You may have heard that we have a little tackle football game coming up on Monday Night. The second version of the College Football Playoff National Championship matches top ranked and undefeated Clemson and second ranked and 1-loss Alabama.
These two schools actually have a lot in common. First, is Clemson Coach Dabo Sweeney who played at Alabama and won a National Championship as a Wide Receiver there in the early 90s. Second, is that both schools have run afoul of the NCAA on more than one occasion. Clemson was put on probation due to the shenanigans of former coaches Danny Ford and the infamous “Cheatin’ Charlie Pell”. But, Alabama is lucky they are even in this position because the NCAA was well within its rights to shutter the program about 15 years ago.
Now, let’s be honest here, there’s not a single school out there that hasn’t run afoul of the NCAA in at least a minor manner at some point. The NCAA rule book is ridiculous and this pandering politically correct organization can talk all they want, but they generally do not have the best interest of student athletes in mind. Otherwise, why do they legislate and micro-manage the dumbest things like how many times a player can actually to go their coaches’ house for dinner? What an terrible offense, making sure that someone’s child entrusted to your care actually has enough to eat.
I have a theory that the NCAA in its current form won’t even exist in 10-15 years. The College Presidents of the so-called “Power 5” conferences know that they don’t need the NCAA as much as the NCAA needs them. The basketball tournament is the association’s biggest event and largest money maker, but they have no control over FBS football and the Power 5 conferences can leave and form their own association and guess what, the NCAA is all but done. CBS and Turner are not paying billions of dollars for a tournament where the Big-10, Pac-12, SEC, ACC and Big-12 aren’t involved.
While the NCAA has its issues, Alabama has had its issues with the NCAA. And, had the NCAA dropped the hammer on ‘Bama about 15 years ago this match-up would have never happened and Alabama may well have been a minor player in college football instead of one of its superpowers.
There seems to be a perception among “lunatic” Alabama fans that the school invented football. The numbers lend credence to that belief. Alabama has won 25 SEC championships, 12 more than any other school in the conference, and has played in a record 63 bowl games. The school claims 15 National Championships. That’s why the number on the “official” Alabama helmet logo says “15” and if they win this year, it will change to “16”. The school claims titles in 1925, 1926, 1930, 1934, 1941, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978 (a co-championship with USC), 1979, 1992, 2009, 2011 and 2012. Bear Bryant coached 6 of those National Title teams. With a win Monday night, Fairmont, WV native Nick Saban can add his 4th at the school and 5th overall to go with one he claimed at LSU.
But, like every school, there are skeletons in the closet and prior to Saban’s arrival, there wasn’t much to be proud of. Alum Mike Shula was the Tide head coach just prior to Saban. In four years on the job, he had two losing records and one 6-6 team. That will get you fired at Texas State much less Alabama. Before Shula Mike Price was the Tide coach and never coached a game after an alleged incident at a Florida Panhandle strip bar that was a lead story in Sports Illustrated. Dennis Franchione coached two years at Alabama and apparently hated it so much he went to Texas A&M, then there was the infamous era of Mike Dubose and Gene Stallings. Stallings a Bear Bryant disciple from Bear’s tenure at Texas A&M won a National Title, but put in motion the school’s NCAA problems. In September 1994, the NCAA accused Alabama for violations under Stallings for allowing player Antonio Langham to play after he had signed with an agent. That drew the school 3 years probation, a three year bowl ban, the loss of 26 scholarships and the forfeit of 8 wins from 1993. Just two year’s later during Stallings last season and while winning 10 games, Alabama was docked 1 scholarship for failing to disclose to the NCAA that an Birmingham, Alabama tire dealer was guaranteeing loans to players. Stallings retired and left the program to his former Defensive Coordinator DuBose. In short his tenure was a disaster.
DuBose went 4-7, 7-5, 10-3 and 3-8 before getting fired after the 2000 season. Not only was his overall record bad, DuBose got the school sued for sexual harassment for alleged misconduct with a former secretary. That cost Alabama $360,000.00. After he was gone the problems from his tenure kept coming. In 2002 Alabama was again placed on two years probation and banned from participating in the post-season for 2 years. This time boosters were found to be paying money to divert high school players to the school. I think it’s safe to assume that Mike DuBose didn’t have compliance in mind and he’s the ultimate definition of a loser. You pay money and still lose 8 games?
The final incident in 2002 nearly bought the school the NCAA’s ultimate penalty, the death penalty or suspension of the program. Alabama was considered a “repeat offender” and thus eligible for death. Tom Yeager who chaired the committee on infractions said at the time that Alabama was “absolutely staring down the barrel of a gun.” Only once has the NCAA imposed that sanction on a major college football team. SMU had its 1987 season cancelled and the school voluntary cancelled the 1988 season rather than play only 7 road games after repeated violations of paying players. The school returned to play in 1989 with a glorified Junior Varsity team. That season SMU lost a game to Notre Dame 59-6, and to Houston 95-21. SMU didn’t get a full complement of scholarships until 1992. The program has never fully recovered. They had just one winning season in 20 years, and didn’t get back into a bowl game until 2009. This year, SMU – now playing in the American Conference – went 2-10. Had the NCAA been so inclined that could have been Alabama so the “fanatic” Bama fringe fans had better be thankful they survived a near death experience because had they not there would be no Nick Saban and no chance at another National Title.
Also this weekend, the FCS championship game takes place in Frisco, Texas as top ranked Jacksonville State faces North Dakota State. The North Dakota State Bison are trying to make some serious history this weekend. They are trying to win their 5th straight FCS title. They already hold the record with 4 championships in a row.
And the NFL playoffs open this weekend with 4 wild card games. I enjoy watching NFL football (the pace of the game is amazing), but I don’t follow it as closely as the college game. However, what I find interesting is that this weekend NBC will broadcast a game in the daytime for the first time since the 1998 playoffs when they broadcast the Seattle-Minnesota game in Minneapolis on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. The network lost the rights to NFL football in 1998 and was out of the sport until they returned with Sunday night football in 2006. Since then their games have all been well…at night. The new NFL contract signed last year gave the league – long a micro-manager- the right to move games around. That’s why you see straight NFC games on CBS, straight AFC games on Fox, and the league flexing games into different time slots and networks. For Wild Card Weekend, CBS gets a prime time game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and NBC goes to the daytime. Game time temperature is expected to be around 1 degree with a wind chill sub-zero. So, the old television producer in me tells me to tell you to watch for a look at the coldest games in NFL playoff history one of which just happens to be the frigid 1982 AFC title game between San Diego and Cincinnati in Cincinnati. Expect to see video of that one on the broadcast. Why? Well, NBC’s analyst Cris Collinsworth played in that game.
Once again, I remain the source for useless information. Stay warm and enjoy the weekend…