Sports: The Story At Last About What Happened in 1965 at Purdue's Ross Ade Stadium

Culture Watch

Mr. Beres was sports information director at his alma mater, Northwestern University, and later at the University of Oregon. He continues to write about sports in retirement.

Tapping a football opponent's game phones is rare and unfair, but not unheard of. In 1985, Lewis & Clark College forfeited a Northwest Conference game in Oregon to Pacific University, after it was learned a Lewis & Clark coach had listened in on the game phones of his opponent. That same year, the Denver Post reported rumors that the University of Texas at El Paso had gained its only victory of the season over heavily favored Brigham Young by tapping game phones of BYU coaches.

The impact of those buggings -- one verified, one rumored -- was small-time compared to what appears to have happened in a game 20 years earlier, a tale not"heard of" until now. The Big Ten Conference chose to keep the charges quiet, only rapping the knuckles of the alleged tapper, Purdue, which gained a stunning 28-21 upset over No. 1-ranked Notre Dame. Discovery of the tapping mechanism suggests the victory was produced by the home school's bugging techniques more than its football prowess.

The 1965 game was played in West Lafayette, Ind., before 62,316 screaming fans at Purdue's Ross Ade Stadium. Terry Hanratty, the Notre Dame quarterback, would look to the sidelines to get a coded hand signal from his coach before bringing his team to the line of scrimmage. He was stunned to find the Boilermakers always in the perfect defense to stop the play he was to call. That situation occurs by chance several times during a game, and the quarterback then audibleizes (shouts) a change in plays to his 10 teammates.

But Hanratty found he had to turn to an optional play EVERY time. With a rabid home crowd shouting at the top of its lungs, Terry had to scream the change several times, hoping every player heard it in time to adjust to the rhythm of the new signal count for a changed play. The Notre Dame game plan became unuseable from the beginning. Only an extreme effort enabled the heavily favored Irish to stay within a touchdown of Purdue. Rarely would Notre Dame find it necessary to throw 51 passes, as it did in desperation against Purdue. Hanratty completed 28.

Back in Evanston, Ill, where I was the broadcaster of Northwestern University games, I had more than the usual interest in Notre Dame. Its coach, Ara Parseghian, had been Northwestern's coach until 1964, when he moved to Notre Dame. His former chief assistant at Northwestern, and fellow Armenian, Alex Agase, succeeded him. The two friends talked by phone every Sunday, sharing notes on their previous day's games.

The Monday after Notre Dame's loss to Purdue, I was at lunch with Agase and his coaching staff, when he commented:"I've never before heard Ara so upset about a ball game. We all know he can get emotional, but not like he was on the phone yesterday. He figures the loss to Purdue was his fault. Somehow, they cracked his sideline signals, and he thinks he failed to make the needed adjustment."

Three weeks later, I was with Northwestern in West Lafayette to broadcast its Big Ten game with Purdue. My broadcast partner, Ed Wheeler, owned the station, WEAW-WOJO. For every away game, he and I arrived at the stadium three hours before starting time so Ed could verify our broadcast line was properly installed. As I sat in our broadcast booth, preparing my game spotting board, Ed walked around the near-deserted stadium.

I heard his voice:"George, locate the visiting coaches booth, and go inside."

When I was there, I waved at him from the window:"What next?"

"Put on one of our coach's headsets."

It is standard for each team to have a press box booth with two headsets attached to small microphones for use of their game spotters. The vantage point gives them a better view of each play -- how it worked or didn't work, and why -- than can be seen on the sidelines. The spotters -- one for offense, another for defense -- communicate with the head coach on the field, suggesting what play to call next. I put on a headset, and said,"Now what?"

Ed answered over the headpiece:"I think I've found how Purdue beat Notre Dame! I'm at the Purdue bench, using a phone that's hooked into the visiting team's phones."

When the team arrived an hour before game time, Ed told his phone story to a disbelieving Agase. What finally convinced Agase was the earlier phone conversation with Parseghian, distraught because he thought he had failed to protect his hand-signal code against Purdue.

Wheeler, a communications hobbiest, suggested a way to avoid the tap. He once had offered Agase use of walky talkies for game communication. The Wildcats experimented with them in practice, but found the signals sometimes wandered. Wheeler had the units stored in the remote broadcast valise he carried to away games. Agase said,"O.K., let's try them."

Purdue was favored, and won the game by two touchdowns. The value of a phone tap was nowhere near as important as against Notre Dame's nationally top-ranked team. But the phone was where Ed found it. If it was used against Northwestern, the coach holding the receiver had to be mystified at the silence.

After the phone discovery, Parseghian may have been able to absolve himself of responsibility for giving away the Purdue game with a faulty signal system. Northwestern's athletics director, Tippy Dye, reported the sideline phone to the Big Ten office. The problem became: whom to believe. Purdue surely would deny the bugging. The conference chose to privately warn Purdue it would be watched closely to guard against any possibility of future phone tapping accusations.

Agase, in one of the ironies of the game, became Purdue's coach seven years later. His record there suggested Alex was not playing the telephone game. He was fired after compiling a losing record in four seasons.

For me, the tapping issue did not end, even though I moved to Oregon in 1976 to become SID (sports information director) for the Ducks. Oregon was playing Texas Christian in Eugene in 1978, when Scotty, the local phone company man supervising the telephone room for me, had a complaint:"I didn't know TCU had a telephone technician with them until I found him in our telephone room."

My first thought was of what had happened at Purdue 13 years earlier. Could we be victims of a bugging-- in our own stadium?

I asked Scotty:"How long will it take to check the Oregon lines to be sure they're clean?"

"It means I've got to go down to the field, but I can let you know in a few minutes."

When he returned, he still was miffed with the visiting phone man, but assured me the Oregon lines were clean.

Then I confronted the SID of TCU:"Why do you have a phone man with you?"

The young man, in his first year on the job, was apologetic:"It's my fault for not letting you know. When we're out of our own conference, we're supposed to alert the host SID that we have a phone man with us. I just forgot. It's routine in the Southwest Conference. Every team takes its own phone man to every away game."

That's a costly process. A telephone technician must be paid. His travel to the game must be underwritten; also his room and board.

But it's probably a good investment -- if a conference finds it has to take steps to discourage possible phone taps.

Note: I contacted Purdue University for a comment about this story. But but no one in athletics today was there in 1965.

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More Comments:

Mike McClure - 7/17/2003

> I've known George Beres for almost 40 years and consider him an old friend. I served as Director of the Big Ten Service Bureau for a time while he was at Northwestern. I have been a lifelong follower of Purdue University sports and today am retired and live in West Lafayette.

The first rule of any historian should be accuracy. Sadly, George's fanciful story fails the accuracy test. The tone of the story suggests that mighty Notre Dame was btean by an inferior Purdue team and that such an occurrence was highly unusual and hence in the writer's eyes -- highly suspect!

Let me set the stage a little. In 1950 Notre Dame had established what was at the time an incredible 39-game winning streak. They were ranked # 1 in the nation and then they were upset by in-state rival Purdue 28-14.

Four years later another # 1 ranked Irish team was upset by Purdue and star quarterback Len Dawson.Two years later, in 1956, Purdue hired a new head coach by the name of Jack Mollenkopf. He had been an assistant on the earlier teams that upset Notre Dame. From 1955 when he became head coach until his retirement following the 1969 season Mollenkopf compiled a record of 10 wins and 4 losses against Notre Dame. He was 4-2 against Coach Parseghian. Unlike the perception created by Mr. Beres' story, a Purdue victory over Notre Dame from the mid 1950's through the late 1960's wasn't uncommon, it was the norm!

The game Beres cites was not played in 1965.On September 25, 1965 Purdue played # 1 ranked and heavily favored Notre Dame in Ross-Ade Stadium. The Boilermakers won the game 25-21 as College and Professional Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese completed 19 of 22 passes for 284 yards and led Purdue to victory over Ara Parseghian's Irish.

The following season Purdue played Notre Dame in South Bend in a game that marked the debut of Notre Dame quarterback Terry Hanratty and his star receiver, Jim Seymour. The Irish won that game 26-14.

The game Beres was referring to took place in Ross-Ade Stadium on September 30, 1967. What he failed to mention was that Purdue entered the game unbeaten and went on the not only beat # 1 Notre Dame, but went on to beat Ohio State IN Columbus 41-6 en route to an 8-2 record a the Big Ten championship. The quarterback for Purdue in the game he cites was Mike Phipps who was an All-American, runnerup for the Heisman Trophy as a senior and the first quarterback in history to beat Notre Dame all three times he faced them.

The Purdue team that beat the Irish and Terry Hanratty in 1967 came back a year later in South Bend and won again 37-22 on national television. That Purdue team was ranked # 1 in the nation and beat the Irish who were ranked # 2 in the nation. In 1969, Phipps' senior year, he completed his sweep of Notre Dame with a 28-14 win. The Purdue teams Phipps quarterbacked compiled the finest three-year record in school history winning 24 and losing just 6 games. Each one of those teams had better records than Notre Dame.

Perhaps the greatest omission in Beres' story is any mention of why Notre Dame lost that game in 1967. There was a player at Purdue named Leroy Keyes. He was named to the Big Ten's all-time 75th anniversary team.

Hanratty, who was to throw what was then a Ross-Ade stadium record 63 passes (not 51 as Beres wrote) completed 29 aerials in the first half for 336 yards and 1 touchdown.BUT, his talented pass grabber, Seymour, who caught 7 in the first quarter, caught just 1 more the rest of the game. Why did Hanratty suddenly have trouble finding his star receiver?? mollenkopf inserted Keyes -- who had been a defensive starter in 1966 -- and he shut Seymour down and thwarted the Irish efforts to pass.

Keyes was spectacular on both offense and defense. With the score tied 14-14 he needed only two rushes to score from the Irish 16. After Notre Dame tied the score at 21, Phipps and Keyes moved Purdue to the ND 31. The Irish double-teamed Keyes and All-American flanker Jim Beirne and sent a blitzing linebacker after Phipps. Phipps sidestepped the blitzer and found reserve halfback Bob Baltzell wide open at the 15 and rifled a pass which he caught in stride and carried into the end zone for the winning score. Hanratty had one more shot and his effort failed whenj Keyes (who else) stepped in front of a pass intended for Seymour and intercepted to secure the victory.

Hanratty threw 63 passes and gained a then Ross-Ade stadium opponent record 420 yards of total offense against Purdue that afternoon. But, he was intercepted four times.

One week later (not three as Beres stated) Northwestern invaded Ross-Ade for their Big Ten opener and put up a valiant fight before Keyes caught 3 touchdown passes (two of them for 78 and 65 yards) among his 6 receptions for 184 yards, ran for 43 yards and completed a pass in leading his Boilermakers to a 25-16 win.

When the 1967 season ended the runnerup for the Heisman Trophy was Leroy Keyes. He led the Big Ten in scoring that season with a then record 114 points. He averaged 6.6 yards every time he carried the football. He could have been an All-American on defense and he was an All-American on offense. Two years later Phipps would also be the runnerup for the Heisman.

The 1967 Purdue team set new Big Ten records for scoring and total offense.

Anyone reading the story not schooled in the history of Purdue football in the 1950's amd 1960's would fall for Beres' suggestion of impropriety lock stock and barrel. It's a shame that in submitting this flawed treatise on "alleged cheating" that the author didn't acknowledge that Purdue and its winningest coach in history literally owned Notre Dame and that the 1967 win -- while disappointing for Coach Parseghian -- had far more to do with the talent of the Purdue team and its star players than a 40-year old story about a telephone line connection 7 days after the event in question.

I worked for the Commissioner of the Big Ten and with all the individuals employed in that office during the time in question. I was good friends with my predecessor at the Big Ten who lived a block away from the Northwestern football stadium. I was good friends with the former Commissioner of the Big Ten who lived in Evanston. In the 36 years since the event Beres describes I've heard enough great stories about the Big Ten and Purdue to fill 300 pages of a book, but never have I heard this tale of the telephone!

As I always advise posters I encounter on the internet, "If you can't get your facts straight you lose your credibility right from the start." Sorry George, but you're no threat to Steven Ambrose! (grin)

SRM - 7/17/2003

Total BS. They don't call Our Lady the Whining Irish for nothing, I suppose.