Saturday, Sept. 30, 2006, the Mustangs defeated Southern Utah University in a dramatic comeback from a 14-3 4th quarter deficit. The Mustang defense created four turnovers in the fourth quarter and the offense scored two touchdowns off those turnovers for a 18-14 victory in front of most of the survivors of the 1960 plane crash that took the lives of 16 players, a manager and a booster.
A casual observer may not have understood the magnitude of the halftime ceremony. Members of the 1960 team, their families and family members of the deceased came back one more time to honor their fallen teammates and each other. Those players’ lives changed forever when that plane went down in Toledo. To come back to the field that bonded them 46 years ago must have stirred deep ambivalent emotions. On Saturday night, the 2006 team had the privilege to not only compete in a collegiate football contest but to do it in front of the 1960 Mustangs. The players tried to represent the spirit and fight of both those who perished and survived. I hope the effort of the football team was acceptable to all those in attendance.
The players on Saturday most likely will not understand the magnitude of their victory until a much later date. They found a way to win and they did it in front of the most important legacy of Cal Poly Football. No other team in the history of the university will have the opportunity to play in front of that 1960 team on the weekend of their enshrinement into the Cal Poly Hall of Fame and dedications of both the Memorial Plaza and the playing surface – Mustang Memorial Field. For that reason, I think the victory on Saturday is the most important victory in the history of Cal Poly and always will be.
I hope the victory on Saturday will help make up for the 46-year void of a proper memorial to those young men who lost their lives doing what they loved. I know the memory of the 1960 team will always live with each student-athlete that earns the privilege to put on the Green and Gold. As a former Cal Poly football player, I did not truly understand the importance of the 1960 team until I stood in Memorial Plaza last Friday after the dedication ceremony. Being amongst the players and family members as they stood near the pillars has had a deep emotional effect on me – one I did not expect. It has made me even more proud to say that I am a Cal Poly alum.
God Bless the Mustangs.
Wide receiver coach
Cal Poly ’97