College football will soon be 150 years old, depending on who’s counting

 

They say that college football was born this month in 1869, but “they” may not know what they’re talking about.

** EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:01 THURSDAY, OCT. 10. 2002 ** Men who stand tall in the story of football and beacons from American history are among the subjects being honored with postage stamps next year. When the Postal Service unveils it's 2003 stamp subjects Thursday in California the list will include four greats from the early days of gridiron glory _ Walter Camp, Ernie Nevers, Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski. (AP Photo/USPS) ORG XMIT: WX106 ORG XMIT: MER0704270248494484
Walter Camp, Ernie Nevers, Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski as pictured in 2003 U.S. stamp series on Early Football Heroes. (AP Photo/USPS)

Are we really supposed to count a game between Princeton and Rutgers played 146 years ago as true football competition when the rules of the day were no carrying or throwing of the ball? That’s right, everybody just tried to kick a round ball into the opponent’s goal and the first team to six goals was the winner.

If that’s not soccer, you can call me Kaka.

So let’s try to come up with our own birthday for college football, one that actually sounds American. I will list several options and you can cast your vote, either by e-mail or retweet.

  1. 1906 and the first halftime show featuring a marching band. Illinois played the University of Chicago that day. Nobody remembers the final score but dozens of newly converted fans agreed that football had a great beat and it was easy to dance to.
  2. 1912 and the creation of the modern scoring system: Prior to that year, both touchdowns and field goals might be worth four or five points each, according to who was counting. It was improvisational chaos on a scale never recreated until the Atlantic Coast Conference started training and releasing football officials on an unsuspecting public.
  3. 1913, the year that both Paul “Bear” Bryant and Woody Hayes were born. If the significance of that harmonic convergence needs to be explained, you are not qualified to vote in this poll.
  4. 1916 and the first flagrant effort to run up the score. Georgia Tech edged Cumberland College 222-0 at the urging of Yellow Jackets coach John Heisman. Was he forever vilified for this act of cruelty? No, Heisman’s name was placed on the most prestigious individual award given to a college player each year. It’s a wonder, given our winner-take-all history, that he wasn’t elected president, too.
  5. 1923 and the construction of the Rose Bowl stadium. Prior to this event, the granddaddy of all postseason football games was played in a Pasadena park, which means there were no massive stands to fill and no ticket gates and no concession stands and no real reason for a corporation to want to buy naming rights for the whole shebang. Football was simply a game, in other words, and as every American knows, football was never meant to be simply a game.
  6. 1936 and the introduction of the Associated Press college football poll. That Minnesota was the first AP national champion is an indication of how primitive the voting was at first. Legend holds that carrier pigeons delivered the ballots, leading many Southerners to mistakenly and instinctively shoot their team’s chances for a No. 1 ranking right out of the sky.
  7. 1963 and the 28-7 victory of No. 2 Texas over No. 1 Oklahoma, which verified that the polls really didn’t mean that much after all.
  8. 1973 and the NCAA’s decision to divide member schools into divisions according to size. No more Cumberland vs. Georgia Tech. Thankfully the concept of the “body bag” game was preserved, enhancing the experience of homecoming games everywhere.
  9. 1979 and the founding of ESPN. Prior to this occasion, there were no talking heads to lead the discussion on who is No. 1 and who should win the Heisman and which coach should be run out of town on a rail. People actually watched games for themselves, but not many games because not all were televised. This is not science fiction, but it does require a similar suspension of belief.
  10. 2014 and the blessed arrival of the College Football Playoff system. Four teams were included, which had people wondering why eight teams wouldn’t be better, or 16, or 32. Congress eventually will get involved in all of this, and then the Supreme Court and, finally, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where football isn’t considered football at all.

At that point, college football might cease to exist as we know it, and might be reborn in some new form. I hope it’s without instant replay. Just helmets and goalposts and I’m good. That’s taking it all the way back to the game’s creation story, whenever “they” say that was written.

 

 

Dan Campbell has luxury that Todd Bowles didn’t as Dolphins interim coach

 

 

Todd Bowles was 2-1 as Miami’s interim coach at the end of the 2011 season but didn’t get much time to see what else he could do with the Dolphins.

Too bad, because he might have been a solid long-term answer, and probably more productive than Joe Philbin turned out to be.

Head coach Todd Bowles in the snow in the first quarter in the game with the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park on December 18,2011.
Former Dolphins interim coach Todd Bowles in the snow in a game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 18, 2011. (Photo by Joe Rimkus, Miami Herald)

Now Dan Campbell is 2-1 in the same interim position with the rare opportunity to ride it out for nine more games. If he’s looking to make it stick as Miami’s head coach in 2016, it will take something special.

Losing at Buffalo on Sunday? Nothing special about that if it turns out that way. Philbin made it an annual practice.

Toggling back and forth between strong efforts and weak ones to finish around .500 or just below it as a head coach? Yeah, that was another Philbin fault, and Campbell needs to separate himself from that trend if he wants to be seen as more than a caretaker of a coach.

How about building a winning record within the AFC East? Philbin couldn’t do it in his first three seasons and was off to an 0-2 start in the division in 2015 when the Dolphins fired him.

Funny thing is, Bowles scored well in all of these categories but former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and team owner Stephen Ross still didn’t have enough faith in his leadership.

Bowles’ first game as Dolphins interim coach was a 30-23 win at Buffalo. How’s that for a brawny debut?

He built a winning record, too, and did it exclusively within the AFC East with victories over the Bills and Jets and a tough 27-24 road loss to the Patriots, who went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.

Makes you think that the Dolphins quit too soon on Bowles, if they ever really took him seriously at all. Now he’s 4-3 as the Jets’ rookie coach, with a 27-14 London win over Miami included.

Also makes it clear that for all the good Campbell has brought to the team in terms of attitude and aggressive play, he still hasn’t done enough to stop Mike Tannenbaum and Dennis Hickey from looking around for a surer bet as head coach.

[Time has come for UM to start monitoring Mark Richt’s situation at Georgia]

[Thinking back on Doug Betters, when a sack was a sack]

[Dan Campbell, true believer and quote machine, on the majesty of football]

Consider Miami’s 36-7 drubbing at New England last week. It wasn’t even a game.

When Bowles went to Foxborough as the Dolphins’ interim coach, he had the team ready to compete. Matt Moore, nobody’s franchise quarterback, passed for three touchdowns that day. Reggie Bush rushed for 113 yards and Brandon Marshall totaled 143 yards in receptions.

So far Campbell’s Dolphins have delivered that kind of production against a couple of lesser teams in Tennessee and Houston. Of course, he has time to get it rolling against tougher competition, and across a couple of months.

My focus, though, will be on what he does against division opponents specifically.

At Buffalo on Sunday.

At the Jets on Nov. 29.

Against New England in the Jan. 3 season finale at home.

If Campbell can push those guys around, that would be pretty strong evidence that he can find his way to the playoffs one day as Miami’s coach.

If he can’t, well, no other NFL interim could ever say he got a fairer, longer opportunity to demonstrate just how special he is.

If Miami isn’t already monitoring Mark Richt’s situation at Georgia, the time has come

Mark Richt’s name doesn’t come up as often as some others when people list candidates for the Miami Hurricanes coaching job, but maybe it should.

Richt, once a quarterback at Boca Raton High School as well as at UM, may be in some real job jeopardy at Georgia.

Head coach Mark Richt of the Georgia Bulldogs on sidelines during the game against the Florida Gators at EverBank Field on October 31, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Head coach Mark Richt of the Georgia Bulldogs on sidelines during the game against the Florida Gators at EverBank Field on October 31, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Last Saturday’s 27-3 loss to Florida left a lot of boosters sore over a lack of competitiveness against the best teams in the SEC, not to mention the necessity of having to drill down to the third string just to find a workable quarterback. The loudest of the critics is Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, quarterback of Georgia’s 1959 SEC championship team.

Appearing on Atlanta radio station WCNN this week, Tarkenton called the loss to Florida “a total disgrace” and offered the kind of support for Richt that can be interpreted as wavering at best.

“As long as Mark Richt is the coach, I support Mark Richt,” Tarkenton said, “but I think there are discussions going on.

“People are evaluating things. I imagine Mark is evaluating things, but this is not a good situation. It’s a bad situation at my alma mater.”

Richt is one of the finest men you could ever meet and a very good coach. His career record of 141-51 at Georgia with two SEC titles will back that up.

It might just be that 14 years at any one school begins to wear on everybody involved. Even the most successful coaches get tired of the grumbling from boosters who want to win everything all the time.

[What Gators paid to get McElwain underscores UM’s challenge in finding a coach]

[Going back 45 years to Charlie Tate, it’s always taken extra thick skin to coach at UM]

[Dan Campbell, true believer and quote machine, on the majesty of football]

I wouldn’t be surprised if Nick Saban’s nine-year run at Alabama isn’t nearing an end. Remember, too, how Steve Spurrier resigned at Florida without prodding in early 2002, saying “I simply believe that 12 years as head coach at a major university in the SEC is long enough.”

Miami would do well to get Richt as head coach should he become available. He was the top playcaller who everybody figured would follow Bobby Bowden at Florida State, remember, but Georgia got to him first.

A fresh start at his alma mater might look pretty good to Richt right about now, though a strong finish against Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech could still get the Bulldogs to 9-3 and that might just settle things down again.