01 December 2011
The SEC Storied Doucmentary The Play that Changed College Football - airing tonight on at 10 pm ESPNU* - takes the stance that the most important play of the past 25 years was Antonio Langham intercepting Shane Matthews in Birmingham, Alabama in 1992. On its face, that's a bit of a head scratcher.
*it's an interesting scheduling decision, considering it'll start during the conclusion of the Georgetown-Alabama basketball matchup on the Deuce. That game tips at 8:30 pm, and if you're in Tuscaloosa and don't have a compelling reason not to, get thee to Coleman! Your DVR can catch this documentary to watch tomorrow.
Sure, it was cool to see my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide win in the inaugural SEC Championship Game. It was my freshman year at the Capstone, and to subsequently sit in the Superdome a month later and watch the Tide dismantle an overmatched Miami team was even more fun.
But I had no inkling at the time that Langham's fourth quarter interception of Mathews would become "the play that changed college football". Turns out it likely was.
Let's set the stage: Alabama was undefeated, and Florida had dropped two games in SEC play, plus a rivalry game with Florida State to close the regular season. Coaches had roundly complained about the advent of the SEC Championship Game; it was another obstacle towards claiming the national title.
So it was that Florida and Alabama came to play - on a bitter cold Saturday in December. I was there, huddled in the cold, watching Alabama and Florida play. And, after the Tide scored early and looked like they'd coast to a big win, Florida's Steve Spurrier-schemed Fun-N-Gun offense charged back. It was terrifying.
It turns out, I was way less terrified than the guy who'd bet his reputation on this game. Roy Kramer, then commissioner of the SEC, dug up an ancient bylaw in the NCAA rulebook that allowed a conference with 12 teams to have 2 divisions and a championship game. And the world thought he was crazy.
ABC offered a one year contract to televise the game. Everyone stood back and waited for this thing to explode. Explode in this case meaning an upset that derails the SEC's chance at a national title.
And with Florida driving late, with all the momentum, it looked like it would. If Florida wins that game, it's likely other conferences would have balked at hosting their own title game, and it's conceivable that the SEC would have even wound up doing away with the game.
Then, Antonio Langham stepped in front of that pass, and all was once again right in the world.
This documentary illuminates a ton of interesting trivia, while also serving as a wonderful trip down memory lane. It's also nice to see an ESPN documentary about the SEC with no Paul Finebaum whatsoever.
It's narrated by Luke Perry - yes, that Luke Perry. Prepare yourself for that, because it's jarring to hear Dylan from 90210 talk about Gene Stallings. It only takes a minute or two to get past it, but it's... bizarre if you came of age in the 90's like me.
This is definitely worth your DVR space. It's a big improvement over the Roll Tide War Eagle piece (although, I could watch Bo Jackson say "the University of Auburn" on a loop forever). It's a very interesting look back at an amazing season and the aftermath of that season (be warned, there is discussion of a cocktail napkin signed and the NCAA furor around it).
Ultimately, it's a very fun trip down memory lane that every fan of SEC football will likely enjoy.