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FOURTH AND LONG by John U. Bacon


The Fight for the Soul of College Football

by John U. Bacon

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4767-0643-6
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A true believer in the traditions (even sanctity) of the college game gnashes his teeth about the corrosive, corrupting influence of money.

Bacon, who has taught at the University of Michigan (and maintains his devotion to the Wolverines) and has written a half dozen previous works, mostly about athletics (Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football, 2011, etc.), returns with a paean to the college gridiron, a song whose continual refrain is almost Animal Farm-ish: “College sports good, Pro sports bad.” Repeatedly, we hear about the assiduous “college kids” who play for Michigan, Penn State and elsewhere, as well as how the fans of college football are more noble and pure-hearted than pro fans. Bacon’s framework is the 2012 college season—the Big Ten, in particular—and he deals with the fallout of the Penn State disgrace (“the worst scandal in the history of modern sports”), the smaller scandal that ended in the ouster of Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and the attempt of Northwestern to rise from the ashes of mediocrity. Bacon attended numerous games and watched others on TV. He interviewed coaches, players, fans and a couple of barbers; he tailgated, drank and yelled at the screen. Game summaries appear in most chapters. His villains are the “suits,” the MBAs and the greedy and the profit-driven guys who are despoiling Eden with seat licenses, advertising and other Mad Men cupidity. So fierce a fan is he that he can barely mention the brain-injury issue, and his umbrage about money seems odd: Many of these players have full scholarships, live in the best accommodations on campus and enjoy perks unknown to actual students.

A fan’s notes rather than a critic’s analysis.