Over the next few weeks, GoColumbiaLions.com will take a look at the teams, student-athletes, coaches and staff members set to be inducted in the Columbia University Athletics Hall of Fame this October. Our next installment takes a look at the man who led Columbia to its 1934 Rose Bowl victory, Al Barabas ’36CC.
Al Barabas ’36CC – Football
KF-79. To this day it remains among the most famous play calls in Columbia football history.
Columbia’s outstanding 1933 season featured a 7-1 record, highlighted by shutouts of Lehigh, Penn State and Syracuse in the regular season finale. Stanford, hosting the Rose Bowl as the only major bowl game of the era, reached across country to extend a bid to the Lions. The lead up to the game saw the national media lambast Stanford for picking on Columbia, considered a major underdog. That thought process would change on January 1, 1934, when a hidden-ball run play in the second quarter gave Columbia the only touchdown of the game.
KF-79 would make Barabas a hero among the Columbia and New York City community following that New Year’s Day. On the water-drenched field at the Rose Bowl, Columbia quarterback Cliff Montgomery took the snap from under center, turned to handoff to his halfback Ed Brominski who was sprinting right, but pulled the ball back. With the Stanford defense drudging in pursuit after Brominski, Montgomery slipped the ball to Barabas who was headed around the left end. Only one Cardinal player, the safety, read the play right, but a great block from left end Owen McDowell allowed Barabas to race into the end zone untouched. A successful extra point gave Columbia a 7-0 lead, a margin that would remain intact until the final horn.
The only sophomore starter from the 1933 squad returned to New York City with his teammates to a parade hosted by Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia from Penn Station up to Morningside Heights.
During his three-year career, the Lions went 19-6-1. Despite missing the final four games of his junior season, he was elected team captain for the 1935 campaign.
Barabas also excelled on the baseball diamond and after graduating from Columbia he played both sports professionally for three years, playing football for the Brooklyn Dodgers and baseball for the Boston Red Sox’s AAA team in Little Rock, Arkansas.
He would go on to serve as a naval officer in World War II and as a buyer for Stern’s department store, but returned to Columbia in 1960 as the executive director of the college’s fundraising office. He fulfilled that position until his retirement in 1977. Along the way, he proved to be one of the most successful fundraisers Columbia has employed, bringing in millions of dollars for his alma mater.
He passed away in January 1988 after a battle with cancer.