Nixon and college football coaches–peas in a pod

Richard Nixon was infamous for being the most paranoid man to be President of the United States.

He was also the biggest football fan who ever occupied the White House.

In 1969, Nixon traveled to Fayetteville to watch the game between #1 Texas and #2 (Associated Press)/#3 (United Press International) Arkansas, known colloquially as “The Big Shootout”. The game was for the UPI national championship, since the coaches would not take a poll after the bowl games, while the winner would not only earn a trip to the Cotton Bowl as Southwest Conference champion, it would have the inside track to the Associated Press championship. The AP would vote again after the bowl games.

After Texas rallied from a 14-0 deficit with two fourth quarter touchdowns to win 15-14, Nixon went to the Longhorns’ locker room and presented a plaque to coach Darrell Royal and his players. The presentation incensed Penn State coach Joe Paterno, whose Nittany Lions were in the midst of a 21-game winning streak. Paterno felt his team should be national champions in the UPI.

However, Paterno screwed his own team by refusing to accept a Cotton Bowl bid, instead opting to take Penn State to the Orange Bowl vs. Big Eight champion Missouri. The Nittany Lions went to the Orange Bowl the previous season, defeating Kansas 15-14 (how ironic)

Two years later, Nixon called Dolphins coach Don Shula at 4 a.m., a little less than 10 hours after Miami defeated the Baltimore Colts to win the AFC championship. Not only did Nixon want to wish the Dolphins well–Nixon had a compound in Key Biscayne–he suggested a play to Shula, a down-and-out pass from Bob Griese to Paul Warfield.

Listening to Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star on 810 AM in Kansas City this morning, it hit me why Nixon loved college football.

Today’s college football coaches are as paranoid as Nixon.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who is eccentric to say the least, refuses to issue a depth chart, fearing it will give his opponents an unfair advantage.

Come on, Jim, this is a football GAME played by young men between the ages of 18 and 22, not the nuclear launch codes.

So what if Florida, this week’s opponent, knows your starting nose guard? What’s the big deal? Jim, if Michigan is the better team, Michigan will win. If not, the Wolverines lose. Simple as that.

Les Miles, who was fired at LSU last September, was notoriously secretive. He shut the media out of practice and never, ever divulged injury information.

There are now HIPAA laws governing injury reports, but that was started before HIPAA was in place.

The father of hiding injury information? Bill Snyder, the walking definition of “paranoid” and “control freak”.

Ask Snyder about an injury question, and you will be dressed down by Kansas State’s sports information director. Snyder won’t do it himself. He’s not Nick Saban. Bill Snyder also closed practice tighter than a drum when he got to K-State in 1989, which wasn’t uncommon in the Big Eight–Tom Osborne did it at Nebraska way before anyone knew who the hell Bill Snyder was.

Snyder wouldn’t know what to do in the NFL, which requires injuries to be disclosed. Of course, some coaches–Bill Belichick and George Allen come to mind–have abused the injury report by putting way, way, way too many players on it. Tom Brady being on an injury list, other than 2008, when he suffered a torn ACL in the first game of the year vs. the Chiefs, is preposterous. Unless Brady can’t walk, he’s playing. GIVE ME A BREAK.

Nick Saban is the ultimate control freak. On the other hand, he isn’t as evasive as Miles, Harbaugh or some others. Maybe Miles and Harbaugh learned it from Bo Schembechler, who cut out media access to practice in an era where that was unheard of.

I really don’t care to watch football practice. I saw enough of those at LSU to know just how tedious they are. On the other hand, I understand why the media needs some access. They are doing their jobs as REPORTERS, and they are REPORTING on something their readers really want to know about.

Harbaugh and Florida coach Jim McElwain are engaged in a pissing contest in advance of Saturday’s game in the Dallas Cowboys’ Arlington Stadium.

McElwain refused to name a starting quarterback for most of the days leading up to the game. Since McElwain did not, Harbaugh refused to name his starting QB. This morning, McElwain capitulated and named freshman Felipe Franks. Yet Harbaugh refuses to say anything, and he’s likely going to keep the media guessing until kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday.

Kansas coach David Beaty won’t name a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game vs. Southeast Missouri. Come on. SOUTHEAST MISSOURI? Who are you trying to fool, Beaty? Kerkhoff said it best: the Jayhawks really don’t have a starting QB. If Beaty can’t settle on one two days before a game against a lower level team, it say Kansas has nothing at the most important position.

Why do college football coaches feel the need to be so evasive?

I understand they are under tremendous pressure to win. But they are getting compensated very well to do so. Many college football coaches are the highest paid employees in their respective states. Nick Saban makes over $8 million a year, 20 times what the President of the United States earns.

There are days when I miss being at LSU. There are others where I don’t. Honestly, I’m glad I’m not putting up with it anymore.

About David

I am a sportswriter for a group of weekly newspapers in small towns across northern Kansas. I grew up in New Orleans, went to college at LSU and wandered in the wilderness until Hurricane Katrina finally put me on the path to my current job.

Posted on August 31, 2017, in College Football. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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