Not a lot of people know this, but the NCAA doesn't recognize an official national champion in the Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision. That's the subdivision Boise State is in. And so are Alabama and Notre Dame and more than 120 other teams. The BCS, or Bowl Championship Series, crowns a champion every year, but the NCAA doesn't care. It's not their tournament, and it's not even a tournament. Division 1 FBS football is the only recognized NCAA sport that doesn't have an organized, official championship tournament.
There was no official champion before the BCS came into existence in 1998, either. The Associated Press crowned a champion, but so did United Press International and at least half a dozen other organizations. And each of those championships was awarded based simply on people's opinions. If it worked the same way in the NFL, we'd dispense with the Super Bowl and the playoffs, and at the end of the regular season we'd take a poll to see who everyone thought played the best this year. And then we'd give them a trophy.
The main reason there's no tournament is that a certain number of people in this country, many of them extremely wealthy, don't want one, because they prefer bowl games.
The first bowl game was held at the end of the 1902 season, and it was meant to be an exhibition game between a team from the west and a team from the east in conjunction with the annual Tournament of Roses in Pasadena, California. The two teams chosen to participate were the Michigan Wolverines and the at-that-time Stanford Indians. Michigan won 49-0. Stanford played so poorly that they conceded the win to Michigan in the third quarter and left. The game was not considered a success, and the Tournament of Roses directors didn't bother to schedule another one until 14 years later.
The game was not known as the Rose Bowl. The word "bowl", at that time, was not a very common name for a stadium and was not associated at all with any kind of championship. The stadium at Yale, one of America's oldest colleges, was called Yale Bowl as a nickname because of its round shape, and the name of the Rose Bowl stadium came from that when it was built in 1923 and was also round and enclosed.
The Rose Bowl game was successful and brought money into Pasadena. The schools that played in the game also made money. And other cities and colleges began to take notice. As of 1930 there was only one bowl game, the Rose Bowl. By 1940 there were four others: the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas and the Sun Bowl in El Paso. The games were all held on New Year's Day so fans and students could attend when they were off work or on school vacation. And every game was held someplace warm.
By 1950 there were eight bowl games. There were still just eight in 1960, but by 1970 there were eleven, and that number has continued to grow. This year there are 35 bowl games.
For years, bowl games were just exhibitions. If a quarterback threw 30 touchdown passes during the regular season and three more in a bowl game, the stats would only count the 30. The idea was that the players and teams who did well during the season would be rewarded with a winter vacation, and that vacation would include a football game. The bowls had nothing to do with standings or championships, and there was no clear structure determining who would play where. Sometimes good teams didn't get an invitation and stayed home. And the Associated Press named its national champion each year a few weeks before the bowl games took place.
Eventually, money began to speak even louder. Bowl game committees began to sell corporate sponsorships. TV contracts grew in size. Fans of consistently good teams began to budget for one more road trip every season. And the games expanded beyond the traditional vacation spots to places like Detroit and Boise.
Bowls have more structure in 2013 than they used to, but not a lot more. Choices of teams are still subjective, and participating teams are still chosen by the individual bowls. They're not assigned a game or an opponent by the NCAA.
Conferences now have bowl tie-ins. That means that if your team has a winning but not exceptional record, you'll more-than-likely go to one of the same three or four bowl games every year.
Boise State is in the Mountain West Conference, which has six tie-ins: the Las Vegas Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego, the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl here in Boise. And there are various BCS rules that have, in the past, allowed Boise State to compete twice in the Fiesta Bowl. Also, if the conference doesn't have enough bowl-eligible teams, the tie-in bowls will choose an at-large team, usually from a conference that has more bowl eligible teams than tie-ins.
So where will the Broncos be going? I don't know yet, but in the next few days we'll undoubtedly find out.
If you like to speculate, as most football fans do, get on the Internet and check out one of the websites that predicts each bowl matchup. Most of the predictions change every week, just like the standings, based on who won and who lost.
My favorite of the sites is maintained by Jerry Palm of CBS Sportsline. His predictions as of this morning for the Mountain West say Colorado State will meet Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl, San Diego State will meet Southern Cal in the Las Vegas Bowl, Nevada-Las Vegas will meet Middle Tennessee in the Hawaii Bowl, Utah State will meet Buffalo in the Poinsettia Bowl and undefeated Fresno State will match up with Oklahoma State in the BCS's Fiesta Bowl.
Palm has Boise State in the Armed Forces Bowl against Navy, and he has Bowling Green versus Arkansas State in the Famous Potato Bowl.
But don't buy your airline tickets just yet. As I said, Jerry Palm maintains my favorite of the speculation websites, but just like all the others, he's wrong a lot.
Fifty years ago this weekend, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. San Diego State University existed in 1963 as San Diego State College and had been a California state institution for about forty years. However, until 1963, San Diego State had never awarded a doctorate.
The school had both the faculty and the labs to support doctoral research, but at that time California state law prohibited the college from awarding doctoral degrees unless they had an established research institution as a partner. San Diego State did not have one, because none of the schools in the University of California system wanted them as a partner.
Then one morning in the spring of 1963, Professor Henry Janssen turned on the radio and heard a news report that President Kennedy would soon be visiting the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. And that gave him an idea. To turn the heads of San Diego State's prospective research partners, why not award an honorary doctorate to the president of the United States?
Professor Janssen talked it over with his office mate in the political science department, Professor Ned Joy, and they decided it was worth a try. The president of the college, Malcolm Love, thought so, too. So he called California governor Pat Brown, the father of current California governor Jerry Brown. Pat Brown also thought it was a good idea.
It was the end of March, and a few days later, Governor Brown flew to Washington, DC and obtained a ticket to the Opening Day baseball game between the Washington Senators and Baltimore Orioles. Brown knew that Kennedy would be throwing out the first ball, and he knew that as governor of California, he would have a pretty good chance of getting a few minutes to speak to the president. And he was right. He invited Kennedy to speak at commencement in June, and to receive an honorary doctorate. Kennedy seemed to like the idea, and six weeks later, Malcolm Love received a letter on White House stationery confirming that the U.S. president would indeed attend the event.
With just three weeks to prepare for the visit, federal security agents surveyed the campus and the surrounding area. Graduation ceremonies were scheduled for San Diego State's outdoor football stadium, the Aztec Bowl, which held twenty-thousand people. The college made plans to add an additional ten-thousand seats at ground level to accommodate the expected crowd. Every graduating senior received five tickets to commencement, and the assumption was that this year, every ticket would be used.
The dean of the School of Arts and Letters designed a scholar's robe and hood for an honorary doctor of law. The university symphonic band rehearsed feverishly to perform "Hail to the Chief", preceded by the customary drum ruffles and bugle flourishes. The city of San Diego prepared to welcome not only the head of state, but the hundreds of print, television and radio reporters who would arrive to cover his visit. City officials mapped out a parade route from Lindbergh Field to the stadium, and Marines practiced their methods of crowd control.
The morning of June 6th, 1963, the 19th anniversary of D-Day, was warm and overcast. Kennedy arrived at noon. Diane Dawson was the student body treasurer that year and had a good seat. She said the students were told not to bring cameras. She also said that almost every student brought one anyway.
She and others say their most vivid memory of that day was President Kennedy's style. She said the president was gracious and treated everyone as personal friends. He seemed humble, as if the college had done him a big favor by inviting him to speak.
And Kennedy spoke with purpose. The press had been told he would give a major policy speech. He appealed for national support of equal access to higher education. He said, "In some states, almost forty percent of the non-white population has completed fewer than five years of school. What kind of judgment, what kind of response can we expect of a citizen who has been to school fewer than five years?" He ended his remarks with a call to action. "We are the privileged," he said, "and it should be the ambition of every citizen to express and expand that privilege, so that all of our countrymen and women share it." Six months later, he was gone.
There is a happy ending of sorts for San Diego State. Shortly after the speech, the college found a research partner in the University of California San Diego. And four years after awarding its first honorary doctorate, San Diego State awarded its first non-ceremonial doctorate to Robert Metzger, who then spent years at the school teaching chemistry. Today, San Diego State College is San Diego State University. The school awards doctoral degrees in 21 different subjects, and the student population is extremely diverse.
President Kennedy probably would have been pleased.
Last week on the radio I talked about the University of Wyoming campus and about a large, grassy area on campus known as "Prexy's Pasture". I thought the origin of the name was funny and very representative of the state of Wyoming. "Prexy" is short for "president", and "Prexy's Pasture" was an area designated more than a hundred years ago as a place where the university president could graze his cattle. I mentioned that the current University of Wyoming president, Bob Sternberg, does not graze cattle on campus or anywhere else.
If I were telling the same story today, I wouldn't mention Bob Sternberg at all. And that's because he's no longer the president of the University of Wyoming. He resigned day before yesterday.
It's not uncommon for college presidents to resign. They do it all the time. Sometimes they move on to another job. Sometimes they retire. And occasionally they resign because things have gone haywire. Unfortunately, that last reason seems to be the case with Bob Sternberg. He had only been the president of the university since July 1st. So he had the job for a total of 137 days.
I haven't found a lot of details in the news about Sternberg's resignation. Apparently, there were a lot of people who simply didn't like his management style. And since taking the job in July, Sternberg had already accepted the resignations of five administrators and three deans. Each of those people said they were quitting because they either didn't like the way Sternberg was running things or they felt that their goals and his goals for the school didn't match. I didn't find a single news story, however, that described Sternberg's management style or his goals. Suffice to say, though, the University of Wyoming is going through just a bit of turmoil.
The Wyoming football team is going through some, too. They're 4 and 5 and haven't won since October 12th. That's after starting the season 3 and 1, with a close three-point loss to Nebraska in the opening game.
The history of Wyoming football has had its ups and downs over the years, and they've had some interesting coaches, too. Bob Devaney coached at Wyoming before ending up at Nebraska. He won back-to-back national championships in 1970 and 1971 with the Cornhuskers and coached Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers.
If you're a fan of the Texas Longhorns, you might remember Fred Akers. Fred coached at Wyoming in the mid seventies, then took over at Texas for ten years. He coached Earl Campbell to a Heisman, won two Southwest Conference titles and twice would have had undefeated national championship seasons had the Longhorns not lost both years in the Cotton Bowl. In fact, Fred was ousted at Texas for two reasons: his 1986 team finished with a losing record at 5 and 6, and his overall record in bowl games was just two wins against eight losses.
Pat Dye and Dennis Erickson each coached just one year at Wyoming. Dye moved on to Auburn, where he won four conference titles in the SEC. Erickson had been the head coach at the University of Idaho, where he was undefeated in four games against Boise State. He eventually served as head coach for Washington State, Oregon State, Arizona State, the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, and he won two national championships at the University of Miami. He also spent one more year at Idaho in 2006 and finally lost a game to Boise State. That was the year the Broncos went 13 and 0 and beat Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Wyoming has placed a number of football players in the NFL over the years. The most notable are runningback Jim Kiick, who won two Super Bowls with the Miami Dolphins in the early seventies, and tight end Jay Novacek, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys in the early nineties.
But my favorite Wyoming Cowboy of all time has to be wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who has played ten seasons with the San Diego Chargers and is currently on injured reserve. I like Malcom Floyd because of how he was named. He was born in 1981, and his parents, for some reason, decided to leave the naming of the new baby up to his eight-year-old brother. The brother chose the name Malcom, and the parents went along with it. They didn't even object to the fact that the eight-year-old brother, Malcolm Floyd, named the baby after himself.
Most colleges in the United States have a Latin motto. Some are simple. Harvard's Latin motto is fairly famous. It's the single word "Veritas", which means "truth". The University of Oregon's is "Mens agitat molem", which translates to "minds move mountains". I like that one.
Others are more complex and sometimes confusing. The motto of the University of Kansas is "Videbo visionem hanc magnam quare non comburatur rubus", which in English is "I will see this great sight, how the bush does not burn." It was originally said by Moses in the book of Exodus, and probably in Hebrew, not Latin. I don't really know what connection it has to Kansas.
Boise State's latin motto is "Splendor sine occasu", or "Excellence without end". And at the University of Wyoming, it's "Domi habuit unde disceret". I like that one, too. In English it means "He need not go away from home for instruction". In other words, "Hey, if you grew up in Wyoming, you do have the option of staying here for college. You don't have to leave." And that makes perfect sense in a state where the population is 576 thousand. Out of fifty states, in population, Wyoming is number fifty. It's dead last. And if you count the District of Columbia, Wyoming is number 51. In fact, more people live in the Treasure Valley than live in Wyoming.
I mention Wyoming because in nine days the Boise State Broncos will be back home in Bronco Stadium to play the Wyoming Cowboys. The cowboy was a good choice as the mascot of the University of Wyoming. The center mall area of the university campus is a large grassy area known as "Prexy's Pasture". There's a law in the Wyoming state code that says no buildings or structures of any kind can ever be built on Prexy's Pasture. The reason for that comes from the reason the area is called Prexy's Pasture. Prexy is short for President. They call it Prexy's Pasture because it's the area of campus that was specially designated so the university president could have a place to graze his cattle. The current president of the university, Bob Sternberg, is a psychologist by trade and doesn't have any cattle. I don't know if he has a big hat.
The university is located in the town of Laramie, Wyoming, which has a population of about 30-thousand. The school, as you might expect, is the center of most of the cultural activity in Laramie. Laramie was named for a French-Canadian trapper, Jacques LaRamie. In French, the "r" in LaRamie is capitalized. In Wyoming, it isn't. Jacques Laramie is interesting because in Wyoming there is a town, a county, a U.S. Army fort, a mountain range, a mountain peak and a river all named after him. So what did Mr. Laramie do to deserve immortality? According to a National Park Service handbook I picked up several years ago at Yellowstone, Jacques Laramie disappeared in the mountains of Wyoming in 1820 and was never heard from again. That's it.
The city of Laramie is special, though, in American history, especially the history of American women. In 1869, what is now Wyoming was organized as the Wyoming Territory. The territory quickly organized a legislature, and in one of its first acts, the legislature passed a law giving women the same political rights as men. In March of 1870, five Laramie residents became the first women in the world to serve on a jury. But that's not all. On September 6, 1870, Laramie became the first town in Wyoming to hold a municipal election. So a Laramie resident became, on that day, the first woman in United States history to cast a legal vote. And yes, she voted for Dick Cheney.
There are five U.S. service academies. The oldest is the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. It was founded in 1802. Next oldest is the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, followed by the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at New London, Connecticut and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York.
The baby of the bunch is the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colorado. It opened in 1954 and graduated its first class in 1959. There are two main reasons it's not as old as West Point. One, the Air Force itself didn't exist until 1947, and two, airplanes weren't invented until 1903.
A service academy is obviously different than your average, everyday college. To be accepted, you have to be a U.S. citizen, you have to be single and you have to be under the age of 23 when you start school.
If you're a student at the Air Force Academy, your tuition and room and board are paid for by the United States government. You also receive money every month, also from the government, because officially, if you're a student at the academy, you are actually in the Air Force. When you graduate, you will serve as an Air Force officer for a minimum of eight years. If they train you as a pilot, you'll serve ten. And during at least five of those years, you'll be on active duty.
When you're a student at the Air Force Academy, you participate in sports. It's not an option. You either play on one of the intercollegiate teams, or if you're not quite that good, you play intramurals. But you have to play something. And because everyone plays, there are lots of teams in lots of sports you won't find at most other colleges. For instance, Air Force has a fencing team, a boxing team, a rifle team, and water polo and rugby.
If you wash out of the academy as a freshman or sophomore, you become a civilian. If you wash out as a junior or senior, you're still going to be in the Air Force. You just won't be an officer. And there are exceptions to that rule if you're badly or permanently injured, or if you're kicked out of the academy for doing something that would get you kicked out of the military altogether. And also if you're in prison.
Students at the Air Force Academy wear uniforms, but not regular Air Force uniforms. In 1955, the secretary of the Air Force said he wanted cadet uniforms to be creative, but he didn't know any artists or clothing designers, so he called the most creative person he knew and asked him to design the uniforms. That person was Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille. DeMille accepted the challenge, and they're still wearing his designs at the academy today.
As a freshman at the academy, you're known as a "doolie". It's a term that comes from the Greek word "doulos", which means slave. Regardless of your major, when you graduate your degree is Bachelor of Science. And that's because you're going to take a lot of science. You're also going to take a lot of engineering, social studies and, obviously, military studies, too.
Every semester, students have to pass a physical fitness test. It starts with a one-and-a-half-mile run, then consists of chin-ups, sit-ups and push-ups. Lots of them. If you don't pass the test, you won't be kicked out. You'll be assigned extra physical training, lots of it, to help you prepare to take the test again.
Now, are there any famous people who graduated from the Air Force Academy? The answer is yes. There are plenty, including generals, pilots, war heroes, Medal of Honor recipients and members of the joint chiefs of staff. Most of those graduates, however, while deserving of celebrity status, aren't exactly household names outside the military. There are only a few of those, including San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, pilot Sully Sullenberger, who landed a crippled U.S. Airways jet in the Hudson River, and Reichen Lemkuhl, who won on The Amazing Race, dated Lance Bass of 'N*Sync, then wrote a book about serving under "don't ask, don't tell". Among those who attended but failed to graduate are Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick, singer Harry Chapin, former attorney general Alberto Gonzales and former White House press secretary Jody Powell.
Air Force football, which we'll see in action Friday night at Bronco Stadium, has for the past 35 years or so been known for its use of the option, triple option and wishbone variously under coaches Ken Hatfield, Fisher DeBerry and Troy Calhoun, and its teams routinely finish among the top ten in the NCAA in rushing. And therein lies the irony (or if you're the grammar police, the "incongruity") of the Falcons program. Air Force is not known for its aerial attack.
I was a comic book reader when I was a kid, but I didn't really care for superhero comics. I didn't read Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, the Green Lantern, the Fantastic Four or anything like that unless someone (generally my parents or grandparents) bought me a copy. I was more into the Archies and Dennis the Menace than the DC and Marvel universes.
However, it's still fun to think about being a superhero and have a discussion about it. The question I usually ask is: If you could have just one super ability, what would you prefer?
You can come up with a good argument for any answer. Super strength comes in handy when you're working or fighting. The ability to fly would certainly save you money on transportation. Invisibility and x-ray vision would both be fun. And you can think of a million instances, I'm sure, where the ability to morph into any shape or substance could work out well.
Personally, I'd opt for super intelligence, something in the neighborhood of a 500 IQ. I think it was Paul J. who said he'd like to be able to speak, understand, read and write in every language that exists. Your own preference may vary.
This morning I checked the Internet to see if anyone had compiled a list of the most coveted super powers. And yes, they had.
This is a list I found at askmen.com. It's the top ten super abilities wanted by men.
Number 10, the Green Lantern's telepathy. Imagine being able to find out what women really want. Or imagine your advantage the next time you play poker.
Number 9, Plastic Man's elasticity. Never again would you have an itch you can't scratch.
Number 8, Thor's reflexes. They'd come in handy in sports. You could lead the NBA in steals and blocked shots and lead the NFL in tackles and fumble recoveries.
Number 7, Wolverine's accelerated healing. Medical bills would be a thing of the past.
Number 6, the Invisible Man's invisibility. I'm not sure this one could be used ethically, but it would increase your abiliteis in eavesdropping, insider trading and being a peeping tom.
Number 5, Professor X's memory manipulation. Another one that's probably not so ethical. You'd have the ability to plant false memories into other people's minds. For instance, you could make the boss remember that he promised you a raise. And you could do it every day.
Number 4, Leader's superhuman intelligence. I imagine your ability to achieve an advanced degree in any discipline would be useful. You also might be able to solve all of the world's solvable problems. And you could clean up on Jeopardy.
Number 3, Flash's foot speed. Big savings on gasoline, plane tickets and shipping costs.
Number 2, Superman's power of flight. Same deal. Have you ever been stranded somewhere? Not anymore.
Number 1, the Hulk's superhuman strength. Actually, I'd prefer Superman's superhuman strength over the Hulk's, but only because I can't think of that many things that need smashing.
Didn't see your favorite in the top ten? There are plenty of other abilities, and a lot of them are silly. In "Mystery Men", Ben Stiller's character Mr. Furious had the ability to get really, really mad. Another character could become invisible, but only if nobody was looking at him. And what would it be like to have a super-metabolizing liver? Or a universal mute button? Or a wallet that's never empty?
I do think there's a very fine line between superheroes and super villains. And it's an easy line to cross.