October 28, 2009
Once again we're gobsmacked by the routine passage of time: Ten years has passed like that, and to commemorate the artificially grouped events therein, the Doc Sat team is counting down the best of 2000-09. Today's category: Best villain.
Matt Hinton: Reggie Bush.
No one could catch him on the field; no one has even laid a finger on him off it. The hype for the dominant 2003-05 Trojans -- especially for the '05 group leading up to its blockbuster Rose Bowl loss to Texas -- built up so much ill will that the first hints of impropriety in the summer of 2006 only whetted haters' appetites for the coming avalanche: By September, the allegations against Bush included fraternizing with agents (sometimes in the USC locker room) while using their largesse to rack up lavish hotel stays, at least one car and a move to a suburban home for his family, enough to fill a book and potentially threaten both Bush's Heisman Trophy and the menagerie of conference and national championships the Trojans won with Bush in the lineup.
But the heart of Bush's villainy for critics lies not in anything he did or didn't do at USC, (including the "Bush Push" to beat Notre Dame in 2005) but in his apparent escape from any official retribution whatsoever despite the overwhelming array of charges and evidence in the media -- three years after the first allegations surfaced, in fact, the NCAA has never acknowledged any impropriety under Pete Carroll, whose program rolls on as one of the two or three enduring gold standards nationally while Bush's pro career is in full, lucrative swing. If there is any forthcoming pain from the NCAA's investigation, it will be from the most painstakingly assembled hammer the Association has ever wielded.
Doug Gillett: Nick Saban.
The villains who have fascinated me the most have always been the ones who manage to win (or at least not lose) in the end, and the one who epitomizes that at the moment in college football is Nick Saban. He'd been given the nickname "Nick Satan" before he even set foot on Alabama's campus, ostensibly for leaving the Dolphins for the 'Bama job just days after categorically denying any interest in it. But be honest, people, that's not the reason you hate him: You hate him because he wins -- a lot -- and unlike, say, vintage Steve Spurrier, he doesn't even display much of a personality while doing so.
See, Spurrier was always more showman than villain; he wanted you to seethe at the very sound of his name, but he also wanted you to laugh at his jokes. Saban quite clearly does not give a flying rat's behind what you think of him, and that goes whether you're an opposing coach, rival fan, member of the national media, member of the local media, or Paul Finebaum. Or, for that matter, an Alabama fan. When your own fanbase is terrified of you, that's some villainy worth tipping your cap to.
Chris Brown: Tim Tebow.
Because you don't have to be evil to be a villain. The qualities that make a good one are that his opponents love to hate him; that he is carefree regarding their opinions; and, in the end, that their worth will be measured against his. For the last three or four years the gate to a college football championship has been guarded by Tebow. His achievements are legion, and, so too, are the vanquished, left full of hate, if not a little respect.
Most of the other candidates for best villain -- Nick Saban, Lane Kiffin, Bobby Petrino, Les Miles, Bob Stoops, Houston Nutt -- have all been humbled by the holy warrior in effective (even if not entirely pretty) performances, which only served to make them all the more infuriating. College football is dominated by coaching personalities, but championships are still won by players, and no player of this decade has dominated (or been as omnipresent) as Tebow. And that's enough to make him the best villain.
Holly Anderson: Jim Delany.
The Big Ten commish is one of the more notably crabby BCS defenders, ostensibly because it would diminish the awesomeness of the regular season, but he's also godfather of the Big Ten Network and therefore responsible for taking valuable regular season football weekends away from far-flung fans of his precious conference. He takes ill-advised swings at certain conferences known for beating the pants off his in bowl games. Oh, and Delany was in charge when the Big Ten expanded to 11 schools, the straight-faced rhetorical ridiculousness of which continues to offend me.
- - -
• Previously on "Best of the Aughts": Best Upset, Best Scandal, Best Innvation.
• Have an offbeat category you'd like to see tackled in the series? Drop me a line: sundaymorningqb -at- yahoo, etc.