Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ara Parseghian Dies at Age 94

I was born in 1964 during the first season of Ara Parseghian's magnificent run at the helm of Notre Dame. The day after I was born the Irish dispatched Navy 40-0 to improve to 6-0. It was a glorious season as Parseghian had returned the Irish to its former glory. That season would end in a disappointing 20-17 loss to Southern Cal but the Era of Ara had begun with aplomb. Two years later they finished the job with a national championship. I was two and therefore have no memories of that season other than what I have read and researched. But after three seasons at Notre Dame, during which he won a national championship and nearly won another, Parseghian was king. He remained respected for his coaching acumen and his gentlemanly manner but that start established expectations that no coach could meet. My earliest memories are vaguely of stars like quarterback Joe Thiesmann and wide receiver Tom Gatewood and clearly of the pressure of a job where the faithful demanded more and more titles. Right about the time some foolish fans began to think that the game had passed him by, Ara won a second championship in 1973. To do so he had to travel to New Orleans to beat Bear Bryant's undefeated Crimson Tide. That epic New Year's Eve clash remains a favorite for me and any Notre Dame fan who watched it. Quarterback Tom Clements was one of my first sports heroes but it was Ara who was the one coach that I had hoped I would play for. He was at his pinnacle when he stepped down two years later citing medical reasons. The job in South Bend is a difficult one. He remained in town and stayed in the game by becoming a broadcaster. His real mission though was to raise awareness and money to help combat Niemann-Pick Type C disease, a rare disorder that claimed the lives of three of his grandchildren. Ara Parseghian died today at age 94. I regret not dropping off one of my books at his South Bend home. He was a college football figure who in his intelligence and grace established in me a life-long love not just for the game but for finding in it a higher purpose.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington Make Playoffs

It is finally over. As predicted a while ago the four selections for the 2016 season's playoffs are in and everyone is happy except for those who are not. Only one Big Ten team made it but it was not a team that won its division let alone the league title. No one is unhappy with Alabama and Clemson but the selections of OSU and Washington are the more controversial. Penn State beat OSU, won their division and won the conference title and, while happy with the Rose Bowl berth, have to be disappointed that they are on the outside looking in. Michigan is pissed too but they did not have enough good wins. As for the Washington Huskies they are being hammered for their out-of-conference schedule but that just kept others in the running because they are champs of the second or third best conference and only had one loss. They also pass the dreaded eye test as they excel in each facet of the game. Without specific rules this type of controversy will continue to flourish. I am okay with the four teams selected, although would have been okay with PSU getting OSU's spot, and am hoping for some good playoff football.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sadness at West Point

I had intended to write a post celebrating the fantastic start enjoyed by the Cadets of West Point, who are 2-0 for the first time in 20 years. Instead I write with the news that sophomore starting cornerback Brandon Jackson, an up-and-coming player for Army from queens, NY, died yesterday in a single-car accident. He was 20 years old. "Words cannot describe the grief that our team is feeling over the loss of our brother and friend, Brandon" said head coach Jeff Monken. "He was a beloved teammate and our hearts are with his family at this time of tragedy."

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gutting of Baylor Roster Continues

The long-term prognosis for the Baylor football program continues to weaken as an 11th recruit to be released from his national letter of intent, highly-recruited DE Brandon Bowen, jumped to TCU and, most importantly, talented soph QB Jarrett Stidham announced that he will transfer. Assuming that the current upperclassmen rally around the situation, Baylor should have a solid season in 2016 under acting head coach Jim Grobe. The future? There is no way they will not slip and we still have not learned about any possible NCAA sanctions. The situation is murky and not getting any better.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ohio State to Honor 1916 Team With Throwback Jerseys

Although we still await official confirmation, Ohio State has picked a replica of the school's 1916 jersey, complete with vertical gray stripes, as their alternate for this year. The game in which they will be worn has not been named. Coach John Wilce led that squad to a 7-0 record and Western Conference championship, riding star back Chic Harley. Ohio State football would look very different without the success that team had as Harley a local athlete, became hugely popular. The three time All American led the Buckeyes to the first-ever win over Michigan (they did not play annually back then) and when he left, having lost only his final game, the Buckeyes were so popular that Ohio Stadium was built and dedicated to him. Harley's story is an important one to always remember as soon after he graduated he began dealing with mental illness. Harley, and it is not known definitively today whether his illness was as a result of a sports wound, war injury or genetic, would spend the rest of his 50+ years suffering from the debilitating effects of mental illness. He died in 1974 and some members of the contemporary Buckeyes squad, including Archie Griffin, were pallbearers.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Baylor fires Art Briles

Baylor has fired head coach Art Briles as the investigation by an outside agency has gathered together facts concerning the allegations that several Baylor players not only committed sexual assaults against fellow students but were allowed to continue playing football and remaining on campus while their alleged victims received no help. While I am unsure whether the suddenness of Briles's canning is due to bad publicity or additional revelations, the reality is that the original allegations were deserving of this result. Briles deserved to be fired and while Baylor football fans may well be worried about the program's future the reality is that does not outweigh justice for the victims of assault, especially in light of the role the program played in the situation (recruiting players accused of assault prior to arriving in Waco and not investigating or punishing those players accused of assault on the Baylor campus who then continued to victimize other students. The firing of Briles came as Baylor will begin play in a new, expensive stadium that now has a bit of a taint along with its new paint.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Baylor President Ken Starr Removed From Post

As Ken Starr knows all too well, when a scandal reaches the courts it becomes too big to cover up. Lawsuits against Baylor University's handling of accusations by students of sexual assaults committed by other students, including members of the football team, are now bringing what were at times whispered accusations to the light of day. Starr, who himself first became nationally famous for his independent counsel investigation of President Bill Clinton that eventually led to Clinton's impeachment, is the first Baylor figure to fall and as the president he was the man in charge. Others should follow as it is clear that many people knew about the charges of rape and did nothing about them. It is especially awful to hear that football coach Art Briles knew about accusations against his players and did not act to remove these guys from the campus--many guys continued to play as if nothing was going on. One former player can only be described as a serial rapist and to allow him to not only continue to play football but to do so on a campus with thousands of potential victims is unconscionable. Briles, who seems to have followed a blueprint of building his team by adding players with character concerns, needs to go soon. With a new $300 million stadium to fill, however, it remains to be seen if that will happen.