The first is in Lawrence, Kan., in a meaningless football game on a Saturday afternoon, so little at stake that it was put on at 11 a.m. without a major national network paying it any attention.
Yet, there it was, as the final gun went off there was utter jubilation, the crowd, as it was, rushing the field, the goal posts being torn down, then carried from the stadium.
It was as if Dorothy and Toto had returned to Kansas.
The Jayhawks had finally won a Big 12 Conference game.
That’s how it was in the Midwest, but what of the Far West?
As newspaper publisher Horace Greeley popularized, we now “Go West, young man, go West!”
We find ourselves in Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, where Southern California has just kicked a game-winning field goal to stun unbeaten No. 4 Stanford.
While this game had far greater national implications, the scene was quite similar as fans rushed the field overcome with so much glee and/or alcohol that as many as 10 of them had to be taken to local hospitals for treatment of injuries as serious as a broken leg.
Two scenes we have concentrated on, but we beg to bring in another, for this one was also of national importance, being played in Auburn, Ala., between longtime, bitter rivals Georgia and Auburn, the game down to a fourth and 18 play for a trailing Auburn.
Unleashed was an impossible pass — a prayer, if this fits your beliefs — one that seemed ready to settle into the hands of either of two Georgia defenders who had the play smothered, only to bounce lazily in the air behind them where receiver Ricardo Louis could catch it in full stride and romp into the end zone with the winning touchdown.
Again, the crowd was sent into a frenzy.
“I looked around (the stands) before the play and it looked like everybody was sad, heads down,” Louis said. “And it kind of hurt me, because we wanted to keep what we’ve been having going on.”
What Auburn had going on was a season that now stands at 10-1 coming out of nowhere, as miraculous as the play itself.
By now you must be wondering why we bring up these scenes at this moment, and, be assured, there is a good reason.
College football, you see, is as special a sporting event as there is anywhere, except maybe the pure insanity that surrounds World Cup soccer.
It is important to remember this today, for it is difficult to understand the joy of the game the way things have gone here lately.
It is, perhaps, a hangover from the devastating loss to arch-rival Pitt when standing on the verge of a first national championship, a day that lives in West Virginia infamy, for it was not only a football loss but a loss of a football coach.
It has not been the same since, although there were winning games and winning moments, but for the most part we have found ourselves in the quiet of the losing locker room over the last year and a half, our pregame celebrations for more gala than the way we have had to drink away our sorrows in the shadow of defeat.
The aura of college football is being worn away by the sheer commercialism of the collegiate sports scene, watching wretched infighting within the administration and runaway contracts for coaches and athletic directors while they continually cry for more money.
The players, they don’t get paid and the walk-ons don’t even get fed and the graduate assistants don’t get living wages.
It’s reached the stage where a friend was telling me the other day, and he purchases suite tickets for football and up front cushioned seats in basketball, that his tickets come to $330 per game in football and $70-some per ticket in basketball.
That’s $330 per game to watch a four-win football team that had to schedule Georgia State and William & Mary to get them.
That’s why this weekend, to see fans and students and even players enjoying the games the way they were meant to be enjoyed, brought a little bit of a reminder back of what college sports are supposed to be about.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.
- Bob Herzel
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West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.
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An announcement is expected shortly.
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Howes learns to ‘never settle’ as WVU administrator
You probably don’t know much about Terri Howes, even though she is a rather high-ranking executive in the West Virginia University athletic department.
“I like it that way,” she said, sitting in a large office at the Coliseum, decorated with pictures and memorabilia, a jar of candy sitting by the door for visitors to dip into.
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As you may guess, in the wake of LeBron James’ decision to let bygones be millions and return to his rooters in Cleveland, more than once was I approached with someone wanting to know if this opened the door for a return to West Virginia University of their once-reviled coach Rich Rodriguez.
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This is not to say that Trickett lacks the talent to succeed as quarterback in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system.
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