Tragic Flight: The 1960 Football Team Plane Crash
President McPhee, always a strong supporter of athletics, considered eliminating football in the aftermath of the crash. The 1961 season saw thirty-five players suited up, ten of whom were crash survivors. Cal Poly and other Cal State campuses restricted travel to FAA-approved commercial carriers and, for a time, authorized athletics travel only to states bordering California.
The 1960 Cal Poly air disaster was also the catalyst for a major shift in aviation policy. Previously pilots could not be prevented by the control tower from taking off in bad weather if they were willing to make the attempt. In the wake of the accident, the Federal Aviation Authority ordered that air traffic controllers, rather than pilots, would authorize departures. Permission to take off was denied to any commercial airline carrying passengers or property when runway visibility is less than one-quarter mile or visual range is less than 2,000 feet. Although the new order technically applied to all airlines, it now specifically included non-scheduled charter flights such as the one that had carried the Cal Poly football team.
A plaque memorializing the 1960 football team members who lost their lives rests at the foot of the flagpole in Mustang Stadium. A duplicate plaque was placed in the peristyle end of the coliseum after the 1961 Mercy Bowl game.
In July of 2000, a new plaque honoring the team’s survivors was dedicated during Cal Poly’s All-Sports Millennium Reunion. Al Maranai, a standout sophomore lineman that fateful year, made his first trip to campus in 40 years for the dedication. Maranai sustained severe leg injuries in the crash, ending his hope of a professional sports career. Memories of his fallen teammates — star receiver Curtis Hill in particular — were shared that evening with Carl Bowser and other crash survivors. An element of surprise was added to the poignant memories that evening when Bowser announced the nomination of Al Maranai and Curtis Hill to Cal Poly’s Athletic Hall of Fame, followed by induction ceremonies in October of that year.
When interviewed on a recent anniversary, President Baker said the crash "was certainly a tragic event for the university. And it’s a part of the history of the university. It’s important to remember them."