Rest in Peace Hugh Hefner. The legendary publisher with a very complex legacy passed away today at the age of 91. Here’s a link to the Washington Post’s story on his passing.
In honor of Hef, we re-run this story from summer 2016:
Rick Neuheisel somehow already knew where we were going with our question. We didn’t need to mention the infamous urban legend, because he brought it up first, without being prompted. Kudos to the former UCLA quarterback and current CBS Sports College Football Analyst for knowing exactly what we were truly asking about.
You’ve heard the narrative:
“the 1983 Illini, 10-1 and ranked #5, heavily favored over an unranked 6-4-1 UCLA team, partied too hard at the Playboy mansion with Hugh Hefner the night before the 1984 Rose Bowl, and that’s why the team was obliterated 45-9 by the underdog Bruins.”
We did examine this story in detail, and you can read the results of our findings at this link. What we found, definitively and without any question, is that what was written about it in 2007 (when the Illini went back to the Rose Bowl) was directly in conflict with what was first reported in 1983.
In other words, it doesn’t all add up and someone’s wrong somewhere.
As for Neuheisel, he was named Rose Bowl Player Of The Game that afternoon as he completed 22 of 32 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns versus the Illini. He joined a media conference call alongside Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson, and the conversation went like this.
Paul M. Banks: “Over the years there have been some urban legends and conspiracy theories as to why Illinois lost the 1984 Rose Bowl, as they were so heavily favored. Did you see anything in your opponent that seemed off from what you had already known about that team and had seen on film? Did they seem off that day?”
Rick Neuheisel: “They were supposed to beat us, they were the first team to ever go through the Big Ten schedule back when there were only ten teams 9-0. It was unusual for them to play everyone else in the Big Ten, but they whipped them all and were hoping for a more marquee opponent than UCLA, we were 6-4-1.”
“They were hoping for a chance to impress pollsters and get a chance at the national championship, and if anything that kind of gave us a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, and I think our coaching staff did a tremendous job in scouting. They had a freshman corner by the name of Keith Taylor that we were going to take some shots at, and we had some success in doing that.
“They had a free safety by the name of Craig Swoope who would give some tells like a poker player tips his cards, and we were able to do some audibling based on where he lined up, and it turned out to be a great offensive day, and is the case with a lot of bowl games, once it gets going the other way, and you fall deeply behind, there’s a sense of despair.
“Where you might kind of claw your way back in other games, it kind of becomes an avalanche. “
Now comes the best part, pay close attention to what the man who went 87-58 as the head coach at Washington, Colorado and his alma mater UCLA had to say here:
“I’d love to tell you it’s because they got invited to the Playboy mansion by Hugh Hefner, a big U of I alum, invited their team to the Playboy mansion and we were just a mile and a half (away) with our campus, and we never got the invite. I’d love to tell you that was the reason, but I don’t think it had much to do it.”
You can watch the entire game on YouTube, it’s divided in two parts, and then you can see just how “off” the Illini were that day.
In light of the comments made by Rick Neuheisel, do you believe the epic Illini football Rose Bowl Playboy mansion party tale to be fact or fiction?
Declare your opinion in the comments section below.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, partnered with FOX Sports Engage Network. and News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, currently contributes regularly to the Chicago Tribune’s RedEye publication and Bold Global.