Roy Exum: Two ‘Participation’ Rings

Monday, May 15, 2017 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

For many years the lofty goal of earning a national championship ring was the biggest prize in college sports but then came the softening of America. Suddenly the “Most Valuable Player” trophy was cheapened by the “Participation Trophy,” which was given to every player on the team so no one would get their feelings hurt. To athletic purists Participation Trophies were meaningless, almost as bad as giving every player a varsity letter instead of requiring an athlete to play a certain number of minutes during a season to earn the distinction.

In the South it was a huge thing to be “a ring toter,” as in carrying a national championship symbol on your finger as you hold your girlfriend’s hand.  Some girls would pry the heavy rings off their BF’s hand, then, using candle wax to narrow the finger size, the girls would declare “ownership.” It was a pretty big ritual.

Now comes word that every player on last fall’s disappointing Tennessee team has just been given two rings. The first was for winning “The Battle of Bristol,” where the Vols spanked Virginia Tech at the Bristol Motor Speedway, 45-21. In fairness, the rings were supplied by event organizers, who were just as shocked that the Vols had to eek one against Appalachian State (20-13) the week before.

Tennessee would lose in another overtime to Texas A&M (42-38) and was predictably smashed by Alabama 49-20.  But the reason UT had a 4-4 record in the SEC was because a couple of underdogs were “bigger dogs” when the Vols visited. Losses to South Carolina and to Vanderbilt scuttled a big bowl game so UT ended up in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against a lackluster Nebraska.

Head coach Butch Jones immediately ordered 165 “Music City Bowl Champions” to commemorate the 38-24 victory and, after the Knoxville News-Sentinel requested a full financial disclosure via the Open Records Act, UT paid $37,193 for the rings. Tennessee also wanted extra Battle of Bristol rings and paid $2,600 for those.

Speaking of the Music City Bowl, the University of Tennessee spent over $1 million in Nashville and UT’s share of the SEC bowl income will be $1.3 million.

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CBS Sports takes all of the college football coaches in the Power Five football conferences, adds Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and ranks all 65 on one list after spring practice every spring. This year’s list has just been announced. Here they are in order, and the number following the name of the coach’s school is last year’s coach ranking:

1. NICK SABAN, Alabama (1).

2. URBAN MEYER, Ohio State (2)

3. DABO SWEENEY, Clemson (8)

4. JIMBO FISHER, Florida State (6)

5. JIM HARBAUGH, Michigan (10)

6. CHRIS PETERSEN, Washington (14)

7. BOBBY STOOPES, Oklahoma (4)

8. DAVID SHAW, Stanford (9)

9. BILL SNYDER, Kansas State (17)

10. GARY PATTERSON, Texas Christian (3)

11. MARK DANTONIO, Michigan State (5)

12. MIKE GUNDY, Oklahoma State (20)

13. BOBBY PETRINO, Louisville (25)


15. MARK RICHT, Miami (18)

16. PAT FITZGERALD, Northwestern (34)

17. DAVID CUTCLIFFE, Duke (15)

18. JAMES FRANKLIN, Penn State (41)

19. GUS MALZAHN, Auburn (13)

20. KIRK FERENTZ, Iowa (19)

21. DAN MULLEN, Mississippi State (31)

22. BRIAN KELLY, Notre Dame (12)

23. JIM McELWAIN, Florida (27)

24. PAUL JOHNSON, Georgia Tech (27)

25. MIKE LEACH, Washington State (30)

26. LARRY FEDORA, North Carolina (35)

27. BERT BIELEMA, Arkansas (22)

28. ROM HERMAN, Texas (NR)

29. PAUL CHRYST, Wisconsin (38)

30. MIKE McINTYRE, Colorado (58)


32. BRONCO MENDENHALL, Virginia (26)

33. HUGH FREEZE, Ole Miss (21)

34. JUSTIN FUENTE, Va. Tech (38)

35. P.J. FLECK, Minnesota (NR)

36. DANA HOLGORSEN, West Virginia (42)

37. WILL MUSCHAMP, South Carolina (44)

38. MIKE RILEY, Nebraska (43)

39. MATT RHULE, Baylor (NR)

40. KEVIN SMLIN, Texas A&M (43)

41. GARY ANDERSON, Oregon State (NR)

42. TODD GRAHAM, Arizona (36)

43. PAR NANDUZZI, Pittsburgh (40)

44. RICH RODRIGUES, Arizona (NR)

45. CLAY HEKTON, Southern Cal (51)

46. DAVE CLAWSON, Wake Forest (59)

47. JEFF BROHM, Purdue ((NR)

48. ED ORGERON, La. State. (NR)

49. JIM MORA, UCLA (29)

50. STEVE ADDAZIO. Boston College (54)

51. DINO BABERS, Syracuse (45)

52. BUTCH JONES, Tennessee (33) – The individual memo from CBS reads: “A Champion of Life, but not a champion of our rankings. Still, in my opinion, this is a pretty steep drop considering all the injuries Tennessee dealt with last year. Raised expectations will do that, though.”

53. DEREK MASON, Vanderbilt (57)

54. KIRBY SMART, Georgia (46)

55. D.J. DURKIN, Markland (60)

56. MARK STOOPS, Kentucky (56)

57. KLIFF KINGSBURY, Texas Tech (47)

58. LOVIE SMITH, U. of Illinois (49)

59. DAVE DOEREN, N. C. State (62)

60. DAVID BEATY, Kansas (50)

61. MATT CAMPBELL, Iowa State (55)

62. BARRY ODOM, Missouri (62)

63. TOM ALLEN, Indiana (NR)

64. JUSTIN WILCOS, California (NR)

65. CHRIS ASH, Rutgers (64)

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