This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Houston • Of all oddities, college football revealed on Saturday that money isn't everything. Who knew.
Certainly, money remained popular, and people spoke of money, as with the mass speculation about Big 12 expansion. Why, at halftime of Oklahoma vs. Houston at NRG Stadium, Houston Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek was telling a batch of listeners with tape recorders of the $5 million bonus the fantastic Coach Tom Herman will receive if Houston happens to wind up in a Power Five conference, such as the Big 12, which sits around at present with only 10 teams, thus less money.
Yurachek said the $5 million agreement doesn't appear in Herman's contract, but in a memo.
Everyone agreed that's some memo.
As for whether it could become an active memo, rather than just a dormant memo, anytime soon, Yurachek referred to Oklahoma President David Boren and said, "The one message that was loud and clear to me was Dr. Boren said he wanted somebody that was going to make the Big 12 more competitive, and I think you see what our program is doing right now. And I think you see coaches in the Big 12 are talking about they don't want any part of the University of Houston. To me, that checks that box of someone being competitive, if you've got coaches that are concerned about Houston becoming a member of the conference."
You do have coaches who are concerned - Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy among them - and you do have one word for such coaches: observant. The Houston that ransacked Oklahoma 33-23 on Saturday consists of players who have, as Herman put it, fewer "luxuries" than a top-tier Oklahoma tends to have. Yet it was better, harder and keener than an Oklahoma that just reached a College Football Playoff last December and generated a lot of hullabaloo over getting there again. And while it still might - both the first two playoff national champions lost games in September - the road has tightened because Oklahoma dared to come here and play a bunch of Cougars, who went 13-1 last year, blasted Florida State in the Peach Bowl and decided they really don't care about, say, money.
Hey, quarterback Greg Ward, Jr., are you pumped you just beat the No. 3 team on national TV?
"No, not at all," Ward said, earnestly.
So a season largely about money - aren't they all? - did begin with so many sugarplums in Texas that it's a good thing Texas remains large. Even before 10 a.m. on Saturday, Houston fans on the metro from downtown to the stadium chanted loud and unkind things about Oklahoma as they aimed for the 11 a.m. Central kickoff.
Over at College Station, unranked and starving Texas A&M held off No. 16 UCLA 31-24 in overtime. Up near Dallas and Fort Worth, No. 1 Alabama put a right mauling on No. 20 Southern California, by some farcical score like 52-6. (Note: It actually was 52-6.) Back down to Austin on Sunday, No. 10 Notre Dame will play Texas, speaking of money. Even besides all of that, there was some kind of mad fracas in Fort Worth, where a battle between Horned Frogs and Jackrabbits did figure to be a zoo, so it was, and No. 13 TCU escaped a South Dakota State program it ought never forget, 59-41.
That game was emblematic, because the 63-team, second-tier proletariat we all call "Group of Five" because we're really strange in general, and the FCS beneath even them, rose to upturn the swank furniture all over the place on Saturday even as the smart money is on the top tier continuing to amass power and float away from the working class.
Even the schools we all sneeringly call "directional schools" had themselves a fine day, and they did so, as always, on the road.
South Alabama, which got going with football in 2009 and has a coach, Joey Jones, who played for Bear Bryant, went to Mississippi State as a 28-point underdog and astounded the locals 21-20 after trailing 17-0, with a quarterback fabulously named Dallas Davis. Western Michigan, which 35-year-old Coach P.J. Fleck once thanked for once hiring "some young 31-, 32-year-old punk" - that was him - went to Northwestern and won 22-21, going 4-for-4 on fourth downs. "They kept their oar in the water all the time," Fleck said of his players.
Southern Mississippi went to Kentucky and fell behind 35-10, seemingly doing its part to build a happy evening, until it stopped doing that and won 44-35. Eastern Washington got 12 receptions for 206 yards from Cooper Kupp and forged a sullen mood in the Palouse, 45-42 over Washington State. Northern Iowa scored a 25-20 win that will mean something to it - over Iowa State.
Richmond is not a direction but it, of course, throttled Virginia.
"Tech" is also not a direction, but Louisiana Tech went to Arkansas and horrified the locals before losing 21-20 when a fourth-down, 4-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter managed to escape by inches the hand of Bulldogs linebacker Jaylon Ferguson. "It was not a fluke," Tech Coach Skip Holtz said of the tightness. That same kind of fate, of course, already had haunted Appalachian State on Thursday night, with the nation having come to rare unanimous agreement that it outplayed No. 9 Tennessee in an overtime loss.
Even when the moneyed played other moneyed, all the money didn't matter. LSU certainly pours uncommon resources into football, yet even after an entire offseason of alleged retooling, its offense still won't budge much. At Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., it roared from the summer with opening drives of three plays for seven yards, three for zero, six for 33, one for zero (fumble), five for 20 and three for 14 (interception). When it lost 16-14 to Wisconsin, somebody asked an even more embattled coach Les Miles how disappointing it had been, and he said, "Tremendously so."
With one of the most formidable backs in the history of football in Leonard Fournette, and 17 returning starters, LSU had incurred the curse of the praise of others, with its pre-season No. 5 ranking and its hip-pick-for-the-playoff cachet.
Now it's time for cacophony, which the college football upper class does conduct from time to time. They'll do so at Oklahoma in the coming days, but it's possible they'll just acknowledge they had the nerve to travel to tangle with a monster.
"To be really honest, there were no expectations," Herman said about taking over the program just 20 short months ago, after serving as the offensive coordinator for Ohio State's most recent national champion. "It was literally, Wake up every day and install our culture and our expectations and our way of doing things ..."
Consider that culture installed, but don't consider it second-tier. The fact its coach could get $5 million to move "up" might even count as a paradox.
Keywords: campus cleanup, college football, houston cougars, oklahoma sooners, houston vs. oklahoma, alabama-usc, south alabama, lsu, wisconsin, college football upsets, big 12 football, big ten football, sec football, acc football