|Mount Union players celebrate after winning one of their many National Championships. (photo: muc.edu)|
The players will be sitting in the locker room, anxious with anticipation and nerves.
The echoes of the crowd and the marching bands will be barely audible as they lace up their cleats.
Their focus will be briefly broken by the fired-up captain who's screaming as if he's upset—as if someone had just made fun of his mother.
But he's not upset—he's just that fired up.
As the players prepare for their shot at glory, the coaches will remind the squad how important the game really is.
They'll say that it's for all the marbles—the game they've been preparing for since the end of last season.
It's the only reason they've lifted weights, the only reason they've run up and down the stadium stairs, the only reason they've subjected themselves to yoga classes.
Anything to get here—anything to make it to this game.
The coaches will remind the team of the difficult road they've traveled. They might show their team the bracket they've conquered—a visual reminder of just how far they've come.
No, this isn't the future of Division I football—this is real.
This is the Division III playoffs.
There are no computers, there are no Bowl pairings, and there are no complaints.
Every fan in the stadium knows that two truly deserving teams are about to run onto the field. And every writer in the press box has hyped the contest as a true National Championship Game.
Once the final whistle blows, what's been said and done on the field will be the only thing that matters.
|The 35th Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl will be played Saturday in Salem, VA, between Mount Union and UW-Whitewater.|
Back in the locker room, the coaches may speak of a football legend—a legend their players may have never heard of.
They'll teach the players of the man for whom this particular game is named—a man who transformed college football as we now know it.
His name was Amos Alonzo Stagg, and he was one of the greatest ever.
The New York Times once said of Stagg, "His was the most prolific mind football has known in devising...plays, formations, and techniques that helped to shape the American game...that [now] attracts millions annually." (odaconline.com)
Stagg was named to Walter Camp's very first All-America Team, and later was the first person to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
He was the first coach to reach win totals of 100 and 200 games, and just the second to reach 300. He finished with a total of 314 victories.
Stagg also helped form what we now know as the Big Ten, and was the only lifetime member of the Football Rules Committee.
But he wasn't purely a football guy; Stagg was a sports fanatic.
He was friends with James Naismith, the inventor of basketball. The two played on each other's first teams, each one coaching the other.
In fact, Stagg was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class.
Stagg played baseball at Yale, leading his team to five conference titles as a star pitcher. He later organized the first American baseball tour to Japan.
Stagg even dabbled in track and field, serving as the NCAA Chair for meets and sitting on five Olympic Games Committees...and still had time for swimming, inventing the troughs that help prevent swimming pools overflows.
Needless to say, Stagg had a heart that beat for amateurism—he once turned down an offer to pitch for the New York Nationals, because he preferred college athletics instead.
So, when you're watching the Stagg Bowl this Saturday afternoon...
Think about the money-hungry Bowl Presidents.
Think about coaches who preach to their players about honesty and integrity, then jump ship for the next big contract.
Think about Nick Saban.
Think about Jim Delany, the current Big Ten Commissioner who's known for his dealings with the BCS.
Think about how Stagg helped found that very same Big Ten, and how he'd feel if he were alive today.
Then, I want you to think about those players in that locker room.
Think about their NFL futures, or lack thereof. Think about why they're so pumped for the game, and why they play with so much passion.
It's because they love it—that's why.
It's not about the money, and it's certainly not about the BCS.
It's about competition, and it's about what's right with college football.
I highly encourage you to watch the 2007 Stagg Bowl on ESPN this Saturday at 4:00 PM EST. Mount Union and UW-Whitewater will meet for the third straight year to decide the National Champion.
Also, Bleacher Report's David Williams will be featuring the 2007 Stagg Bowl in his Sunday Afternoon Quarterback, so be sure to check out his postgame wrap-up.