Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Lasting Huddle for Cal Poly

The night of Oct. 29, 1960, will never be forgotten at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The Mustangs had played Toledo earlier in the day and lost, 50-6. But sportsmanship was in play, and because Cal Poly's charter flight wasn't scheduled to leave until around midnight, several Rocket players extended invitations to the Mustangs to attend Halloween parties at Toledo sororities. "So we went for a while, met some girls. That was fun," said Mustang Bill Dauphin. Fog rolled in as the team gathered and boarded a bus for the ride to the airport. The fog was so dense that taxi service had been suspended for the night in Toledo. Dauphin remembers the team arriving at the airport and walking toward the plane. "When we walked outside the door, I remember one of the guys saying 'Where's the plane?' ... That's how foggy it was." Ted Tollner, top right, who would go on to a successful coaching career, was a player on the team. He and assistant Walt Williamson were seated near the front of the plane, but gave up their seats to receiver Curtis Hill and running back Marshall Kulju. As the plane lifted off the ground, one of the engines quit. The craft tumbled back onto the runway, burning and breaking in two. Dauphin, Williamson and Tollner survived. Hill, Kulju and 20 others died. "I was the cutoff for who lived and died," Tollner said. "Everyone in front of me died. Everyone behind me survived." Hall of Fame coach John Madden, middle right, who has long had a fear of flying, had been a member of the team two years earlier. He knew many of the coaches and players injured or killed in the crash. ... Forty-six years later, members of the Cal Poly team honor those who came before them. Linebacker Jason Relyea, bottom right, said: "The program had to suffer for many years after that and now we fight each game to bring it back together. We use that as our motivation before each game to honor those that came before us."

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