Bidding Farewell to the Beloved Crystal Football as the Title Game Trophy

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2014

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 06:  Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher holds the Coaches' Trophy after defeating the Auburn Tigers 34-31 in the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl on January 6, 2014 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The top of the AFCA Coaches' Trophy is a hollow, eight-pound, $30,000 slab of Waterford Crystal, forged in the shape of a football. It's one of the most beautiful concepts in sports, if not the world, both in principle and in practice.

But it just got a little less sexy.

Not the actual trophy, of course, but the way it will be presented. According to Dan Wolken of USA Today, the crystal football will no longer be awarded to the winner on the field after the national title game, instead giving way to a new, unique trophy for the impending College Football Playoff.

Moving forward, the Coaches' Trophy will still be awarded to the national champion, only now it will be at a separate, lesser ceremony on campus.

"It's been clearly declared that the crystal ball...has become the symbol of supremacy in college football," said AFCA executive director Grant Teaff, per Wolken, in an attempt to placate the masses. "It's incumbent on us to see that it continues, and it will."

Jan 7, 2014; Newport Beach, CA, USA; General view of the crystal football on the Coaches Trophy at 2014 BCS National Championship press conference at Newport Beach Marriott. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Coaches' Trophy hasn't been fired, which is good, but this is still a major demotion. New management has been installed, and the crystal football got sent from the top floor to the mail room, or at least to the "Cogentiva" floor from Enlightened.

The new trophy design remains to be seen. Maybe it will be better. Likely it will be worse. Assuredly it will be different. But whatever it is, we'll have to live with it, because the trophy presented on the field—live, before a large national audience—will always be the foremost emblem of a championship, no matter how nostalgic its ancestor.

Who among us truly cares about the Grantland Rice Trophy, presented by the Football Writers Association of America to its national champion each season? I'm a member of the FWAA, and even I needed to run a Google search to see what it looked like. That is the Coaches' Trophy's future.

Which is a shame. The on-field hoisting of the crystal football is the coolest moment in its life cycle. It's so much different, so much plumper than a normal championship trophy. It's so much more apropos. It's so uniquely "football."

After the hoisting of the Coaches' Trophy, things often go downhill. Life presented on a shelf in a trophy case rarely goes well for the crystal ball, which has been shattered at Alabama and Florida and stolen at Florida State.

More than anything, though, this change further dilutes continuity. The coolest thing a trophy can be—other than a football made of expensive crystal—is "steeped in tradition." It's one of many reasons the Stanley Cup is the title-trophy gold standard.

Jan 7, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley (32) celebrates with the Coaches Trophy after the 2013 BCS Championship game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Sun Life Stadium. Alabama won 42-14.  Mandatory Credit: Matthew
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Not only does it look awesome, it's been around forever. Everyone who's won it since 1893 has held and kissed and worshiped the same relic.

In this regard, college football is already behind the curve. The crystal football wasn't created until 1986, wasn't presented on-field until 1998. These past 16 years have done a good job establishing its iconography, but a change will undo that completely. The lore of the trophy will be starting from scratch, falling another 16 years behind Lord Stanley and the NFL's Lombardi.

I get the impulse to start fresh, to wash our hands of the sordid BCS era and begin the Playoff era anew. I get that we want to be thorough. But part of fixing the BCS is finding which parts need fixing, not blindly toppling the entire system.

A beautiful, blonde-haired woman gets sent into surgery. They just discovered a blockage in her system; it's been pressing on her thyroid for 16 years, making her feel tired, harming the quality of her life in a non-fatal way. The doctor removes the blockage. The woman feels better, pure, realized for the first time in almost 20 years.

She's about to be discharged. The doctor then shaves off her hair.

The woman is college football. The blockage is the BCS. The doctor is the CFP. Her hair is the Coaches' Trophy.

See what I'm trying to get at?

The hoisting of the crystal football was one of the few great things about the BCS era. It was the closest we came to forgiving the rest of its faults. We can turn a new page, start a new chapter, tell a new story without resigning this tradition to the background. It's a ritual that deserved to be retained.

So farewell, crystal football, though this technically isn't goodbye. We'll miss the way you glean on the biggest stage. We hope your younger brother is even half as awesome as you are.

But what are the chances of that?