Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chapter IV

Chapter IV: USVBA's First Collegiate Nationals
I can't say with any degree of certainty whether the United States Volleyball Association's addition of collegiate volleyball to the annual USVBA nationals held in Los Angeles in May 1949 had already been planned or whether the sudden upsurge of interest on the part of Southern California colleges impacted that decision. In any case it was a stroke of good luck for the USC team. We had jumped over all the hurdles and through the necessary hoops, established our credentials and were raring to prove that our ascension in the volleyball world was no fluke. Officially recognized collegiate volleyball teams already existed in the United States. Springfield College, the University of Florida and the University of California at Berkeley come quickly to mind. Everyone wondered how this Johnny-come-lately, upstart group from USC would fare against these established teams.

The 'International 1949 Volley Ball Championships' were scheduled to be held at the U.S. Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Armory in Los Angeles, California in Chavez Ravine (present site of Dodger Stadium) on May 12, 13 and 14, 1949 See Appendices C-1 & C-2. When asked to serve as a member of the tournament committee See Appendix C-9. I accepted for what it signified - a compliment to the USC team for its outstanding sportsmanlike playing as true champions for the past six months. Five other Trojans Ibid. were represented on the committee: Webb Caldwell, former USC basketball captain; Emil Breitkreutz, former USC trackster and 1904 Olympic Bronze medalist; Dr. Leonard Stallcup, former USC welterweight boxing champion; Joe Holt, prominent Trojan Club member and later US. Congressman; and W.L. 'Larry' Barr. Other USC notables involved in volleyball at that time were See Appendix H-4: Jim Ward, former USC trackster; Dr. Les Meisenheimer, former USC quarter miler; George Brandow, president of the USC Engineering Alumni Association and member of the General Alumni Association Board of Directors; and Dr. Francis Conley, President-elect of the General Alumni Association.

USC was one of eight collegiate teams that entered the tournament. Of the other seven, six actually competed: Whittier College, UC Berkeley, College of Medical Evangelists, Santa Barbara, Long Beach City College and Stanford. The University of Mexico had submitted an application, but did not show up. The crème de la crème consisted of four teams: USC, Cal Berkeley, Stanford and Long Beach City College. Their final standing after tournament play was finished was one, four, two and three respectively.

In the winner's bracket Long Beach advanced by the default of Mexico to play and knock off Cal; USC defeated the College of Medical Evangelists and Stanford; then USC eliminated Long Beach to emerge as the team that would play the winner of the loser's bracket. Stanford, relying heavily on the talent of George Yardley, an All-American basketball player and later an outstanding professional player for the Phillips 66 Oilers, defeated Cal, then Long Beach to meet USC again in the double-elimination playoff. But, by then USC had attained its finely-tuned, machine-like 'power-volleyball' stride for which it had earned a reputation; they put away Stanford 15-2 and 15-4 See Appendix C-14. USC had five members of its team named to the National Collegiate All-Americans teams: See Appendix C-4 Dick Archer and Ray Solari on the first team and Robbie Duron, Paul Newberry and Kenyon Lee on the second.

While there was no doubt in most volleyball aficionados' minds that the USC team deserved the accolades that were now heaped on them, doubters still persisted. "What about Springfield College," they asked, "the home of volleyball's beginnings and the University of Florida which also boasted players that learned the game on the Florida beaches, much as was the case in Southern California?" These naysayers still felt that USC had yet to be tested.

For whatever reason, those two institutions had chosen not to participate in this first annual collegiate championship competition. So for some, USC would have to wait until next year when these and other national teams would go to Knoxville, Tennessee for the second year of the national collegiate championship tournament; then, and only then, would the USC team have its opportunity to prove that they are truly of national champion muster. Fair enough! We would certainly have preferred a greater turnout of collegiate teams in Los Angeles. In the meantime we would just have to continue doing what we had been doing - entering as many official and demonstration tournaments or matches as our full-time college students could fit into their busy schedules.

The volleyball team's accomplishments, nevertheless, were sufficiently impressive and important enough to gain the attention of USC officials. The Southern California Alumni Review magazine for October 1949 See Appendices H-3 & H-4 wrote proudly about ours being yet another USC team that was marching in the footsteps of a long list of sports that have contributed to building USC tradition. The article on page 15 extolled the pride and glory that this team had evoked and brought to the University. It enumerated many of the former Trojans who had gone on to achieve fame in the volleyball world. There was even an action photo of three of our All-Americans blocking a spiker from the Long Beach City College team See Appendix H-4. But, the ultimate compliment came from the President of the University, Fred D. Fagg, Jr., in his official President's Report to the Alumni 1949 See Appendices H-1 & H-2. On page 9 he includes the fact that the volleyball team won the national championship in his section titled 'The Athletic Record.'

Obviously, the University was proud of the volleyball team's accomplishments. The Alumni Review article and photo and the President's Report to the Alumni 1949 reference were ample testimony to the fact that USC felt that this was something Alumni Association members as well as the Alumni in general should be informed about and take pride in.