Many years ago the Los Angeles Times invited a raft of folks to suggest three movies which should be shown to a European not familiar with American culture as a sort of introduction to America. I was among those invited, and I submitted Cool Hand Luke, Caddyshack, and, of course, Hoosiers.
Hoosiers is one of those movies that, if clicking through channels my eye falls on it, I stop and watch for as long as possible. It is a true story, and one of the best. And it is about the triumph against long odds of an underdog willing to work harder and smarter. For the same reason that the U.S. men’s team Olympic Hockey victory in 1980 will always inspire, the story of Indiana’s Milan High School will as well:
In 1954, tiny Milan, with a sharpshooter named Bobby Plump, dominated much larger schools on their way to a 28-2 record and the Indiana state finals. Among their victims was Oscar Robertson‘s high school team (Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis). In the finals, they shocked everyone when they squeaked past powerhouse Muncie Central for the Indiana state crown on Plump’s last-second shot. It was considered one of the greatest basketball games ever played, and has attained a legendary status. In September 1999, Sports Illustrated named this team one of the top 20 teams of the century. The sports writers of Indiana named the “Milan Miracle” the #1 sports story in Indiana history.
It is because of those rare and wonderful upset underdog stories that the BCS should move to a playoff. Boise State should have the right to keep on winning and achieve not just a great win over OSU, but a place in sports lore and even more in the mythology of achievement. The college presidents who invent excuses to keep that from happening really ought to reconsider and attend to the interests of the athletes and the fans.
Nike is said to be ready to fund a 16 team play-off, as I am sure many other corporate giants would be willing to do. The television revenues would be enormous, and could benefit far more students and schools than just the 16 schools competing.
In fact, if the college presidents want to use the opportunity to really take care of athletes, let them negotiate a great fee arrangement, and then reward the teams that play with half the proceeds and dedicate the other half to scholarships for NCAA athletes who, due to injury, either lose their scholarships or suffer some sort of injury that follows them after their playing days are over, and perhaps scholarships for high school athletes injured while still in high school and otherwise unable to attend college because they lost their meal ticket. Using some of the monies generated by establishing a playoff system to fund equity for injured student athletes would genuinely advance both sports and higher education.