Don Mahler: The Good, Bad and Ugly of College Football
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2013 file photo, Auburn cornerback Chris Davis (11) reacts after returning a missed field goal attempt 109-yards to score the game-winning touchdown as time expired in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against No. 1 Alabama in Auburn, Ala. Davis's 109-yard return of a missed field goal to beat Alabama was one of the Iron Bowl's and the season's most memorable plays. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)
Ohio State offensive linesman Marcus Hall (79) walks the sidelines after being ejected from the game during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. The third-ranked Buckeyes lost Hall and kick returner Dontre Wilson and the Wolverines lost backup linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone to ejections. All three players were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and had to leave the field after a skirmish. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
I usually stop caring about college football around the time Buddy Teevens puts his headset away for the winter.
I mean, after all, the BCS has so badly messed up the postseason bowl situation that it’s just hard to get excited.
And then came last weekend. It was the ultimate look at the good, the bad and the ugly of college football. And in one case, all three happened in one game.
Let’s start from the top:
The Good: How could you not be enthralled with the ending of the Alabama-Auburn game? Two great teams going toe-to-toe for a shot at the national title. First it was advantage Auburn. Then it was advantage Alabama.
Then, with the score tied and just one second to go, Auburn returned a missed field goal 109 yards to knock off the two-time defending national champion in what may be the most shocking end to a football game since the Flutie Hail Mary in 1984.
The Good 2: Trailing undefeated Ohio State by a point on Saturday, Michigan coach Brady Hoke went for broke. Instead of kicking the extra point and playing for overtime — where he was concerned his defense would not be able to stop the Buckeyes — Hoke instead went for the win.
The Michigan 2-point pass was incomplete, giving Ohio State the win as time ran out.
It was the valiant way a collegiate rivalry should have played out.
The Bad: This one is more about philosophy than gridiron theology. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston may be the best college football player in the country. He may also be playing on the best college football team in the country. In most years, that would paint Winston as the Heisman Trophy frontrunner.
No so fast, my friend.
While the football season is being played out, Winston is being investigated for sexual assault allegations from an incident last year. With the investigation still incomplete, Winston’s Heisman status is also muddied.
If you are a Heisman voter, as I am, what do you do?
If there is no conclusion to the investigation before the Heisman ballots are due next Monday, what should a selector do?
Deny Winston the Heisman Trophy, only to find out later that he was exonerated of all charges?
Vote for Winston at Heisman winner, only to find out at a later date that he has been indicted or arrested?
There is no right answer.
Are we to vote for excellence on the playing field or condemn the conduct off the playing field? A little of both, maybe. But which one carries more weight?
And let’s not forget innocent until proven guilty.
I, like many of the other Heisman voters, are hoping the Florida courts take the issue out of our hands and make the ruling by the end of this week.
The Ugly: Going back to that exciting and emotional conclusion of the Ohio State-Michigan game, let’s not forget that little second-quarter altercation on the field that turned into a full scale brawl with punches thrown and helmets being torn off and ended with three players being ejected.
But it really didn’t end there. After being tossed out for leaving the bench and throwing a punch, Ohio State right guard Marcus Hall disgraced himself, his team and his university.
Leaving the field, Hall tossed his helmet, kicked a bench and then raised both arms to give a final, single-fingered salute to the Michigan fans.
That was bad enough ... but not the worst of it.
After reviewing film of the incident, neither the Big Ten, nor Buckeye head coach Urban Meyer see it necessary to further discipline Hall.
In as lame an explanation as I have ever heard, Meyer claimed his players had already missed the required amount of action for fighting and wouldn’t tack on a suspension of his own, twice referencing the rule that calls for a player to miss a game for fighting — pointing out that “they lost a game” when they were ejected.
This is the height of arrogance. Where is the university athletic director, to say nothing of the president?
To allow Hall to play in Saturday’s Big Ten championship game tells everyone that winning is more important at that level of collegiate sports, than decorum and discipline. It is, in fact, an insult because it will only lead to more outlandish behavior.
If Hall can get away with his antics, what will the next school allow? And how far will the next player go?
You wonder where your children get their ideas about decency and dignity in their athletic pursuits? Right on television.
Brought to you, proudly, by THE Ohio State University.
Don Mahler can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3225.