Cardinal Numbers: Pasadena in Perspective!

Bootleg Senior Statistician Terry Johnson reminds us to treasure the many magic memories from the recent Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. From a numbers standpoint, it's no mean feat to forge a path to Pasadena and come away with a victory! Sure, Stanford was due, but a lot of teams have been waiting even more impatiently. Hopefully, we can help prolong their pigskin pain for another decade or three!

It's been more than two months, but I'm still celebrating our Rose Bowl win. Check back with me two months from now and I'm sure I'll still be celebrating.

As a fan, I start every season with the hope of seeing Stanford get to Pasadena and win the Rose Bowl. What a great feeling for all of us to see the team finally reach that goal! I watched the 1971 and 1972 Rose Bowls on TV, and as a Bay Area teenager, I was rooting for the local team, but I had no connection with Stanford at that time. I wasn't a Stanford fan. So for me, it wasn't the same then as it is now. This was Stanford's first Rose Bowl win in my 38 seasons as a Stanford fan.

I'm glad we got the victory while the opportunity was there. It would have been very disappointing to have three straight top-10 teams and not get a Rose Bowl win. You have to grab those opportunities when you have them. I'm glad our team came through. We always can look back on this great three-year run and say we capped it by reaching the football Promised Land with a Rose Bowl win. Of course, I'm hoping we can look back and say it was a much longer run than three years, and that it included multiple Rose Bowl wins. But no matter what, we have this one.

I'm especially happy for our long-time loyal fans, the ones who have been there for so many years, through all the hard times. It's very gratifying to see them rewarded with a Rose Bowl win after so many years. One of the fans who sits in my section at the Stadium is over 90 years old. I imagine he felt like time was running out for him to see another Rose Bowl win. I'm glad he got to see it. There are no guarantees that any fan ever will see his team win the Rose Bowl. Just ask a Cal fan.

I was curious about how long it has been since the other teams in the old Pac-10 won the Rose Bowl. Here's what I found:

TeamLast Rose Bowl
Seasons Since
Last Win
Arizona St.198726
Oregon St.194271
Washington St.191697
* Arizona has been in the conference for 35 years

So, just four of the old Pac-10 teams have won the Rose Bowl in the last 25 years. The other six teams have long winless streaks going -- really long winless streaks for several teams, some of whose fans were born, lived a long life, and died without ever seeing a Rose Bowl win. I am really happy that we all saw Stanford break its winless streak this year.

When we look at the Big 10, we find a similar situation. Most of the teams in the Big 10 haven't won the Rose Bowl in the last 25 years:

TeamLast Rose Bowl
Seasons Since
Last Win
Ohio St.20103
Penn St.199518
Michigan St.198825
* The Big 10 has had a spot in the Rose Bowl for 66 years

Until I looked at this, I had not realized that Ohio State's win in 2010 was the Big 10's only Rose Bowl win in the last 13 seasons. Big 10 teams have gone 1-9 in the Rose Bowl from 2001 through 2013.

I also was curious about where Stanford stands on the list of total Rose Bowl wins. Looking at the total number of wins, you could say the old Pac-10 breaks into two tiers -- teams that have won five or more Rose Bowls, and teams that have won two or fewer. (Actually USC probably is in a tier by itself, but this is a Stanford board, so I'm not going to give them the satisfaction of a separate tier. Besides, they probably cheated.) Stanford is in the upper tier, ranking third in the conference with six Rose Bowl wins -- three wins back in the mists of time (1928, 1936, 1941) and three wins within my memory (1971, 1972, 2013):

TeamRose Bowl
Arizona St.1
Oregon St.1
Washington St.1

It's interesting that six of the old Pac-10 teams have won two or fewer Rose Bowls. That seems surprising to me given how long the Pac-10 and its predecessors have been associated with the Rose Bowl. I would have guessed that every team in the conference would have more than two Rose Bowl wins over the years. But that hasn't been the case for the majority of the teams. Stanford has as many Rose Bowl wins as Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State combined.

The Big 10 is somewhat similar, with the teams falling into two groups -- those with seven or more Rose Bowl wins, and those with three or fewer wins. The Big 10's top tier consists of just two teams, as you might have guessed:

TeamRose Bowl
Ohio St.7
Michigan St.3
Penn St.1

The conclusion I draw from these numbers is this: it's really hard to win the Rose Bowl. A Rose Bowl win is a rare and precious thing. Most teams haven't had a Rose Bowl win for a generation. Some teams have gone considerably longer without one. You can't count on getting one, ever. When you do, you should consider yourself blessed by the football fates. I know I am going to be celebrating our 2013 Rose Bowl win for a long, long time.

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