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10 Most Polarizing College Football Figures of the BCS Era

Randy ChambersAnalyst INovember 29, 2016

10 Most Polarizing College Football Figures of the BCS Era

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    Everybody has an opinion when it comes to college football. Some voice theirs more strongly than others, but everyone feels a certain way toward a team, player or coach.

    Then there are the polarizing figures in college football about whom you couldn't escape talking about if your life depended on it.

    These coaches and players are few and far between, but you know who they are. These are the folks who are constantly covered by the national media, are always on national television and always draw strong reactions from every fanbase in the country.

    You either love these guys or you absolutely wish they would never be heard from again.

    There is no in-between, and there are certainly no neutral feelings. When it comes to this select few, you are forced to have a strong opinion, and you better stick by it, or else.  

    Regardless of how you feel, here are some of the most polarizing figures in college football from the BCS era.

Jim Tressel

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    From 2001 to 2010, you got tired of seeing Jim Tressel standing on the sidelines wearing that stupid-looking sweater vest and winning what seemed like every game on the schedule. Tressel won 82 percent of his games at Ohio State and led the Buckeyes to six straight BCS bowls.

    As an Ohio State fan, you loved the consistent success and being on top of the college football world. If you were a fan of a team competing against the Buckeyes, you couldn't wait for something to happen to put an end to Ohio State's winning ways.

    And just like that, the Buckeyes were involved in a scandal that resulted in Tressel getting fired and the program receiving sanctions from the NCAA. That outcome didn't make the Ohio State community very happy, but it was hard for Buckeye fans to be completely upset when they looked at the run Tressel had over the years.

    Even today, Tressel's name elicits a mixed reaction, depending on where fans' allegiance lies..

Manti Te'o

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    I wonder what things would have been like if Manti Te'o had a year remaining at Notre Dame after the whole girlfriend hoax. While we will obviously never know the answer, Te'o would have likely become the most polarizing player of this generation had he returned to South Bend.

    Even before the whole bizarre story unfolded, Te'o was a polarizing figure.

    Notre Dame fans loved him because he was a terrific defensive player who seemed to do everything right and played the game at a high level for four seasons.

    Many other people didn't care for the middle linebacker because he played for Notre Dame, which in their eyes meant he was overrated. Seriously, that is usually the case when it comes to the Fighting Irish.

    When you add the hoax into the conversation, Te'o became even more controversial. But even before we found out about that, he was still talked about quite a bit.

Lane Kiffin

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    Just ask Tennessee fans their opinion of Lane Kiffin, and you will quickly see where this is going. The truth is that all college football fans don't feel that strongly toward Kiffin, but a majority would tell you that they could do without him.

    The first issue that people have is that Kiffin has yet to accomplish much of anything at any level, but he is consistently put on this pedestal as an elite coach. He also has brought controversy anywhere he has coached.

    Then, of course, there was that time he left Tennessee for his "dream job" after spending just one season with the Volunteers.

    Still, there happens to be a group that supports Kiffin and believes he will soon blossom into a top-tier head coach. Already one of the best recruiters at the college level, Kiffin, who is only 37, could still have a bright future.

    Either way, everybody seems to have an opinion when it comes to the USC head coach.

Cam Newton

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    Auburn fans will never forget the magical season they had with Cam Newton leading the way. Going undefeated and winning the national championship in 2010—the school or fanbase wouldn't trade it for the world.

    When you ask others about Newton, however, they will mention that he was arrested and kicked off the team at Florida. He also seemed to have this fake personality—he was constantly grinning from ear to ear, which at times felt forced and put on.

    Non-Auburn fans also didn't like Newton because he was seemingly impossible to contain, bulling his way through the competition and breaking many records along the way.

    There was also an alleged NCAA rule violation, which gave other fanbases more ammunition to use against him.

    The former Auburn quarterback was one of the exciting players of the BCS era, but it didn't come without a price to pay.

Urban Meyer

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    For the same reason Nick Saban and any other successful head coach is hated, people simply don't like Urban Meyer because he wins oodles of games.

    With two national titles, an overall winning percentage of 83 and his ability to sign talented recruits by the truckload, Meyer has become that coach that people love to dislike.

    There was also the time when Meyer left the game because he wasn't feeling well and thought that spending more time with family was more important. One year removed, he decided he was going to become the new head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Some would say that Meyer only walks into great situations, which is the reason for all of his success.

    Like many guys on this list, Meyer is somebody who you are absolutely thrilled with if he is coaching your team.

    Other than that small percentage, there is a large group that just wishes he would get that itch to walk away from the game once again.

Steve Spurrier

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    Steve Spurrier picked up a lot of enemies when he was coaching the Florida Gators, partly due to his 81-percent win rate in the 12 years he coached the team. He then somewhat turned on the team by leaving for the NFL and later deciding to coach the South Carolina Gamecocks.

    While Gators fans are thankful for the job he did, his decision to coach another SEC school has always left a bad taste in their mouths.

    Spurrier is also a head coach who never bites his tongue. A favorite during SEC media days, the head coach has no problem throwing shots across the room and stirring the pot among his peers. This makes him lovable with the national media, but he isn't quite as popular when it comes to other head coaches and fans of other teams.

    If Spurrier happens to be coaching your school, there is a chance you learn to love him because your team will eventually turn into a winner.

    If he isn't on your side, you probably can't stand him.

Bobby Petrino

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    Bobby Petrino has rubbed many programs the wrong way, whether it was leaving Louisville high and dry, disappearing after one season with the Atlanta Falcons or the whole fiasco that ended his time at Arkansas.

    Petrino has picked up a reputation as a head coach who likes to bounce around, and he has never quite seemed to have his head screwed on completely tight. I'm not sure Arkansas fans will ever be able to forgive him for the way things ended, which forced them to sit through such a brutal 2012 season.

    At the same time, Petrino is well known for being one of the brighter offensive minds in the country. He has also proven to be a winner throughout his career and could earn some of that respect back, beginning with his new start as the head coach at Western Kentucky.

Nick Saban

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    There are plenty of reasons why Nick Saban is hated. That he has absolutely dominated college football in recent years and doesn't seem to be slowing down is one of them. When is he going to give somebody else a chance to win a crystal football?

    Saban also seems to come off as this cocky head coach who knows he is better than everybody else, which is something most fans can't stand. There was also the time when he told Miami Dolphins' fans that he wasn't leaving South Florida, only to pack his bags and take the job in Tuscaloosa.

    As for the people who worship him?

    Look no further than Alabama fans. When you win three national titles, help improve the facilities and bring in top recruiting class after top recruiting class, you are sure to build quite a following.

    Saban doesn't have many fans outside of Tuscaloosa, but he has all the support he needs from his diehard fanbase.

Tim Tebow

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    Even to this day, you either love or hate Tim Tebow.

    Florida Gator fans absolutely loved him because he was one of the best college football players of the last decade. He also played on two national championship teams, won a Heisman Trophy and brought a ton of positive attention to the program.

    For those who couldn't stand him, it was likely either due to his high winning percentage or that you thought he was overly religious and you had to hear about it every 15 seconds.

    The combination of love and hate was pretty bad when he was quarterbacking the team in Florida, but thanks to ESPN and other media outlets, things have now been taken to a whole new level with Tebow in the NFL.

    I'm not sure there is an athlete who is talked about more, and there certainly isn't a more polarizing quarterback than Tebow.

Joe Paterno

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    There once was a time when Joe Paterno was arguably the most respected man in all of sports. He was somebody who did anything and everything for his university, had a program that obeyed NCAA rules and graduated its players on time.

    That was until the Penn State scandal socked the college football world like a Mike Tyson punch. That instantly changed the way most viewed Paterno. At that point, it was less about football, as a lot of people no longer cared about the accomplishments that the Penn State coach had achieved over the years.

    If you ask many in Happy Valley to this day, Paterno is still considered a legend and will forever be remembered for the job he did in building the program. Others don't even want to hear his name mentioned as far as college football icons are concerned.

    It is a slippery slope when discussing his legacy, which is why Paterno is easily one of the more polarizing figures in college football.


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