When in the company of retired coaches these days, you often hear them remark how much they would enjoy unretiring and landing a five-year contract with today’s exorbitant salaries.
Usually there is a footnote: “I’d probably like to get fired after a year.”
Fans who have never coached often identify with the same musings at their coffee club each week. I have long identified with the viewpoint that the game and the campus would be better off if coaches were paid less and given more security.
For years, coaches were required to teach one or more classes, at least on the high school level. Some still are required to teach, but for the bigger schools in the higher classifications, there are too many responsibilities for the head coach to spend time in the classroom.
The growth of the game into being the most popular sport in our country, means that — as the athletes become the best in a violent game — facilities and accommodations must be the best. Attitudes, mores and professional lifestyles have changed dramatically over the years. After integration, the South leap-frogged over the rest of the country. In the latent days of segregation, and prior, winning the conference championship was the goal of many schools. They didn’t worry about the national championship. However, many schools won one of the many polls that determined a national champion.
The first Deep South team to win a national title was LSU in 1908. Auburn, under Mike Donahue, won it in 1913. Georgia Tech, with John Heisman coaching, won the title in 1917 and 1918. In 1920, Georgia won its first national title, but does not claim it, which became a UGA tradition. Georgia won a national title in 1927 and in 1946 and doesn’t claim those either. Other, schools, however, claim championships by various selectors.
Claude Felton, the widely-acclaimed Bulldog sports information director, has the ’27 and ’46 teams listed as national champions in the football media guide, but they are not recognized in any UGA trophy case. The reason for this is that those Bulldogs teams were not consensus champions.
There was seldom an unquestioned consensus national champion during the early years. There were many polls and more often than not, multiple national champions ensued. The Associated Press did not begin voting on a national champion until 1936. Talk about bias, there was little chance that a Southern team could get enough votes to win a national title with northern writers dominating the voting pool. The first Southern team to get the AP’s vote for the national title was Tennessee and Gen. Bob Neyland in 1951.
Policy, luck and circumstance have always influenced the determining of many national champions. Princeton was declared national champion in 1872 by winning one game. The Tigers were the first team which did not share the title when they became champions in 1873 with a 2-0 record.
Good example of how things were before the BCS and subsequently the Playoff Committee came about. In 1950, Oklahoma won both wire service polls with an 11-0 record. However, the “other” polls gave the title to Kentucky (11-1), Princeton (9-0) and Tennessee (11-1).
Georgia actually won a title in 1968 with an 8-1-2 record when all polls signed off following the regular season. Everybody considered the Bulldogs the consensus national champion in 1980 but there were polls which picked Florida State, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Pittsburgh. The NCAA recognizes Georgia as the national champion.
A very interesting development took place in 1990 when Colorado and Georgia Tech shared the title, the Buffaloes winning the national title by the Associated Press and Tech was the United Press International’s No. 1 team after upsetting Notre Dame 10-9 in the Orange Bowl. At the time, a panel of coaches from within the American Football Coaches picked the UPI champion.
There were many coaches who didn’t like Bill McCartney who wore his religion on his sleeve. Many coaches considered McCartney a hypocrite. This is a reminder that the coaches often complain that sportswriters and broadcasters don’t know anything about football but they can be as prejudiced and infallible as the unwashed.