Sports Illustrated says that Caltech is number one! Err, had the number one college sports prank:
1. The Great Rose Bowl Hoax
School: Rose Bowl
Today, Caltech has no official mascot, much less a football team. But until 1993, the Rose Bowl was home to the mere technical school’s football squad — as well as the culminating event of college football. In 1961, a team of 14 students decided to capitalize on the event’s irony by changing the University of Washington’s flip-card stunt at half time.
A student disguised himself as an eager reporter from a high school newspaper and interviewed a cheerleader to get the details. They found that by surreptitiously altering 2,232 instruction sheets, the entire Husky fan section could be duped into displaying any pattern the “Fiendish Fourteen” desired — without the crowd realizing it. They stole the instructions, printed modified copies, and replaced them.
On game day, the college card collage played out as expected for the first 11 patterns, lulling the crowd into a sense of security and drawing the lenses of (color) national television. Subtle alterations to the 12th pattern resulted in a Husky that looked an awful lot like a beaver — the dam-building totem of many technical schools. The 13th stunt came off as a mistake: “HUSKIES” spelled backwards. And finally, the 14th stunt spelled “CALTECH,” and it all made sense, casting silence upon the stadium for a few moments. Soon, laughter set in among the crowd and panic among the Washington cheerleaders, who cancelled the final stunt, which was wisely left unadjusted by the pranksters.
But, ahem “Mere technical school?” Note that MIT didn’t even make the list.