The gang at Grantland has recently put together a series looking back at the NCAA's messy history, and it has been revisiting games of the 20th century.
Few series like that can be talked about without traveling back to East Lansing, Mich., in 1966, when Notre Dame and Michigan State staged one of the most controversial No. 1 vs. No. 2 games of all-time.
From Michael Weinreb:
In football you did not settle; in football you did not back down. In football you gambled, and if Ara was inherently not the gambler that Duffy Daugherty was, then maybe he deserved the criticism he got for backing into a national title rather than forcing his hand. Dan Jenkins mocked Ara's choice in Sports Illustrated, setting the historical tone for decades to come; in his book about the '66 Alabama team, Dunnavant launches into a weirdly ideological rant, labeling Ara's act "rebellious and utterly antiestablishment," comparing him to bra burners and war protestors and acidheads, noting that "It was like seeing John Wayne parade around the room in high heels and a strapless gown." Bryant himself, acknowledging that some of his players would soon be sent off to Vietnam, said, "I hope they aren't going over there for a tie."
"I don't think any other school would have won the championship if they had done that," Bubba Smith said.
And so you had an all-white team complaining that they'd been shut out due to political concerns, and a majority black team complaining that they'd been shut out for the same reasons. And all of this fury began to drive, for the first time, a real argument about the nature of the Argument itself.
We all know what ended up happening. To read Weinreb's full piece, click here.