By Earl Heath

Contributing Sports Writer 

This years Class in the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame class had big impact for their teams and the game, Former USC running back, and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Anthony Davis, former Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, and three-time Rose Bowl Game participant and 1979 All-American Ron Simpkins of Michigan were inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame as the Class of 2021. 

The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony took place outside of the Rose Bowl Stadium, two days prior to the incredible of the 108th Rose Bowl Game that featured Ohio State and first-time participant Utah.  

Anthony Davis is one of the many great running backs to have played at USC then known as “Tailback U”, but few can match his output and his wins. The Davis-led Trojans had a 31-3-2 record in his three seasons at USC, including three Rose Bowl Game appearances and two National Championships. Across his three visits to The Granddaddy of Them All, Davis rolled up 342 all-purpose yards and three scores, helping the Trojans to victories in the 1973 and 1975 games.  

Though the former San Fernando high star he had  solid Rose Bowl games many still talk about his games against Notre Dame. One in particular at the Coliseum had the Trojans trailing the Irish 24-6 at half time. Davis returned the second half kick-off 99 yards and that sparked one of the greatest comebacks in the series history as the Trojans went on to win 55-24 and claim the National title after the Rose Bowl win. 

“It seemed like their (ND fans) world stopped,” said Davis. “The comeback was something we all were all of us were proud of.” 

In all Davis tallied ten touchdowns playing against the “Fighting Irish.” The USC legend was inducted into the USC Athletics Hall of Fame in 1999 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Davis was drafted in the NFL and MLB Drafts but chose football and played in the World Football League, Canadian Football League and NFL for six seasons between 1975 and 1983. 

Jim Delany served as the Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference from 1989 to 2020, retiring as one of the most influential figures in college athletics. Delany had numerous accomplishments as Big Ten Commissioner, including the creation of the Big Ten Network, the development and implementation of the first college football replay system and the negotiation of broadcast rights for college football and basketball. He was a leader and advocate for gender equity in college sports and initiated the Big Ten Gender Equity Action Plan in 1992, which aimed for 40 percent of all athletes in the conference to be female within five years. 

At one time Delany was known as “The most powerful man in sports.”   

Rose Bowl Hall of Fame inductees Class of 2021 (L to R)-  Jim Delany Big-10 Commissioner, Anthony Davis-USC, Ron Simpkins-Michigan. (Photo: Earl Heath) 

The kid from New Jersey was instrumental in the creation of the Bowl Championship Series and the College Football Playoff but worked diligently to maintain the tradition and history of the Rose Bowl Game. “The Big-10 and Pac-12 are first rate partners,” said Delany. “The relationship has produced many opportunities in athletics and there will be several more in the future.” 

Ron Simpkins led the Michigan defense to three straight editions of The Granddaddy of Them All from 1977 to 1979. The Wolverines came up just short in all three games despite stellar performances from Simpkins. The linebacker tallied a then-Rose Bowl Game record 16 tackles in the loss to Washington in 1978, including 13 solo stops. He followed up that performance with 12 tackles in the 1979 Rose Bowl Game against USC.  

Simpkins was at the goal line during the 1977 game where it appeared the TRJANS Charles White leaped over the goal line and lost the ball but was given credit by line judge Lee Joseph. 

“That was a phantom call,” said Simpkins. “To this day I say he didn’t score.” There was no replay at the time but if you look at the film from the endzone angle it appears Simpkins knocked the ball out of Whites hand. 

The 1979 consensus All-American was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1981 NFL Draft. He played seven seasons in the NFL and later worked at Wayne State University, where he oversaw the implementation of grant-based initiatives centered around encouraging Detroit youth to participate in sports to aid in the development of leadership skills. 

The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame was established in 1989 to pay tribute to members of the Rose Bowl Game who have contributed to the history and excitement of the game, and those who embody the highest level of passion, strength, tradition, and honor associated with The Granddaddy of Them All. 

This year’s class brings Rose Bowl Hall of Fame inductees total to 136 over its 33-year history. Inductees are honored with a permanent plaque that includes their name and year of induction at The Court of Champions at the Rose Bowl Stadium.