The debate that seems to be the topic du jour in college football today: Who will, or who should, play LSU? Who is going to this bowl, or that bowl?
If it's not, you can bet the discussion is centered somewhere around the Penn State and Syracuse scandals. Maybe who’s hiring who and who’s firing. As a public, we all seem to thrive on the dirty, the scandals, the dark clouds. (I am as guilty as anyone else. No matter how satirical it may be, I write a weekly column here at Crystal Ball Run focusing on “The Ugly” of college football.)
Perfection is the goal of every college football team. As it should be.
Alabama, Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida State, USC are all teams synonymous with having undefeated seasons. However, in 1951 there were five teams that completed undefeated seasons. Michigan State, Maryland, Northern Illinois and Princeton all had remarkable years. There was one team, though, that stands out above all others, in my eyes. Not for the nine wins that they went to war for, but for the war that was waged off the field. If you do not know their story, you should.
Meet - and remember - the Dons.
In the age of college football we now live in, it may be more difficult to not go to a bowl game than to stay at home. For the players, they're nice rewards for all the hard work put in over the season and a chance to steal some time in the spotlight.
Sixty years ago, the San Francisco Dons, the best college football team in America, chose against playing in a bowl game.
The Dons finished the 1951 regular season 9-0. They clearly were the best team in the country. How good? Ollie Matson, Gino Marchetti and Bob St. Clair, all future Hall of Famers, all played for that version of the Dons.
The University of San Francisco never was a superiorly strong football program. A bowl game, even then, would have meant a great deal to the Dons. It would have given the program a much-needed boost to its bottom line. It would have given a much-needed spotlight to an under-funded, under-appreciated group of players.
When Orange Bowl officials extended an invitation to the Dons, it was met with great excitement, as well as great reservation. In 1951, racial strife was running rampant across the country, including the college football world. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that the Orange Bowl invitation was contingent on the Dons not bringing along their two African-American teammates.
The Dons had a decision to make. It wasn't a tough one at all. The Dons turned their back on the money, the fame, the once-in-a-lifetime chance at becoming 10-0.
It turned out to be the Dons' final season.
What came of seemingly an indirect death penalty to the Dons, was awareness, and, better yet, change. More astute minds would rise from this situation, and as a result, teams with African American players would soon be invited to bowl games.
Some teams in college football stand the test of time. The Dons are example number one.
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