If you recorded the Heisman Trophy ceremony, and your recording ran long (a highly recommended practice, by the way, given that the ceremony always goes over in time), you would have caught the first few minutes of the ESPN documentary “The U Part 2“, a follow up to the 2009 documentary (obviously titled, “The U”) about the University of Miami football team. Both films do what documentaries do: present a story to those unfamiliar with it and a fresh perspective on that story to those that are.
While I enjoyed both documentaries on Miami, I viewed them through two different lenses. Part 1 featured stories I knew only from historical reference. Part 2 covered the history of Miami during an era when I experienced college football in real time. Both documentaries tell a story of Miami as the protagonists, only with Part 2, I had the filter of my own bias to say, “I remember them being the villains, and everyone wanted them to lose.”
The passage of time will always remove the amount of vitriol we inject into those who we regard as villains; hatred fading over time. But that does mean they weren’t villains.
Despite its dynastic success, Miami (SPOILER ALERT) only managed to win one national championship, in 2001, over the era covered in Part 2. Its opponent that season should have been the Oregon Ducks, but those involved with the BCS decided otherwise. Oregon never got the chance to face that Miami team, but it has still faced its share of villains in recent memory. Here are the five biggest villains the Ducks have faced since 2000:
5) 2005 USC Trojans
While the Ducks were ranked higher than the Trojans in the teams’ previous meeting in 2002, USC’s dynasty under Pete Carroll was in full swing by the time this game was played in 2005. USC was in the midst of a 24-game winning streak (They eventually extended it to 34.) and while Oregon looked like it might play the spoiler that day by taking an early 13-0 lead, the Trojans ran away with the win by scoring the game’s final 45 points.
Of course, this game didn’t officially happen. Thanks to an athletic department scandal centering on Reggie Bush, USC was forced to vacate all wins from 2005 (and some from 2004) amidst a host of other penalties. When asked about the penalties in February 2014, former coach Pete Carroll said:
“I just think it was not handled well, I sat in the meetings. I listened to the people talk. I listened to the venom that they had for our program. They didn’t understand a thing about what we were all about.”
Spoken like a true villain: People may not have understood USC’s team, and the sanctions might not have been fair, but one thing is clear: people hated this team.
Result: USC 45, Oregon 13.
4) 2009 Ohio State Buckeyes
Two words: Terrelle Pryor.
Barring some miracle comeback, Pryor’s football legacy appears cemented, and that would be someone who ruined everything he touched in college football by being a total jackass.
His tattoos-for-cash scandal brought NCAA sanctions on his program that would have set nearly any other school back for years. Of course, those penalties happened to the impenetrable Ohio State, which somehow managed to flip a scandal into landing one of the best coaches in college football and found itself in contention for a national championship in the regular season’s final weekend the last two years.
Pryor never went to a national championship game, but his role in the scandal did cost the Buckeyes an opportunity to play in one during its undefeated 2012 season. The only man who had brought a national championship to Columbus in the past 45 years was Jim Tressel; yet Pryor’s actions ran the man who had brought him to Columbus out of town.
Tressel isn’t absolved of fault for knowingly covered up the misappropriations of his players, but it certainly doesn’t help when his program is being investigated for supplying cars to players, only to have players like Pryor refuse to lay low, continuing to drive around campus in a brand new 350Z during the investigation.
Pryor’s relationship to Oregon football was never great, either. As a high school senior, he kept the Ducks in his top three choices, only to drag his decision out past signing day, forcing the Ducks to hold a potential scholarship open for him. It became clear he had no intention of attending school so far from his home, but he never discussed that during his recruitment. While his play at Ohio State showed he was no great loss as a recruit, he did manage to play well in one game in his career… the 2010 Rose Bowl against Oregon.
Pryor’s now out of football, and it’s probably for the best.
3) 2010 Auburn Tigers
This was the previous high watermark for a “high stakes, hated opponent” matchup for the Ducks. For a program in Oregon that was trying to establish national legitimacy, any marquee SEC opponent would have been enough to create a fiery response from fans in that game. What it got were the 2010 Auburn Tigers, a team so unlikable that their obnoxiousness compelled a rival fan to desecrate a century-old tradition on their campus in retaliation for a loss.
Their offense was led by a quarterback who came to Auburn after leaving Florida following felony theft charges, and who at one point during that 2010 season the NCAA had ruled ineligible after determining his father had been shopping his services to the highest bidder.
Their defense was led by one of the dirtiest players in the recent history of college football (who made sure to sustain that reputation against the Ducks), and a coach, who if you believe the university’s most-famous alumnus, was only hired because of a race-driven agenda by the university.
Predictably, the game was mired by poor officiating, with a controversial call allowing one of the most hated teams in college football to steal a national championship.
Result: Auburn 22, Oregon 19.
2) 2000 Washington Huskies
It was a team so deplorable that it had a 400-page book written solely about the systemic disaster that was it football program’s enabling of atrocious behavior from a number of their players. For those who haven’t read it (and you really should), here are the highlights:
- Jerramy Stevens is kind of a, how do I put this…? Horrible person.
- Jerramy Stevens wasn’t the only terrible person on the team.
- Coaches, administrators, and even the police were all capitulators in allowing this behavior to occur.
- Rich Neuheisel was definitely one of those capitulators.
- Not everyone on the team was bad, but those who were good weren’t exactly supported in their attempts to be well-rounded people.
- SPOILER ALERT: No significant consequence fell on anyone for their actions.
So predictably, only a team this unlikable could somehow prevail in a tiebreaker where both Oregon and Washington had a single conference loss with Oregon winning the head-to-head, and Washington ends up in the Rose Bowl, its only Rose Bowl the past two decades.
Result: Oregon 23, Washington 16.
1) 2014 Florida State Seminoles
A team constructed in a nightmare factory using parts of all the aforementioned teams above and then amplified as part of the vision of some mad scientist:
What if we made the players violent offenders (allegedly, thanks to the terrible execution of justice in Tallahassee) instead of petty criminals? What if we could get the police to cover up those crimes before they were arrested? What if they were coached by an amoral yokel who seemed defiant at the very idea that players were capable of committing crimes? What if we gave them one of the longest winning streaks in college football history, only instead of having them dominate game after game, we’ll have them win those games by the narrowest of margins against flagrantly mediocre competition every time out to maximize the frustrations of those who want to see them lose? And what if we had that team’s star player be an entitled, sociopathic monster who never showed remorse for his actions, and had no incentive to do so, due to being constantly rewarded for his on-field accomplishments, including the most prestigious trophy in sports, in spite of everything else he does?
The Seminoles are the perfect villain. And they know it.
Result: The ultimate matchup of black and white hats will be determined next Thursday.
Top image from video.