Arthur Gustav Malzahn III, 47, is the Unsinkable Molly Brown of college football coaches. Yesterday’s Twitter chatter focused on how Gus, as he’s known, managed to hop off Auburn’s sinking ship and then, a year later, become its captain. (Malzahn spent last season as head coach at Arkansas State.) But Malzahn is also the sole survivor of a more harrowing episode: the Springdale Five. I recount it here to show Malzahn is either the canniest guy in college football or the luckiest, and that in either case we should be in awe of his powers.
In 2005, Malzahn was an Arkansas high school coach, but one who was sitting on one of the greatest collections of talent the state had ever seen. Five of his Springdale High School players — the so-called Springdale Five — were being recruited by the power schools. Quarterback Mitch Mustain was Parade’s high school player of the year. Arkansas doesn’t have a surplus of four- and five-star recruits, so the Springdale Five became intense objects of desire for University of Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. “We’re going to protect what’s ours, first and foremost,” Nutt told Scout.com.
Kevin Sumlin beat Alabama on the road Saturday. He did. I didn’t think he could, but he did. Was I the only one thinking about Mike Sherman — Sumlin’s white-maned, low-talking predecessor — and the supporting role he played?
Sherman was fired as the Aggies coach last year. If not for his cameos on Hard Knocks, we might forget he even existed. But just like I can’t imagine a Sherman-coached Aggies team winning a big game in Tuscaloosa, I can’t imagine Sumlin winning without the key pieces Sherman left behind. Let us praise a fired coach.
If you watch college football on TV, you find yourself watching commercials for Aflac, Home Depot, and colleges. Ads for the University of Texas say, “What starts here changes the world.” Ads for Texas Tech say, “From here, it’s possible.” The former is a boast, while the latter is more of a timid suggestion. I can’t think of a better way to explain the difference between Texas and Texas Tech.
Before we dive into the aesthetics of college ads, which are called “institutionals,” we should note that these things are weird for a couple reasons. First, what’s the point? They’re plopped in the middle of a game — as mandated by the conference TV deal — to prove that there’s a university attached to the football program. “It’s coeds, cellos, and sports,” an ad executive told the Wall Street Journal’s Darren Everson. Essentially, the school is reminding us, “We put the ‘student’ in student-athlete,” and it makes that label look like even more of a crock.
The other weird thing is that the football game is often a better ad for a college than the actual ad. Alabama’s CBS telecasts have slick graphics, “honey shots” of the cheerleaders, and Verne Lundquist. Alabama’s TV ad has a bunch of robotic, smiling students and looks like it was cut together in the basement of the communications building. Which one makes you want to go to Tuscaloosa?
I’ve gone through the latest BCS standings and reviewed each school’s attempt to market itself. I’ve mixed past ads with present ads, because college commercials don’t seem to have aesthetic “periods.” I’ve also skipped schools like Kansas State, which have boring ads. (You could argue this is a perfect reflection of the Kansas State football team, which is seemingly boring but beats Oklahoma on the road.) Here are the best commercials from the Top 25 (click the team name to view the ad):
Earlier this week, I laid out the Rules of College Football Fandom. I had two goals. My first goal was to salute everyone who is exercising a legitimate claim to a college football team. My second was to tell the rest of you that you are despicable.
A bunch of readers wrote in with their own fan dilemmas. You wanted to know if you were legitimate or despicable. I’m happy to help. See which one of these quotes describes you (I’ve put them in my own words):
Part of my job here at Grantland is to solve moral dilemmas. For example: Are you a real college football fan? Or are you rooting for Alabama or Michigan in a manner that I might find offensive?
The Sports Guy has already laid out a set of rules for pro-sports fandom. College football deserves the same thing: a guide to picking a school, keeping a school, and, in extremely rare cases, changing schools.
I’m not interested in small-time rules. Like: Can you refer to your college team as “we”? (Yes.) Or: Can you watch a game plastered? (Of course.) Like an NCAA enforcement officer, I’m looking at your eligibility. Anyone can watch College GameDay or buy a T-shirt, but there are only a few circumstances in which you have a bona fide claim to a particular team.
It’s nearing the end of July, and in the college football world, that can only mean one thing — MEDIA DAYS! The new-look SEC began its three-day run of podium sessions, awkward stand-up interviews, and catered turkey subs yesterday in Hoover, Alabama, and the first man up was none other than South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. The Ol’ Ball Coach brought his typical brand of down-home Southern charm, and because the SEC is the only conference that matters, we here at The Triangle figured we’d bring you yesterday’s five Spurriest moments as a way to dive back into college football.