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Getting With The....programs

Drawing the Distinction Between Football Schools and Schools That Play Football


A school either is or it isn't.

Alabama is.

Notre Dame is.

Ohio State is.

Michigan is.

Texas is.

USC is.

Missouri thinks it is but is not, Minnesota was but is no longer, Wisconsin just discovered what the meaning of "is" is, Rice never was and Temple will never, ever be.

We have gathered here to establish what is required to be a college football program.

Mind you, this is more than an empirical hashing of wins and losses.

Colorado won a national title in 1990 but is not a program; Ohio State has not won one since 1968 but is.

Determining what constitutes a program is tricky business, as much about feel and intuition as it is churning out NFL talent.

Can we whistle your fight song?

Can mere mention of your school start a bar fight?

Does your school consider it a moral imperative to keep expanding stadium capacity so as to annually lead the NCAA in attendance?

Do we need a tow truck to haul your media guide from the mailbox to the front door?

If you answered yes, yes, yes and yes to the above, you are likely a program.

You have a far better chance of achieving program status if you tee it up in the South, where the "War of Northern Aggression" has provided more than four score and seven years worth of motivation.

When Georgia (program) beat Michigan (program) at Ann Arbor in 1965, fans deluged the Bulldogs upon their return to Athens.

"It was as if we had a chance to go to Gettysburg again," former Georgia coach Vince Dooley says of that victory in Tony Barnhart's new book, "Southern Fried Football."

What does it take to make our varsity?

National titles factor in and tradition is a must, but there is much more to it than that.

A program must go the extra yard.

Any school willing buy out a head coach's contract, no matter the length or the amount, is a program.

Any school that keeps recruiting a player it can't get just to keep a rival school's top recruiter on the case is a program.

You probably also qualify if:

* The square footage of your school's weight room is roughly equal to that of your town's municipal airport.

* You think the 85-man scholarship limit is a communist plot.

* You contribute money to only two sports: football and spring football.

* You publicly support Title IX but privately think it has set your boys back 20 years.

* Hollywood has made a movie involving the program. "Rudy," "Big Chill," "Something For Joey," "Everybody's All-American," "The Spirit of West Point," "Hold 'em Navy," "The Bear," "Knute Rockne, All American," "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."

* Your school annually ranks in the preseason top 10 no matter how many starters it has coming back.

* Your head coach could run for Congress and win in a landslide.

* They name city streets after your coaches and players.

* The chief of police keeps mug photos of your players in his top drawer.

* Your head coach leads practice with a megaphone, from a tower.

* You have a living mascot (UGA, Mike the Tiger, Bevo); although this does not guarantee enshrinement (see "Ralphie" at Colorado).

To what length will you go for your program?

Will one of your players come off the bench to tackle an opponent running free down the sideline, a la Alabama's Tommy Lewis against Rice's Dickie Moegle in the 1954 Cotton Bowl?

* Are you arrogant enough (pay attention here, USC and Notre Dame) to keep scheduling top 10 opponents because you believe in your heart you are one national television victory from getting back in title contention?

You get program bonus points if you had a coach or player nicknamed "Shug," "Bump," "Rip," "Gus," "Bear," "Bubba," "Duffy," "Muddy." Notable exceptions: Orin "Babe" Hollingbery at Washington State and Texas El Paso's "Cactus Jack" Curtice.

You are a program if you can overlook your head coach's scandalous extramarital affair as long as he defeats Auburn.

You are probably a program if you've had 10 or fewer coaches in the last 100 years.

Since 1950, for example, Penn State has employed only Rip Engle and Joe Paterno, who have amassed a combined record of 421-131-7.

Penn State is a program.

Lastly, and this is very important--it can make or break a program.

Are you willing to accept NCAA sanctions as a reasonable condition for winning a national title?

This factor alone tipped the University of Washington off the program fence.

You are likely not a program if:

* You produce boatloads of NFL players but can't sell out home games.

* You sell your tickets to the Rose Bowl when your team is in it.

* Your marching band is banned from playing at a game but your team isn't.

* You sell your home game to an opponent for financial considerations.

* Your arena is named after a basketball coach, but the football stadium is named after a philanthropist.

* You play in a conference that ends with any combination of the letters U, S and A.

* You play in a domed stadium.

* Your most famous football player made his name in baseball.

* You ripped your fight song off from Nebraska and changed the words.

The list:

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