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Monday
Mar142005

NCAA Basketball Tournament

In the spirit of the current season, I'd like to jump up and let it be known that college football is still around.  For a while now I've held onto an article by The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart.

He lists 65 reasons college football is better than college basketball.  Keep in mind this is dated to 3/6/2002. What would you add to this list?

he NCAA Tournament will begin next week. It's a fun event, especially the first weekend. In fact, it may be among the four best days on the sports calendar. Still, college hoops pales in comparison to college football. Let me count the ways, 65 of them in all.

  • 1. Pregame flyover by F-18 fighter jets at Navy games. You are lucky to get some cheesy indoor fireworks at some basketball games.
  • 2. Georgia's UGA. The lovable Bulldog is out of place on hardwood, as are other living mascots like Bevo (Texas), Mike the Tiger (LSU), Bully (Mississippi State), Reveille (Texas A&M), Smokey (Tennessee) and Spirit (Washington), among others.
  • 3. Trophy games. The hoops world has nothing to match hardware like the Little Brown Jug (Michigan-Minnesota), Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa-Minnesota), Old Brass Spittoon (Indiana-Michigan State), Apple Cup (Washington-Washington State) and the Bronze Boot (Wyoming-Colorado State).
  • 4. Tailgating. It's an all-day (and sometimes all-night) affair where the art of potato chip eating is taken to new heights. And double-dipping is permitted. Conversely, you arrive for a hoops game minutes before tipoff and blast out the door at the final buzzer.
  • 5. Marching bands. Lots of brass and sass, while hoops games are left with puny pep bands devoid of high-kicking drum majors. And when was the last time the Stanford Band played a role in the outcome of a Cardinal basketball game? I rest my point.
  • 6. Opening kickoff. Nothing in basketball compares with the key-chain-jingling anticipation and crescendo of the initial meeting of foot and pigskin. Blink and you miss the tipoff in hoops.
  • 7. The Vol Navy. It's too cold to take a boat to a basketball game at Tennessee. Ditto for Washington, where many fans dock their boats on Lake Washington near Husky Stadium.
  • 8. Homecoming. That squeal of delight you just heard was the sisters of Alpha Phi celebrating the fact one of their own just was crowned Homecoming queen. Group hug.
  • 9. Bowls. In this thing called March Madness, only one team gets to finish its season with a win. Twenty-five teams left bowls with smiles on their faces last year.
  • 10. Mascot fun. Opposing teams rarely, if ever, bring their mascot to basketball games. But on Saturday afternoons, we get to see Missouri's Truman the Tiger get wracked on the goal post by the cheerleaders of K-State. And if we're lucky, some group of cheerleaders will kidnap that scary-looking Husker thing-a-ma-gig in Lincoln.
  • 11. Army-Navy. Name another game between two bad teams that guarantees a sellout and national TV audience? Do Army-Navy even play each other in basketball? Does anyone care?
  • 12. Running onto the field. From Miami players' entrance amid billows of smoke to Colorado players following in the tracks of Ralphie, charging onto the field charges up fans.
  • 13. Helmets. Nothing speaks pride and tradition more than headgear worn by schools like Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas. Uniform styles come and go in basketball.
  • 14. Hitting. Those guys wearing culottes think there's contact in the paint? That's nothing compared to the vertebrae-rattling collisions across the middle of the field each Saturday in the fall.
  • 15. Big Uglies. Hoops is for pretty boys with long legs and $200 sneakers. There's no place for the 340-pound slobber knockers who do one thing well: Shove around people. Let's hear it for fat guys!
  • 16. End zones. The diagonal slashes at Notre Dame, the checkerboards at Tennessee... Just one look at some and you know where you're at without stepping outside the stadium.
  • 17. Name games. Many rivalry games have monikers. The Backyard Brawl: Pitt-West Virginia. The Iron Bowl: Alabama-Auburn. Big Game: Stanford-Cal. The Egg Bowl: Mississippi-Mississippi State. That isn't the case for basketball, where they are just "games."
  • 18. 100,000 fans. You think a few thousand Cameron Crazies is something? Check out the scenes at Michigan, Penn State and Tennessee, where they shoehorn in over 100,000.
  • 19. Polls that matter. In hoops, they are nothing but an accouterment to the season that have no bearing on shaping the postseason. In football, they are a factor in the BCS.
  • 20. Each game counts. You can't say that for basketball, where the Big Dance renders moot any early season defeats. But if you lose in September in football, your quest for a national title could be finished.
  • 21. No Dick Vitale. Apparently, he thinks if you talk loud enough and long enough, what you have to say is important.
  • 22. Keith Jackson. The anti-Vitale whose dulcet tones and trademark inflections serve to complement the game -- not dominate it.
  • 23. Touch of luck. The Clemson Tigers reach out and touch Howard's Rock as they swoop down toward the field. Maryland has a Terrapin it touches, while Michigan has the "Go Blue" banner players jump up to touch.
  • 24. No baggy shorts. The football uniform lends itself to conformity Conversely, the high-top boys love flaunting their tattoos, high socks, low socks, headbands, long hair, afros, cornrows, etc.
  • 25. Notre Dame. From your seat in Notre Dame Stadium, you can suck in the scene of leaves turning colors, the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus. Try doing that in the Joyce Center.
  • 26. Signing Day. College basketball has split its signing day into an early and late period. Football climaxes with a flurry of faxes on one celebrated day.
  • 27. Crowd participation. There's nothing like the sight of seeing thousands of arms doing the tomahawk chop with the accompanying war chant at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
  • 28. Tearing down the goal posts. It's the traditional way to celebrate a big win. Sometimes, the goal post even gets totted around campus. No one tears down a basketball goal, save for Darryl Dawkins.
  • 29. Rivalry Week. While not all rivalries are played the third week in November, most are. The concentration of blood feuds makes for high drama with matchups like Arizona-Arizona State, Auburn-Alabama and Florida-Florida State, among others.
  • 30. No Bobby Knight. Wanna know what it's like to never be wrong? Go ask Knight. Basketball can keep him.
  • 31. Postgame concerts. There was a time at Wisconsin where the band's Fifth Quarter celebration was attended by more fans than the game. In a hoop arena, you may hear an announcer drone on with the final stats after a game.
  • 32. New Year's Day. It's the high holy day of the sport, when a gluttonous portion of pigskin is served up on TV. Hoops has no such concentrated focal point.
  • 33. Baton Rouge on a Saturday night. The LSU fans have had all day to, ahem, get fired up for the night game and turn the town into one of the loudest places on the planet for three hours.
  • 34. Red River Shootout. Texas and Oklahoma annually meet in Dallas with the Texas State Fair serving as the backdrop. College basketball counters with multiple teams meeting at neutral sites that stir the passions of no one.
  • 35. Chief Osceola. When was the last time the Florida State mascot sat perched atop faithful horse Renegade and jabbed his flaming spear into center court of the Leon County Civic Center? Try never.
  • 36. Ohio State Buckeye stickers. The players stick them on their helmets for good deeds performed on the field.
  • 37. Midnight Yell Practice. Close to 50,000 show up the night before Texas A&M home games to prep their lungs for some throat-bleeding screaming the next day. The Aggie hoops teams is lucky to draw 50,000 for a season.
  • 38. Postgame applause for the opponent at Nebraska. Sure, it's easy to be nice to a team whose rear end you just stomped. Still, it's a class act by the Big Red faithful. There's no equivalent in the basketball world.
  • 39. Joe Paterno's glasses. They are as hip as wing tips and Depends, but they are one of the sport's enduring symbols. Basketball gave us Bobby Knight's sweater pulled up over his belly.
  • 40. Varied sideline attire for coaches. College hoops is pretty staid: a jacket or sweater. But football coaches can show their school colors with officially licensed gear that gives them a comfy Saturday-afternoon-on-the-couch look.
  • 41. Head sets. Thousands strain each week to read the lips of their school's sideline Caesar. But it's even better when the coach spikes his head set in frustration. Sorry, basketball coaches, but a towel or clipboard won't suffice.
  • 42. Staying power. Football players can't turn pro right out of high school. In fact, they have to remain in school for at least three years. In hoops, the best prepsters never even lace 'em up in college, which dilutes the quality of the game.
  • 43. Visors. Grid coaches can don headgear. Check out Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' visor. And Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer looks snappy in his ball caps. Hoops coaches give us gel and comb-overs.
  • 44. ESPN GameDay. It's the epicenter and focal point of the sport on Saturdays. Miss it and risk being misinformed. When set up on location, it creates a rock concert scene. The CBS basketball studio show with Jim Nantz has the pizzazz of a loaf of white bread. Count how many times Nantz says "On the road to Atlanta" and "March Madness." You can stop once you hit 4,000.
  • 45. Spring ball. The post-fall pad popping helps tide fans over until August rolls around. In some parts of the country, spring football is the No. 2 sport behind fall football.
  • 46. Just passing by. Walking through the Grove is a pregame ritual at Ole Miss, as fans fawn over their heroes as they pass by on the way to the game. Tennessee has its Vol Walk.
  • 47. JumboTrons. There's nothing like looking up and being dwarfed by a replay of the play you just saw. Some schools even use them to taunt. See Oregon.
  • 48. Fresh air. Sure, some teams play in domes, but most do battle outside. And you can really appreciate that when you watch a game at a place like BYU, Washington, Army or Colorado.
  • 49. Road trips. Who caravans to a basketball game? But just watch the trail of cars from Blacksburg, Va., to Charlottesville, Va., for a Hokie-Cavalier football game.
  • 50. Bowdens. Hoops has nothing like the father-son coaching duo of Bobby and Tommy Bowden. Now, if we can just talk Terry out of the TV booth.
  • 51. Push-ups after touchdowns. Many buff male cheerleaders drop and give fans how ever many points their team now has. A great way to stay in shape, as long as you aren't a cheerleader at Vanderbilt.
  • 52. Toilet paper. Not in the stalls, but in the stands. The sight of streams of the stuff sailing from the upper reaches of a stadium following a touchdown is enough to bring a tear to Mr. Whipple's eye.
  • 53. Bowl rings. Try impressing the blond in your English class by flashing an NCAA Tourney watch. "Hey, baby, we lost in the first round to Coppin State. Wanna get a pizza?"
  • 54. No excessive TV timeouts. How many times are you watching a basketball game only to have the rhythm and excitement amputated by a TV timeout? Doesn't happen in grid.
  • 55. Awards. Sure, the hoop side has the Wooden, Naismith and what not. But football gorges itself with trophies. There are 19 that are awarded to players, ranging from the Heisman to the Groza. Heck, there's even a trophy for the best assistant coach.
  • 56. Overtime. Yes, basketball has it, but nothing tops the thrill of teams taking turns lining up at the 25-yard-line and trying to trade scores until someone drops. Want proof? Go back and watch last year's Arkansas-Ole Miss seven OT thriller.
  • 57. Bad blood. It runs deeper on the gridiron. There is no better example than the feuding that's going on in the Northwest between Oregon and Washington. Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel accused the Ducks of unethical recruiting. He also was upset because during Oregon's game with Oregon State last year, an image of someone puking was followed by a picture of Neuheisel.
  • 58. Noise makers. You won't find many -- if any in arenas. But go to a football game at Mississippi State and you'll be deafened by the clanging of cowbells.
  • 59. The SEC. College hoops has its lynchpin league in the ACC. But for all intents and purposes, that has been a two-team league for years: Duke and North Carolina. Maryland has nosed its way to the top. But the SEC features a greater number of teams that have made big waves nationally in recent years: Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, LSU, Auburn, Georgia and Alabama.
  • 60. Variety. There are more styles of play in football than basketball. On any given Saturday, you can see a spread offense, option, triple-option or two-back set. In hoops, the styles are less varied. For the most part, you either run-and-gun or play a halfcourt game.
  • 61. State Troopers. Hoops coaches don't need 'em to escort them on and off the court. But a couple big 'uns run interference for the coaching gods of the south each Saturday.
  • 62. Playing catch. How many times do you see two people in a grassy knoll hurling a pigskin between them as they count down to kickoff? It's part of getting ready for the game. It's too cold to shoot hoops outside before a basketball game.
  • 63. Face-painters. This is a different crowd that you should approach with caution. It's a commonly known fact there are more per capita in the football crowd than the basketball crowd. Go ask the Gallup people.
  • 64. Impromptu choirs. At Maryland, coach Ralph Friedgen instituted a policy of having the players gather in front of the student section after a victory and serenading them with the school fight song. That doesn't happen at Cole Field House.
  • 65. Big bass drums. Texas' has Big Bertha, which measures 54 inches in diameter and weighs 500 pounds. Purdue has "The World's Largest Drum." Alas,neither can be found on the hoop court. But they hold center stage on Saturdays in the fall, just begging to be pounded by a big furry mallet.

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