The Rundown on Running Up the Score

Joe MorganSenior Analyst ISeptember 9, 2008

When Urban Meyer sent Florida's field goal team out late in the fourth quarter Saturday, I thought nothing of it at first.

Just a typical fourth down move by a college football coach. Take the easy points.

However, shortly after the conclusion of the Gators' 26-3 victory over the Miami Hurricanes, I began to hear criticism of Urban Meyer for tacking on the late field goal.

The outcry over Jonathan Phillips' 29-yard field goal posed the question: What kind of statement was Meyer trying to make?

Better yet, why do many college coaches feel the need to score an extra touchdown or field goal in a blowout?

Some fans love it. Others hate it.

Honestly, you are just a victim of circumstance.

If your school is on the receiving end of a colossal beat down, you tend to express disdain for the winners, accusing them of lacking class and sportsmanship.

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However, when your team is pummeling the opposition, you demand more points. You want to annihilate your opponent, eight touchdowns at a time.

Assuming that the coaches do not share your feelings entirely, what is the motivation for leaving the first string offense on the field with an insurmountable lead?

Some say that adding to a big lead late in the game, especially against a rival school, is a good recruiting ploy.

Last Saturday night, the University of Florida welcomed many of the state’s best high school football prospects to “the Swamp” for their matchup with the Miami Hurricanes.

Aiming to impress the talented recruits, only a blowout win over in-state rival Miami would be a victory for the Gators on the recruiting battlefield.

As the 2009 National Signing Day approaches, the football players in attendance Saturday will eventually have to make a decision on which college they will attend as a student-athlete.

In regards to a campus visit, a recruit will take into serious consideration his first impression of the state of a school’s football program.

For instance, if a recruit is undecided between Urban Meyer and Florida and Randy Shannon and Miami, he will have his recent campus visit to Florida and the Gators’ 26-3 victory over the ‘Canes fresh in his memory.

While the Hurricanes are on the rise under Shannon, the Gators are already a prominent title contender on the national scene and generate more excitement in a young player.

With all due respect to the Miami football program and their history of success, it operates more on a “what have you done for me lately?” basis.

Miami will return to the glory soon, but their embarrassing loss at Florida Saturday proved that the ‘Canes are not at that level yet.

That is a perfect example of how important a large margin of victory is to recruiting.

Therefore, when impressing recruits with blowout wins, no lead is ever large enough. There is always room for one more score.

Upon further thought, I concluded that while recruiting strategy is a legitimate reason to unnecessarily run up the score, it was foolish to explore only one option.

What else is driving coaches to keep adding to the lead during an offensive onslaught?

In case you haven’t noticed, coaches are under an immense amount of pressure from the many boosters and alumni who pour loads of money into their respective schools’ football programs.

High profile coaches at high profile football programs deal with even higher expectations, considering anything less than a BCS Championship as a disappointing season.

Coaches will do everything in their power to satisfy the expectations of their respective athletic director and the school’s deep-pocketed boosters. In this case, anything would include running up the score late in a game.

Realistically, Meyer’s job at Florida does not hinge on his margin of victory each week. However, he does feel pressure to perform at the highest level, along with every other coach in the country.

While an extra field goal or touchdown may not seem necessary during a one-sided affair, lopsided wins are ultimately better for a coach’s job security.

After debating the aforementioned theories, a realization swept over me. A concept that was so painstakingly obvious that I should have recognized it immediately. I was baffled that it had eluded me until that moment.

College football is a popularity contest.

The sport has been this way for quite a while. We all know it. We readily admit it. Desperately, we have clamored and begged for a legitimate playoff system, but to no avail. The harsh reality is that we are stuck with the BCS—for now.

However, until that glorious day when the BCS will vanish into oblivion, college football coaches have to do their best to win a BCS national championship in the current system.

No matter what it takes, at the end of the day, these men have a job to do and they will stop at nothing to accomplish that goal.

Sure, coaches make their fair share of enemies along the way, but nowhere in their job description does it require them to be amiable. Rather, respect is the desired trait.

So, when the Randy Shannon and the media make a fuss about Urban Meyer’s “classless” act, it does not faze him.

Like his coaching peers, Urban Meyer has a job to do. You can condemn his methods to your heart’s desire, but he probably couldn’t care less.

Every college football coach is on a mission and they don’t care if they rub you the wrong way.

They might actually enjoy it.