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College Football Hall of Fame April 2, 2018

Posted by flashbuzzer in History, Sports.
Tags: , , , ,

I recently visited the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. The museum showcases the history and traditions of college football.

Here are seven nuggets that I gleaned from my time at the museum.

1. Tailgating was inspired by the feasts that were held during sporting events in ancient Greece and Rome. During the first college football game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, famished fans allegedly dined on victuals from the gate of a wagon pulled by a tail-wagging horse. Modern-day tailgating traditions include:

2. The idiosyncrasies of cheerleading squads include:

  • the Rice Marching Owl Band dressing up as mobsters and toting fake tommy guns
  • the RUF/NEK squad at Oklahoma refusing to shave after Sooner defeats
  • the origin of the Yell Leaders at Texas A&M (an effort to prevent freshman coeds from leaving athletic events before their conclusion).

3. Jackie Jensen starred at Cal, making an impact as a passer, runner, receiver and even as a kicker. Yet he achieved greater success on the baseball diamond, lifting the Golden Bears to the 1947 College World Series title by defeating a Yale squad that included George H.W. Bush. He would later win the 1958 American League MVP award as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

4. The first game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869 featured a round rubber ball. This round ball was eventually replaced by an oblong leather ball, which featured laces that were designed to secure the constituent pieces of the ball itself. Coaches later realized that players could use these laces to improve their grip on the ball.

5. The protective equipment in college football has evolved significantly since the formative years of that sport. Approaches along these lines include:

  • a nose protector, worn by Edgar Allan Poe III during his career at Princeton
  • the first helmet, designed for a player at Navy whose doctor warned him that if he refused to wear it, he would either die or become mentally ill
  • leather strips on the chest and arms of uniforms, allegedly designed to increase friction and limit fumbles.

6. The idiosyncrasies of college football teams include:

  • the stipulation preventing players for Army from wearing the number 12, as it represents the cadets who support the team in the stands
  • the number 16 at Kansas State, as it is the number of rules that form the foundation of Bill Snyder’s program
  • a lunch pail at Virginia Tech, as it represents the blue-collar attitude of the Hokies’ defense; after a road victory, the Hokies will fill a pail with sod from that stadium.

7. The practice of sports psychology was influenced by the work of Coleman Griffith in the early part of the 20th century. College football teams often rely on the advice of sports psychologists; for example, Florida quarterback Chris Leak apparently wore a replica of a 1996 national championship ring during the Gators’ run to the 2006 BCS championship. Also, Trevor Moawad ran the following drill for Alabama players to improve their mental focus: read a sequence of numbers while ignoring the shouts of teammates.

The museum provides visitors with a badge that contains a microchip, enabling them to interact with various exhibits and earn “badges” that are saved to an account that they have created. I logged into the museum’s website after my visit and saw the “badges” that I had earned, which was neat. The museum staff was also friendly and helpful; many of them were passionate college football fans.

My only quibble with the museum is that some of the exhibits appeared to be non-functional.

Overall I enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend it to sports buffs who happen to visit Atlanta.


Reasonable Expectations for Star QB Recruits October 2, 2008

Posted by flashbuzzer in Sports.
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1 comment so far

I recently came across this article on Jimmy Clausen’s press conference where he verbally committed to Notre Dame. It took me back to the spring of 2006, when a tremendous amount of hype surrounded the rising high school senior from Westlake Village, CA.

The article was interesting, and one quote in particular caught my eye. Clausen mentioned that one of his goals was to essentially lead Notre Dame to four national championships during his time in South Bend, which really fired up the crowd at the press conference.

This got me thinking about the hype that usually accompanies the signing of a star quarterback recruit. Quarterbacks are (rightly or wrongly) perceived as the heroes who will lead their teams to national titles. The key question for me, then, was: should a rabid fan base expect their top QB recruit to lead their team to at least one (if not more) BCS titles?

I did a small study of this based on my old prep all-America lists from 2000 to 2003. You can find the lists here. The quarterbacks for each list were all consensus top-5 signal-callers after their senior seasons.

The results were quite alarming, in my opinion.

Let’s start with the team from 2000:

Joe Mauer – Florida State fans who have grown weary of their team’s poor play at QB must be kicking themselves, wondering how things would have gone had Mauer actually suited up for the Seminoles. It’s difficult to call Mauer a bust, though, seeing as how he was the #1 pick in the 2001 Major League Baseball amateur draft. After being called up to the majors in 2004, he played in the 2006 and 2008 MLB All-Star Games and led the AL in batting average for both seasons. He’s now arguably the best catcher in the big leagues.

D.J. Shockley – Shockley redshirted in 2001 and then sat behind Georgia legend David Greene for three years before finally getting the starting job in 2005. He made the most of that chance, going 10-3 and leading the Bulldogs to the 2005 SEC title. His career ended on a somewhat sour note as Georgia fell 38-35 to West Virginia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl.

Brent Rawls – the star recruit from QB factory Evangel Christian (Shreveport, LA) actually never started a game for Oklahoma. He initially beat out Jason White for the starting job in the spring of 2003 before a series of injuries and self-inflicted mishaps caused the Sooner coaches to perform an about-face. He then transferred to Louisiana Tech in September 2003 but was ruled academically ineligible for the 2004 season.

Ingle Martin – Martin signed with Florida and served as a capable backup to Rex Grossman during the 2002 season. He then started the first four games of the 2003 season before true freshman Chris Leak took the reins of the Gators’ offense. Martin wound up transferring to Furman in January 2004.

Next, let’s look at the team from 2001:

Vince Young – this is a case where the recruiting gurus actually got one right. Young’s well-chronicled accomplishments at Texas included an astounding 30-2 record as a starter. After beating Michigan 38-37 in the 2005 Rose Bowl, he led the Longhorns on a march back to Pasadena during the following season. Young inspired Texas to the 2005 Big 12 title before unleashing a mind-boggling performance to beat USC 41-38 in the 2006 Rose Bowl, capturing the Longhorns’ first national title in 35 years.

Ben Olson – after signing on the dotted line with BYU, he redshirted the 2002 season before going on a two-year Mormon mission. After returning from his mission trip, he transferred to UCLA in the spring of 2005, having never played a down for the Cougars.

Trent Edwards – he redshirted the 2002 season with Stanford before starting four games in the 2003 season, backing up Chris Lewis for the rest of the year. He then started for the Cardinal from 2004-06, compiling a 10-24 record. Edwards never led Stanford to a winning record during his three years at the helm of their offense.

Reggie McNeal – he started for Texas A&M from 2003-05, compiling a 16-19 record along the way. McNeal’s high-water mark came in the 2004 season, when he led the Aggies to a 7-5 record, which culminated in a 38-7 humiliation at the hands of Tennessee in the 2005 Cotton Bowl. That turned out to be the only bowl game for A&M during McNeal’s time in College Station.

Now let’s look at the team from 2002:

Chris Leak – this is another case where the recruiting gurus actually got it right, though like Young, there were some growing pains along the way. Leak ended up starting during all four years of his Florida career, and the Gators went 37-14 from 2003-06. Leak teamed up with star freshman Tim Tebow to win both the 2006 SEC title and the 2007 BCS Championship Game. In the latter matchup, Leak led the Gators to a 41-14 crushing of Ohio State, delivering their first national title in 10 years.

Kyle Wright – he signed on the dotted line with Miami and redshirted the 2003 season. After backing up Brock Berlin during the 2004 season, he started for the Hurricanes from 2005-07 and led them to a 21-16 record. Along the way, he briefly lost his starting job to Kirby Freeman at the outset of the 2007 season.

Robert Lane – this touted recruit pulled off a Signing Day switcheroo and ended up with Ole Miss instead of LSU. Oddly enough, he played multiple positions and only started one game at QB during his Rebels career. He finally settled in at tight end and started every game there during his senior season.

JaMarcus Russell – Russell signed with LSU and redshirted the 2003 season before backing up Marcus Randall during the 2004 season. He then started for the Tigers from 2005-06, leading them to a 22-4 record. Russell led LSU to the 2005 SEC West title and then sparked them to a 41-14 beatdown of Notre Dame in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.

Finally, let’s look at the team from 2003:

Rhett Bomar – things started off very promisingly for Bomar at Oklahoma, as he led the Sooners to an 8-4 record in the 2005 season. Then things went south very quickly thanks to a notorious car dealership scandal that I won’t get into here. He transferred to Sam Houston State in the fall of 2006.

Chad Henne – Henne actually started during all four years of his Michigan career as he led the Maize and Blue to a 36-14 record from 2004-07. His true freshman season was actually remarkably successful as the Wolverines went 9-3, shared the Big Ten title with Iowa and lost 38-37 to Texas in the 2005 Rose Bowl. Henne also led Michigan to the 2007 Rose Bowl, where they were pasted 32-18 by USC. He also had some trouble beating Ohio State during his time in Ann Arbor, going 0-4 against the Buckeyes.

Xavier Lee – this multidimensional threat actually only started 6 games during his Florida State career, going 2-4 in the process. Perhaps he was a victim of poor coaching/player development on the part of Jeff Bowden, or maybe he was somewhat overrated. He ended up declaring early for the 2008 NFL Draft.

Anthony Morelli – his signing with Penn State sent the Nittany Lion faithful into a frenzy. After sitting behind Michael Robinson, he started in 2006-07 and led Penn State to a combined 18-8 record (with identical 9-4 records in both seasons).

The overall results were quite eye-opening. Of the 15 quarterbacks who actually played college football, only two of them (Young and Leak) started for national title-winning teams. Two others (Shockley and Henne) won or shared conference championships as a starting QB, and a third (Russell) started for a BCS bowl-winning team. The rest had either solid careers, mediocre careers or completely flamed out.

Based on these results, here are what I think constitute reasonable expectations for a star QB recruit. If the recruit starts for two seasons and his team goes to a bowl in each season, that should satisfy his fan base. Anything on top of that (BCS bowl berth, conference championship, or national title, let alone multiple national titles) is just gravy.

Hopefully rabid college fans will remember that quite a few factors go into winning a national title, including good player development, strong offensive line/defensive line play, luck, etc.