From an award-winning sports journalist and college football expert: “A beautifully written mix of memoir and reportage that tracks college ball through fourteen key games, giving depth and meaning to all” (Sports Illustrated), now with a new Afterword about the first ever College Football Playoff.
Every Saturday in the fall, it happens: On college campuses, in bars, at gatherings of fervent alumni, millions come together to watch a sport that inspires a uniquely American brand of passion and outrage. This is college football. Since the first contest in 1869, the game has grown from a stratified offshoot of rugby to a ubiquitous part of our national identity. Right now, as college conferences fracture and grow, as amateur athlete status is called into question, as a playoff system threatens to replace big-money bowl games, we’re in the midst of the most dramatic transitional period in the history of the sport.
Season of Saturdays examines the evolution of college football, including the stories of iconic coaches like Woody Hayes, Joe Paterno, and Knute Rockne; and programs like the USC Trojans, the Michigan Wolverines, and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Michael Weinreb considers the inherent violence of the game, its early seeds of big-business greed, and its impact on institutions of higher learning. He explains why college football endures, often despite itself. Filtered through journalism and research, as well as the author’s own recollections as a fan, Weinreb celebrates some of the greatest games of all time while revealing their larger significance.
“Wry, quirky, fascinating...This surely is one of the most enjoyable books of the college football season...Weinreb wrestles in captivating prose with the violence, hypocrisy, and corruption that are endemic to the sport at its most cutthroat level” (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland).
Veteran college football writer Weinreb (Bigger than the Game) grew up in State College, Pa., adoring Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions. The elegance and dexterity with which he explains his emotional attachment since childhood even after Penn State's football program was rocked by a damning sexual child abuse scandal in 2011 is only one reason why this cultural history of the game belongs on the shelf of every hardcore college football fan. His candor and passion are displayed on every page as he traces the sport's official beginning to Nov. 6, 1869, when Rutgers defeated Princeton by the baseball-like score of 6-4, and concludes with the 2013 Iron Bowl, when Auburn's Chris Davis caught Alabama's missed field goal attempt and ran the ball back 109 yards for a most unlikely touchdown and a berth in the SEC Championship Game. Weinreb assigns each chapter a so-called "game of the century" title and allows himself plenty of latitude to explain why "college football is fundamentally different than any other sport." By evoking sympathy for larger-than-life coaches Woody Hayes and Nick Saban, poking fun at Notre Dame and Michigan, and tackling "the incongruous notion of marrying amateurism with big business," Weinreb convinces readers he's right.