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Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Worse College Football Team in America

I stopped by Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, ND on Wednesday to watch their football team practice. The Lions lost a game a few years ago 105-0 and are recognized as the worst college football team in the nation. A book, Keeping the Faith by Shawn Fury was written in 2005 about the program. There has been more than a sufficient amount of attention given to the Alabamas and the Notre Dames of the college football world. Fury’s book was a human interest story, exploring what it is like to be the worst. It also painted a picture of the program as one of disorganized chaos, and asked the question, "if you can not do better than this, why even have a team?"

My timing was perfect; the team was holding its first full scrimmage of the year. The level of play was much better than I expected. I counted 45 players dressed out and what appeared to be about five or so others in street clothes, whom I assumed were injured. The university is founded in, and based on, fire and brimstone evangelism - one player broke down and spoke in tongues at the end of practice. A young coach stood on the sideline directing the defense and would yell before each snap of the ball, “I love you guys." The quarterback appeared to have a strong arm as he directed a spread offense The defense was not shy about laying a solid hit of ball carriers and receivers. The pace of the scrimmage was crisp, and I witnessed a much better brand of football than what I had anticipated. I speculated that maybe the team had hit rock bottom in 2005 and had since found a way to use the national publicity they garnered from their 105 point spanking into attracting a better level of player.

I tried to use the internet to get an update on the team’s fortunes since the 2005 debacle of a season. I had no luck; the site offered a schedule for the season, but nothing else.

About ¼ of the players were African-American. That has to be a hard recruiting pitch; selling a school in Ellendale (population under 2000 - one stop light) to a black kid from the city. I guess the Lord does work in mysterious ways.

I stood off by myself to watch the scrimmage, but was soon spotted. A manager was dispensed to question my presence. He was polite, but wanted to know what I was doing, in attendance at was, he announced, a “closed” practice. (Spies in the cornfields of North Dakota gathering information on a team that lost a game 105-0?) I told him I was a scout for the Wheeling Wheelers, a new Indoor football team. He believed me and sent the offensive coordinator to visit with me!!

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