Sunday, October 04, 2009

United Methodists Still Struggle on the Gridiron

The aughts have been a dark decade for United Methodist football fans. SMU, a reliable United Methodist football power for many years, still hasn't recovered from getting the death penalty in 1987. Syracuse picked up the slack in the late 1980s, winning nine bowl games between 1988 and 2001 and producing several NFL players (most notably Donovan McNabb, Marvin Harrison, Dwight Freeney, and Keith Bulluck). (Syracuse had a great football tradition long before the 1980s thanks to all-time greats such as Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, and Ernie Davis.) But Syracuse had some struggles early in the decade, and the school in 2004 fired coach Paul Pasqualoni, during whose tenure the Orange had six bowl wins and only one losing season. Since then Syracuse has not had a winning season. Duke, the other United Methodist school with a Division I-FBS football program, has never been a national power. The Blue Devils have had only one winning season in the last 20 years and last won a bowl game in 1960.

This weekend proved that United Methodist college football won't be returning to prominence any time soon. SMU, which seems headed in the right direction (albeit slowly) under June Jones, kept up with old Southwest Conference rival TCU—the only Disciples of Christ-affiliated school with a major college football program—for two quarters before the eleventh-ranked Horned Frogs pulled away. Syracuse, who has shown significant improvement this season, missed an opportunity to get a big win over undefeated South Florida in the Carrier Dome. Much like their United Methodist brethren in Dallas, the Orange played well for a half. Then South Florida pulled away. I was hopeful that SMU and/or Syracuse would pull off the upset. I had no faith in Duke, but the Blue Devils played a very respectable game against #6 Virginia Tech. Maybe David Cutcliffe, with his 42 freshmen, is building the next United Methodist football power in Durham. Probably not. But maybe.

This past Saturday, all three teams had an opportunity to give United Methodist college football a head start on returning to prominence in the 2010s.


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