40 Years in the Making

By Kenny van Doren (@SidelinesCuse)

The NBA Finals are finally around the corner. The scene is set; Lakers vs. Heat. The lucky thing for Syracuse fans is that for the first time in 40 years a former Orange hooper will win a ring. That player is Dion Waiters. 

Dion played at Syracuse for two years averaging 9.7 pts, 1.9 rb, and 2 ast. He was not the huge standout that you may have thought he was, but he led a Syracuse team to the Elite Eight in his second year. Dion ended up going 4th overall to the Cavs and since then he’s jumped around from the Thunder, to the Heat and now finally a Laker. 

Dion is already an NBA Finals Champion, because he played for the Heat earlier this season. The last player to be in this situation was Anderson Varejão in 2016-2017, when he went from Cleveland to Golden State. 

Dion is only the fourth former Orange to make it the NBA Finals. Marty Byrnes was a bench player for the 1980 LA Lakers – they ended up beating the Philadelphia 76ers. Dennis Duval was a bench player for the 1975 Washington Bullets, and they ended up losing to the Golden State Warriors. Duval later became the city of Syracuse’s Police Chief. Lastly, Bill Gabor was a role player for the 1954 Syracuse Nationals that lost to the Minneapolis Lakers in 7 games.

Dion’s Wikipedia page already says this:

However, don’t expect much from Dion in the Finals. If we see the “Philly Cheese,” the Lakers must be blowing out the Heat in game 5. Either way, we’ll be happy to see a former Orange win a ring!

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“Did You Know?” Week Three Recap

By Hunter Martinez-Buehrer (Sidelines_OU)

Week 3 has come and gone as quickly as Week 2. We had a few cancelled games such as Baylor vs. Houston and BYU vs. Army. However, the games that were played this week did give us enough to feed our appetite for college football, and with that comes a lot more facts that you may or may not have heard about. So without further ado, here is our “Did You Know” segment of the week.

Did You Know? Oklahoma State vs Tulsa

Oklahoma State RB Chubba Hubbard’s 11 game streak of 100+ yards in a game was snapped on Saturday in the Cowboys 16-7 win over Tulsa.

This game was less than ideal for #11 Oklahoma State, as they struggled throughout the entire 60 minutes against in-state opponent Tulsa. The Cowboys’ struggles began in the 1st quarter, with QB Spencer Sanders leaving the game early with what appeared to be a right ankle injury. His replacement was Ethan Bullock, a JUCO transfer (City College of San Francisco). While Bullock was in, the Cowboys did not score once, which prompted Coach Gundy to put in true freshman Shane Illingworth in the 3rd quarter. Illingworth on his first drive threw 2 long passes to Tylan Wallace for 24 yards and 36 yards respectively to get the Cowboys in scoring position, where Hubbard scored on a 3 yard run. Illingworth was on the field for 3 drives, and each drive the Cowboys scored, however the other two ended in field goals. The Cowboy defense was enough to hold off Tulsa most of the game, holding the Golden Hurricanes to 278 total yards (which is actually 1 more total yard than OK State!). The offense for Tulsa was hurting though, as their #1 RB, Shamari Brooks, did not play after suffering a torn ACL on Tuesday, which was a major blow to the offense. Pair that with the Golden Hurricanes going 0-12 on 3rd downs and it just spells a recipe for disaster. Overall, it was not a good game for both teams. The subject of this “Did You Know”, Chubba Hubbard, only averaged 3.4 yards that day and had 93 yards in total. This snapped his 11 game streak of 100+ yards rushing, dating back to Week 2 of the 2019 season. The Cowboys next game is next week vs. 1-0 West Virginia, and the Golden Hurricanes next game is next week @ Arkansas State.

Did You Know? Marshall vs Appalachian State

The Marshall Thundering Herd won their first game against a ranked opponent since 2003, and their first win over a ranked opponent at home since 1976.

Photo by Adam Gue

What a win for The Thundering Herd. This is Marshall’s first win vs. a ranked opponent since upsetting #6 Kansas State on the road in 2003 and their first win against a ranked opponent at home since 1976 when they beat #20 Miami (OH). The key players for the Herd in this match up were QB Grant Wells and RB Brenden Knox, as well as the entire defense. Wells was 11/25 with 163 yards and an INT in the air, and had 43 rushing yards and a touchdown on 6 carries on the ground. Knox had 138 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown on the ground as well. The defense for Marshall also stepped up big when needed, forcing an interception in the first half on a promising drive for the Mountaineers, and a fumble in the 4th quarter on what would have been a touchdown if it had not been for Brandon Drayton of The Herd, who punched it out of the hands of Mike Evans of App State, and was recovered in the end zone by Nazeeh Johnson. App State also had a costly missed field goal late in the fourth. Had it not been for these two mishaps, the Mountaineers would have the game all tied up at 17.

The offense for App State just couldn’t find its rhythm on the ground either, being held to just 96 rushing yards one week after gaining more than 300 rushing yards against Charlotte. Marshall’s offense this year has not skipped a beat, outscoring opponents 76-7 this year, and today showed the strength of the defense against a very good App State team. Marshall has the next few weeks off, and if a game isn’t rescheduled (such as the Rice or East Carolina game) then we will see them in action again October 10th vs. 0-2 Western Kentucky. App State is in action next week looking to rebound against the 0-2 Campbell Fighting Camels.

Did You Know? UCF vs Georgia Tech

UCF QB Dillon Gabriel had a career day, throwing 4 TD’s and 417 yards, which is tied for 7th most yards thrown in a single game in UCF history. The Knights won 49-21  over Georgia Tech.  

Photo by Hyosub Shin

Oh man, what a day it was for Dillon Gabriel. He went 27/41 with 471 yards and 4 TD’s, along with 1 INT. He also had 8 rushes for 30 yards on the ground. This helped the Knights charge on to victory in Atlanta vs. a Georgia Tech team coming off a massive win at Florida State. The UCF offense in total had a whopping 660 total yards, which far outdid anything the Yellow Jackets could muster. The Knights started out the game strong, taking a 21-7 lead in the 2nd quarter, but the Yellow Jackets came closing in, cutting the lead down to 7 in the 4th quarter after both teams went scoreless in the 3rd. This is when Gabriel and the Knights really put it into gear, scoring 3 touchdowns on 3 drives in the 4th while holding the Yellow Jackets scoreless after the initial touchdown early on in the 4th. While Dillon Gabriel was the big name this week, I think the defense of UCF cannot be forgotten. They forced not 1, not 2, but 5 turnovers the entire game! The biggest two in my opinion were the two final offensive drives by Georgia Tech, which were an interception and a fumble respectively. This killed any momentum Tech may have had, and allowed UCF to build on their lead. This win was actually UCF’s first-ever win against Georgia Tech, and I don’t think either fan base will be forgetting this one for a long time. The Knights next game will be next week @ East Carolina, while the Yellow Jackets next game will be next week @ Syracuse.

Did You Know? Navy vs Tulane

Navy’s 27-24 comeback win against Tulane was the largest 2nd-half comeback in school history.

Photo by Chris Graythen

Who could have seen this coming? The Midshipmen were trounced last week 55-3 against BYU and Tulane was coming off a comeback win of their own against South Alabama. Here’s the crazy thing; Tulane’s win last week also ended with a score of 27-24. What a case of deja vu for the Green Wave, and one they did not want to experience. The game really looked like another blow out, until Midshipmen Defenseman Cameron Kinley intercepted the ball at the Navy 3 yard line, preventing the Green Wave from extending their lead. From there, Navy was able to out gain the Green Wave 291 to 82 in total yards, score 27 unanswered points, and win the game after all hope seemed lost. The rainy conditions lead to the ground game being the preferred offense of both teams, with the leading rushers of Tulane providing 2 of the 3 touchdowns. Tyjae Spears accumulated 199 yards on 18 carries and Cameron Carroll accumulated 62 yards on 11 carries with 2 TD’s. For Navy, Jamale Carothers gained 127 yards on 25 rushes, and Nelson Smith gained 22 yards and 2 TD’s on 6 rushes. If you are a fan of big comebacks, definitely check out the highlights or full replay of this game. Navy is back in action October 3rd when they travel to 0-0 Air Force. Tulane looks to rebound next week on the road against 0-2 Southern Mississippi.

What were you’re thoughts on Week 3? Leave a reply on this article, or join our new forums to talk with us and other fellow college football fans as well! And be sure to follow @Sidelines_SN for all future updates in the college sports world!

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Restore 44

By Kenny Van Doren, @SidelinesCuse

   

The personal and sentimental reasons behind a number might be silly to some, but an athlete’s number means more than anything. It all comes from a “look good, play good” mentality, or it comes from tradition. Players these days idolize their heroes; LeBron wears 23 because of Jordan, many MLB shortstops wear number 2 because of Jeter, etc. For Syracuse University, the number 44 was given to the starting running back for a 14 year stretch. College football legends Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little wore this number. 44 is the most historic and connected number to any college football program ever, and the Syracuse football program should bring this number back.

Tradition is what makes college football, college football. Penn State has their white out game at Happy Valley, the state of Alabama has the Iron Bowl, Mississippi the Egg Bowl, etc. Rivalries, uniforms, and numbers are exactly the kind of tradition that needs to be kept alive in college football. For the Syracuse Orange, the number 44 was first worn in 1921. Here is a list of all who wore 44:

Gifford Zimmerman, halfback, 1921

Charles Roberts, halfback, 1924

Clarence Taylor, quarterback, 1925

Don Baldwin, wide receiver, 1926

Richard Fishel, halfback, 1932

Henry Merz, quarterback, 1933

Hamilton Watt, wide receiver, 1934

Francis Mullins, halfback, 1935-36

Stanley Sanislay, wide receiver, 1937

Benjamin DeYoung, wide receiver, 1938

Francis Mazejko, guard, 1939

Richard Ransom, tackle, 1940

J. O’Brien, tackle, 1945

Robert Eberling, running back, 1952

Jim Brown, running back, 1954-56

Thomas Stephens, halfback, 1957-58

Ernie Davis, halfback, 1959-61

William Schoonover, halfback, 1962-63

Floyd Little, running back, 1964-66

Richard Panczyszyn, quarterback, 1967-69

Mandel Robinson, running back, 1977

Glen Moore, running back, 1981-82

Michael Owens, running back, 1987-89

Terry Richardson, running back, 1990-93

Rob Konrad, fullback, 1995-98

    The number is rooted in a deep history of All-Americans, NFL players, and two NFL Hall of Famers. It even has its ties to the basketball team with greats Danny Schayes, Derrick Coleman, and John Wallace wearing it. Wallace was the last to suit up in the towering 4s, even though the program retired his number earlier this year. Many fans wanted another big man to bear 44, such as the late, great Fab Melo. 

    One argument about bringing back 44 is if players can live up to the greatness that comes with the number. We may never see a Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, or Floyd Little ever again in blue and orange, but the 44 Foundation was made to honor and keep the spirit alive. Sure, they may not leave the same impact, but traditions are essential to college sports. 

44 should make its way back to the field for the Orange, and it does not even have to be the running back. Give the number to the captain of the team. Texas A&M finds a player to wear their beloved 12 each season that displays the highest level of leadership, and Syracuse should do the same. The number 44 is so sentimental to the University in many ways, so why not bring it back? Make it a number of honor and give it to the leader or hardest working player. With a number so heavily tied to some of the greatest college athletes in the 20th century, it would be an honor for any Syracuse football player to wear. Leave it up to Brown and Little, and see if they want their number to be on the backs of the future.

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“Did You Know?” Week One Recap

by Hunter Martinez-Buehrer (Sidelines_OU)

Here we are at last. College football finally kicked off and one week (well, two if you count week 0) is now in the record books. But one thing that has piqued my interest is those record books. Back in High School when I played football, my coach would always do a pep talk that he called “Did you know” where he would talk about the history of our team vs. our opponent before the game. This was a fun tradition, and I’ve decided to bring it over to the College Football landscape as a recap instead.

So here it is, A mixture of knowledge and a recap of a few of the games from Saturday in our first edition of “Did you know?”

Did You Know? Oklahoma vs Missouri State

Photo by Ty Russel

Oklahoma’s 48-0 rout against Missouri State is the team’s first shutout since 2015 when they beat Kansas State 55-0.

Did anyone really expect the Sooners to struggle in this matchup against this FCS team? No, of course not. But did anyone expect the Sooners to hold the Bears scoreless and to only 135 yards total? Maybe some of you, but still an impressive feat nonetheless. Spencer Rattler’s first start as QB went as well as you can do. His stat line tells the whole story, where he went 14-17 for 290 yards and 4 TDs. His two big throws went for a 58 yard TD to Marvin Mims and a 53 yard TD to Charleston Rambo. The defense held the Bears to a total of 135 total yards, only 7 first downs, and had 1 interception. This performance is eerily similar to their 2015 game against Kansas State, the last time OU shut out an opponent. In that game, the Wildcats only had 110 total yards, 7 first downs, and 3 turnovers. The Sooners are back in action in 2 weeks when they play the Wildcats of Kansas State. 

Did You Know? FSU vs Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s 16-13 road win over Florida State is their first road game win against an ACC opponent to open up a season since 1996.

Well, this was certainly a surprise. Florida State had higher expectations after bringing in Mike Norvell from Memphis, but as it turns out, the former-FSU-commit-turned-Georgia-Tech-QB Jeff Sims helped push the Yellow Jackets to victory. He went 24-35 with 277 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT. What really sealed the deal was the mistakes by Florida State, who committed 3 turnovers throughout the entire game, including a fumble deep in their own territory which let the Yellow Jackets take the lead late in the game. The entire game was full of mistakes on both sides though, as Georgia Tech had turnovers, missed field goals, and bad offensive drives. This was evident in the score at halftime where FSU had a 10-0 lead. However, the Seminoles just couldn’t pull away, and their mistakes on offense and turnovers on defense lead to GT to come back and eventually take the win. This win is special, as it’s the first time GT has won an opening game on the road vs. an ACC team since 1996 when they beat Wake Forest 28-16 with a strong performance by eventual College Football Hall of Famer Joe Hamilton.

Did You Know? UTSA vs Texas State

UTSA earns emotional win over Texas State in double-OT - ExpressNews.com

This was the first year in the I-35 rivalry between UTSA and Texas State where the game went into Overtime.

If I told you about a game where both teams had around 500 yards, both teams had more than 20 first downs, you had a pick 6 for one team, both teams scored more than 45 points, AND it went into 2OT before we had a winner, would you want to watch?

Look no further than Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos, TX where the Roadrunners of UTSA and the Bobcats of Texas State did battle Saturday night in a 51-48 shootout in probably the best game of this rivalry, to which UTSA now holds a 4-0 all time series lead dating back to 2012. It started looking like an early UTSA rout, with the Roadrunners taking a 24-7 lead by halftime, however the Bobcats came storming back to tie it at 41, and would have won the game if not for a missed PAT, which sent the game into overtime. There, after the teams traded touchdowns, Texas State kicker Alan Orona missed a field goal from 20 yards, and UTSA won the game on the next possession with a made field goal of their own. Stars of the game go to Texas State Quarterback Tyler Vitt, who went 26/40 with 346 yards and 4 TDs (along with 2 INTs) and UTSA running back Sincere McCormick, who had 197 yards on 29 carries with 1 touchdown. Seriously, go watch the highlights (or full game) if you can, this will definitely be a hidden gem for this season, and has been the best game in the entire history of meetings between these two teams.

Did You Know? Coastal Carolina vs Kansas

Coastal Carolina now has a 2-0 all time record vs. the Big 12 conference* and are 2-1 against P5 opponents under head coach Jamey Chadwell.

*Yes, I know, it’s Kansas, but can you still understand how absolutely insane that is? The Jayhawks didn’t just lose, they were throttled. The Chanticleers scored 28 straight points before the Jayhawks were able to put points on the board with a field goal.

The real star of the game was Coastal Car. QB Grayson McCall, who went 11-18 with 113 yards and 3 touchdowns in the air. On the ground, McCall also had 73 yards on 11 rushes with 2 touchdowns. That’s right, McCall had a role in every single touchdown that was scored by the Chanticleers. This recently absorbed school into the FBS level has now never lost a game against a Big 12 opponent.

The other Big 12 school they played was West Virginia, but that was before the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 Conference, so in my eyes it doesn’t count as a game against the conference. This matchup was a lot more entertaining compared to last year though, as the score was 12-7 in 2019. However, the clear elephant in the room is how far Kansas and Les Miles still need to go before the Jayhawks can be excited for something other than basketball. The Big 12 overall had a rough time with the Sun Belt conference last night, as Kansas State and Iowa State also lost to Sun Belt members Arkansas State and Louisiana respectively.

So, did you know all four of these facts? If you didn’t, now you know!

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Harold Gayden: Talking Football With A Legend

By Kenny Van Doren, @SidelinesCuse

This past week I got on the phone with Harold Gayden, who was a halfback for the Syracuse Orange from 1982-1986. First off, you might ask why he was there so long. In 1985, Gayden hit issues of ineligibility, so he returned in 1986 for his last season. Many might not know Gayden and for others this might be a spark of a memory, but he is known for the final touchdown in the greatest game in Syracuse football history; the win over the #1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1984.

“It was probably one of the best moments as a player,” Gayden said. “After being killed the year before.”

Five lessons the Syracuse football team should take from the 1984 ...

Head coach at the time, Dick MacPherson, would later embrace Harold Gayden for how he played in that game. Unfortunately, Coach MacPherson passed away in 2017. That year the Syracuse Orange took down #2 ranked Clemson at home in the Dome. This game was won for MacPherson; 33 years after the greatest win in program history.

“It was the first thing that came to my mind. I was watching that game,”  Gayden remarked. “I was very proud of that. Proud that we did it first though!”

Harold Gayden Jr (@GaydenJr) | Twitter

We then discussed the legacy of 44, which I’ll discuss bringing back in my next article. With the 44 Foundation and even the idea of a captain, Gayden had a great take on it: “Personally, I would really respect the opinion of the living 44s, and if they would want to bring it back.” With the greats Jim Brown and Floyd Little still with us, the program should ask them as long as they have the chance to. Even when we brought up his own number 47, we need to remember that Joe Morris, who is the all-time rushing leader, had this number retired. Also, Gayden was coming in behind at Syracuse, so there is a lot expected from a guy who follows a record holder.

“47 was a hell of a number to live up to,” Gayden chuckled.

From a guy who played 15-20 years after the great 44s, Gayden thinks a player should have to give up an established number they already have. He does bring up a great point, and that is to ask the living 44s; they made the number what it is, and they should be the ones to choose what happens next.

Syracuse football links: Remembering a 'program changer': SU's ...

The 1984 Syracuse football team is closely resembling the 2020 team. Looking at their schedule and seeing 3 ranked opponents, you would think, how are you going to beat a team like Clemson? Well, Gayden’s Orange did that. They held the #1 ranked team in the country to 9 points. Gayden had less than 60 yards that game, but a 1 yard touchdown run was all they needed to seal a game for the ages. For those who did not know the outcome of the year before: Nebraska 63 – Syracuse 7. The current Orange faced the same situation with a 41-6 loss to Clemson last season. You cannot count out the Orange; they are due for a big upset. Gayden made a great point of how big wins bring in that national attention that any program would want.

“You have to go into the games knowing you can win,” Gayden explained. “These games raise the reputation of Baber and put you over the hump of getting the talented players from high school.”

Gayden never had to worry about a season being cancelled or playing without fans, but he thinks if they are going to play, it has to be played with the highest precaution. He has the same mindset as all of us, but he knows how much medical attention these athletes receive. From a former college athlete that played in sold out stadiums and played for a huge D1 University, it is great to hear how he thinks players will adjust or how things will affect their game due to the unfortunate times in the country.

“Of course you love to hear their cheers, but you don’t get wrapped up in it.”  Gayden explained. “I think the guys can play without it.”

For a guy who has been out of football for 34 years now, I wanted to know what he misses from the game. The rivalries were different back then for Syracuse as an independent team, and to hear about the teams he never beat and the ones they would steam roll makes it seem like it was a video game. Gayden said what any other player would miss; competition and his teammates. As time goes on, he has been getting into more contact with his friends from the team. He did not have a teammate that he could say something bad about. A great thing about football is that it brings people together, it builds a family, but everything comes to an end. You have to say goodbye to the game you love and to the people that lined up next to you for all those years.

“You were brought together for 4 or 5 years,” Gayden said . “Then, you go on different paths.”

Harold Gayden is retired with his wife and dog, Charlie, in Florida. He has not returned to the Dome since November and he would love to get back up there. He has seen his Orange play a few times since he left Syracuse, but it is time to commemorate his team. A team that beat the odds, a team that overcame so much, and a team that brings hope to programs looking for that national recognition.

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The Largest Apparel Deal in CFB – and Which One Will Be Next

The largest apparel deal in CFB is not with a playoff team. In fact, it’s not even with a Top 25 team. Perhaps even more surprising, the company writing the check isn’t Nike.

Image result for ucla under armour

Image Courtesy 247 Sports

In May 2016, Under Armour inked a 15 year, $280 million deal with UCLA to be their official shoe and apparel sponsor. This is the largest such deal in the history of college athletics.

For Under Armour, it was just another move in the imperialist game of athletic apparel brands. While Nike has claimed most of the lucrative brands like Ohio State and Texas, Under Armour planted a flag in the second largest TV market in the country.

The largest brand Under Armour has under its belt is arguably still Notre Dame, but the addition of UCLA expands their growing foothold to the West Coast – right in the heart of Nike Territory.

For UCLA, it’s more than just money – of course, it *is* an unimaginably large amount of money. But this contract identified them as one of the most valuable brands in athletics. By market value alone, they now stand shoulder to shoulder with the Alabama’s and Michigan’s of CFB. With a coach like Chip Kelly, who carries attention with him wherever he goes even if his teams haven’t performed as of late, eyes will be on UCLA every preseason.

Image result for chip kelly under armour

This is huge for recruiting as well. A recruit going to UCLA knows media attention will be on them, as well as millions of dollars for facility improvements and equipment.

The Under Armour – UCLA deal was done 4 years ago. A lot has changed in CFB, but a lot has stayed the same too – mainly, money is still king. So, which deal will beat UCLA’s?

The first thing to think about is obviously the team itself. Better performing teams will always bring more money, but as Texas has shown, fan following and brand power matter far more. This leaves a pretty short list of teams that could be expected to make a landmark deal, and it’s pretty similar to the list of teams that have a chance of making the CFB playoff every year: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, UGA, OU, LSU, Notre Dame, Penn State, Nebraska, Oregon, Florida, Florida State, Texas, Texas A&M, USC. We can immediately cross off a few – Oregon will never need a payout to stick with Nike, and Clemson and Florida State just don’t have the size of fan base or brand power to milk that large of a contract.

The second thing to look for is geography and market; this is arguably the main reason why UCLA has the largest apparel deal right now. There are no New York teams worth paying a super contract too. Chicago is tied to Notre Dame, a good candidate for the largest contract (they currently have the fifth largest, also with Under Armour). LA could be snatched up on the other end by paying out to USC.

Finally, you have to look at the companies themselves. What are Nike’s goals? They have the most money – which battles are they going to choose to fight? Nike already runs the west coast, and I don’t think they are interested in stealing Notre Dame from Under Armour. Adidas is also a major player we haven’t discussed much thus far – their cash cow is Texas A&M, who they gave the most lucrative deal in the SEC. They actually held the UCLA deal before Under Armour took it. SEC deals are huge for a brand, and a few contracts there are expiring soon.

Image result for nike press conference

Taking all of this into account, it seems likely the next biggest contract will go to a team that is already a massive brand, probably to rip them away from another apparel company. It will likely be Nike, since them and Under Armour have been the biggest spenders but Under Armour has faced extreme financial difficulties recently as they stand on the line of bankruptcy. I would guess Nike might try to rip a big brand away from another company. Maybe Texas A&M away from Adidas, although they already have Texas in that region.

Who do you think will be the next shoe and apparel super deal in CFB? Let us know on Twitter @Sidelines_SN!

The Ballad of Scott Frost

Coming off of a 13-0 season (and, depending on who you ask, a National Championship), UCF’s Scott Frost seemed to be the hottest coach on the market. Any P5 team that could snap him up would be lucky to do so, and surely would see improvement in their player development and culture, two things he was hailed for as the Knights head coach…right?

Image result for scott frost

Image Courtesy bleacherreport.com

As it was quite rudely announced during UCF’s conference championship game, Scott Frost was going back home to mama. His alma mater, Nebraska, offered him a 7 year, $35 million contract. That’s a lot of money for any athletic program, even when you’re Nebraska, who had an athletic department revenue of $120 million last year.

Some of the immediate concerns were that he had only competed against opponents from a “G5” schedule, though the American conference has been much stronger in recent years. Others were simply concerned at paying so much to a coach that was relatively unproven at the highest level, which might have been on the money after all.

As his first season approached, Frost was able to flip a few recruits and snag the 23rd overall recruitment class in the country, 4th in the Big Ten. A few preseason polls contained Nebraska, though most were able to temper their expectations in Frost’s first season. He ultimately went 4-8, losing to rival Colorado in a heart-breaking season opener, and Sun Belt contender Troy in the game immediately following. In fact, Nebraska lost their first 6 games under Frost until beating Minnesota at home.

Still, a coach should always be given a year to establish a culture and bring in his guys, right? In fact, most people use the “second year test” as a gauge to determine if the head coach will find success at the school. Firing anyone before their second season is general irresponsible, save some particularly dire situations we have seen recently.

In Frost’s second preseason with the Huskers, he brought in the 17th best overall recruiting class, which was once again 4th in the Big Ten. It was a competitive recruiting cycle, but fans definitely were expecting a little more (though it’s tough when you have to go against the likes of Ohio State and Michigan). Still, these were “Scott’s Guys” and the expectation was that he would win with them. In the 2019 offseason, a majority of preseason polls had the Huskers in the Top 25. This was proven to be a gross overreaction, especially when nothing had really changed other than time.

Image result for nebraska colorado football

Image Courtesy The Denver Post

Frost’s Huskers won their first game of the season against South Alabama (finally beating that pesky Sun Belt opponent), but once again lost their rivalry game against Colorado. This was one of the first times we saw large groups of Husker fans showing visible frustration under Frost’s tenure. This was his second year, he had his guys, what could possibly be going wrong? Maybe it was just a bad game…

Frost went 5-7 that season, demonstrating a one game improvement in record. Two of those wins were against G5 opponents.

The purpose of this article isn’t to say Scott Frost should be fired and Nebraska has exercised too much tolerance with him. In fact, one of the worst trends in college football is firing coaches before they really get a chance to establish themselves. But hasn’t Frost established himself? He has brought in his guys and done the usual showy things to demonstrate a culture change, hopefully getting Nebraska as far away from the Riley years as possible. But what is their left to do? Nebraska is once again ranked in many preseason polls, becoming the over hyped poll laughingstock that Texas is usually known to be. All that Frost can do at this point is win and earn that massive contract.

Image result for nebraska money cleats

Nebraska Football’s “Money Cleats”. Image Courtesy Sneaker Freaker

And that contract? It just got more massive. This off season, Frost was given a 2 year contract extension to 2026. This move by the athletic department demonstrated a commitment to Frost that should put away some pitchforks and even help recruiting. But does Nebraska actually have a plan for the next few years? What would it take to convince them the Frost experiment has failed?

Part of the Frost problem is hiring alumni. Alumni head coaches will always be viewed in an unfairly positive light. Look at the disaster happening year after year in Ann Arbor? I also don’t think Harbaugh should be fired, and he has posted some of Michigan’s best seasons in decades, but he still hasn’t beaten Ohio State. Would selecting a non-alumni, but rather best coach on the market brought them over that edge?

I think the model for alumni Head Coaches is David Shaw at Stanford. He has posted an 86-34 overall record and gone 5-3 in bowls. He has also won the conference 3 times, something the Michigan Man (and certainly not Frost) have accomplished yet. But he worked his way from within the program as OC, proved himself, and has demonstrated his coaching knowledge with his team’s on field performances.

Image result for david shaw pac 12 champ

Rose Bowl Champion David Shaw. Image Courtesy San Francisco Chronicle.

Teams simply need to make sure the coach they are hiring is the best coach for them. Is motivating alumni and selling tickets important? Yes. But do you know what sells the most tickets? Winning. Big name schools that will be looking for their next head coach – looking at you, USC – need to learn what they can from the story of Scott Frost so far. Demonstrate a commitment to your coaches – but should you really be granting super contracts to them just because they played for your team already? Has the coach really proven themselves just yet?

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Eulogy for the AAF

March 20, 2018, the AAF was announced by Charlie Ebersol. Football fans around the nation (and some around the globe) lit up with excitement; spring football once again! A new generation of sports fanatics had grown up since the last attempt at a secondary professional league (the last being the infamous XFL failure in the early 2000’s) and with time, a sense of optimism had grown. Many believed that enough had changed between streaming options, technology, and simply learning from past mistakes that another football league was viable.

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Image Courtesy of USA Today

In short, people believed in the vision of the AAF.

It wasn’t just unfounded optimism though. Ebersol and his co-founder, Bill Polian, seemed to have a clear plan. TV deals were made. Advanced technology, integrated into a live tracking app, marketed the league as not just football, but a true tech startup. Teams were to be managed by the central office rather than individual owners.

As with all startups, however, there were concerns. The AAF didn’t have quite the budget Vince McMahon and the other spring league launching the following year, the renewed XFL. The app had a rocky roll out and was barely ready by the time the season began. Even when it was released, it was clear it was not everything it was hyped to be.

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Image Courtesy of Tampa Bay Times

Still, fans got what they wanted. Eight teams were announced complete with fairly nice looking uniforms from Starter and intriguing brands, all tied in with their respective local cultures. People took to social media to claim a team, some choosing based on location, others on NFL or college football affiliation, and others even on something so simple as thinking the Stallions had cool helmets.

Play began on February 9, 2019. It was no NFL, but it was football. Trent Richardson immediately became infamous for his consistent less-than-3-yards-per-carry. Bercovici became the face of the league my taking a monster, helmet-removing hit. And of course, everyone was just happy to see Coach Spurrier take to the sideline once again.

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Image Courtesy of Black Sports Online

All those story lines began in just week one. In the weeks that followed, the Apollos would go on a dominant run (finishing the season with the best record, 6-1), the Express, Legends and Stallions would become the butt of most jokes but still claim an upset every now and again, and the Iron would continue to be a monster on defense – although, often struggling on the other side of the ball.

And of course – Money Manziel. Johnny Manziel’s arrival to the league came with much more excitement than his actual play ever would. Still, his exit from the CFL back into American professional football was talked about everywhere. Manziel, in his short time as unofficial league spokesmen, kept his cool and did seem to be more mature than prior years – even if his main moment of fame was eating nachos on the sideline.

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Image Courtesy of USA Today

The main point of these recollections is that, although an upstart league that so desperately wanted to become a feeder for the NFL, the AAF really was capable of carrying its story lines. It delivered a product that fans, although often not enough in person save for the packed Alamodome, wanted to see. It really seemed that the league had a chance.

Financial struggles were the first nail in the coffin. Rumors began swirling, and news broke that another investor was desperately needed to save the league. Tom Dundon emerged as the leagues savior, offering 250 million dollars and easing the minds of anxious fans, so afraid to lose what they had gained. Dundon had big plans, and sentiments of praise were seen on all corners of the internet, from tweets to memes on Reddit.

But then Dundon’s plans got a little too big.

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Image Courtesy of Deadspin

Fans who closely followed the ensuing drama remember that no one really knew what was going on – reports that Dundon was playing hardball to get a deal with the NFLPA to formalize the AAF as a development league began to come out. This had been the plan from the beginning, as most were aware, but it was believed Ebersol and Polian were going to wait until the NFLPA contract was renegotiated in 2020. Whether Dundon had information that the fans (and, for that matter, Ebersol and Polian) did not, or if he was just desperate to see a return on his massive investment, it’s not really certain. What we do know is what followed – after seven entertaining weeks of football, Dundon began threatening to fold the league if an agreement with the NFLPA did not come to fruition.

The agreement was never made.

On April 2, 2019, it was announced the league was suspending operations. Shortly afterward, notices of termination were released to league staff and, crossing the point of no return, all players released from their contracts effective immediately. In just a few short weeks the league went from riding the high of success to nothing but assets, waiting to be sold off.

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Image Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Fans, understandably, were outraged. People began crying for Dundon’s head, since he seemed to be at fault for this. Some postured that he simply wanted the league’s valuable technology and IP, and simply left it for dead when he had secured what he wanted. Other saw Dundon as just a reasonable businessman, realizing a profit wasn’t going to happen and then folding to stop the bleeding. After all, he had lost 70 million dollars in just a few weeks.

When the dust settles, it will probably come out exactly what happened. Some compensation packages will surely be arranged. Remaining assets will be sold; the XFL may even snatch some up. But when all is done and the AAF is but a footnote on the tragic history of startup football leagues, there will be something left behind. Fans will hold onto their T-shirts – some may have not even delivered yet. Hundreds of abandoned Twitter accounts dedicated to the league will go inactive. Future articles on Trent Richardson and Johnny Manziel will always reference the few weeks we had together. But there’s not just these archives. Fans will have the memories. Those who sat in Legion field, baking in the Birmingham heat to catch a glimpse of football in the spring. Those in San Diego, so excited to finally have professional football return to their city. Apollos fans, happy to see a Florida pro team find success again.

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Image Courtesy of Pewter Report

Every team had their stories, and every fan will have their memories. It’s soul-crushing that this is all we have now, especially when we all hoped – all believed – that this league could be different. Reality hits hard. People want someone to blame. But in this eulogy for the AAF, I just ask we all remember the good times we had. Short-lived as it was, the AAF was something special – and I don’t want it to only be remembered for it’s demise.

 

Grid Lines Sports Blog has covered the AAF since prior to its inception. We assembled and published weekly power rankings. We will continue to cover College Football and other professional sports leagues, and hope fans that found us through the AAF stay with us for this other coverage.

Super Bowl 53 Uniform Preview

It’s that time of year: College Football has wrapped up, and thus fans turn their eyes to the NFL Playoffs. This year’s games were packed with both action and controversy, but the biggest game is still left to play. The New England Patriots, perennial contender and league super villain, will be facing the surging Los Angeles Rams. Who do we think will win? That’s for another post. Let’s dive into these uniforms.

New England Patriots – Silver/White/Blues

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The Silver/White/Blue combo was introduced with the new uniform set in the late 90’s, although you could argue it was an entirely different uniform by design. The Patriots have worn this look in quite a few Super Bowls before – XXXIX, XLIX, LI, and LII – and had won every time they wore them until last year. Still, that’s a 75% winning pct. The Pats will keep the look.

Thoughts: Even with the loss, Pats have a legacy of winning in these, and there a good, crisp look (especially the dark blue, red outlined numbers against the white background). These will be just fine.

Los Angeles Rams – Dark Blue/Royal Blue/Gold

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No doubt about it – this has to be the best uniform combination in the NFL. I was so glad to see this brought back when the Rams moved to LA, and I’m glad it wasn’t just a one off appearance. Rams wearing it in the Super Bowl is a great homage to both the classic history and new traditions of the franchise in LA.

The Rams first introduced the classic blue and gold in their second season (they had first adopted the colors of the nearby Fordham Rams, when they were still in Cleveland). However, they did not add the gold horns to the helmet until 1948. Half Back and art graduate Fred Gehrke painted the horns on his helmet with permission from Coach Bob Snyder and owner Dan Reeves. People liked it so much, he painted the horns on the rest of the team’s helmets.

You may notice the current helmets are a darker color than the jerseys. This isn’t a mistake: this uniform combination is technically a throwback (even though it has been in the Rams regular rotation), and the old Rams jerseys did have a darker helmet.

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Thoughts: This bold combination is not only my favorite in the NFL, but will look fantastic against the Patriot’s white background. The uniform not only looks great, but means a lot, with this being the Rams first Super Bowl appearance since the return to LA. If only the Eagle’s had worn throwback Kelly Green’s in the Super Bowl last year.

Overall, this is a great looking Super Bowl, with a crisp silver/white top for the Patriot’s complimenting the beautiful design of the LA Rams throwbacks.

As far as a game prediction? Who knows. Hopefully it’s as good of a show as the uniforms.

Looking for another championship game uniform breakdown? Check out our guide on Villanova vs. Michigan, here:

The Elephant in the Room: How Alabama got ‘Big Al’

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Image Courtesy of etsy.com

Anyone familiar with Alabama football knows that although their athletics nickname is the “Crimson Tide,” their mascot is an elephant. There’s no clear connection between crimson and elephants, nor the “Roll Tide” shout, so how did this come to be?

History

The story starts with Wallace Wade, legendary Alabama coach (as well as a legendary Duke coach, and the namesake of their football stadium). Wade’s 1930 Alabama team was like many others he had coached; menacing and tough. They were known for their strength and blocking abilities.

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Image Courtesy of pinterest.com

Following a hard-fought victory over Ole Miss, Everett Strupper of the Atlanta Journal used very imaginative language to describe the sheer power of the Alabama football team:

“Coach Wade started his second team that was plenty big and they went right to their knitting scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against one of the best fighting small lines that I have seen. For Ole Miss was truly battling the big boys for every inch of ground.

At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stamped this Alabama varsity.

It was the first time that I had seen it and the size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size.”

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Image Courtesy of bsnscb.com

“Elephants” wasn’t a team nickname at the time, but it soon became one. Sports writers would refer to the Alabama linemen as the “Red Elephants.” That 1930 team would go on to have an undefeated season, one of Alabama’s claimed national championships.

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Image Courtesy of pinterest.com

Alabama informally accepted the moniker. In the 1940’s the University actually kept a live elephant. This elephant would carry the homecoming queen every year. When keeping a live elephant became too expensive, Alabama began renting elephants for homecoming weekend.

Big Al

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Image Courtesy of rolltide.com

The first use of an elephant mascot suit was in 1960, when student Melford Espey Jr. began wearing elephant costume head to games. Espey would go on to become an administrator at the University of Alabama, and Coach Bear Bryant would ask him to don the elephant head for games.

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Image Courtesy of ncaa.com

In 1979, Alabama’s homecoming committee decided they wanted an official mascot suit. They met with Coach Bryant, who approved the idea, and then purchased the first Big Al suit from Disney with athletic department funds. Big Al debuted at the 1980 Sugar Bowl, in which Alabama defeated Arkansas. The actual name “Big Al’ came from a student vote. Al Brown was a popular DJ on campus at the time, and thus was voted in.

Since his formal adoption, Big Al has appeared in many forms as an alternate logo for Alabama. Many incarnations of this are shown throughout this article, with the most recent form below and at the start of this article:

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Image Courtesy of tirecovers.com

Love Big Al? Hate him? Think Aubie is better? Leave your comments below, and check out our last historical branding spotlight here!