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Sports Then and Now

Waiting For The Weekend: Here Comes September

Posted on August 28, 2009 by Dean Hybl

Waiting for the weekendThis is the “I can’t believe it is almost September” edition. While time seems to fly, at least the fact that it is almost September means that football season is starting. So, this week I’m looking primarily at some subjects related to football and the start of the new season.

College Season Getting Ready To Start
There is a smattering of small college football games starting this weekend, but most schools will play their first game on Labor Day Weekend. Here is a great schedule that is on the ESPN site that includes all schools, from I-A through Division III. (

There has been a lot written down here in Florida about the Labor Day evening game between Miami and Florida State and the fact that it is not yet a sellout and probably will not be.

There are certainly a lot of factors that you can point to, including the economy, Tallahassee being a long way from anywhere and the fact it is on a Monday night.

There could be a lot of empty seats at the Florida State-Miami game on September 7.

There could be a lot of empty seats at the Florida State-Miami game on September 7.

However, I believe the primary reason there will probably be empty seats is simply that these two storied programs are not as good as they used to be and the college football world (at least in Florida) has moved on.

When their battles were at their peak in the 1980s and early 1990s, you knew that the winner of this game was going to be part of the national championship conversation until the very end, while the loser would have to win the rest of their games just to salvage a top 5 ranking.

Now, Florida State enters the game ranked 18th while Miami is unranked and trying to rebuild.

I did find it interesting that while people here in Florida are not as excited about the Miami-Florida State match-up as they once were, the game evidently still has a lot of national juice, which is why ESPN desperately wanted it to be their Labor Day evening game.

How The Mighty Have Fallen – II
The decline of Miami and Florida State got me thinking about other football programs or personalities who have fallen from the top and now seem to be just wallowing in mediocrity.

It could be a while before the Michigan Wolverines regain their swagger.

It could be a while before the Michigan Wolverines regain their swagger.

It is hard to believe that it was less than three years ago–November 18, 2006 –when top ranked Ohio State and second ranked Michigan met in a battle of undefeated teams. At the time, there was no question across the nation that they were the two best teams in college football and there was even some discussion that perhaps they should meet again for the national title a month later.

The rapid decline of Michigan since losing that game 42-39 has been amazing.

After losing to USC in the Rose Bowl to conclude the 2006 season, Michigan seemed poised to be a contender again in 2007 as they had many stars back and were ranked in the top 5 in the preseason by most polls.

When they lost to Division I-AA Appalachian State to open the 2007 season and then were badly beaten by Oregon the next week, you could just see the wheels falling off the program. Even though they won their next eight games, head coach Lloyd Carr was on his way out and, as it turns out, so was the swagger and prestige that had been part of the program for decades.

Last season under the direction of Rich Rodriguez, whose exit from West Virginia was in its own right weird and filled with bizarre tales, the Wolverines were awful. I mean they lost to TOLEDO for goodness sake!

I’m sure they will be at least a little better in 2009, but I have a feeling it will be a long time until Michigan returns to national prominence and is again considered among the nations elite programs.

Another figure that I keep scratching my head about is “The Ole Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier.

Now I have a special place in my heart for Spurrier because he was a star player at Florida when my parents were at the University in the mid-1960s and they have told me stories of how much fun it was to go to the games and be part of the card section while watching Spurrier and the Gators play.

In later years, when he returned as head coach at Florida, we always enjoyed watching Florida games on television, especially when they were dominating the SEC in the mid-1990s.

Steve Spurrier just doesn't have the same fiesty nature that made him someone you loved or hated when he was at Florida.

Steve Spurrier just doesn't have the same fiesty nature that made him someone you loved or hated when he was at Florida.

When my wife and I moved to Florida in 1996, the Gators were on their way to a national title and Spurrier was the toast of Florida.

So, it now pains me to watch him flounder away at South Carolina. Actions like his “mistake” earlier this year in not listing Tim Tebow as a preseason first team All-Conference selection just seems so beneath him and the spark he always showed while at Florida.

I remember when he left Florida how he looked worn down and made the comment that it was really becoming tough to win 10 games and the Orange Bowl, but to have people call the season a disappointment because you didn’t win a national title.

He was obviously a bad fit for the Washington Redskins and the NFL, but I still believe that if he and his team owner had been willing to see it through for five years, the results might have been different.

So now to watch Spurrier do all he can just to have South Carolina win seven or eight games and make a mid-level bowl game is hard to handle. I would love to see him get one more crack at conference and national prominence, but know it will be tough with Florida, LSU, Alabama and the others top schools in the SEC loading up with talent every year.

Each week we look at some current and former athletes who were born during the week.

Here are some notable sports figures born during this week:
August 28 – Lee Janzen (1964), Janet Evans (1971), Todd Eldredge (1971)
August 29 – Bob Beamon (1946), Carl Banks (1962), Will Perdue (1965)
August 30 – Ted Williams (1918), Robert Parish (1953), Ricky Sanders (1962)
August 31 – Frank Robinson (1935), Tom Candiotti (1957), Hideo Nomo (1968)
September 1 – Rocky Marciano (1923), Hardy Nickerson (1965), Tim Hardaway (1966)
September 2 – Dorothy Bundy Cheney (1916), Peter Ueberroth (1937), Terry Bradshaw (1948), Eric Dickerson (1960), Lennox Lewis (1965)
September 3 – Dick Motta (1931), Ernest Givens (1964), George Lynch (1970)

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