Foulest 40 villains of them all
"From hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee."
-- Captain Ahab, addressing the white whale, in "Moby-Dick"
Herman Melville wrote those words for Ahab in 1851. To my ear, the crazy captain simply sounded like a college football fan born too early.
Ahab's vitriol might be more eloquent than the average fan's, but the intensity matches what comes from the spleens of a million men, women and children every autumn weekend. And it's been that way for a long time -- probably from the beginning.
If Ahab were a Princeton fan in 1869, he could have addressed his screed to the Rutgers team that beat his boys 6-4. The Scarlet Knights were not just the sport's original victors, they were its original villains in the eyes of the vanquished.
BLOG NATION'S VILLAINS
Who is your school's all-time villain? Who is its current villain? Our bloggers have some answers. Villains
They need, as my colleague Ivan Maisel put it, "Someone who's done you wrong." Real or imagined wrong, doesn't matter.
And they need someone they love to hate. Someone they'd spit their last breath at, for hate's sake.
College football villains have come wearing visors and houndstooth. They have come dressed in combat fatigues and striped shirts. They have come sporting Mohawks and excessive hair spray. One came with his own Secret Service detachment.
And they keep on coming. Who among us does not see new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin as having the tools to be the latest scoundrel of the game? He's off to sprinter's start, bad-mouthing Florida, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama in his first few months on the job. But to be a villain on the level of, say, Hannibal Lecter or Anton Chigurh, Kiffin will have to be more than a fresh mouth. He'll have to win. And that might come later than sooner.
Until then, he's just a talker.
Talkers are an annoyance. Talkers who beat your team are villains.
With that as a guide, I present an alphabetical glossary of Forde's Foul 40: the greatest villains in college football, past and present. (Please keep in mind the fact that one fan's villain is another fan's hero, and that the thin line between love and hate usually is drawn by rooting interest.)
1. Brian Bosworth -- Oklahoma linebacker, 1984-86Hated by: Texas; the entire Big Eight Conference; eventually Sooners fans as well.
Claim to Infamy: Fast and furious linebacker took flamboyance to obnoxious levels, epitomizing the out-of-control nature of Oklahoma football in the mid-to-late 1980s. Wore multicolored Mohawk for a while. Missed 1987 Orange Bowl after positive test for steroids (the event that put him on the bad list with Oklahoma backers). Oklahoma State bookstore once sold T-shirts that read, "Will Rogers never met Bosworth." Was famously run over by Bo Jackson on his way to becoming a bust in the NFL, which earned him the sympathy of virtually no one.
2. Bear Bryant -- Alabama coach, 1958-82Hated by: Georgia Tech, among all the other Southern schools crushed by the Crimson Tide.
Claim to Infamy: In 1962, Bryant was the target of liquor bottles thrown from the stands when the Crimson Tide played on the road at Georgia Tech. That was a year after some Yellow Jackets and members of the Atlanta media labeled Bryant a dirty coach when one of his players severely injured a Tech player on a punt return. When Bama returned to Atlanta in 1964, Bryant went out for pregame warm-ups wearing a helmet to lessen the potential blow from any projectiles. Tech, which had left the SEC after 1963, canceled its contentious series with the Tide.
3. Maurice Clarett -- Ohio State running back, 2002
Hated by: Miami; then Buckeye Nation.
Claim to Infamy: True freshman battered the heavily favored Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl, scoring the winning touchdown in a memorable upset to win the national title. Relationship with Ohio State soured spectacularly after that, and so did his career. Currently in jail. Clarett disparaged Ohio State routinely after he left school and Buckeyes fans returned in kind, stopping only when they pop in a highlight video of the 2002 season.
4. Anthony Davis -- USC running back/kick returner, 1972-74Hated by: Notre Dame.
Claim to Infamy: Not the best running back in school history, but the most devastating back the Fighting Irish ever faced. Davis scored 11 touchdowns in three games against Notre Dame. Six of them came in a 45-23 rout in 1972 -- two of those kickoff returns. Four more came in a 55-24 humiliation two years later. In that one, the Irish led 24-0 just before halftime. Davis scored a touchdown in the final minute of the first half, then returned the second-half kickoff for a score, then tacked on two more TDs and a two-point conversion in rapid succession. In half a quarter of clock time, he single-handedly outscored the Irish 26-24 and opened the floodgates for what still ranks as one of the most painful defeats in Notre Dame history. (Irish fans will point out that Davis did have a junior season, in which he was held in check in South Bend as the Irish won 23-14 on their way to the national title.)
5. Matt Davison -- Nebraska wide receiver, 1997-2000Hated by: Missouri, Michigan.
Claim to Infamy: Davison was the previously anonymous guy on the receiving end of the flea-kicker, a pass that altered the course of the 1997 season. Trailing 38-31 against Missouri on the last play of regulation, the pass flew from Cornhuskers quarterback Scott Frost to wingback Shevin Wiggins -- who did not catch it, instead kicking it into the air as he fell to the ground. Davison then dove in out of nowhere to cradle the ball inches above the ground for the tying touchdown. Nebraska went on to win in overtime and share the national championship with Michigan, which would have had the title to itself if the officials had correctly called the play an illegal catch after the kick.
6. Doug Flutie -- Boston College quarterback, 1981-84Hated by: Miami.
Claim to Infamy: Little (5-foot-9) man threw 48-yard touchdown pass to teammate Gerard Phelan on the final play of 1984 game against the Hurricanes, winning the game 47-45. Flutie drove the Eagles 78 yards in 28 seconds, helping spoil Jimmy Johnson's debut season in Miami. The next month, Flutie was awarded the Heisman Trophy. Canes fans are forced to relive Hail Mary pass annually, because the play is in heavy highlight rotation during every college football season.
7. Phillip Fulmer -- Tennessee coach, 1992-2008
Hated by: Alabama.
Claim to Infamy: Talked to NCAA investigators about alleged wrongdoing by the Crimson Tide on the recruiting trail, most notably in Memphis. Subsequently became the focus of all evil energy from Alabama, much of which might have been better directed at infamous booster Logan Young and disgraced former coach Mike DuBose. Skipped 2004 SEC media days for fear of being subpoenaed in a libel case against the NCAA by former Tide assistant coaches Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams. Four years later, Fulmer was subpoenaed at SEC media days in a different libel suit, this one brought against the NCAA by disassociated Bama booster Wendell Smith.
8. Laura Gambucci -- Tempe aerobics instructor, 1986
Hated by: Miami.
Claim to Infamy: Derailed Hurricanes championship. When the top-ranked, undefeated Canes swaggered into Tempe in December 1986 to play Penn State in what at the time was hyped as the biggest college football game ever, they were led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Vinny Testaverde. While in Tempe, Testaverde met Gambucci, fell in love and -- if you judge by the box score from that Fiesta Bowl -- completely lost focus. Testaverde was intercepted five times and the Nittany Lions scored a shocking 14-10 upset to win the national title. Testaverde went on to marry Gambucci in 1988. They were divorced in 1989.
9. Chain Gang -- Missouri-Colorado game in Columbia, Mo., Oct. 6, 1990
Hated by: Missouri.
Claim to Infamy: Incorrect down marker fooled officiating crew and almost everyone else in Faurot Field, allowing Buffaloes a fifth down on the goal line at the end of the game while trailing the Tigers 31-27. Chain gang failed to register spiked pass to stop the clock on first down, and as a result Charles Johnson's quarterback keeper on the final (fifth) play from the 1-yard line counted as the winning points. Colorado went on to win a share of the national title. Missouri went on to the seventh of what would be 13 straight losing seasons.
10. Woody Hayes -- Ohio State coach, 1951-78
Hated by: Clemson, and fans of civilized sporting behavior everywhere.
Claim to Infamy: Chronically belligerent coaching legend punched his ticket to forced retirement when he punched Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman, after Bauman had the nerve to make a game-clinching interception in front of the Buckeyes' sideline in the 1978 Gator Bowl. Just like that, Hayes' 238 career victories became a footnote to a new place in history: the coach who slugged an opposing player.
11. Paul Hornung -- Notre Dame running back/quarterback, 1954-56
Hated by: Tennessee.
Claim to Infamy: Beat out Volunteers star Johnny Majors for the 1956 Heisman Trophy by a mere 72 points, becoming the first and only winner of college football's most prestigious award to come from a losing team. The Fighting Irish were 2-8. It would not be the last time a Tennessee hero lost the Heisman to a precedent-breaking winner. (See: Charles Woodson.)
12. Desmond Howard -- Michigan receiver/kick returner, 1989-91
Hated by: Ohio State.
Claim to Infamy: First college player to strike the Heisman Trophy pose in-game, after a 93-yard punt return touchdown against Ohio State in 1991. The fact that the Cleveland native did it against the Buckeyes only served to rub in the fact that he'd left his home state to help Michigan dominate Ohio State during the John Cooper era.
13. Hurricane Katrina -- Act of God, 2005Hated by: Tulane.
Claim to Infamy: Massive storm and subsequent flooding turned promising Green Wave season into disaster. Playing away from home all season, Tulane went 2-9 and still hasn't recovered. After winning 18 games from 2002-04, Green Wave have only won 12 games in the four seasons since the storm.
14. Kickers -- Florida State, 1987-2004
Hated by: Florida State.
Claim to Infamy: If Bobby Bowden had simply recruited better place-kickers, the Seminoles might have been the power program in college football over the past 25 years. At the very least, their oft-painful rivalry with Miami would be dramatically different. Derek Schmidt missed two field goals and an extra point in a one-point loss to the Hurricanes in 1987 when the teams were ranked 3-4. Gerry Thomas missed a 34-yarder in the final minute against Miami in a one-point loss in 1991, the game remembered as Wide Right I. Dan Mowrey missed a tying field goal at the end of a three-point loss to the Hurricanes the next year in Wide Right II. Matt Munyon missed a 49-yarder to tie in the final minute in 2000 -- a loss that still did not keep the Seminoles from edging out the Hurricanes for a chance to play Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl for the national title. Xavier Beitia missed wide left in 2002 and wide right in the 2004 Orange Bowl late in losses by one and two points, respectively. Then the Canes blocked a Beitia field goal on their way to an overtime win the next season.
15. Jimmy Johnson -- Miami coach, 1984-88
Hated by: Notre Dame, among others.
Claim to Infamy: Brought the greatest glory and most opponent disdain to the Hurricanes during his five-year run. The combat fatigues were worn to the 1987 Fiesta Bowl on Johnson's watch, as the program's swagger fully took hold after being born under Howard Schnellenberger. Johnson supplied the classless coup de grace to the Gerry Faust era at Notre Dame, running up the score in the second half of a 58-7 rout of the Fighting Irish in Faust's last game as coach in 1985. Irish freshmen on that team were seniors when Johnson brought the Hurricanes into Notre Dame Stadium in 1988, and they were ready. The teams engaged in a pregame brawl outside the entrance tunnel and then Notre Dame upset the No. 1 Canes 31-30 in the "Catholics vs. Convicts" T-shirt game. Perma-sprayed hair also a nationwide annoyance.
16. Bernie Kosar -- Miami quarterback, 1982-84Hated by: Nebraska.
Claim to Infamy: Redshirt freshman passed for 300 yards and two touchdowns as the Hurricanes shocked a Cornhuskers team considered one of the most powerful in history, 31-30, in the 1984 Orange Bowl. Nebraska had won 22 straight games, most by landslide margins, before Kosar engineered an upset that launched the Miami dynasty and derailed Tom Osborne's dominance until Tommie Frazier arrived in Lincoln in the 1990s.
17. David Langner and Bill Newton -- Auburn defensive players, 1972
Hated by: Alabama.
Claim to Infamy: "Punt Bama Punt," as it quickly became known in Auburn circles, a giddy takeoff on Alabama's "Roll Tide Roll" cheer. The No. 2-ranked, undefeated Crimson Tide were on their way to a convincing victory over the archrival Tigers, leading 16-3 in the fourth quarter. That's when Newton blocked an Alabama punt, which Langner scooped up and returned 25 yards for a touchdown. Several minutes later, déjà vu struck Legion Field: Newton blocked another punt, Langner retrieved it and scored another touchdown. With the extra points, Auburn led 17-16. Then Langner sealed the shocking comeback with an interception.
18. Mike Leach -- Texas Tech coach, 2000-present
Hated by: A lot of people, with Texas A&M leading the pack.
Claim to Infamy: Part-time buccaneer and full-time smart aleck whose unconventional attitude is especially irksome at uber-conventional A&M. Has won seven of nine games against the rival Aggies, including four straight. Went out of his way this past offseason to gig Aggies coach Mike Sherman for his use/nonuse of fourth-round NFL draft pick Stephen McGee, a quarterback who spent much of Sherman's first season as coach on the bench. May coach this season with a peg leg.
19. Frank Leahy -- Notre Dame coach, 1941-53
Hated by: Iowa.
Claim to Infamy: Had a player fake injury late in the first half and again late in the game to stop the clock and keep touchdown drives alive in salvaging a 14-14 tie with a mediocre Hawkeyes team. Leahy tied the battle to preserve unbeaten season, but lost the war: Team derisively labeled the "Fainting Irish" after that. American Football Coaches Association and NCAA rules committee joined forces to clamp down on feigned injury after that season. Leahy retired after the '53 season.
20. Statue of Liberty -- Ancient trick play believed to have originated in the early 1900s
Hated by: Oklahoma.
Claim to Infamy: The 2007 Fiesta Bowl-winning play perpetrated by Cinderella Boise State ended a string of sandlot surprises by the Broncos, de-pantsed the Sooners defense and made a folk hero out of running back Ian Johnson, who on bended knee proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on the field minutes after scoring the winning points. Johnson took behind-the-back handoff from quarterback Jared Zabransky, skirted left end on the befuddled Oklahoma D and scored a two-point conversion to win the game 43-42.
21. Urban Meyer -- Florida coach, 2005-presentHated by: All of SEC, with special antipathy in Georgia.
Claim to Infamy: Biggest problem is obnoxious win total: 44-9 in first four seasons in Gainesville, with 2009 team favored to win a third national title on his watch. Has gained something of a bloodthirsty reputation after ordering late field goal in a 23-point win over Miami and using every timeout late in a 39-point mauling of Georgia last year. Considered by some critics to be excessively pleased with himself.
22. Kevin Moen -- California defensive back, 1979-82Hated by: Stanford
Claim to Infamy: Alpha and Omega of "The Play." Began and ended the preposterous, five-lateral kickoff return on the final play that lifted the Golden Bears past archrival Stanford 25-20. For posterity's sake, the lateral sequence went Moen to Richard Rodgers to Dwight Garner to Rodgers to Mariet Ford to Moen to the end zone, whereupon the celebrating Moen famously trampled trespassing Stanford trombonist Gary Tyrrell, bending his horn and breaking the Cardinal's collective heart. Probably the most famous play in college football history.
23. Rick Neuheisel -- UCLA head coach, 2008-presentHated by: Colorado, Washington, USC.
Claim to Infamy: Dozens of NCAA violations on his watch during four-year tenure as coach of the Buffaloes, resulting in two-year probation and loss of scholarships after he left for Washington. Fired after four years in Seattle for lying about his participation in an NCAA tournament gambling pool -- a peccadillo compared to other hooliganism within the program, according to later newspaper reports. Currently irritating USC coach Pete Carroll from across town at UCLA, Neuheisel's alma mater, while attempting to reinvigorate rivalry with the Trojans. Irritant level remains moderate until Bruins prove they can compete with USC.
24. Richard M. Nixon -- U.S. president, 1969-74Hated by: Penn State, which beat the Watergate rush.
Claim to Infamy: On Dec. 6, 1969, Nixon flew to Arkansas to attend the hugely hyped Texas-Arkansas showdown. Nixon stated before the game that the winner would be No. 1, and then presented a plaque as national champions to the Longhorns after their thrilling, 15-14 comeback victory. Only problem: The bowls had not yet been played, and undefeated Penn State felt just a bit left out of the proceedings. (It should be noted that the Nittany Lions later turned down a bid to play Texas in the Cotton Bowl, opting for the Orange Bowl instead.)
25. Houston Nutt -- Ole Miss coach, 2008-presentHated by: Arkansas.
Claim to Infamy: Benched adored true freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain in 2006 despite his 8-0 record as Arkansas' starter. Engaged in hissy in-fighting with Mustain's mother, Beck Campbell, provoking statewide dissension between Nutt backers and those championing Mustain and other members of the so-called "Springdale Mafia." (Springdale High School is where Mustain, coach Gus Malzahn and several other players achieved glory before matriculating to misery in Fayetteville.) Text messages to TV anchor scrutinized and program atmosphere poisoned, Nutt jumped out and landed at SEC West rival Ole Miss. Defeated Razorbacks last season on the way to surprising 9-4 record and Cotton Bowl victory, while Arkansas struggled to 5-7 record.
26. Pollsters -- Pick a year
Hated by: Pick a school.
Claim to Infamy: Routinely make nonsensical Top 25 ranking judgments, notably undercutting the national championship aspirations of Notre Dame (1993), Penn State ('94), Miami (2000) and Texas (2008). Too many other slights -- real or perceived -- to mention here.
27. Terry Porter -- Big 12 official, 2003
Hated by: Miami.
Claim to Infamy: Late, late, late pass-interference flag thrown in the end zone by Porter stopped Miami's national championship celebration in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Given a sketchy reprieve and a first down, the Buckeyes scored, forced overtime and ultimately won the national title. Hurricanes haven't sniffed a title since.
28. Rich Rodriguez -- Michigan coach, 2008-present
Hated by: The West Virginia fans who formerly worshipped him.
Claim to Infamy: Jilted home state and the Mountaineers for the big bucks and big prestige of the Big Ten, spawning epic and endless hissing match between himself and the school and its backers. Enmity from WVU fans will only intensify if the program slides in the post-Pat White era.
29. Nick Saban -- Alabama coach, 2007-presentHated by: LSU.
Claim to Infamy: Jilted Tigers for the NFL, then returned after two seasons to coach LSU-rival Alabama in same division of same conference -- notably doing so after definitively stating that he was not going to Alabama. Bad feelings exacerbated by quickly returning Crimson Tide to prominence last season, winning the SEC Western Division and defeating LSU in Baton Rouge.
30. Lindsay Scott -- Georgia wide receiver, 1978-81Hated by: Florida.
Claim to Infamy: Hauled in a pass from scrambling Buck Belue and flew to the end zone, 93 yards in the final minute, to help the Bulldogs escape the Gators in the World's Largest Cocktail Party game in Jacksonville. The victory kept alive Georgia's perfect 1980 season, which ended with a national championship. "Run, Lindsay!" exhorted legendary Bulldogs radio announcer Larry Munson, who ended his call of the play by simply yelling, "Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!"
31. Jackie Sherrill -- Coach at Pittsburgh, 1977-81, Texas A&M 1982-88, and Mississippi State, 1991-2003
Hated by: Penn State, Texas, Ole Miss.
Claim to Infamy: Most versatile villain on the list, succeeding in making three schools in three different conferences detest him deeply. Penn State coach Joe Paterno once remarked that he didn't want to retire and leave the game "to the Jackie Sherrills and Barry Switzers of the world." Paterno subsequently apologized to Switzer but wrote in his book, "I don't give a damn about what Sherrill felt." (Sherrill's record against Penn State: 2-3.) Texas fans surely didn't appreciate Sherrill's 7-3 record against the Longhorns, and were especially overjoyed when he had a bull castrated on the practice field before Mississippi State played Texas in 1992. And Ole Miss was infuriated by the fact Sherrill insisted on calling the school Mississippi, instead of the preferred "Ole Miss." (Sherrill's record against the Rebels: 7-6.)
32. Steve Spurrier -- Florida coach, 1990-2001
Hated by: Entire SEC, most notably Tennessee and Georgia; Florida State as well.
Claim to Infamy: Head Ball Coach won huge and unapologetically tweaked his victims for 12 years while building the brand at his alma mater. Volunteers fans can still hear, "You can't spell Citrus [Bowl] without U-T" ringing in their ears. Bulldogs fans can still hear him referring to 1990s coach Ray Goff as "Ray Goof." And Seminoles can still hear the Spurrier barb, "Free Shoes University." Unlikely that any SEC coach had more fun angering more people than Spurrier.
33. Barry Switzer -- Oklahoma coach, 1973-88Hated by: Entire Big Eight, plus Texas.
Claim to Infamy: Cocky winner who stuck it to Tom Osborne and Darrell Royal, among many others, while rebuilding dynasty in Norman. Scored points in gushes with trademark wishbone offense, bragging of "hanging half a hundred" on the scoreboard. Ran a loose program that seemed to get progressively looser until it imploded in the late 1980s after a series of arrests and other embarrassments. Lucked into flush Cowboys job in 1990s and rode team's overwhelming talent to Super Bowl title.
34. Tim Tebow -- Florida quarterback, 2006-presentHated by: All non-Gators in SEC, plus sizable pockets of resistance elsewhere.
Claim to Infamy: Too virtuous and too celebrated for many rivals' tastes. Scripture on eye black construed as religious grandstanding in some corners. Willingness to run over opposing linebackers and/or sever a limb to win does not help his standing with opposing fans. Mainly because he does win with tiresome regularity and irksome wholesomeness.
35. Jim Tressel -- Ohio State coach, 2001-presentHated by: Michigan.
Claim to Infamy: Came to Columbus vowing to retake rivalry with the Wolverines and has since backed it up to an extreme degree. Has won seven out of eight meetings with Michigan. Owned Lloyd Carr. Put a solid down payment on ownership of Rich Rodriguez with 42-7 thumping in first meeting. Also provoked bad feelings from Penn State fans by swiping prize quarterback recruit Terrelle Pryor out of western Pennsylvania. Vest, tie and painfully punctilious nature are natural annoyances.
36. Tommy Tuberville -- Auburn coach, 1999-2008
Hated by: Ole Miss.
Claim to Infamy: Declared that the only way he would leave his first head-coaching job, with the Rebels, would be "in a pine box." Two days later, alive and well, he accepted job at SEC West rival Auburn.
37. Ty Willingham -- Notre Dame coach, 2002-04Hated by: Notre Dame.
Claim to Infamy: Irish's ongoing malaise still his fault, according to Domers. Inflicted more damage on a program in three years' time than anyone in football history.
38. Kellen Winslow -- Miami tight end, 2001-03Hated by: Military veterans.
Claim to Infamy: After contentious game against Tennessee Nov. 8, 2003, two years after 9/11, Winslow declared himself a soldier. Declared college football war. Declared that the Volunteers were out to kill him, so he in turn was out to kill them. Did not declare for military service, not then or ever.
39. Charles Woodson -- Michigan cornerback/kick returner/spot offensive player, 1995-97Hated by: Tennessee.
Claim to Infamy: Stole Peyton Manning's Heisman Trophy in 1997, according to Volunteer Nation. Became the only defensive back ever to win college football's most prestigious award. Reinforced everyone-is-out-to-get-us paranoia among Big Orange backers. (See: Hornung, Paul.)
40. Vince Young -- Texas quarterback, 2003-05Hated by: USC
Claim to Infamy: Almost single-handedly stopped favored Trojans' bid for national title three-peat in 2006 Rose Bowl. Ran through USC defense for 200 yards and three touchdowns, the last coming with 19 seconds to play, to give the Longhorns the 41-38 victory and their first national championship since 1970. Lack of carryover to successful professional career further galls Trojans, who could feel better if they'd been destroyed by the next great NFL quarterback.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Starting QB Golson no longer at Notre Dame
- Report: Rutgers AD faces abuse allegations
- Spurs down Grizzlies in OT to open 3-0 lead
- Bruins oust Rangers, set up series vs. Pens
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
2009 College Football Preview
Will Florida repeat as BCS champion? Which teams will surprise? Who'll walk away with the major awards? ESPN.com's 2009 college football preview has the answers.