Images of a season we’ll never forget

There are so many images of the 2009 college footbal season that are going to stick with me for a long time:

**–The season ended, of course, with a wild celebration on the field at the Rose Bowl with Alabama holding up the crystal ball symbolizing the BCS national championship, the school’s first since 1992. There were a lot of really happy people on that field.

**–But this season really began with a punch. It was delivered, sucker variety, by Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount to the chin of Boise State’s Byron Houts. What followed was an angry young man out of control, who wanted to take on a hostile crowd. Oregon had no choice but to suspend him indefinitely. But there was redemption. Late in the year he was reinstated to the team and first-year coach Chip Kelly took the Ducks to the Rose Bowl.

**–It was the year that the SEC appeared to be snakebit when it came to bad officiating. It started with the phantom excessive celebration call against Georgia’s A.J. Green against LSU, which the SEC admitted was missed. Then came another phantom call of personal foul against an Arkansas player against Florida which the official and the league had to admit was not there. Officials were suspended after that call and later in the year Florida coach Urban Meyer was fined $30,000 for violating the edict that coaches would not comment publicly on officiating. It was a tough year for commissioner Mike Slive but he guided the league through those choppy waters.

**–I was on the field in Tuscaloosa when Terrence Cody blocked a Tennessee field goal on the last play of the game to preserve a 12-10 win for Alabama. That was the game when Mark Ingram, the Heisman Trophy winner, lost his only fumble in more than 400 career carries.

**–There was the night of Sept. 26 when, for the first time in 20 years, I stayed home and watched football instead of going to a game. I watched Tim Tebow lay on the turf of Kentucky’s Commonwealth Stadium motionless for a few seconds. I started getting text messages asking what I thought. When Tim got sick on the sidelines I wrote “it’s a concussion.” All sorts of negative things go through your mind. But two weeks later I was on the field at Tiger Stadium when Tebow led Florida to a 13-3 win over LSU.

**–There was the ugly sight of Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes sticking his hand inside the facemask of Georgia running back Washaun Ely during the annual game in Jacksonville. Florida gives Spikes a one-half game suspension against Vanderbilt. After a national media backlash Spikes requested that his suspension be extended to a full game. What should have been a one day story was turned into a five day story and Florida took a credibility hit on the national stage.

**–There was the death of Connecticut player Jasper Howard. The coaching manual does not tell a man how to explain to players that one of their teammates has been murder. But Randy Edsall got his team through that and the Huskies eventually beat Notre Dame and went to a bowl game, where they beat South Carolina. At every stop along the way Jasper Howard’s jersey was there.

**–There were LSU’s  inexplicable problems with time management at the end of the game with Ole Miss and again in the bowl game with Penn State. Les Miles had better get that aspect of his program fixed.

**–There were Tim Tebow’s tears at the Georgia Dome when he realized his storybook career would not have a storybook ending. But he came back with the best game ever against Cincinnati.

**–There were Mark Ingram’s tears when he accepted Alabama’s first-ever Heisman Trophy. He thanked his coaches and his teammates and his family. His father, Mark, Sr., was watching from prison. You can bet there were tears there as well.


**–There was Idaho coach Rob Akey making a big decision. His team trailed 42-41 with four seconds left in the Humanitarian Bowl. He decided to roll the dice and go for two. The Vandals made it and beat Bowling Green 43-42. People tell me that these bowls don’t mean anything. Try telling that to the kids at Idaho.

**–There were coaches behaving badly. Now there have been three–Mark Mangino of Kansas, Mike Leach at Texas Tech, and Jim Leavitt of South Florida–dismissed for alleged mistreatment of players. This should be a cautionary tale for coaches everywhere. Don’t step over the line with players because now they have the power, particularly if the coach in vulnerable.

**–There was the disappointed face of Colt McCoy after the BCS championship game. He had won more games as a starting quarterback than any player in Division I-A history. He had been playing football all of his life to get to this position and now he was out after six plays with a bad shoulder.  Very sad.

**–There was the smiling face of Kirby Smart when we met briefly after the national championship game. He wanted to get to his family. He knew the question I wanted to ask him and I knew he couldn’t answer it. So I let him go thinking that hi life, no matter what happened in the coming days, was going to change.

**–And finally, there were my tears when I saw Bobby Bowden, one of the greatest ambassadors in the history of college football, plant that flaming spear into the ground at the Gator Bowl, his last game as head coach. I never through Bobby Bowden would be forced off the stage. All he wanted was one more year. He didn’t get it and that was sad.

So it was a great year and I’m glad you were along for the ride. As I normally do after the season I have to step away for a while. I make a family commitment this time of year and make room for all of the recruiting news which I know you love. I will huddle with the AJC folks and we’ll decide when it makes sense for me to come back. I hope it won’t be too long.

Again, I want to thank you for your participation in this effort. My friends in other areas of the country are envious because you are so passionate about the game. In other markets they have to fight to get any kind of college football on the front page. That’s why I tell them that in the South college football is not a game, it’s a way of life.

And thanks to you, it’s a helluva life. I hope to see you again soon.



191 comments Add your comment


January 11th, 2010
8:22 am


January 11th, 2010
8:25 am

I must be the only person on here. Going to be a slow day.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

January 11th, 2010
8:27 am

good column TB- was an up and down year. i would say the officiating was the biggest story for the SEC. Hopefully the “refs” will spend some time during the offseason going over plays they missed and calls that were considered “excessive”. this off-season should be exciting with all the coaches changing locations and the impact it has on recruiting.


January 11th, 2010
8:30 am

Thanks for all of your outstanding coverage this season and for doing what you do.


January 11th, 2010
8:31 am

Enjoy your time off, Tony. I’m already looking forward to September 2010! And, before all the amatuer editors start blasting, please, folks just relax… hh

Wopw, just wow...

January 11th, 2010
8:32 am

…Finally, Tony “I am the next Furman Bisher” Barnhart writes a column with his own thoughts – and, I gotta admit, it was pretty good! See what you can do when you use your own brain??!?!?!?!?!?


January 11th, 2010
8:39 am

I sure enjoy your insights. Have a good offseason, Tony.


January 11th, 2010
8:41 am

Thanks, TB! Another great year from the best game in the world! Despite our Dawgs’ shortcomings, watching the rest of the nation revolve around southern football makes us all appreciate how blessed we are to live and tailgate here. Only a man like Tebow and a game this grand could make a confirmed Gator hater pull for Florida (even against some northern invader!) Enjoy your well-deserved time off. When you come back, we’ll be waiting!

Go Dawgs!

BuLLdawg blows

January 11th, 2010
8:46 am

donkey balls

Football Fan

January 11th, 2010
8:52 am

So of your 15 images of the 2009 season nine of them dealt with the SEC, compared to only one each for the Pac 10, Big East, and ACC (and those all dealt with off-the-field issues) and none for the Big 10???

Man, you need to get out more.

Old Dawg

January 11th, 2010
8:53 am

Tony, how could you still be surprised at the coaching blunders of Les Miles. 2 years ago against Auburn, he demonsrated the same lack of common sense and just got lucky. This time he didn’t. He is, and has been since arriving at LSU, the dumbtest coach in the SEC.

elmo lewis

January 11th, 2010
8:54 am

Hire a proofreader.

double g

January 11th, 2010
8:54 am

What a college football year, indeed. For all the situations, events, and problems, college football season is STILL the best season of them all. While my wife counted down the bowl games one by one, happier with each succeeding game ending, I was at the other end of the spectrum.

But I’ll remember UGA-Tech, the LSU celebration penalty, the pain of Kentucky, the pain of Florida (and UT, too), and the satisfying ending in Shreveport (hey, it WAS a win). The last of Tebow, who, with nods to Herschel, may be the greatest college player), brought mixed emotions.

The countdown is on, however. Recruiting is next. Braves in the intervening time. And of course the GSEF must be fed (or whatever they call it now). Looking forward to your return.

Any time.

Got 12?

January 11th, 2010
8:54 am

This truly was a magical year. Let’s do it again next year. RTR!!!

Call it Like It Is

January 11th, 2010
8:56 am

We will never see another Class Act like Tebow again.

This is someone who truly plays with HEART!

Enough Said!

Got 12?

January 11th, 2010
8:57 am

The strangest part of this whole season is that the incessant Tebow coverage wasn’t nearly as annoying after the SECCG. I was actually rooting for him in the Sugar Bowl.

Asheville Dawg

January 11th, 2010
8:59 am

Good job Tony, enjoy the time off, looking forward to our commentary next season.


January 11th, 2010
9:00 am

Anyone see the replay of that Boise punch? Looked like the guy got what he deserved. Bet that dude doesn’t mouth off to anyone after a game again.


January 11th, 2010
9:02 am

The call against UGA in the LSU game. Isn’t that the one where you said,

“the excessive celebration call on Georgia’s A.J. Green last Saturday against LSU is the single worst officiating mistake I have seen in my three decades of covering the sport.”

Yes, Tony, it was a great year for hyperbole. Who knows what kind of incredible declarations you’ll make in 2010.

i have no life

January 11th, 2010
9:02 am


January 11th, 2010
9:05 am

Naw, I don’t think he needs to get out more. He’s covering what his audience wants. We’re in the heart of SEC country here. He may be a bit skewed towards the SEC, but how many Pac10, Big10, etc.. fans read the AJC for info?

Brad in Jasper

January 11th, 2010
9:07 am

Thanks TB – enjoy your off time

Gville dawg

January 11th, 2010
9:09 am

Thank you TB for all of your work in this forum and others. You sir are a fine writer and a Southern Gentlemen, Grizzard would have been proud. Nuff said


January 11th, 2010
9:09 am

Tony…good work this year…always enjoy your “Five” or “Ten” questions sections you always had concerning upcoming games and your usually excellent prognostications. As for Tebow and McCoy, it’s a shame that we won’t be seeing these guys playing college football again. And to all these “experts” out there, don’t be surprised what these two fine young men do in the NFL. Believe me if you gave me a choice of taking Jimmy Clausen, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy or Tebow…it sure as heck wouldn’t be the first one. And probably not Bradford either. As for my Longhorns…look out for that Gilbert kid. He was Gatorade and USA Today and EA player of the year and offensive player of the year…he is big and has a cannon for an arm. He will be the next big thing on the collegiate horizon. Oh, his dad, Gale Gilbert was a QB in the NFL and is the only NFL player to be on five straight Super Bowl teams…Bills (4) and Chargers (1) The kid, like Mark Ingram, has the talent and pedigree to make it huge in the pros some day. Finally, Tony, my all-time collegiate backfield” Tebow (QB) and the running backs…Earl Campbell, Bo Jackson and Hershel Walker…I would run the triple option…think anyone could stop ‘em?? Have a good rest and see ya when you get back on the pages. Oh forgot…best bowl games?? Sun Bowl (kid from Stanford made me a believer) and the very best was the one in Boise. Idaho’s comeback and going for two was unreal!! For any readers out there who have never been there…go. It’s a gorgeous city and state and I would live there in a second were it not for winter. Boise State also has cleanest campus ever seen. Too long-winded…God bless you TB!


January 11th, 2010
9:10 am

90% sec stuff. I see where you’re allegiance lies.

Gen Neyland

January 11th, 2010
9:11 am

**- So odd it was to me the tears from Tebow in response to a loss would garner the attention and ridicule while tears shed by Ingram winning the Heisman did not even register a peep. Winners are allowed to cry, losers aren’t..? Emotion within the game is a concept many ‘fans’ can’t grasp. Tells me these ‘fans’ don’t really have a clue of what football means to each individual that suits up for the game, only to their own thoughts of what it should be or what they want it to be…Thank you for this format, Mr CFB…

sc dawg

January 11th, 2010
9:21 am

That, Tony, was a great read!!!!!!!!

Goose to Gander....

January 11th, 2010
9:22 am

“I will huddle with the AJC folks and we’ll decide when it makes sense for me to come back. I hope it won’t be too long.”

Tony, you need to make your plans, at least part of them, public: You’re going meet with the AJC and decide what role, if any, you should play with the paper during your extended leave of absence. While you don’t owe the public or the media all of the details of that plan, it would spare you some aggravation to at least share the outline of what you plan to do. In the absence of any specific information, speculation fills the vacuum. Speculation will cause this story to get out of control if the media decides to start hounding you.


Gee, did that sound petty and invasive? It’s actually a copy of what you wrote about Urban Meyer on January 4th.

We’re still waiting for you to make your medical records public, Tony….


January 11th, 2010
9:30 am

You forgot about Alabama’s Brandon Deaderick being shot before season opener but still able to play in Bama’s first victory over VT at the Georgia Dome in route to their BCS National Championship.


January 11th, 2010
9:34 am

Ugh….I’ll be happy to forget this season. It was pretty uneventfull for all except a few teams.


January 11th, 2010
9:34 am

Sorry, but I think Colt McCoy showed ten times more class than a crying Tebow. Guess Tebow didn’t remember his hurt feelings while running up the score on Cincy in the Sugar Bowl. I walk away from this season wishing that Colt McCoy had won the Heisman after his thoughtful comments after the BCS Title game. Very glad that I stayed up to hear his words that were so gracious in defeat. I didn’t hear any of that from Tebow except, “Waaahhhh! Waaaaahhhh! Waaaahhhh!”

Lane Kitten

January 11th, 2010
9:37 am

What about the image of my players holding folks up at gunpoint for a hamburger?! That was a classic!


January 11th, 2010
9:37 am

Nice thoughts, Tony. We will miss you. You are indeed correct on the LSU-UGA penalty call against AJ Green. I was there and it was one of the worst calls I have ever seen in watching both college and pro football. No hyperbole, just plain fact.


January 11th, 2010
9:38 am

Is that an unbiased opinion, Spike? You know, just like Tony’s?


January 11th, 2010
9:43 am

I wanted Bama to win, but I really hated that Colt McCoy got knocked out of that game. He truly deserved to have the opportunity to play for a national title. Also, people will always question whether the outcome might have been different if Colt had been able to finish the game. That must have really hurt McCoy to lose the Heisman to Ingram, then just watch as his beloved Longhorns lose the title to Ingram’s Tide.


January 11th, 2010
9:52 am

Nice job, Tony. You make SEC football a joy. Keep it coming next season.


January 11th, 2010
9:53 am

Tony, thanks for keeping college football at the forefront here and also for the great insight that you provide both here and on your show.

Bobby Bowden planting the spear at midfield was truly an emotional moment for me. I have seen him standing on the sidelines since I was a kid and it will be odd to turn on an FSU game and not see Coach Bowden. Best of luck to a legendary coach and a fine gentleman.


January 11th, 2010
9:55 am

God I hate basketball. Eight and a half more months until college football. ugh!


January 11th, 2010
9:57 am

Thanks for the good read, Tony. Hope to see you back soon. Enjoy the family!


January 11th, 2010
9:58 am

I was at the Rose Bowl for our NC. My father played on that same field 65 years ago as a member of the 1935 Alabama Rose Bowl team (well, he didn’t actually play being a freshman, but he ran on that field in a crimson jersey by god)! He died while I was still in my 20’s, and yeah I cried when the TIde took the filed. Like you said Tony, I the south the love of our Team, is all mixed in with memories of our families and friends.

My season’s memory is those 5th year seniors, none of which were highly recruited, guys who endured the “worst of times” at Alabama hugging each other after the game. Nick Saban coached those boys he did not select into men and champions. I believe he is the greatest coach in college football.


January 11th, 2010
10:00 am

God speed, Tony. Well done, as usual. Looking forward to hearing from you again very soon. All the best during some well-earned time off.


January 11th, 2010
10:04 am

Really nice column Tony.

The two memorable moments for me was the Randy Edsel news conference after the death of Jasper Howard. I managed to catch the news conference live. And then his comments after the Notre Dame game.
He is about as impressive a fellow as I have ever seen.

And yeah the treatment of Bobby Bowden. Disgraceful is the only word I can come up with that fits the occasion.

I trust we will do this again next fall.

Get it right

January 11th, 2010
10:07 am


You obviously didn’t actually listen Tim Tebow’s comments after the SEC Championship game. He congratulated Alabamama for their win, and later said they played well and he made mistakes.

Now it’s your turn to show some class.


January 11th, 2010
10:10 am

TB is the best in the bidness.


January 11th, 2010
10:15 am

I will always remember this season as the strangest season I have ever seen in watching 45 years of watching Florida football. Every week there was new drama and alot of it seemed to involve my Gators. I kept thinking “when is this gonna stop”?! but it never did. The straw that broke the camels back for me (and I think the coaches and team as well) was Carlos Dunlap’s arrest that Monday before the SECCG. I knew that to beat a great team with the motivation like Alabama had that there was no margin for error, that we needed all hands on deck fully focused. Well, obviously, that didn’t happen. Bama played brilliantly and the Gators never really showed up. Felt a little better after the Sugar Bowl but that Bama game will sting for a while…

Long Time Reader, First Time Writer

January 11th, 2010
10:18 am

What, did Georgia Tech not play football this year? The UGA/SEC bias is obvious. How about the Tech shootout with FSU, and Josh Nesbitt stealing the ball back after the fumble? How about knocking off VaTech and the first home victory against a Top 5 team in decades? How about the gutsy 4th down conversion against Wake? Or the ACC championship victory against Clemson? If you have to stick with UGA, then I guess you could always go with the dirty play twisting Nesbitt’s knee in the pile (every bit as heinous as the eye gouge!)


January 11th, 2010
10:21 am

Old dawg is right about mr leslie…what a twit. Three biggest disappointments of the year-Auburn’s loss to Alabarn, Tenn’s loss to Alabarn, Texas’s loss to Alabarn. Just kidding. I love the Alabarn. I especially love their toilet paper and washing powder motif.

Colo. SEC Fan

January 11th, 2010
10:25 am

Goose to Gander……. – Tony B. does not owe you anything. He is not recruiting you or trying to hire you unlike Urban. At least Tony does not say he is taking a break when he is not. Tony – thanks for all your insights and columns this year.Your readers always know how much you care about Southern football. Even the Tony haters on here will miss you if you do not come back. They might actually have to go and get real jobs.


January 11th, 2010
10:26 am

Unless he wants to get traded for cigarettes, Mark Ingram’s father probably tried to limit the tears in prison.


January 11th, 2010
10:27 am

Team sports are supposed to build character. You saw that in Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Mark Ingram this year. All three play like champions, behave like champions and have nothing but respect, affection and kind words for each other. Unfortunately, some fans don’t always follow suit.