Center College turned Harvard upside down 100 years ago today, C6H0
“C6H0” has been written in big capital letters on a campus building for decades. The alums hung it in their homes. Football is committed, to date, to mention it in social media advertisement.
The simple combination of two letters and two numbers is a century-old rallying cry for Center College in Danville, Ky., A celebration of a monumental triumph. It commemorates an event 100 years ago today, when, on October 29, 1921, Center defeated Harvard 6-0 in a college football game.
It was a historic upheaval, and it made headlines across the country, increasing interest in college football. Tiny Center had gone to Boston and toppled the mighty Harvard, a then powerhouse, and in 2006 ESPN cited it as the third biggest college football upheaval of all time. The New York Times called it “arguably the upheaval of the century.”
“It would be like playing in Alabama today,” said Andy Frye, the current Center football coach.
Center is a Division III liberal arts school with 1,300 students, but at the time there were no divisions and it was a school of only a few hundred. Harvard was the first institution, and it went undefeated in 1919 and 1920, claiming the national title every year and winning the Rose Bowl, the school’s only bowl appearance, in 1920.
A Courier-Journal article providing an overview of the Match Center vs. Harvard noted Harvard’s dominance and marveled at the Crimson’s heavy use of “subs,” a term he quoted. He did point out, however, that the upstart center had a solid 25-man squad and suggested the team could build on their surprisingly competitive 1920 match at Harvard, which the Crimson won 31-14.
“Either way, the West and the South rejoice at the prospect of a Harvard crop. When the team expected to do so at a remote, Lilliputian college in Kentucky, the joy equals Israel’s when David’s forward pass decided the game against Goliath, ”the Courier Journal wrote before the game. .
A crowd of 45,000 spectators watched the game, played at Harvard Stadium, which went scoreless at halftime. Then in the third quarter, center quarterback Bo McMillin scored on a 32-yard touchdown run.
Harvard threatened to equalize late, but was stopped, and McMillin’s touchdown remained the only score of the game. The Priing Colonels, as the Center was called, had defeated the Crimsons.
Newspapers across the country, from Buffalo to Denver to San Francisco, printed the shocking news: A little-known Kentucky school had defeated the Harvard juggernaut.
An Associated Press story noted the “remarkable triumph of football” and Harvard’s first home loss in five years. A Tulsa Daily World headline read: “Football Precedents Shaken.”
“Center beats Eastern idol Harvard 6-0,” read the top of the Courier Journal’s front page.
Regional affiliation was essential. Reports presented it as a victory for virtually any American region except the Northeast, which had dominated college football for much of the sport’s existence.
McMillin’s game and touchdown also made headlines in the Boston Globe.
“Bo McMillin, a pride of Texas, Kentucky and all of Southland, brought joy to cake and cotton country yesterday by beating the Harvard football team 6-0,” the article began. World.
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The Danville Daily-Messenger kept its title simple: “Center 6; Harvard 0. “
The students of the Center have always made things easier. They covered the campus with “C6H0” and some even painted the partition on the sides of the cattle. A chemistry professor at the Center at the time said he discovered the organic compound that “poisoned” Harvard: C-6, H-0.
McMillin, who went on to play in the NFL and coached Indiana University, was the hero, and his run became an instant legend.
Originally from Texas, McMillin came to Kentucky, alongside a few teammates, with a coach from Texas who had joined the Center football team. McMillin, shy of academic credits, first played football for Somerset High School – it was his 1916 team that earned the school its nickname “Briar Jumper” – before joining the Center team and to lead them to national relevance.
After the victory over Harvard, Kentucky Gov. Edwin P. Morrow said, “I’d rather be Bo McMillin right now than Governor of Kentucky.
Center had beaten Transylvania 98-0 the week before Harvard, then followed behind to dominate the University of Kentucky 55-0, led by McMillin’s three touchdowns. That week, the Harrodsburg Board of Commerce presented Center football players with a silver cup “in recognition of their courage in winning laurels for Kentucky in the Center-Harvard football game.”
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Center finished the regular season undefeated, then took a train to San Diego to face Arizona in a bowl game, which Center won 38-0. The Colonels then played in another bowl game, this time against Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on January 2, 1922.
McMillin, the team’s all-star player and perhaps the college’s most famous player that year, tied the knot in Fort Worth on game morning.
“I don’t think Tim Tebow would have gotten married before the national championship,” said Frye, the Center’s current coach, laughing, “but that was another time.”
The Colonels were 10-0 at the start of the game and allowed just six points all season, but fell to A&M 22-14 that day. A&M players, however, suffered injuries throughout the game which ultimately reduced the squad’s roster to just 11. the player’s uniform.
Gill didn’t step into the game, but by dressing and preparing against Center, the 12th Man tradition – which continues to this day – was born at Texas A&M.
And to this day, another tradition of this season continues at the Center as well.
Center football players today experience the legendary upheaval before they even play a snap: they see “C6H0” written in the sports facility as rookies. And on at least one occasion, Center alumni have reenacted McMillin’s touchdown run at Harvard Stadium.
The white letters spelled “C6H0”, first painted in 1921, are still present to this day on a brick building on the west side of the Center campus.
“It’s a model that we can do anything. We are the mighty mouse of higher education, ”said Milton Reigelman, the Centre’s former director of international programs, in a 2018 video from the college.
Center made an effort to replay at Harvard a few decades ago, Frye said, but the Crimsons weren’t interested. Center would benefit, especially from a recruiting standpoint, from such a game, but what would Division-I Harvard gain by playing a D-III school and commemorating a loss?
The match took place 100 years ago – on the same day as the famous contest, Sewanee beat the UK, also 6-0. Much has changed in the meantime.
But for Center, the combination of two letters and two numbers, C6H0, remains a feeling of pride, a century later.
“For me, it was never about gambling,” former school president John Roush said in the 2018 video. “It’s one way Center College defines itself as a place. that exceeds his weight, where great things are happening, but more importantly, it sends a signal to the students that I think he is much more powerful and important, which is – anything is possible. “