College football: 2014 in review
• Last January, the Rose Bowl ushered out the Bowl Championship Series era with a terrific closing act. Florida State scored with 13 seconds left to cap an exciting victory over Auburn. The Rose Bowl played host to four national titles in the 16-year BCS era — three of them memorable. The only dud was Miami’s rout over Nebraska in 2002. The best of the four was Texas over USC after the 2005 season. The downside of the new era: the Rose Bowl is not likely to play host to another national title game in the foreseeable future.
• The NCAA last summer cleared the way for conferences to use TV revenue to provide an additional annual stipend to the basic athletic scholarship. The additional amount, estimated to range between $2,000 and $5,000 per student depending on the school, is a major step forward to addressing financial inequities in collegiate athletics. Another perk is a plan to guarantee athletic scholarships for four years.
• Many USC fans were thrilled when Pat Haden fired Lane Kiffin after a blowout loss at Arizona State in 2013. That wasn’t the end of Kiffin, though. He flourished in his first year as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Alabama averaged 37 points per game and scored 96 points in closing victories over Auburn and Missouri.
• Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota became the first Oregon player to win the Heisman Trophy. He was only the second Heisman winner from the Pacific Northwest, joining 1962 winner Terry Baker from Oregon State. Mariota was the first non-USC winner from the West Coast since Jim Plunkett in 1970. Mariota accounted for 53 total touchdowns in helping Oregon to the Pac-12 Conference title.
• With only four spots available in the first College Football Playoff, it was inevitable one of the five major conference champions was going to be disappointed. The Big 12 Conference ended up with disappointed co-champions, Baylor and Texas Christian. Even so, the selection committee did an excellent job in pairing two terrific semifinal games: Oregon vs. Florida State and Alabama vs. Ohio State. Had the two-team BCS been in place this season, Alabama and Florida State would have met for the title, and Oregon would have been left out.
• UCLA reserves its monumental misses for years when a new championship system is introduced. UCLA was the first No.1 in BCS history in 1998 and would have played for the national title if not for a gut-wrenching December loss at Miami. This season, UCLA would have made the first playoff with closing victories against Stanford and Oregon. Instead, the Bruins were routed by Stanford and missed a rematch with Oregon. UCLA has lost seven consecutive times to Stanford and last defeated Oregon in 2007.
• USC Athletic Director Haden was summoned from the press box to the field by Steve Sarkisian during a game at Stanford after the first-year coach had been hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Haden confronted game officials, a move marginally understandable as an AD protecting his coach, but totally unbecoming as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Haden apologized and was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12.
• Last spring, a few months after winning the Heisman Trophy and leading Florida State to the national title, Jameis Winston was caught stealing crab legs from a supermarket in Tallahassee, Fla. Winston did not miss any football playing time. However, he was suspended briefly by the baseball team; he was a relief pitcher. Winston also was suspended for the Clemson football game this year after yelling vulgarities about women from a tabletop on campus.
• Several prominent players were sidelined by injuries this season, including Ohio State’s top two quarterbacks. No injury was more heart wrenching than the broken leg Mississippi receiver Laquon Treadwell suffered in the waning seconds of the Rebels’ game against Auburn on Nov. 1. Treadwell was inches from a touchdown when he was yanked back violently just short of the possible winning score. Treadwell not only broke his leg on the play, a replay review confirmed he fumbled the ball into the end zone, which was recovered by Auburn. In the span of seconds, Mississippi lost a game, its best player and a shot at the national title.
• Nebraska fired Bo Pelini, in part because of his prickly attitude and grating personality. Pelini did his reputation proud with a departing, profanity-laced final meeting with his players. In the speech, which was secretly recorded, Pelini disparaged Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst in every way imaginable. Pelini has since been hired to coach Youngstown State.
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