Cliff Montgomery ’34, Rose Bowl Quarterback
Clifford E. “Monty” Montgomery ’34, the
quarterback who called and executed the play known as KF-79
that propelled Columbia to a 7–0 upset of Stanford
in the 1934 Rose Bowl, died on April 21, 2005, in Mineola,
N.Y. A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, he was
94 and lived in Roslyn Heights, N.Y.
|Montgomery served as honorary captain at Homecoming 2003.
With him is his grandson, Tyler, and Rashad Biggers ’05, a two-time captain.
PHOTO: GENE BOYARS
Montgomery was born on September 17, 1910, in Natrona Heights, Pa., and was raised
there. He majored in history at the College, where his arrival
in 1930 coincided with that of famed coach Lou Little. After
serving as captain of the freshman team, Montgomery moved
up to the varsity and led the Lions to a 23–3–2
record across three seasons. Like many of his teammates,
Montgomery spent summers painting, repairing and nailing
down loose boards at Baker Field’s wooden
stadium, which was filled to its capacity of 32,000 when
On New Year’s Day 1934, the Rose Bowl in
Pasadena, Calif., pitted Stanford (8–1–1), which
had been scored on only four times all season, against Columbia
(7–1), which had lost only to Princeton. For the three days before
the game, torrential rains soaked the field. “When
we arrived the day before the game [after traveling from
New York by train], the Rose Bowl looked like a lake,” Montgomery,
the team captain, recalled in a 1981 article in The New
York Times. “The players’ benches were floating up
and down the sideline like small boats.”
When the rain abated that day, a half-dozen fire departments began drying
the field, pumping out 2.5 million gallons of water. But
game day brought more rain, a muddy field and a general belief
that Stanford, favored by 18 points in part because of a
17-pound-per-man advantage, could run the ball at will.
the second quarter, with the game scoreless and Columbia
in possession on Stanford’s 17-yard line, Montgomery
decided it was time for KF-79, a trick play that Little had
devised. From the single-wing formation, Montgomery took
the snap, and the deception began.
“I thought Stanford would be expecting a play into the line, and KF-79 was designed
to fool them,” Montgomery said years later. “We went into a single-wing formation
to the right. I took the snap from center and spun. I slipped
the ball to Al Barabas ’36, who put it on his left
hip and circled out toward their left end. I now faked a
handoff to Ed Brominski ’35, who headed toward Stanford’s
right. I followed him, and almost the entire Stanford team
clawed at Brominski and me. Barabas, by this time, was in
the end zone.” Almost a half-century later, Montgomery
could still picture the moment when Barabas made it to the
Stanford end zone. “Seeing him there was one of the
most thrilling sights of my life.”
The extra point made the score 7–0, and neither team
could score the rest of the game. By winning the Rose Bowl,
Columbia staged what is widely regarded as one of the greatest
athletic upsets of the 20th century. Montgomery, a 6-foot,
165-lb. senior, was named MVP of the game, the only bowl
appearance in Columbia football history. When the team returned
home, New York City’s new mayor, Fiorello H. La Guardia,
led a victory parade from Penn Station to Columbia’s
After the Rose Bowl, as Montgomery recalled for USA
Today in 2000, “I had a screen test with Warner Brothers.
Bert Lahr was in it, and Ginger Rogers. They wanted me to
stay and finish college later, but Lou Little talked me into
going back and finishing school, which I’m glad he
Montgomery became an executive with W.R. Grace
and Co., then served as a lieutenant commander in the Navy
during WWII. He was awarded the Silver Star during the 1945
invasion of Okinawa, credited with saving the lives of 400
sailors there on April 6, 1945. The commander of a group
of close-in fire support ships, he brought his flagship alongside
a burning destroyer in rough seas to bring the sailors aboard
before the destroyer exploded, according to the then-Secretary
of the Navy.
Montgomery then spent 25 years as an advertising
executive for McGraw-Hill, retiring in 1972. He served for
almost 30 years as an on-field football official, officiating
at five Army-Navy games. He also coached local football teams
on Long Island.
In 1963, Montgomery was elected to the College
Football Hall of Fame. He met seven U.S. Presidents during
his lifetime, starting with Calvin Coolidge. He even appeared
in a “Got Milk?” advertisement.
Columbia honors include being chosen to Columbia Football’s “Team
of the Century” in 2000 and named “athlete of
the century” by the Athletics Department the same year.
In 2003, Montgomery was an honorary Lion captain at Homecoming;
the Lions wore replica jerseys modeled after the 1933 team’s
uniform (see photo).
Montgomery is survived by his second wife, the former Nancy Hoyne, whom he married in 1976;
son, Clifford; sister, Gladys Runco; and two grandchildren.
His first wife, the former Helen Schorr, died in 1972.