Why do we love the college football season which is now upon us?
Let me count the ways.
It brings a smile to all our faces and it’s easy to understand.
I will start with a story and end with one.
This past weekend, on ESPN’s College Game Day telecast, the venerable Lee Corso offered a sentimental infusion into the sport that endures year after year without a blip.
Corso is one of the panelists on the show which previews, analyzes, and breaks down the day’s games.
He is an 82-year old former coach who has an infectious style and manner that is appealing and blends in well even in the world of current college football happenings.
Corso suffered a stroke 8 years ago, but has battled back, and while he sometimes struggles with syntax and expression, he is effective because he lends passionate opinion to what’s going on.
To the credit of ESPN, they have stuck with Corso. His contributions have a value on a show where the others appreciate, even show love for a man who is an unquestioned asset.
The scene of the show this past weekend was Bloomington, Indiana where the University of Indiana opened the season hosting vaunted Ohio State.
Indiana is also the school where Corso coached for ten seasons. Never a real college football power, The Hoosiers have had two Big Ten championship seasons. One was in 1945, the other in 1967 under Lee Corso. So the season opening show, which is always on site, featuring No. 2 ranked Ohio State at Indiana was a natural.
Corso was asked about his favorite moment, of what has been a 64-year lifetime in football, from the time he played college ball to now as a broadcaster.
He emphatically talked about a game between Indiana and Kentucky when the Hoosiers playing at Kentucky needed a touchdown to win. They were on their own 30-yard line, time running out. A sensational touchdown pass won the game for Indiana and their coach Lee Corso. The player who ran a perfect route, made the catch, and scored the winning touchdown was none other than Corso’s son Steve. The elder Corso’s voice quivered with emotion as he told that story.
Then, behind him, countless numbers of his former players gave him an ovation.
That’s what college football is all about.
It’s about the spirit of the students and alumni packing the stadium each week, proudly wearing the colors of their school.
It’s about the tradition of decades, even in some cases, a century, of rivalries which never die.
It’s about the colorful pageant of the bands and the cheerleaders who make every home game an event, whether the opponent is a conference rival or just another school on the schedule.
And if it’s a game with a long-time rival, it’s about the understandable intense dislike of the opponent.
It’s about the questions. How will Notre Dame do? Which is the toughest conference? The SEC, the ACC, the Big Ten?
Will it be Alabama and Ohio State meeting in the National Championship?
Or will it be someone else, like a Clemson, which actually won the national title last season beating the Crimson Tide ?
It’s all about the history.
The year by year results between the opponents are there for everyone to see. We all know the players have come and gone, so have the coaches, and the styles of play have changed. It doesn’t matter.
It’s all about YOUR school. There’s no chance your allegiance will ever go elsewhere.
Or, if you live in hundreds, maybe thousands of small cities and towns, that school is your team, whether it’s your alma mater, or you never attended college.
It’s all about the institution.
It’s a weekend celebration. The alums coming back to town. The cocktail parties, the Saturday morning breakfasts, the thrill of walking into the stadium, the tailgating, the game itself, and the gatherings later on.
Yes, there are the discussions about the best way to determine the National Champion. Or whether the athletes should actually be paid for playing.
Interesting, but whatever the issues that come along in college football, it seems to withstand all negativity.
It is not perfect, but the product itself is pure.
Where else can you find a story that occurred Saturday in the game between USC and Western Michigan.
The Trojans were completing a victory in a game that proved considerably more difficult for USC than expected.
It was time for the extra-point to wrap up a 49-31 Southern Cal triumph.
Head Coach Clay Helton turned to the bench and summoned Jake Olson to perform the long-snapping duties. Olson, who has been totally blind from a rare form of cancer of the retina since the age of 12, in his first appearance in a live game, was helped onto the field by a teammate who guided him.
Jake Olson delivered a perfect snap for the conversion and the USC players on the field and the Trojans bench went wild. So did the crowd.
An incredible moment.
That’s what college football is all about. And why we love it.