50 years later: A lookback at the 1972 Liberty Bowl


Andrew Harrington, Sports Editor

There are currently 43 bowl games in college football, and the continual growth of the sport’s postseason seems to have no end in sight. The big-time sponsors and TV deals have not always been the reality of bowl season, though.

Back in 1972, Iowa State finished its regular season with a 5-5-1 record, landing the Cyclones in the Liberty Bowl, which was set to take place Dec. 8. This was the second consecutive bowl game for Iowa State, but it marked only the second bowl game in the school’s history.

Leading the charge for the team at the time was soon-to-be first-round draft pick, George Amundson. While he spent some of his collegiate career as a running back and was even drafted into the NFL to play running back, Amundson was the quarterback of the squad heading into the Liberty Bowl.

The Cyclones were slated to face off against Georgia Tech, which finished its regular season with a 5-4-1 record. The game was back-and-forth most of the way, but the Yellow Jackets held a 31-24 lead with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Former Iowa State Head Football Coach Johnny Majors (left) and George Amundson (right). Majors was Amundson’s coach at Iowa State from 1970 to 1972. (Photo courtesy of George Amundson)

Amundson ended up driving the Cyclones down the field, passing for a touchdown to bring his team within one with a chance to tie with a kick, or go for two to win it, a decision that would ultimately mark the difference in the game.

“So we just did what we were supposed to,” Amundson said. “Went right down at the end and scored. You know, do you go for two or do you kick and tie? Well, it was pretty obvious, coach Majors wouldn’t go for a tie. And he let me call the plays so I wasn’t going to do that either.”

The decision to go for the two-point conversion was not difficult for the team. This left Amundson with a big decision to make about which play the team was going to run.

Amundson had one play in mind that he felt would work to perfection.

“I had my idea and I told [Majors],” Amundson said. “In fact, that was like my favorite play. And he said, ‘Go for it.’ I guess Georgia Tech knew it was my favorite play also. I suppose half the team was standing out there waiting for me.”

“I overthrew Marquardt in the endzone at the end line. That’s pretty hard to do. The guy was six-five,” Amundson joked.

In the end, the Cyclones dropped the game to Georgia Tech, ending their season.

Despite the loss, this game was a huge moment in Iowa State’s history, as it was just the second bowl game in school history.

The college football landscape has drastically changed in the last decade alone, but things are completely different from how it was in the 1970s.

Amundson feels that outside of the College Football Playoff, bowl season has lost a little bit of its magic in recent years. A big part of his reasoning is the vastly increased quantity of bowl games.

“There were only 12 bowl games back then, so getting the bowl bid was a big deal,” Amundson said.“

With an increase in technology and ease of access to college football games today, Amundson said that bowl games can feel a bit less special to fans because they can watch their favorite team on TV all year long, not just in a bowl game at the end of the year.

“I don’t think it waters it down, but certainly it’s sort of like the news today versus 50 years ago,” Amundson said. “Now we’re just inundated with all the cable. This fall I’ll turn on the TV and I could see William and Mary play Penn let alone Alabama against Georgia.”

Amundson feels that this does take away from the magic of bowl season a little bit but still thinks it is cool to see how easy it has become to turn on the television and find any game you are looking for.

One piece of bowl games that Amundson feels has continued to be great over the years is how the players are treated as they enter the cities. 

George Amundson as a part of the Iowa State Cyclones. (Photo courtesy of Iowa State Athletics)

This was on display over the past year as Iowa State matched up with Clemson in the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The two teams spent time at an amusement park with coaches Matt Campbell and Dabo Sweeney, building a relationship along the way.

Amundson said that his squad was treated much the same in Memphis, Tennessee, for the 1972 Liberty Bowl.

“One of our favorite songs for a group of us on the team was Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” and we got to see Deep Purple in concert, and Fleetwood Mac was the warmup group,” Amundson said. “And we went to an NBA basketball game while we were there. So, I mean, yeah, you’re treated really well. And it’s just a wonderful experience for college athletes, I think.”

Amundson mentioned that after every practice or workout during the week of the Liberty Bowl, the committee had something fun planned for the two teams to take part in.

A second thing Amundson feels has stayed the same since his playing days is the pride players have in representing their schools in bowl games.

“I wouldn’t go as far as, you see the guys you know they have their name on their jersey and they point and they hold it up. I wouldn’t go that far, but I was certainly proud to wear the cardinal red and gold,” Amundson said.