A Trip Down Football’s Memory Lane

Before kicking off another season, let us take one last look at the season past to remember the good times. And to put the bad ones to a dignified end. Lessons of the past may be useful in preventing failures in the future. Unfortunately, many of the schools that appeared in the 2006 FirstWorst Futility rankings seem destined to stay there.

There are some perennial powerhouses that live among the FirstWorst. The Bleu Devils of Duke know this place well. Although Army and Navy have a fabulous record turning out people who can blow things up and take things from other people, Army can rarely manage to produce more than a 3-and-out on the gridiron. Perhaps this is because their graduates are expected to achieve things and so the best high school recruits go elsewhere. The Army Mules are still trying to convince each other that a victory over Kent State counts as a win.

Losers deserve respect. Without them, Nebraska’s Cornhucksters would have no schedule. Eastern, Western, Southern, Central, Lower and Upper Michigans would have no way to fund their sports programs. Troy State (who?) financed a good chunk of its athletic budget by sending eleven poor sods to Lincoln in September to bend over for a 56-0 pasting by the Big Red. Nebraska charged admission for this. Big Red fans actually paid.

Being cannon fodder by playing against a top school has its rewards, although winning isn’t usually among them. The Sage acknowledges that although Montana State’s Bobcats whipped up on the Colorado B’lows in their season opener in Boulder, most underdog schools grit their teeth, take the beating and the paycheck. The underdog players and coaches, though, need to question their self respect. Still, the Sage bets that Montana State had fewer players arrested in the offseason than did CU – unless you can get arrested for shooting rabbits in Bozeman.

Losers deserve respect because they may not always be among the best of the worst. The Sage will miss Rutgers. The Knights destroyed years of school tradition last year by sinking to a dismal 11-2 record. The campus still hasn’t recovered. The monkey wrench the Knights threw into predictions at the start of last year has prognosticators twirling their Cross pens wondering how they got it so wrong. And now sportswriters from CA have to learn to spell ‘Piscataway.’ By building a legitimate program, Rutgers has failed fans nationwide and has relegated their program to respectability. A worse fate the Sage cannot imagine.

Losers have their place in this world. They balance everything. The Sage loves finding tidbits of wisdom and irony in losing football. To these small bits of fun, this column is officially dedicated.

Presented here are the original picks for the ten worst of College Football. Before proceeding, the Sage points out that this list: · Is devoid of any scientific process · Focuses on but is not limited to BCS teams · Is developed completely at the whim of the Sage of College Football · May contain inappropriate references for underaged readers · May require literate adults to explain the finer points to children or people who paid to see Troy State play Nebraska · Might not have anything to do with an actual football game

Number One – The Poor Blew Devils of Duke

This one is a no-brainer. Basketball schools shouldn’t attempt football; dunking the ball over the goal posts doesn’t score any points. Besides, that ball bounces funny. The BDs rose to lofty status of number one on the FirstWorst list by virtue of it’s sparkling 0-12 record last season. Capped by a season finale loss to rival powerhouse North Carolina, the Bleu Devils stole defeat from the jaws of defeat by coming back to have an extra point blocked late in the fourth quarter to seal the one-point loss. This solid record and the strong finish sets up the Duke coach – whomever loses and gets the job. – for another splendid recruiting season.

Included in the head coach job description is: «Study, evaluate and recommend innovations in football strategy and equipment. Required Qualifications at this Level: Education/Training N/A»

At least the University is realistic. The Sage wonders if it is possible to produce a winner by designing new pants. In any event, the University capped it’s celebration of the perfect season by adding new stadium parking for over 500 cars. The occupants of said vehicles can anticipate another spectacularly futile season.

2- Temple Owls

After coasting through their challenging schedule, facing down and losing to teams such as Buffalo (not the Bills) in which neither team scored a touchdown, the Owls fought hard to close the season with a five game losing streak, including losses to Toledo and Akron. The pitiful Owls also had to play Ohio State and survived by losing 35 -7. That seven points were scored in Temple’s favor was cause for celebration. Pennsylvania produces hundreds of star high school recruits each year. Unfortunately for Temple, they all choose other schools.

3-Illinois

The forces that be in Chambana recently declared a second «St. Patrick’s Day.» When Spring Break coincided with alcohol’s holy day, the local bars let out a howl that they were losing business with students soaking up suds in Florida. So to prop up local barkeeps, the university introduced a second St. Patrick’s Day celebration. It is this kind of visionary leadership that has earned Illinois third place in the FirstWorst rankings. The (D)UI leadership also showed foresight and strength in retiring Chief Illiniwek this off season. The whimpering Illini then had an extra reason, as well as an extra day to drown their sorrows in green beer consumed from Gatorade cups. The orange and blue finished the 2006 season with wins against Eastern Illinois (yes there is such a place and they do play football), and were dealt an upset by winning at Michigan State. If the Illini can win at home this year against a Big Ten school, the University has promised to declare a third St. Patrick’s Day.

4-Army

It pains the Sage to declare Army a member of the FirstWorst club. The only «Shock and Awe» delivered by the Mules in 06 was that people kept coming to see them. The Black ‘Nights’ of Army just can’t produce a win against a quality team. Beating VMI, Kent State and Baylor doesn’t qualify as a stellar season. The Sage wishes Army the best this year, but the brass at West Point may have to call in close air support to complete a pass. We’ll see if Air Force can help out.

5-Boise State

The Sage can hear it now.. ‘How can a big time win in the Fiesta against OU on New Years Day qualify a school for among the worst in College Football? The simple reason is the hideous blue football field they play on. Just because it is possible to create blue grass doesn’t mean that it should be done. A quality team deserves to play in something other than the Tidy Bowl. A blue football field doesn’t exist in nature for a reason. The Sage doesn’t know what that reason is, but is sure it is a good one. BS alums must be smoking something different in their pipes before home games to make the thing look real. BSU showed that it doesn’t need a blue field for any competitive advantage and can win in a big-time game. Lose the blue field!

6-Oregon

A team called the Fighting Ducks should find it’s way onto the FirstWorst list. But that isn’t the reason for the Ducks inclusion this year. Oregon puts a good team on it’s two-toned field, but each year, it displays an incredible lack of taste in putting its team in – properly descriptive wording eludes the Sage – those God-awful yellow uniforms with tire tracks on the shoulders. The Ducks look like highlight pens against green felt. The Psych Department TAs must have come up with some kind of experiment to see if a football team so awfully clad, can generate a competitive advantage. The Sage thinks that a state where the other University is called the Beavers, would insist on putting a team on the field that could look as good as it’s record. Frequently, the Ducks appear looking like cheap office supplies.

7-North Carolina

The aforementioned Bleu Devils of Duke nearly caused the Heels to re-think appearing in those baby blue uniforms last year. NC couldn’t pull off the loss in it’s season ending game against the Duke, but made it close enough to earn a place in the FirstWorst list. Blocking an extra point in the closing minutes against the Dukers blew the Heels’ chance at a top five finish. Perhaps Duke and NC should play football on the basketball court. How can two southern schools have such poor football programs?

8-Colorado

The Buffalos of Colorado started last season strong at home with a solid loss to the Division II Bobcats of Montana State. Then the B’low’s season went quickly downhill. CU was in contention for a top tier finish and had a real shot at number one in the FirstWorst rankings before falling from form and failing to lose to conference foes Texas Tech and Iowa State. Former Boise State coach Dan Hawkins is going to dye the Folsom Field grass pink in 2007 to go with the red noses of those in the CU student section.

8-Stanford

The Stanford ‘Cardinal’ nickname was declared after school admin-types threw out the «Indians» moniker in 1972. At least «Indians» was plural and implied that there would be more than one person on the football field clad in red. (Yes, the Sage acknowledges that «Cardinal» is technically plural, but without an ‘s,’ the ghosts of college football tradition have abandoned the kids from Stanford and cast their curse upon the red eggheads.)

Although producing some good teams in the past, Stanford is a perennial favorite in the losers bracket. The school is still best known for sending its band onto the field to stop a Cal kickoff return in ’82. Even that failed and Stanford went on to record history’s greatest final-play loss. The 2006 season produced a single win against PAC-10 foe Washington. Stanford has always had trouble finding people who can pass for first downs as well as pass the entrance exam. The plan for 07 is to multi task the tuba players into playing offensive line between tunes.

9, 10 and more-The Western Pathetic Conference

If losers all play each other in the same conference, some will come out winners. The boys that play home games in the toilet bowl in Boise turned in a respectable season. The rest of the conference is successful at losing. Four WAC teams combined for a whopping total of seven conference wins in 2006. The Sage can only imagine the WAC Skywriters Tour in July, starting in Hawaii, followed by visits to garden spots such as Boise, Louisiana Tech, Fresno and Las Cruces, NM. Hawaii, despite it’s winning record deserves honorable mention.. any team named the Rainbow Warriors qualifies. Imagine being assigned to cover the New Mexico State – Idaho game. The Sage shudders.

The Sage wishes these schools the best of fortune in 2007. Check http://firstworst.com weekly for wit and wisdom from the Scholarly Sage as well as updates to the FirstWorst College Football Futility Rankings.

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