Coming to TV: A memorable look at 1958 Cougs

THE PAC-12 Networks offered a sneak peak at its “Varsity Days” episode featuring the 1958 Washington State football team and, whoa Nellie, what a treat it turned out to be. For one, the young man calling the highlights was from KOMO-TV in Seattle and still years away from becoming the legendary "Voice of College Football."

To hear a 30-year-old Keith Jackson (pictured above) in action is a smile-inducer all by itself. At one point in the proceedings you’ll hear a call that would be a household staple around the nation 25 years later: Fumbllllllleeeeee!

Also sure to bring a smile is the fact WSU is WSC in 1958, and wooden Rogers Field is still 24 years away from morphing into Martin Stadium.

Here's another sign of the times: At the start of the broadcast, Jackson introduces various rules changes in college football for 1958. Among them is free substitution of players. Previously, once a player came out of the game, he had to stay on the sidelines for the remainder of the half. Another new wrinkle to the game that season was the two-point conversion.

The other big treat in the 25-minute program, which airs this Sunday, August 10, at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time, is seeing some of the most storied names in Cougar football history in action. It plays like a Who’s Who of crimson lore: receivers Don Ellingsen, Jack Fanning, Gail Cogdill and Bill Steiger, quarterbacks Bobby Newman and Dave Wilson, running backs Keith Lincoln and Chuck Morrell, and guard Bill Berry.

Of note is that no matter how good or exciting a particular play or TD, there’s virtually no celebrating by players. They simply get back into the huddle for the next play. The officials, by contrast, are fairly animated by today’s standards.

Sunday's “Varsity Days” focuses on two Cougar games from the memorable 1958 campaign: the season-opening win over Stanford in Pullman and the historic victory over UCLA at the L.A. Coliseum two months later. Pay special attention during the UCLA game highlights for the long-lost art of the jump pass.

That Stanford game, by the way, marked Steiger’s return to the field after a year-long absence following a swimming pool diving accident that left him paralyzed for three days and in a neck brace for months. He was named first-team All-American as a sophomore in 1956 and then calamity struck at a friend’s pool the summer before the 1957 season. His playing days were over -- or so it seemed.

As WSU historian Dick Fry once noted, “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house” at the 1958 Stanford game when Steiger, back in uniform, bulled in for a two-point conversion following a late TD by Cogdill.

The Cougs, who were coached by passing-game pioneer Jim Sutherland, finished 7-3 in 1958 and were invited to play LSU in the Sugar Bowl. In those days, only the conference champion was allowed in a bowl game -- the Rose -- so the Sugar’s invitation to the Cougs went to a vote of the conference. USC, UCLA and Washington voted no and WSC President Clement French didn't want to ruffle feathers by accepting anyway.

The look at WSU’s 1958 season airs on the Pac-12 Networks this Sunday at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

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    Seven of the mainstays on the 1958 Cougars are enshrined in the WSU Athletics Hall of Fame: Bob Newman, top left, Don Ellingsen, top right; Gail Cogdill, second row left, Bill Steiger, second row right; Keith Lincoln, third row left; Jack Fanning, bottom left, and Bill Berry, bottom right. Also in the WSU HOF is WSU graduate and famed ABC sportscaster Keith Jackson, third row right.

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