The SEC has won its fifth straight BCS national championship. Auburn has won its first national title since 1957. And the argument continues: What if No. 1 Auburn (14-0) played No. 2 TCU (13-0) on Saturday to settle the national title? We’ll never know.
The incredible thing about a college football season is that in July and August, it just feels like it will never start. Then, once it does, it seems to be over in a couple of heartbeats.
I will always remember the 2010 season because it gave us both the good and the bad that is the game of college football in the 21st century.
You know the good. The game, as it is played on the field, has never been better. Every week there was a new, dramatic story line. Every Saturday there was something that made us go “Wow!”:
**–Oct. 2: For about 90 seconds in Baton Rouge, Tennessee had apparently pulled a stunning upset at LSU. But on what appeared to be the last play of the game, Tennessee’s defense had 13 men on the field. LSU got one more snap and won.
**–Oct. 9: South Carolina upsets Alabama, the defending national champions, to beat the No. 1 team for the first time in school history.
**–Nov. 26: It was a Friday that we will never forget. Auburn rallies from a 24-0 deficit at Alabama and wins a game for the ages, 28-27. Then, in the wee hours of Nov. 27, Nevada ends Boise State’s dreams of playing for the national championship with a field goal in overtime.
I could go on and on. College football is so good now that we EXPECT to have these unforgettable moments week after week. The game rarely disappoints.
But we also had a chance to see college football’s dark side. This is the side that threatens to undermine the long-term credibility of the game with the public that loves it so:
**–The academic scandal at North Carolina that forced the school to suspend as many as 13 players. It turned an ACC championship caliber team into one which was lucky to finish 7-5.
**–Agent gate: One bad decision by one of the game’s premier players (A.J. Green), basically wrecked Georgia’s season. An agent throws a South Florida party for underclassmen because the benefit far outweighs the risk. This problem is not going away. It is only going to get worse if something doesn’t change–and quickly. Unfortunately, the NCAA doesn’t do much of anything quickly. They need to open up the proccess and get these kids talking to agents much earlier in their careers.
**–In June there was the money and power grab that was known as conference expansion and realignment. When it was over the Big Ten had 12 teams, the Big 12 had 10 teams, and the Mountain West had lost its three most high-profile programs: TCU (Big East), Utah (Pac-10), and BYU (Independent). The Pac-10 almost talked Texas into leaving and destroying the Big 12. It was an ugly thing to watch.
**–USC got hammered by the NCAA in the summer and Reggie Bush eventually gave back his Heisman Trophy.
**–While Cameron Newton’s play on the field was magnificent and deserving of the Heisman Trophy, the entire case involving his father was bad for college football. Legally, the NCAA had no choice but to let Newton play based on the facts (or lack of them) in evidence. But this loophole needs to be closed before another season comes around. The guardians of the sport had better hope that no more damning information comes out about this case. We watched USC vacate a national championship and its star player give back a Heisman Trophy. College football does not need another body blow like that.
**–And then there was the Ohio State ruling, which suspended five players for selling stuff given to them by the school. But the NCAA allowed the suspensions to start after they played in the Sugar Bowl. Critics jumped on the NCAA and college football because it appears both are making these rules up as they go along. The ruling made no sense unless you believe Ohio State’s claim that their players had not been instructed on the rules. I don’t.
There was also tragedy:
**–Student photographer Declan Sullivan was killed when the scissor tower where he was filming Notre Dame’s practice collapsed.
**–Eric LeGrand of Rutgers suffered paralysis in a terrbile injury against Army.
**–Mississippi State defensive end Nick Bell lost his battle with cancer. He was only 20 years old.
So again, it was a good season and it was a bad season. Mostly it was a tough season.
The hard edge to the Cameron Newton debate was disturbing. The kid almost lost everything because the father. The Newtons got lucky. The next kid whose father gets caught doing this won’t be so lucky. Parents who act like agents in the future (and get caught) will not be happy with the result.
The nastiness of the BCS debate is disquieting. I want a four-team playoff or a true plus-one, where two teams are picked after the bowls. I believe college football will need to made a change in the post-season format when the current BCS contract expires after the 2013 regular season. The debate has always kept interest high in college football. But I think we are reaching a tipping point where the debate is so destructive that it hurts the game.
In many ways it was another great season but in many I’m glad the season is over. I don’t remember feeling that way too many times.
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“Barnhart and Durham:” Among our guests will be Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com. We’ll look at his early Top 25 for 2011. Join us at 10 a.m. www.790thezone.com