How Texas and Alabama Met in the 1948 Sugar Bowl
It was evident for some time that Tulane Stadium still wasn’t adequate for the Sugar Bowl Demand. In early 1947, Mid-Winter Sports Association President Sam Corenswet appointed a committee to look into the feasibility of further expansion. Committee Chairman Joseph David presented a plan to extend and double-deck the north end zone stands, which would add 12,241 seats and make Tulane a complete bowl.
The expansion committee was the last Sugar Bowl project for Warren Miller. He suffered a heart attack late on the night of June 21, 1947. The first president of the Sugar Bowl died at 4:30 A.M. the next morning at Touro Infirmary. He was 59.
Herbert J. Schwartz, president of Maison Blanche Co., a New Orleans department store, and Roy Bartlett proposed a memorial to Miller. Schwartz offered to underwrite a substantial sum toward a memorial. It was decided the Most Valuable Player trophy for the Sugar Bowl’s outstanding player each year would be named in Miller’s honor.
As one pioneer passed from the scene, another was wrestling with his future. The year before, the Sugar Bowl membership asked Fred Digby to become its general manager. The responsibilities had simply become too large for these businessmen to run on a part-time basis.
Digby had been with the Item 35 years. Journalism was his vocation and avocation. The Sugar Bowl, at the same time, meant more to him than just some venture; and after he took this position, it became the apex of Digby’s fruitful career.
“Leaving the paper was the hardest thing he ever had to do,” said Mary Frances Digby. “Finally, I said, ‘You’ll still be with the same type of people you’ve always been with, coaches, athletes, etc. I really don’t think you’ll feel too bad leaving it.’ He said maybe I was right. At the time we had two boys in college, and the money sounded good.”
Hap Glaudi succeeded Digby as Item sports editor.
“He later realized it was the right decision, and he was happy,” said Mrs. Digby.
Alabama had a $50,000 guarantee from the new Dixie Bowl in Birmingham. Alabama’s team preferred to play in New Orleans. After the victory over LSU, which secured the Sugar’s invitation, the Dixie Bowl offered Coach Frank Thomas a check of $60,000 for the Tide. Thomas went along with his players’ wishes.
The Crimson Tide’s opponent turned out to be Texas. Texas and Alabama, ranked fifth and sixth nationally, was not a bad attraction. But neither was a champion; it was the first time since 1938 that New Orleans didn’t have one. Still, a game between Harry Gilmer, eight-for-eight passing in the 1945 Sugar Bowl, and Longhorn Bobby Layne, 11 of 12 in the ’46 Cotton Bowl, promised to be a torrid duel, perfectly suited for a new medium – television.
It was at this Sugar Bowl that America’s first woman sportscaster was assigned. Celebrity reporter Jill Jackson did the halftime color. But there was one problem: Women were not allowed in the Tulane press box, and Jackson could not get to the telecasting booth without walking through the press box.
Jackson wrote in 1978, “A meeting was held. It was decreed that Miss Jill Jackson could walk through the press box if she went through before any male member of the press had arrived. Then she must wait until after the game was over, and the press box was cleared of its male content.”
Recap excerpted from the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History” by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.