The 1961 Rose Bowl game between Minnesota and Washington is known for one of the greatest college pranks pulled. Some 14 students from the Caltech's Lloyd Hall dorm plotted of a way to get Caltech represented at that year's Rose Bowl game. Initially, the Minnesota team was the chosen to be pranked after it was discovered from a week of searching that they were staying at nearby Oxy (Occidental College). This was not to last as the students attempted to obtain information from the unsuspecting Minnesota team they revealed that Washington was planning a series of stunts, giant card mosaics, during half-time.
A change of plans and some phone calls revealed that the Washington would not be arriving until after Christmas and would be staying at Cal State Long Beach. So, on the day of their arrival, the leader of the prank showed up as a reporter for the Dorsey High School Dorseygram, the school newspaper and not coincidentally, his old high school. Excited about the attention the head cheerleader eagerly discussed the elaborate plans for the card stunts that were to be executed and the "reporter" was even shown all of the instruction cards and master sheets, as well as were kept, in a satchel under one of the cheerleaders' beds.
After the interview, the pranksters immediately set to work. On that same night, students waited for the cheerleaders to leave for dinner and broke-in, borrowing one instruction card. Using the card, the pranksters went to a local printer and had the cards reproduced. Although the students had to deal with aging the cards since the printer had printed them on new manilla stock.
On New Year's Eve (A Saturday, thus forcing the Rose Bowl to occur on January 2.) the students once again entered the still unaware rooms of the Washington cheerleaders and snuck out the master instructions (The cheerleaders had revealed in the previous interview that they would be at Disneyland.). Once they returned to Lloyd Hall the team, along with volunteers, started work on editing the 15 stunts that the Washington cheerleaders had prepared.
The first 11 stunts were effectively unaltered, some adjustments and corrections were made (Part of the show would be geared toward science, a tribute to the upcoming Seattle World's Fair.). However, 12, 13, and 14 were completely altered.
During the rework a leak nearly occured when a Caltech student had invited a Minnesota girl over and the prank was revealed to her. She was kept quiet when it was understood that the prank was aimed at Washington. Eventually, the 2,232 cards were finished and snuck back to the dorms at Cal State Long Beach...barring some difficulty.
On January 2, 1961. NBC's cameras panned the Washington section of the Rose Bowl in anticipation of their card stunts.
Stunts 1-11 were smoothly, the small adjustments by the boys at Lloyd Hall were unnoticed...except by them. Then it happened.
Stunt 12 was supposed to be a picture of Washington's mascot, a Husky. It was a beaver (Caltech's mascot.).
Stunt 13 was to spell Washington as if it was being written by someone...it was reversed. The dot on the "i" appeared and then n-o-t-g-n-i-h-s-a-W.
Stunt 14 was the absolute end. In black and white cards, it spelled CALTECH. The announcers were silent. The cheerleaders aborted the routine, and the band marched off the field, leaving a baffled card section.
Ironically, the last stunt, 15, was to be an American flag and was, yes, unaltered.
Caltech had indeed made it to the Rose Bowl.