Former bowl team remains close after 61 years

Sam Osborne

As the WKU football team finds itself in the midst of a hunt for bowl eligibility, members of the 1952 Topper squad will convene at Homecoming to commemorate the program’s first-ever bowl victory.

WKU defeated Arkansas State 34-19 on Dec. 8, 1952 in Evansville, Ind. to capture the Refrigerator Bowl, named because refrigerator manufacturers in Evansville sponsored the game. The Refrigerator Bowl is now defunct, lasting only from 1948 to 1956.

The Toppers were 9-1 in the 1952 campaign, one of the best finishes in school history.

Max Stevens, 83, a senior running back on the 1952 team, said members of the team have remained close throughout their entire lives.

“We’re a close knit bunch,” he said. “It’s a unique thing we had. You don’t see a closeness like that much these days.”

Stevens said the team’s chemistry was an integral part of why they were able to win the Refrigerator Bowl.

“We’ve always been close, which I think was very instrumental in our effectiveness playing back then,” he said.

Stevens said the team lacked size, but made up for it in grit.

“We were probably the smallest team in the Ohio Valley Conference,” he said. “We didn’t have any big people. When I watch teams play today, they are huge. Our bunch was relatively small compared.”

Former guard Guy Newcom, an 85-year-old from Jeffersonville, Ind., said Homecoming is always an important and nostalgic time for members of the team.

“It’s one of the greatest things ever for me,” he said. “All of the players and their families are all like family, and Homecoming is always a special time.”

Nearly half of the 1952 team has since passed away, but Newcom said he talks to one of the teammates almost weekly.

Newcom said all facets of the team’s lives were intertwined during their time on the Hill.

“We lived together in Potter Hall,” he said. “We played together, ate together and prayed together. We even double-dated together.”

Robert Simpson, 83, a defensive end on the 1952 team, said his teammates haven’t changed much since they took home the program’s first-ever bowl victory 61 years ago.

“After all these years, everyone is just like they were in 1952,” he said. “Everybody still holds everyone up in high regard.”