Part of the
reason for the lack of pressure on Little is the fact that he is regarded at
Columbia as a teacher rather than just a coach. That fits in fine with the Ivy
League attitude toward intercollegiate athletics, which Little thinks is
at Columbia has to be a student first," Lou says approvingly. "If he
wants to go out for football or some other sport, he may, but only if he meets
all the scholastic requirements. There are no 'snap' courses and no athletic
For all the
academic talk, though, the desire to win is probably as strong in Little as in
any man alive. He disagrees violently with the practitioners of sport who
believe in teaching athletes to lose gracefully and thinks a man who doesn't
mind losing is a fool. "I want my boys to hate losing," he says,
"hate it enough to force themselves to work harder to win." And
Columbia players do.
In 1930, his
first year at Columbia, Little's team was swamped by Dartmouth by a score of
52-0. Little spent no time sympathizing with his players after that drubbing.
He told them they now had one great objective. "For the next 12
months," he said, "you are going to be thinking about next year's
Dartmouth game. Don't ever forget it." The next year, with virtually the
same line-ups competing, Columbia beat Dartmouth 19-6.
The high spot of
Lou Little's career at Columbia came on New Year's Day, 1934, four years after
he had left Georgetown University to take over what was then considered an
impossible team. Columbia's doleful record had been Outstanding chiefly for the
insignificance of the teams that had trampled it. Even Percy Haughton, the
Harvard immortal, had encountered great difficulties at Columbia. In Little's
first year, with only a few really good players, Columbia won five and lost
four. But for the next three years the Lions lost only one game a year and
Columbia men were in heaven.
At the end of the
1933 season, for reasons that forever will remain a mystery, Columbia was
selected to play in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. The Lions had lost once?to
undefeated Princeton?but the rest of their opponents were considered fairly
soft touches. The press yelled murder and accused Stanford of purposely
choosing the weakest team it could legitimately make mincemeat of.
What happened to
Stanford and the piteous protestations of sportswriters is one of football's
famous stories. Little talked and lived football for weeks and his terrific
competitive zeal enveloped the team. The players were in a trance and the core
of their lives was one play?now legendary?called KF-79. The team went over it
again and again for days?until Al Barabas, a sophomore from New Jersey, the key
man, had perfected a fake.
came at the end of the first half after Tony Matal caught a pass that put the
Lions on Stanford's 17-yard line. KF-79 was unveiled, Barabas dashed across to
score, and the hopped-up defenses, creaking and crumbling at times, managed to
hang on through the second half to preserve Columbia's great 7-0 upset win.
People who know
Lou Little well claim that Rose Bowl victory demonstrated some pretty basic
things about him: his fantastic drive to win, his attention to detail and his
striving for perfection. Sid Luckman, who with Paul Governali, Gene Rossides
and Mitchell Price made up the four finest passers Little ever coached at
Columbia, used to turn up regularly at Columbia's Baker Field when the Chicago
Bears came east for a game. "Nobody's watching the little details
anymore," he complained to Lou. "Would you mind watching me throw a