Sam Corenswet – A Lifetime of Service
by Trey Iles for the Allstate Sugar Bowl
[This story originally appeared in the Official Game Program for the 2017 Allstate Sugar Bowl.]
When Nebraska arrived for the 1967 Sugar Bowl, the Cornhuskers brought along snowballs to share with their New Orleans hosts. But it wasn’t the sugary summer treats for which the Crescent City is famous.
These were real snowballs, carried from the Midwest and housed in a cooler on the flight from Lincoln, Neb., to New Orleans. The players threw the icy orbs at the crowd when they arrived.
Sam Corenswet Jr. (pictured on right with his father, Sam Sr.) was the president of the Sugar Bowl Committee that year and that is just one of his many rich memories of the game that has been a major part of his entire life.
Now 92 years old and still a member of the committee, Sam has truly seen it all when it comes to the Allstate Sugar Bowl. He remembers watching the first Sugar Bowl in 1935 from a box seat when Tulane knocked off Temple, 20-14. He was there in 1936 when two great collegiate quarterbacks, TCU’s Sammy Baugh and LSU’s Abe Mickal, dueled in the Horned Frogs’ 3-2 victory.
He’s met many of the legendary college coaches, Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Bud Wilkinson, Bob Devaney, Bobby Bowden and Nick Saban, through the years. He’s witnessed numerous Heisman Trophy winners and national championship squads.
Now on the 50th anniversary of his presidency of the organization, Corenswet Jr. said the reason why the Sugar Bowl has remained the premiere bowl game in college football through the years is because of New Orleans and superb committee members and staff.
“We’ve always been able to stay in the upper echelon and being in New Orleans is a huge benefit,” said Corenswet Jr., a New Orleans native. “In 1935, it was a treat for people to come to New Orleans and they still like to come here today. The people are friendly and interesting, and the food and the weather are great.
“We have also had good hard working members and a great staff. Fred Digby, Joe Katz, Mickey Holmes and Paul Hoolahan have all been great executive directors that helped elevate the Sugar Bowl to bigger and better things.”
Being a Sugar Bowl Committee member has always been a family affair. Corenswet Jr.’s father, Sam Corenswet Sr., was a charter member of the organization and president in 1947-48, 20 years prior to his son’s presidency. Sam Jr.’s son Jay was elected to the Sugar Bowl Committee in 1978 and has been a very active member of the organization as well.
Corenswet Jr. has watched college football become big business in the 50 years since his presidency.
“When I first joined the Sugar Bowl it was a smaller organization,” Corenswet Jr. said. “We have grown and diversified. When the games started being televised, the structure of college football changed as did the size of our payouts to the teams. It went from tens of thousands of dollars to more than ten million dollars to each team. The business of football is much bigger than when I first started. But the success we have had makes me very proud.”
Corenswet Jr. oversaw two games, the 1967 game between Alabama and Nebraska and the 1968 contest which pitted LSU against Wyoming. The Tigers upset sixth-ranked Wyoming, 20-13, in that game.
The 1967 affair wasn’t that close as undefeated Alabama routed the Cornhuskers, 34-7, to finish 11-0.
But what Corenswet Jr. recalls prominently about that season was how upset Bryant was that Nebraska had lost in its regular season finale to rival Oklahoma. Notre Dame, which did not compete in bowls then, was crowned the national champion. The Irish were 9-0-1, which included the famous 10-10 tie with powerful Michigan State in November of the 1966 season.
“Bear called and told me that Oklahoma’s upset of Nebraska cost his team the national championship and I believe he was right,” Corenswet Jr. said. “Had Nebraska come into the (Sugar Bowl) undefeated, I believe it would have altered how people would have voted.”
Corenswet Jr. recalls many seasons when the national champion was debated with no consensus for an outright titlist. Now college football has a playoff.
“It’s incredible how much college football has changed through the years,” Corenswet Jr. “But the Sugar Bowl continues to play a major part in the game as it has since its beginning. I’m sure my father would be proud.”