Jan. 7, 2003
Vic Bottari, voted the Most Valuable Player of the last Rose Bowl game won by a University of California football team in 1938, died of natural causes last night at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek.
Bottari, 86, was one of the most decorated football players in Cal history. The Vallejo native suffered only one defeat during his entire collegiate career, earning consensus All-America selection in 1938. Captain of Cal's 1937 "Thunder Team" that claimed the school's last national football championship with a 10-0-1 record, Bottari scored the only two touchdowns in the Golden Bears' 13-0 victory over Alabama in the '38 Rose Bowl. He rushed for 137 yards on 34 carries against the Crimson Tide.
"Cal has lost a legend," said Stephen C. Gladstone, Cal's director of athletics. "Vic Bottari will always be remembered as a wonderful family man and someone who greatly enriched the tradition of Golden Bear football. Our heart goes out to his family and close friends."
A two-time first team All-Pacific Coast Conference halfback, Bottari was inducted into three prestigious halls of fame. In 1981, he was voted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame. Five years later, he became a charter member of the University of California Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986, and later was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1996. In addition, Bottari was voted a first team member of the Pacific-10 Conference "All Century Team" in 2001.
A junior on that '37 Thunder Team, Bottari led the Bears to a 10-1 record his senior year in 1938 and was fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting that year-the West Coast's highest finish in the first five years of the award. He later started for the 1939 College All-Stars that played the NFL champion New York Giants in Chicago, but he turned down a $4,000 offer from the NFL's Brooklyn Dodgers to play professionally.
Bottari was one of three players from the 1937 Cal team that have been inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, the others being running back Sam Chapman and center Bob Herwig. That threesome was joined by quarterback John "Jelly Belly" Meek, guard Vard Stockton and end Perry Schwartz in all receiving first team All-American recognition. Bottari, Chapman and Herwig were consensus All-Americans.
With 1,536 yards on 388 carries during his three-year career, Bottari still ranks 15th on Cal's all-time rushing list. He also scored 22 touchdowns and kicked 13 extra-points with the Bears, as his 145 career points rank 14th on the school's all-time charts.
A long-time resident of Orinda, Bottari is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Dorothy Thomasini ("Tommie"), and their daughter, Vicki, and son, Todd. They also have six grandchildren.