Between the ongoing Cam Newton play for pay scandal, the row around the country about agent participation in collegiate athletics, and Iowa’s Derell Johnson-Koulianos being arrested for running a “drug house” there hasn’t been a lot of football focus on college football lately.
These scandals, coupled with another undefeated team being left out of the national championship conversations (whether deserved or not) have all added to an ever present cynicism that has permeated college football throughout the BCS era, and is indeed becoming the lasting effect of post 9/11 America.
At Thursday’s Outback Bowl contract signing Joe Paterno delivered the type 0f fiery two minute motivational that left you feeling the man could coach another decade if he wanted to. Dictated with all the understatement of an interrogation by Peter Falk’s Columbo, Paterno managed a coercion of applause from an almost exclusively, and quite hometown, pro-Florida crowd, that was far more than simply gratuitous. He had the room excited for the Penn State team he is bringing down to Tampa.
When Urban Meyer took the stage, he could have talked about the many memories he has with the Florida program from the past six years, he could have spoken about his impending retirement right after the Outback Bowl, he could have used it as a pulpit for any number of legend inflating topics, but instead chose to pontificate on the man who has been so synonymous with the face of college football for far longer than I’ve been alive.
Despite the 24 hour news cycle, despite the negativity and scandal, despite the drugs, cheating, and allegations of money taking, the man has run one of the most successful programs in sports, at any level, in history, and he’s done it cleanly, and he’s unabashed about it…and he should be.
Perhaps more coaches, in this the era of self-aggrandizing, should take a page from two of college football’s treasures, two coaches who won’t be around that much longer, and shift the focus back to football.