The Fascinating Story of the 1936 Orange Bowl

How did Ole Miss and Catholic University get paired together?

Jameson Steward
Letters from a Sports Fan
3 min readMay 3, 2024


The 1936 Orange Bowl played by Ole Miss and Catholic University.
Image created in Canva.

The 1936 Orange Bowl Selection Committee had a big problem.

They only had one team to play in the Orange Bowl. They already had Catholic University of Washington D.C. — but they were having trouble finding an opponent.

Ole Miss Accepts the Invitation.

The Vanderbilt football team had been invited to play against Catholic U. in the Orange Bowl, but Vanderbilt declined the invitation because of approaching final examinations for the students.

I guess Vanderbilt has always been a “grades first, football second” school.

So the Orange Bowl Selection Committee was considering a few other schools — such as North Carolina and Duke. But then, something happened that brought another school into the picture. A school that it seems hadn’t been previously considered.

Judge Wayne Allen — an “old grad” of the University of Mississippi — suggested his school, the Ole Miss Rebels. Apparently, the committee loved the idea because they quickly invited Ole Miss to play in the 1936 Orange Bowl, and the Rebels readily accepted the invitation.

Apparently, “final examinations” weren’t such a big deal for the Ole Miss football team.

The 1936 Orange Bowl Matchup.

It was a fantastic matchup between two very good, evenly-matched football teams. However, most thought Ole Miss was slightly favored in the gridiron matchup.

Catholic U., coached by Dutch Bergman, lost only one game during the 1935 season — losing to DePaul 9–6. Ole Miss, coached by Ed Walker, lost only two games, one to Marquette 33–7 and the other to Tennessee by a single point.

The Orange Bowl was played on January 1, 1936. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette estimated there were 8,000 people at the sunshine-soaked game while Sports Reference’s records state there were 6,568 at the game. These fans wouldn’t soon forget this exciting matchup between Ole Miss and Catholic University.

Recapping the Game.

The Catholic Cardinals jumped out to a 13–0 lead, but Ole Miss closed the gap before halftime, making it 13–6. One of the Ole Miss kickers, Dave Bernard of Baldwyn, MS, missed the extra point.

In the third quarter, Catholic answers and stretches the lead back out to two scores. At the end of the third quarter, the scoreboard reads 20–6. It appeared the Catholic Cardinals might run away with the 1936 Orange Bowl.

But the Ole Miss Rebels mounted a furious comeback — scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette thought the Catholic players begun to tire in the Florida heat in the second half.

The Rebel’s second and final touchdown came in the game’s final minute on a long pass from Herb Baumstein of Baldwyn, MS to James Poole of Gloster, MS. With the Rebels down 20–19, their exceptional kicker, Bill Richardson of Philadelphia, MS came on to try for the extra point that would tie the game at 20 apiece. Richardson had made 27 of 29 extra points during the 1935 season. But the surefooted Bill Richardson missed the game-tying extra point, and the Catholic Cardinals defeated the Ole Miss Rebels 20–19.

While the Ole Miss Rebels came up short, they certainly played a worthy opponent that day in the Catholic Cardinals.

The 1936 Orange Bowl will be remembered as a thrilling matchup between two evenly-matched teams that almost didn’t happen.

Both teams should thank Vanderbilt’s loyalty to good grades that it did happen.