Penn State: A History of the Snub Fest

Derek ReedCorrespondent IFebruary 24, 2009

Every year there are always teams with legitimate gripes about bowl game appearances and being passed over for national titles.

While the University of Utah Utes make a great argument, it is a football program nestled in the gentle slopping hills of central Pennsylvania that seem to have turned being snubbed into an art form.

Perhaps it is because they play in Appalachia, maybe it is because they have no long standing rivals, or play in a "weak" Big Ten conference. Take your pick, they are all correct answers.

Without question, the Penn State Nittany Lions are one of the most storied and respected programs in college football history.

Plain helmets, black shoes, and no names on the jerseys define a hard nose style of football that fit the area they represent like a glove. Under coach Joe Paterno, the Lions have fought victoriously in numerous games making the living legend the all-time winningest coach in Division-1 FBS.

Despite the accolades, Penn State has only produced a measly two National Championships, a noteworthy achievement if not for the fact that Happy Valley is entitled to more.

For whatever the reason, the Nittany Lions have spent many years on the outside looking in, undefeated and uncrowned.

Picture a team having back-to-back undefeated seasons. Do either of these two squads advance to the National Championship Game?

In the case of the 11-0 Nittany Lions in 1968, the answer is no. They were ranked behind two teams with only nine wins.

What about the undefeated team from 1969? You guessed it, no. Before any bowl games were played President Richard Nixon declared the champion be the winner of a late season match up between Texas and Arkansas.

Paterno was later quoted as saying, "I'd like to know how could the President know so little about Watergate in 1973 and so much about college football in 1969."

Paterno's bitterness still remains when he was rumored to have said Nixon could "Shove it" at a 2007 pep rally.

It should be noted that the Nittany Lions rolled over each opponent in both Orange Bowl appearances in those years.

Unfortunately for the faithful followers of the blue and white, another heartbreaking rejection was not far away. 

The year of 1973 saw the third undefeated season under Paterno and the programs first Heisman Trophy winner, John Cappelletti. Just as before, Penn State played second fiddle to a one loss team, then went on to beat the LSU Tigers 16-9 in the Orange Bowl.

It was not until 1982 and 1986 that the Nittany Lions were finally National Champions. It was fitting that the second title came after the programs 100th season. However, the university could not prepare for the next tragedy that Shakespeare himself couldn't have written any better.

A program dubbed "Linebacker U" featured one of the most prolific offenses in college football history lighting up the scoreboard for 526 total points during the 1994 regular season.

To put it in perspective, it roughly equals out to 47 points per game in an 11 game season versus the 2007 New England Patriots who set the NFL season scoring record with 36 ppg in the span of 16 games, a whole five more games than Penn State had.

They ran rough shot over conference opponents after only joining the Big Ten the previous year. This time there was no doubt they would compete for a NCAA National Championship, or so it seemed.

You see, before the BCS there was the Bowl Alliance. But not willing to give up there tradition in the Rose Bowl, the Big Ten and Pac-10 were not members in 1994. The Alliance was set up to have the two best teams play each other for the national title.

This meant that No. 1 Nebraska should have played No. 2 Penn State. The Alliance sent Miami, a one loss team, instead of Penn State due to conference agreements. To downplay rumors of bias on the Alliances part, they cited Penn State barely beating Illinois with a final drive as a reason for not sending them to the 1995 Orange Bowl.

The PSU athletic department regarded the Alliance's reasoning half baked since Penn State was statistically the best team in the computer ranking system. The Nittany Lions went on the win the 1995 Rose Bowl 38-10 over the hapless Oregon Ducks.

Conspiracy theorist fans maybe believe the NCAA has it in for their beloved football team. They might even think officials have gotten in on the action of preventing another National Championship.

Questionable calls that cost the Nittany Lions an undefeated season after adding a few seconds on the clock for one last Michigan touchdown in 2005 or a bad interference call on safety Anthony Scirrotto in 2008 are popular examples.

Whatever you believe, whether it is legitimate or crazy, State College, PA does indeed have a few bones they would like to pick with the college football system.

On a positive note, Penn State fans can take comfort in the fact that in this hyper competitive game of your USC's and Tim Tebows, the Nittany Lions have remained perennial contenders.

They are consistent in their methods and run a disciplined program. Integrity, pride, and humbleness all factor in to the success that the team that runs out on to Beaver Stadium enjoys.

Penn State can still flat out win, not bad for a coach that admits to not knowing what B-C-S stands for. Not bad at all.


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