Sep 012005
 
Authors: Jon Pilsner

It's how the great, heroic story ends.

The hero, victorious over his vanquished opponent, sets off atop his horse and rides into the sunset, the radiant light beaming on his face. The odds were always against him, and yet he always won.

Is that how every great hero story really ends, though?

There has been a disturbing trend among the ranks of college football over the past few years. Winning coaches get canned for not winning enough. The past seems to hold little importance to the cheering fans, boosters with cash stuffed pockets and athletic directors that worry most about running a profitable business inside the university institution.

I saw it first hand at Nebraska. Frank Solich, the hand-groomed heir to Tom "almost as good as God" Osborne, was fired abruptly, and in the middle of a season in which his team went 9-3. That's three times as many wins as losses, and still the coach was shown the outside of the door. Oh, and in 2001, Solich and the Huskers played for the national title in the Rose Bowl.

At Penn State, Joe Paterno, the legendary coach with legendary glasses who resurrected a legendary football program, can't escape the questions that he's too old and has a mind not fresh enough to reach today's young football player.

After 40 years, fans and boosters alike raise a tepid arm in protest after consecutive losing seasons. In 2002, JoePa and the Lions were 9-4 and played on New Year's Day.

Maybe people just forget easily. Maybe they weren't around for the glory days. Maybe they're just impatient.

Like everything American society has become, the atmosphere surrounding college football is "WIN! and win NOW!" Development of players isn't valued. Development of human beings with college degrees is valued even less.

And now, the vultures of doubt are slowly moving to circle Sonny Lubick. The Rams missed a bowl game last year, often playing below what people expected of them en route to a 4-7 season. But most know this already. Most also know that the previous year, the Rams underperformed and lost critical key games, including the Border War battle to Wyoming. They still made a bowl, though.

But with the last conference championship a distant memory (of three years) and the success of Utah's phenomenal season, seeds have been planted in the heads of fans, boosters and students. Nevermind the .651 winning percentage at CSU, easily the school's best. Nevermind the eight bowl games CSU has gone to under Lubick, compared to the two they went to in the 95 seasons prior. Questions remain growing, sapping up the spirit inside.

Has the game passed Sonny by? Has the college football world gotten too good for CSU? Has the man who led CSU to the golden land now kept them from getting back in?

Is the sun setting on Sonny and is he going to miss his ride into it?

How important is one season of college football? Most become memory fragments of television barbeques and game day tailgates in a few months of the spring and summer. Like many things in life, things are reborn and refresh anew in early September. But the memory of bad records and blowouts keep fresh in peoples' minds.

Is this season critical for Lubick? Yes. But not any less critical or important as any other season. Nobody wants to win more than him, nobody else knows how to win at CSU. Changes have been made in scheme, personnel and attitude. CSU is an underdog again, the same dirt on their fingernails that they first had climbing out of the hole when Lubick first arrived.

It doesn't matter how the current hole was dug. It's there now, and the only one who proved he could push the Rams out of it before was Lubick.

Until the hero is vanquished and there is no hope left, he deserves to ride into the sun he delivered in the first place.

Jon Pilsner is a junior technical journalism major and the Collegian's managing editor. He is the former football beat writer for the Collegian.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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