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With the Season Upon Us, Some End-of-Summer College Football Notes

by on August 22, 2019 5:00 AM

The unofficial start of fall is upon us as college football begins this weekend. So it’s a good time to wrap up some summer notes before the real blocking and tackling resumes.

1. Plastic Tickets? A friend called after he’d gotten an elaborate box of suite tickets for the Penn State home football season. He’d recently read about the pervasiveness of plastics in the oceans and the evils of plastic grocery bags and straws. He’s often reminded me that I am on the Board of Trustees of a university that he believes has become hyper-liberal and in his mind hyper-hypocritical.

“If you guys are so ‘woke’ and so concerned about global warming, sustainability, climate change and the environment answer this for me: why are all my suite tickets plastic? Why aren’t they paper or why aren’t they just sent electronically? I don’t want my tickets to end up choking a sea turtle?”

He had a point. With paper concert, airplane or sporting event tickets increasingly becoming electronic it seems odd to have plastic ones at a school that is a leading research institution on climate and the environment.

2. Hard Knocks? This season a handful of NCAA football programs will be featured in a college version of the HBO’s NFL show “Hard Knocks.” Two things immediately jump to mind: 

- All exposure is not good. Some things on a team should remain within the team family. The producers, camera operators and crew may seem nice, but they’re not your friends. The familiarity they try to foster can cause subjects to put unfounded trust in them. Once you sign over control, anything can happen. 

- This is a for-profit show that will invade student-athletes’ privacy. It will be out there on the HBO App and On Demand for a long, long time. Will the student-athletes get paid for their starring role in the show? Can a student-athlete opt out and also force HBO to edit out any mentions or discussions about him or his abilities by other people?

3. “Greatest” Lists: As 2019 marks the 150th Anniversary of College Football there will be a multitude of “greatest” lists of games, players, teams coaches, traditions…you name it. 

The best games of all-time? There are hundreds of them every year. Over 150 years the numbers to choose from are mind-boggling. I coached 20+ years and while a slew of games stand out above the others I couldn’t definitively rank the best I saw. There are players who played at schools where I coached who were exceptional, but to rank them would be completely arbitrary.

The Sports Illustrated lists have already come out and appear to have been written by someone with a limited sense of history.

They list the top 10 “Greatest Traditions in College Football.” True traditions cross generations or span a significant period of time. At No. 10 on the Sports Illustrated tradition list is the Miami “Turnover Chain” which began in 2017. I probably have leftovers in my freezer older than that. But how successful has the “Turnover Chain” been? After starting the 2017 season 10-0, Miami lost at Pitt, starting a 7-9 run for the chain. It is a ritual not a tradition. 

Just to show I’m not a biased Penn Stater, the White Out at 15 years old is just nearing tradition age—not quite there, but close.

Another major Sports Illustrated fail is its list of the best games of all-time. It did not include the Sugar Bowl for the 1978 National Championship. Legendary ABC broadcaster Keith Jackson called it the greatest game he ever called. That’s good enough for me. The picture of Alabama’s goal-line stand against Penn State was in homes, bars and restaurants of Alabama fans for decades. For reference, Sports Illustrated included the 2011 Alabama-LSU regular season overtime game, which was anything but a classic. Given that LSU lost a rematch to Alabama in the National Championship game, I doubt there are paintings of that game in homes across the Bayou.

Also missing from that list was the Fiesta Bowl game between Penn State and Miami that decided the 1986 National Champion. To their credit, No. 1 Miami could’ve avoided No. 2 Penn State by going to the Orange Bowl, but they were willing to play PSU in Tempe. For the battle of unbeaten teams, NBC and sponsor Sunkist got permission from the NCAA to move the game to the night of Friday, Jan. 2. With the contrasting styles of Miami swagger and conservative Penn State, the game’s build-up bred a dislike that created an intensity rarely matched in the college game. When it was all said and done, the physical, hard-hitting epic 14-10 win by heavy underdog Penn State remains the highest-rated college football telecast of all-time. 

State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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