Sunday, July 4, 2021

The End of the 2020-21 College Sports Season

On June 30, 2021, Mississippi State hammered Vanderbilt 9-0 to take the final series two games to one, and to capture the final college title of a long and challenging year.  It's the first time Mississippi State has ever won an NCAA title in one of the major sports, and the Bulldogs' first title in 12 trips to the College World Series, going all the way back to 1971.  As you can imagine, the folks in Starkvegas went absolutely nuts -- as they should have done.  To win the title, the Bulldogs had to beat three powerhouse programs:  Texas (twice), Virginia, and Vanderbilt (twice).  They are fully deserved winners.

Looking back over the year, there wasn't too much controversy over the big titles.  Alabama smashed everyone to win the football title, and Baylor did the same to win the men's basketball title.  Congratulations to both of them.  We have rarely seen more deserving champions.

Congratulations to the University of Kentucky, which racked up national titles in rifle and volleyball.  The volleyball title was a really big deal, as it was the first time any SEC team had captured that crown.  I complained about Mitch Barnhart when he took over as Athletic Director back in 2002, but I must now admit that he's done a very good job.  There's never been a time where UK was so competitive in so many different sports.  Barnhart and John Calipari have a lot of work to do on the men's basketball program, which had a disastrous year, but they both seem to be working hard in the off-season and for now we will wait in hope.

Congratulations also to Vandy, which reached the final of the College World Series for the fourth time since 2014.  Tim Corbin is probably the best coach Vanderbilt has ever had in any sport, with the possible exception of Dan McGugin, who had a record in football of 197-55-19 from 1904 to 1934, and without whose success Vandy's long history in the Southeastern Conference would have been impossible.  Congratulations also to Vandy for not making the same mistake as Tulane and Georgia Tech, and for sticking with the SEC through thick and thin.

Congratulations to Western Kentucky, who went 21-8 in men's basketball, came within an eyelash of winning the Conference USA Tournament, and won a game in the NIT.  The Hilltoppers also enjoyed big upset wins over Memphis and Alabama, and were entertaining the whole year.

We warned Louisville about joining the ACC, and sure enough the Cardinals missed the bowls, missed the NCAA men's basketball tournament, and missed the NCAA baseball tournament.  I still hope that someday they will return to their senses, and resume their natural rivalries with Cincinnati and Memphis.  And I hope West Virginia joins them.

Congratulations to Mount St. Mary, which pulled two upsets in the Northeast Conference tournament to reach the NCAA men's basketball tournament, despite finishing the year with a record of 12-11.

Grateful thanks to Notre Dame, which refused to go along with plans concocted by the Big 10 and the media to cancel the college football season, and thereby eventually saved a whole year's worth of college sports for the rest of us.  Someday we will resume our traditional rooting interest against Notre Dame, but for now we humbly admit that without its support, there may have been no college sports at all this year.  If you doubt this possibility, just look at the Ivy League, which did in fact cancel all intercollegiate competition this year, even spring sports like baseball and golf.

Most of all, congratulations to the fans and athletes across the country who preserved the tradition of college sports at a time when many prominent voices were determined to stop it from going forward.  For over 100 years, American intellectuals have been embarrassed by the presence of big-time college sports, and have played every card in the deck of snobbery and puritanism to stamp it out.  But like the Whos and their Christmas celebration, college sports has survived their Grinch-like efforts.  This year, more than any I can remember, we can say that the neo-Puritans didn't stop college sports from coming (except in their Ivy League stronghold).  It came without cheerleaders.  It came without bands.  It came without tailgating, or parties, or flags.  Somehow or other, it came just the same.

And now we can finally rest for a few months, and in late August -- if the Lord is willing and the creeks don't rise -- it will all start up again.  I, for one, am very ready for the rest -- any season where Vandy plays on the last day of the year is exceptionally long for me.  But in late August, I'll be ready for another season.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you and Mitch Barnhart are now friends, and I regret that I never have been to Starkville.