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1959 Championship Football Team Collection

An inventory of its collection at the Syracuse University Archives


Creator: Syracuse University.
Title: 1959 Championship Football Team Collection
Dates: 1959-2003
Size: 3 boxes (1.75 linear feet)
Abstract: The 1959 Championship Football Team Collection contains print materials and memorabilia related to Syracuse University's championship team and the 1960 Cotton Bowl.
Language: English
Repository: University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Ave., Suite 600
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Historical Note

On January 1, 1960, Syracuse University's football team reached the height of its undefeated season. Competing against the University of Texas in the Cotton Bowl, Syracuse triumphed and earned its first football national championship.

Photograph of the 1959 Syracuse University football team

A number of factors contributed to making Syracuse’s 1959 team great. Syracuse University attracted talented players by offering scholarships, and, unlike many universities at the time, Syracuse recruited black players and had an integrated team. Head Coach Ben Schwartzwalder also recruited physically large players, whom commentators referred to as giants and other teams found physically intimidating on the field. Several of the 1959 players credited the team's group of experienced and motivated coaches as well. The Syracuse University team was ultimately lucky to have many talented players that year, including Ernie Davis.

The Syracuse team started off their undefeated season in 1959 by winning against Kansas University and then went on to win against others including the United States Naval Academy, earning Syracuse national recognition. The match against Pennsylvania State University, the undefeated number one Eastern school, was considered by many to be the turning point for Syracuse. Its win against Penn State, Syracuse 20 to Penn State 18, meant that Syracuse University was now the best team among the Eastern schools. Syracuse also faced University of California, Los Angeles, who were also experiencing a winning streak. Yet Syracuse still won 36 to UCLA 8. Syracuse football then headed to a bowl game.

Syracuse University's football team faced some challenges in the Cotton Bowl Classic on January 1, 1960. Ernie Davis was injured during practice before the players even arrived in Texas, and his injury raised questions about the team's ability to defeat the University of Texas, a consistently strong team. When the two teams met in Dallas, tensions rose. Schwartzwalder did not think the game was being called correctly by the officials, whom he believed favored Texas over Syracuse. On the field there was some racial tension between players from the all-white Texas team and the black Syracuse players. At one point in the game violence broke out between Syracuse player John Brown and a Texas player who had been calling him racially-charged names. Both teams were drawn in, requiring the coaches to break up the fight so the match could continue. Despite the tension, Syracuse University still won 23 to Texas 14. Syracuse also set a record with the longest touchdown pass in the Cotton Bowl's history when Gerhard Schwedes threw an 87-yard pass to Ernie Davis. After the game Davis was awarded the Most Valuable Player trophy for his part in the match, and Syracuse finished up a perfect season.

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Scope and Content Note

The 1959 Championship Football Team Collection, made up of a variety of materials related the Syracuse championship team, is divided into two series. Memorabilia contains commemorative souvenirs such as buttons, drinking glasses, license plates, footballs, and “National Champions 1959" ribbons. The Team and Game Materials series includes a copy of Sports Illustrated with an article on the team, a book about the 1959 championship team, the program for the 1960 Cotton Bowl, a prospectus, and other printed information.

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Access Restrictions

Please note that the collection is housed off-site, and advance notice is required to allow time to have the materials brought to the Reading Room on campus.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from the Syracuse University Archives and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

More information can be found in the Archives' Clippings Files, Men's Football Reference Collection, the Photograph Collection, and the Ben Schwartzwalder Papers.

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Selected Search Terms


Davis, Ernie, 1939-1963.
Schwartzwalder, Ben.
Syracuse University -- History.
Syracuse University.


Cotton Bowl (Football game)
Football players.
Higher education.

Types of material

Baseball caps.
Buttons (information artifacts)
Drinking glasses.
Footballs (balls for sports)
License plates.
Plates (general, dishes)

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

1959 Championship Football Team Collection,
University Archives,
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

The materials that make up the collection were donated by Lois Hart Carnahan, Alice Whitney Carter, Leonard S. Elman, Edward J. Gschwender Jr. and other donors.

Processing Information

The collection has been placed in acid free boxes.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: Anna Obermayer
Date: 2015
Revision history:

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The collection is arranged alphabetically.

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Box 1 Baseball cap circa 2000s
Box 1 Buttons 1960 (9)
 1960 Cotton Bowl button
Box 2 Drinking glasses circa 1960s (5)
Box 1 Football - Commemorative circa 1960s
Box 1 Football - Signed by the 1959 team circa 1960s
Box 3 Greeting Card 1960 (reproduction)
Box 3 License plate circa 1960s (2)
Box 1 Plate circa 1960s
Box 3 Ribbons 1960 (2)
 National Champions ribbon
Team and Game Materials
Box 3 Cotton Bowl Classic - Program January 1, 1960
Box 3 Sports Illustrated - 1959 Football Issue September 21, 1959
Box 3 Syracuse University Information on the Cotton Bowl 1960
Box 3 Syracuse University Football - Prospectus 1959
Box 3 The Story of 1959 Syracuse University National Championship Football Team by Gary and Maury Youmans 2003

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