopardy, remained inconsolable for months. "I'll take the criticism for not letting the clock run down further on the field goal," he says "but had the damn play been called correctly, it wouldn't have made any difference. Oh, it's very easy for some guy to sit in a bar and say, 'That dumb-cluck coach.' Well, we'll have a clock drill from now on. I'd just like to put the whole thing behind me. It's one of the most bizarre things I've ever been a part of."
Elway, who hit 25 of 39 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns in the Big Game and set an NCAA career record of 774 completions and a Pac-10 record for yardage in a season (3,242), was as enraged as his coach, and he is a young man not given to excessive emotion. "These guys [the officials] ruined my last game as a college player," said Elway immediately after the game. "This is a farce and a joke." More than a month later, as he prepared to play in the East-West Shrine Game, Elway told Oakland Tribune reporter Ron Bergman, "I still feel the same way about it now as I did in the locker room after the game. Maybe in time it'll wear off, but I'm still bitter. Very bitter."
Harmon, the would-be hero of the game, was no less disturbed. In two years at Stanford he'd never been called on to kick a "winner," and he had steeled himself for the opportunity all through the game. "I didn't care if it had to be 70 yards," he says, "I was going to be ready." He was, but his biggest moment had been rendered meaningless. When the crowd had cleared, Harmon sat by himself in the Memorial Stadium stands, trying vainly to get a fix on what had happened. "It was a lucky play," he finally concluded. "I was in a state of shock. I know I'll be hearing about this for I don't know how long. But you've got to go on with your life."
Noble is haunted by his regrets. "Every time I look at a film of that play, I say to myself, 'There, right there, I could've gotten him,' " he says. "I still get hassled about it. I'll never hear the end of it as long as I live. But I guess you can say I'm part of history."
Kapp's response was predictable: "Hey, they had their party too soon. The game is 60 minutes, not 59 minutes and 56 seconds. This proved it."
The Stanford band, a pariah even before the game to many fans and older alumni for its iconoclastic halftime stunts and its insistence on an exclusively rock repertoire at the expense of traditional school songs, was attacked with renewed enthusiasm for its part in The Play. Mocked in the press and bombarded with hate mail, the band retreated, as it were, into a shell. "The band has served as a scapegoat before," says Tyrrell, suddenly its most conspicuous member. "The hate mail was not unexpected. Actually, we did get some nice thank-you letters from Cal alums."
Films of The Play exonerate the band from serious wrongdoing. It had no business on the field, of course, but no Stanford defender was prevented from reaching Moen by any member of the band. Ford and Howell basically eliminated all available pursuers, and Noble, the only Cardinal player with a chance at Moen, ran unimpeded through the confused musicians.
Tyrrell himself became a celebrity, interviewed on television and radio as frequently as any of the four players. He also received offers from Cal alumni groups for his supposedly battered trombone. Actually, the instrument wasn't even dented, and Tyrrell rejected all offers, preferring to keep it as a souvenir. Unable to acquire the real thing, the Berkeley Breakfast Club, a booster group, presented Cal Athletic Director Dave Maggard with a plaque commemorating the great event, on which was affixed a trombone that looked as if it had been run over by a truck. This tortured horn might well prove as symbolic of the Big Game rivalry from here on in as the traditional Axe has been for the better part of a century. The Axe, incidentally, was replaced in its showcase on the Stanford campus by a giant screw.
Stanford did achieve a measure of revenge the week after the game when reporters for-The Stanford Daily published a bogus "extra" edition of the Daily Californian, boldly headlined NCAA AWARDS BIG GAME TO STANFORD. The prank paper was largely the work of undergraduates Tony Kelly, Mark Zeigler, Adam Berns and Stanford Daily editor Richard Klinger. However, the lead story, which began "The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has awarded last Saturday's Big Game to Stanford, the Daily Californian was told late last night," and a box containing a phony NCAA rule by which an "injustice" may be corrected were written for the paper by Tom Mulvoy, a 40-year-old deputy managing editor of the Boston Globe who was attending Stanford on a journalism fellowship. When a hesitant Klingler asked Mulvoy if the staff should proceed with the spoof, Mulvoy advised him, "Go for it. If you don't you'll kick yourself in 20 years."