Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Addressing the QB-U Controversy

By Adam Russell

Well, well. I guess I opened up quite the can of worms with my list of the top quarterback colleges of the past 45 years. But, as with any container filled with slimy earth-bound creatures, a ton of dirt came with it. On one hand, I'm thrilled that the article generated so much feedback and opinion from the readers — that means that people are reading and paying attention to my stuff. However, many of them didn't pay as close attention as they probably could have.

As a result, there appears to be a necessity for clearing the air on how I arrived at my list of schools, who was mentioned among them and debunking some of the myths some readers have concluded about me personally.

The first issue at hand is explaining how I could have left BYU off my list of great quarterback schools. It's quite simple, actually.

When I was in college, I took a course entitled "Media Criticism." No, it didn't teach us how to be critical of the media, but rather how to analyze the content of various programs, whether it be newscasts, sit-coms, or horror movies.

Among the various types of criticism we learned about was a method called "content analysis." For those unfamiliar with this technique, it probably is the purest form of analyzing pretty much anything. Content analysis looks strictly at statistics and then formulates a conclusion based on those statistics. The paper I wrote in college using content analysis supported the myth of the "Sports Illustrated Jinx" because the numbers supported it. This method can be used to confirm or refute just about any topic imaginable.

For example, one could ask the question, "are there more beer commercials aired during sports events than during other programs?" Coming up with the answer is quite simple, although fairly time consuming. All that needs to be done is watch about 24 hours of TV and write down the programs and how many beer commercials there are.

That's how I approached the list I generated. I pored over pages and pages of football encyclopedias and web pages, writing down every quarterback ever drafted by or that played for an NFL or AFL team since 1960. I ended up with about 20 legal-sized pages filled with teams, names, and schools. Then I had to go about the process of copying each player to a separate page for their respective colleges. It was a project I actually started about 10 months ago in hopes to write an article about the NFL draft; it obviously took a lot longer to compile the data that just a few weeks.

After getting all the names and schools sorted out, I had the totals for the list. And, as the totals came out, BYU, Florida, Louisville, Georgia, Tennessee, Baylor, and San Diego State all ended up with 10 quarterbacks. I had to draw the line somewhere, so I drew it at more than 10 because that gave me an even 25 schools. It would have looked really strange to announce my "Top 32 quarterback schools." Top 25 sounds much better.

Contrary to the belief of some, I am in no way biased against BYU. That's the beauty of content analysis: it eliminates any bias because the results are based solely on statistics. There was no matter of opinion in the final list. BYU, Florida, Louisville, etc., were not "intentionally" left off, as some suggest, but rather "missed the cut." Simply said. If you don't agree with the numbers I came up with, try doing the research yourself and see if you come up with a different total.

Another issue to address is the names I mentioned throughout the article. A few readers implied that I had formed some sort of conspiracy against Eric Crouch, the great Nebraska quarterback whom I failed to name. No, there's no conspiracy. Somehow, he and Tommie Frazier were both overlooked, which can happen when one is looking at the number of documents required to undertake such a project. So, for all you Big Red fans, take solace that I didn't purposely omit them, and that with their names added to the list, they actually move into the number four spot ahead of LSU. Congratulations!

As far as not mentioning names of other players at other schools (including the Huskers' beloved Jerry Tagge), I have somewhat of a limit as to how much I can write. In fact, I was worried that the editor would kick the article back to me and tell me to pare it down a bit because it was too long. So, in the interest of space, I only mentioned a few names for each school. If you do the math, you would realize that there aren't 19 quarterbacks mentioned for Stanford, or all 11 for Alabama. I didn't "forget" to mention anyone — the list was not intended to name every quarterback that ever played for each school.

Finally, I have to take a moment to defend my personal character as many responders to the article had some fairly disparaging remarks about my ability and knowledge. Some may take this as whining, others as fighting back, but I view it as explaining. Many of the terms used to describe my article were quite amusing, actually: "amateur," "complete ignorance," "weak." Since these are my favorite comments from readers, I'll briefly touch on each of them.

"Amateur." Technically, yes. I do not get paid to write the columns I do for Sports Central, so I am an amateur in that regard. However, I am not an amateur writer. I hold a B.A. in Communications from one of the foremost broadcasting/journalism schools in the country, I have been writing for several years and actually did get paid to write a bi-monthly column on local high school sports until I quit last year. Also in the job I currently hold, I get paid good money to write; not about sports, but it's still writing.

"Complete ignorance." I don't think that is quite true. I've been a college football fan and have followed the game since the early 1970s. I could probably accuse some of the readers of the same thing if I asked them who they thought the top American generals of all-time would be. Sure, they could come up with Patton and Washington and Sherman, but just because my list is different than theirs doesn't necessarily mean they're "completely ignorant" about U.S. military history.

"Weak." Okay, so maybe the list is weak because it's either too broadly or too narrowly focused, depending on your point of view. If someone wants to come up with a "stronger" list and make it as completely objective as possible, I'd love to see it. Yes, BYU produced some of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history, but for a brief window of time. The same holds true with Florida and Tennessee. Heck, I could even argue that Idaho should be on the list with such great 1-AA quarterbacks such as Ken Hobart, John Frieze, and Doug Nussmeier. But that's for a different list.

I hope I have been able to explain the method and reasoning behind the list, and those who have taken the time to contemplate and respond to what I wrote have a little better understanding of me personally. I can take criticism; I hear it all the time. But to make an "uninformed" blanket statement about my knowledge or opinion of college football is simply wrong and unfair. But life isn't fair, and according to some BYU fans, neither is my list. Sorry. "That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!"

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