What makes Alabama and Auburn, “football schools”?
And conversely, what makes Duke and North Carolina, “basketball schools”?
It seems that the term, “football school,” has been around since the earth cooled. The ghosts of John McKay, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, Darrell Royal, Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno, Bud Wilkinson and others would certainly agree from their respective resting places in Heaven and Hell.
Ditto for the words, “basketball school,” may also have been carved into the Rosetta Stone to commemorate “The Wizard of Westwood” John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, “Phog” Allen and Jim Valvano.
Does anyone in the State of Alabama let alone anywhere else, besides Sir Charles Barkley, really care about the basketball rivalry between Alabama and Auburn?
Does anyone in the State of North Carolina let alone anywhere else really care about the football rivalry between Duke and North Carolina?
Ask virtually anyone in Alabama what happened in the last second of the 2013 Iron Bowl and a huge smile or a deep sigh will emerge reflecting the religious fervor from both War Eagle and Roll Tide surrounding this game. They already know what they will be doing for nearly four hours on a late November night later this year.
Ask virtually anyone along the eight miles of Tobacco Road separating Duke and UNC and beyond what they are doing this coming Saturday night and they will most likely think the question is rhetorical: It’s North Carolina vs. Duke baby, and the “Cameron Crazies” are ready to go. You can be sure that ESPN’s Dukie Vitale will be there as well.
When one starts listing football schools which institutions immediately come to mind (moving from God’s time zone to the west)?
How about Penn State? Yep. Ohio State and Michigan? Certainly. Notre Dame? Must we? Alabama and Auburn? Definitely. Texas and Texas A&M? Ya better, ya hear. Oklahoma and Nebraska? Yes sir. USC? Fight On! Oregon? Particularly in the last two-plus decades.
When one starts listing basketball schools which institutions come to mind (again moving from God’s sacred Eastern Time Zone to points out west)?
Syracuse? Does the name, Jim Boeheim, ring a bell? North Carolina and Duke? No doubt. Kentucky and Louisville? Yessum. Indiana? Ever see the movie, Hoosiers or read Season on the Brink? Kansas? Dorothy would pass up the Emerald City to check out a game in Allen Fieldhouse. And of course, Arizona.
During the course of a KNBR (San Francisco) radio interview a few years ago, former University of Arizona basketball star Tom Tolbert asked NFL Hall of Famer Steve Young if Arizona would ever go to the Rose Bowl. Young without missing a beat told Tolbert to forget it because “Arizona is a basketball school.”
Even though there are obvious exceptions to every rule, Almost DailyBrett has to conclude that basketball schools are really not very good at football, and football schools conversely are really not proficient in round ball.
Do you remember Indiana’s last Rose Bowl? O.J. Simpson was carrying the ball for the other team.
Can you list the number of NCAA titles in Men’s basketball for USC (We remember you, Cheryl Miller)? That would be … none.
Can you list the number of Rose Bowls for Arizona? You already know the answer to that one.
As a Pac-12 kind of guy, let’s focus on USC, the football school, and Arizona, the basketball school. What makes the two so dominant in one sport and so mediocre (being kind here) in the other?
One could immediately point to tradition, and legendary coaches. USC is Howard Jones, John McKay and Pete Carroll. USC is the LA Coliseum. Heisman Trophies, Song Girls, Traveler, Conquest, Rose Bowls and National Championships. Steve Sarkisian has traded in a lumbering Ford F-150 (University of Washington) for a Lamborghini (USC). As a former football manager at Troy way back in the Gerald Ford/Jimmy Carter years, I can attest everything is football at USC.
In turn basketball was the near-empty L.A. Sports Arena, one of the most dreary and desultory sports experiences in the history of the planet. USC had no home court advantage for literally decades. Wooden was packing them in at Pauley Pavilion. The USC students really wouldn’t even walk a few blocks to the Sports Arena, but would make the same trek in droves to the LA Coliseum.
Today, USC plays in the beautiful Galen Center and no one friggin’ cares. The team is mired in last place in the Pac-12, trailing even the dreadful WSU Cougars. AD Pat Haden (e.g., a football star) hired Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield and the effort is a never-ending work in progress.
For USC fans, the goal every year is to win the Pac-12 and contest for the national championship, if not outright win the glass football. When it comes to basketball…Do USC fans really care? The answer is, not really.
Quick name a great Arizona quarterback since the Wildcats joined the now-Pac-12 conference in 1978?
How about a legendary Arizona football coach?
Sorry “Bear Down” disciples, Frank Kush coached for ASU. Even though Rich Rodriguez does not want to hear this: Arizona is a study of gridiron mediocrity. Even early erector-set Arizona Stadium makes one’s blood head north. This is NOT a must do college football experience.
Now let’s talk McKale Center. Let’s remember Lute and Bobbie Olson. Let’s contemplate the 1997 NCAA title. Let’s dwell on the likes of Richard Jefferson, Miles Simon, Channing Frye, Salim and Damon Stoudamire, Luke Walton (UCLA Bill’s son) etc. Let’s visualize Arizona getting to the Final Four again this year (if they can make their free throws) with the likes of Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski, T.J. McConnell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Coach Sean Miller has not made AzCat faithful forget Lute, but he is on the verge of starting a new Arizona dynasty in round ball.
Some things change, but more times than not, they stay the same. And when they change, it takes a long time. That certainly is the case for USC basketball and Arizona football.
A football school is a football school and a basketball school is a basketball school.