The Lighthouse is fortunate to have the “Notorious PAB” as a guest writer for our site and this week he’s chimed in on the benefits that “Lesser” opponents receive from playing the University of Alabama. “Notorious” and I will delve into this topic in greater detail with a point/counterpoint later in the season but here’s a look at why it’s helpful for Alabama to play “Lesser” opponents. Enjoy!
On September 17, the South Carolina State Bulldogs played the Clemson Tigers, then ranked #5 in the AP poll, in Clemson Memorial Stadium. The score at halftime was 45-0 in favor of Clemson and both teams agreed to reduce the remaining quarters to 12 minutes each. Clemson won by the final score of 59 – 0. South Carolina State received $300,000 for its participation.
One week later, on September 26, Missouri played host to the Delaware State Hornets in front of 53,000 fans at Faurot Field. At halftime, the Tigers held a 58-0 lead, and once again, the final two quarters were shortened, in this case to 10 minutes each. The game ended 79-0 in favor of the Tigers, while generating $525,000 of revenue for Delaware State.
These “paydays” for the Bulldogs and Hornets are noted because (a) money is an undeniable aspect of college football – huge sums in the case of elite programs like Bama, Ohio State, Clemson, et. al. – and (b) revenue from games against big-time programs means a lot, perhaps survival itself, to athletic departments at institutions like South Carolina State and Georgia State.
Bama vs. Non-Power Five Opponents
Counting the contests with Western Kentucky and Chattatooga this season, Bama has, during Coach Saban’s tenure, played 28 regular season games against teams from outside the Power Five Conferences. The results: 25 wins, two wins vacated (2007 season) and one loss (14-21 to Lousiana Monroe, also in 2007). In those 28 games, the Crimson Tide scored 1158 points (41.4 ppg) and allowed 155 (5.5 ppg). TheTide defense racked up nine shutouts, while the offense scored more than 50 points five times.
In addition, the Tide has played two postseason games against opponents not from a Power Five Conference. In the 2009 Allstate Sugar Bowl, part of the BCS bowl series, Bama (BCS #4) was defeated by the Utah Utes (BCS #6), 31 – 17. At the time, Utah was a member of the Mountain West Conference. Utah finished the season 13-0, the only FBS team to compile that record. On July 1, 2011, the Utes joined the Pac-12 (and are, at present, ranked 24th in the AP Top 25 Poll.)
The other such postseason opponent was the University of Notre Dame. All ND teams – except football – are full members of the ACC. ND schedules five ACC football games every year, but still considers itself an independent. No one is saying that ND’s program has much in common with the likes of WKU and Kent State, but any opportunity to mention the 42-14 beatdown that the Tide administered in winning the 2012 BCS title is not to be missed.
Scheduling games against so-called “lesser” programs did not start with Coach Saban and it will not end when, at some unknown future date, he hangs up his whistle. And we like to think there are benefits beyond a six-figure check for their programs that come to the young men who travel to Bryant-Denny to face the Tide.
Teddy Roosevelt Understood
We’ve heard some sports commentators refer to such games as “prostitution,” equating athletic directors who schedule them with procurers who make money by putting others’ bodies at risk to entertain others. We respectfully disagree.
College is a time when some young people, if they’re both lucky and gifted, get to measure themselves against greatness. Imagine being an MFA student at the Yale Drama School and auditioning with Meryl Streep, or in the mathematics graduate program at Princeton, discussing proofs with Terrence Tao.
Can you imagine what a player from a “lesser” program feels when he runs out of the tunnel at Bryant-Denny Stadium, sees over 100,000 people in the stands, hears the Million Dollar Band playing, sizes up the Tide players and catches a glimpse of Nick Saban – headphones and “game face” on – along the sideline? Most football players, all of whom make sacrifices for their sport, would likely give up a little more to be in that situation, to have that opportunity.
Years from now, long after bruises have healed and the final score is a mere detail, football players from “lesser” programs who played against the Alabama teams of this period will be able to say, without fear of rational contradiction, that they took on the very best. In 1910, US President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech in Paris, entitled, “Citizenship In A Republic.” One part of that speech has become known as “The Man in the Arena,” which is quite appropriate:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
We feel confident that Mr. Roosevelt would stand up and applaud the athletes from Georgia State, Delaware State, Kent State, Chattanooga and all the other “lesser” opponents who enter their respective arenas willingly and compete to the very end.
By the way…
When Theodore Roosevelt spoke of “high achievement,” he spoke from experience.
Home-schooled, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard (1890). After serving as police commissioner for New York City and then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, he went off to fight in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as leader of the Rough Riders. Upon his return, he was elected governor of New York and was named to the Republican national ticket as William McKinley’s vice president. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt, age 42, became the youngest man ever to be President of the United States. In 1906, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War.
And that doesn’t cover many aspects of his extraordinary life. For example, he probably saved college football – which was a gruesome blood sport in the early 1900s – and helped usher in the modern game: http://www.history.com/news/how-teddy-roosevelt-saved-football