Tag Archives: Boise State

The 19th Hole – 12/24/09

Similar to the invincibility of a dominant fantasy running back, the window of opportunity is short. What may have been a lock, a guarantee last year is no longer. Father time may get a slow start out of the gate, but he is always running downhill and hits full stride just as your breathing begins to labor. However, this should not cause despair, unless your ARE a fantasy running back, because yesteryear’s LaDainian Tomlinson is this year’s Chris Johnson.

Both sports and life are constantly evolving, bringing forth the amazing with a small side of unintended consequences. For example, the spread offense in football has injected high scoring, excitement and evened the playing field so that dominant size and strength have been neutralized by speed and quickness. Non BCS universities such as TCU and Boise State can now compete at the highest level with any team in the country, but this parity has made the fullback, the I-formation and straight ahead power running a distant memory in college football. Sometimes the change we see is not necessarily new, but more a refinement and reawakening to the yesteryear’s past. Take for instance the recent success of Georgia Tech and its Option lead offense. Just as equal a departure from a pro-style offense and polar opposite in most respects to the Spread.

The point – constants are just that, until they are not. Always keep your feet moving because that pulling tackle may now be a slot receiver coming at you from behind.

  • BCS. You want amazing – the BCS still exists. Division I(FBS) college football is still absent a playoff system, but I am not as upset as I was the year prior. Arguably every team in a BCS Bowl game is deserving, however one could argue there are two competing championship games. The true National Championship game between Texas and Alabama and the Fiesta Bowl featuring TCU and Boise State. TCU, Texas and Alabama have dominating defenses, while Boise State’s offense is to be feared. One of the larger arguments against a playoff system is that the other bowl games would be devalued. I can state unequivocally that we are already there. I have mad passion for all that is football and yet zero interest in any game prior to Jan. 1. The orange blood that flows throughout my body for the Longhorns is uncompromised, but I question strongly whether the winner of the National Championship game is truly the best team in America without first facing the winner of the “other” championship game. What’s the point of the “other” game, since its a long-standing truism that second place is the first loser. Who really wants or cares to be ranked second in the country at the close of the season?
  • Tiger Woods. He is winner of Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year, the Associated Press Athlete of the Year and Best Male Athlete ESPY Award. Perhaps the most recognizable athlete or even individual in the world. Similar to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Michael Vick, Tiger proved that no one is untouchable and personal transgressions can bleed into and impact an individual’s ability to compete. The question remains – to be a star athlete must you also be a decent, respectable person? Should the personal lives of our athletes impact our view of them as athletes or their ability to perform?
  • Heisman. Mark Ingram is a fantastic football player and clearly deserving of being nominated for the Heisman award. Being nominated for such awards as an underclassman is an award in itself, but historically the Heisman is an upperclassman award for the best player in the country. The 2009 Heisman was a travesty and disrespectful to college football fans. Senior Toby Gerhart was the best running back in the country and we may never see a more dominating lineman in the sport than Senior Ndamukong Suh. Gerhart was my favored choice, but I would have been equally happy with Suh winning the award. Suh did continue on and make history as the first defensive player to win the Associated Press College Football Player of the Year. It has now been three consecutive years that a sophomore has won the Heisman despite of deserving upperclassman. The Heisman is on a slippery slope to floundering in the same pool the BCS has found itself. Perhaps what once was has come full circle again, but with a small twist. The National Championship will be determined by the AP poll and so to the best player may also be determined by the AP as well. Would not that be intriguing if TCU or Boise State is ranked number 1 in the AP poll this year following the “Championship” game. I will say this for Ingram, I do not recall seeing a better, more compelling Heisman speech.

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Teaching the NCAA Sportsmanship

Innocently enough, the NCAA agreed to partner with the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) for a national sportsmanship initiative called “RESPECT Weekend” to kickoff the college football season. The premise for RESPECT Weekend is for all of the players on each team to meet prior to the game and shake hands to demonstrate sportsmanship. While it is a requirement that head coaches do this before each game, participation in Respect Weekend was strongly encouraged, but not mandatory.

Presumably, the NCAA and the AFCA felt this could help prevent players from fighting similar to the infamous South Carolina vs Clemson brawl in 2004

In some meeting during the summer, RESPECT Weekend probably seemed like an excellent idea. Who would be against promoting sportsmanship and is shaking hands not an great way to display this? Two problems however: What exactly is sportsmanship and how is it properly demonstrated?

Sportsmanship is the actions taken by coaches and athletes that are the unwritten rules behind the rules of a sport. Its not showing up your opponent, but allowing for a graceful defeat. Sportsmanship is choosing to not run up the score when the game has been won despite what the game clock says. Sportsmanship is not shooting a three point shot in basketball with less than 10 seconds left and up by double digits or only calling running plays in football once the game has become out of reach for the opponent. Sportsmanship is not shaking hands before a game.

Looking at this idea from a pure football perspective, it is doubtful RESPECT Weekend was conjured up by someone who once played the sport. Its acceptance by all parties is assuredly the result of no one finding a strong defensible reason not to do it. There is a mental preparation that nearly all athletes go through leading up the game or event. Unlike golf, baseball or even basketball to a degree, football players are preparing themselves to do battle. To physically outmatch their opponent, to knock them to the ground if possible every play. It is irresponsible to have more than 100 men in this mental state all meet at mid field and come eye to eye with their opponent. You cannot predict the mental strength of all involved and should not bet on the emotional control of these young men.

An obvious counter to this argument is the sport of boxing. While it is true boxers “touch gloves” before the beginning of each bout, like football coaches, it is purely ceremonial. Boxers are well past thinking about sportsmanship at this point. The boxer has already personally decided whether he will allow himself to commit the acts of a low blow or punching after the bell well before the touching of gloves and you will not know what their decision was until after the match is underway. On June 28, 1997, Mike Tyson touched gloves with Evander Holyfield to start the fight and in the third round Tyson bit a piece of Holyfield’s right ear off. This is all to prove sportsmanship is developed during an individuals lifetime and demonstrated by testing of their will through the fire of conflict and opportunity, not through a ceremony.

LeGarrette Blount was the University of Oregon 2009 starting tailback. The Senior’s stats for the year will remain eight carries for -5 yards. Frustration following defeat at the hand of Boise State and the vebal taunting by Byron Hout lead Blount to drop Hout with one swift punch to the chin. It was shocking, indefensible and the act that will be forever linked to the first day of RESPECT Weekend. Both players disgraced themselves and their teams, but for Blount, he will never play college football again. Sportsmanship matters. Oklahoma State’s coach Mike Gundy has already declared his team will not shake hands with Georgia today stating:

“Our first concern was [we’ll] have 115 guys out there and they’ll have 70, it just takes one guy to pop off,” Gundy said Monday at his weekly media luncheon. “Then I don’t know how you’re going to break it up. How do you control something like that?”

There will always be a Tyson or a Blount that can send an event into disarray. The AFCA and the NCAA should focus on strongly encouraging its coaches to be the torchbearers of sportsmanship. Eliminate dirty play and penalize teams for running up scores. The latter though will always remain when a championship is decided through sportswriter and coach voting or the BCS system. If the NCAA really cared about sportsmanship in football it would create a playoff system to decide its champion. Otherwise you will always have coaches pushing the limits of acceptability like Oklahoma’s embarrassment of Texas A&M in 2003. That day the Sooners won 77-0 and all that was proved was that Bob Stoops will never have the discipline to be Joe Paterno. Paterno has twice had an undefeated team in a major conference that did not win the National Championship. Many argue it was due to the fact that Paterno refuses to run up a score when a game is officially out of reach. Paterno proves true sportsmanship and his legacy as a man trumps everything else. The NCAA does not need to invent acts of sportsmanship to improve the game. It merely needs to take a look at how the winningest coach in Division I football has defined his career. Winners do not happen by accident.