Addressing the QB-U Controversy

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!"

Comments and Conversation

March 2, 2005

Todd Erickson:

LOL…Which is why your TOP 25 QB Factory list is no more legitimate than Dubya’s list of Iraqi WMDs.

March 2, 2005

Todd Erickson:

Let’s Expose your Fraudulent Research: Your 8th paragraph states that you had to make your cut at schools with more than 10 QBs. Of course, you don’t explain what qualifications your QBs have to have, but obviously, you are way off base regarding BYU, which I will demonstrate has more than 10 worthy of being listed. You also state in your 15th paragraph that BYU’s QBs were only successful during a “brief window of time.” I will also prove this wrong. Let’s start with Virgil Carter, who played for BYU from 1964-1966. He was very successful during that era and went on to play for the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL. #2 Gary Sheide 1973-74, finished 8th in Heisman voting, drafted by Cincy Bengals. #3 Gifford Nielson 1975-77, 6th in Heisman voting and drafted by Houston Oilers, #4 Marc Wilson 1977-79, drafted 1st round by Oakland Raiders, #5 Jim McMahon, drafted by Bears, won Super Bowl, #6 Steve Young, #1 pick in USFL, ended up winning Super Bowl with 49ers and being inducted in NFL HOF. #7 Robbie Bosco, led BYU to 1984 NCAA National Championship and drafted by Green Bay Packers, #8 Ty Detmer, 1988-91, won Heisman and drafted by Green Bay Packers, #9 John Walsh, 1992-94, 4th all time passing stats at BYU and drafted by Cincy Bengals, #10 Steve Sarkisian, 1995-96, led BYU to 14-1 record, #5 NCAA ranking, remarkably NOT drafted but was Raiders Qb coach last year and now is USC’s co-OC, #11 Kevin Feterik, 1996-1999, 5th all-time on BYU passing stats, played 3 years for CFL Calgary Stampeders, #12 Brandon Doman, 1998-2001, led BYU to Top 20 ranking, 12 straight wins, (14 over 2 seasons) and drafted by 49ers. #13 Brett Engemann, 1999-2002, left BYU after junior year, and is a back-up Qb for Raiders, #14 John Beck, current BYU Qb heading into his junior year ranked 14th alltime, if he stays healthy will end up in top 5 all time (last year’s stats in 10 games: 192-343, 2,566 yards, 15 TDs)…
BOTTOM LINE: There are far more than 10 Qbs that stack up next to the ones you selected for other schools on your list, and they represent a time frame from 1964-2004, hardly a “brief window of time.”

March 2, 2005

Todd Erickson:

By the way: Amateur, technically yes. I hold an MA in Communications from one of the foremost broadcasting/journalism schools in the nation, and am currently writing a book on the last 50 years of the Rose Bowl.

March 3, 2005


As I stated earlier, U of Miami was given the moniker of Quarterback U a while ago buddy. Change your first articles first paragraph otherwise I feel this is shoddy sportswriting. You can go ahead and argue who you think “should” be considered Quarterback U, but just so you know the moniker was already bestowed on the great UMiami. Not Wide Receiver U….QB U.

March 3, 2005


Hmmm… I’m wondering when ANYONE dubbed Miami QB U?

They had a good run there in the 80s, some decent college QBs in the 90s, but… prior to 1980? What? Yeah, that’s what I was thinking…

I think the greatest weakness of this entire analysis is that it really doesn’t go deep enough. While it’s fine to enumerate how many QBs from what schools got drafted into the NFL, the entire reason—or at least, so I believed—Penn State was Linebacker U and Southern Cal Running Back U was because their players at those positions went on to have medium to fantastic success at the professional level.

They didn’t have a bunch of good college players who amounted to nothing in the NFL, like, say, Nebraska, whose QBs are barely worth mentioning in the NFL…

Just my three cents.

March 3, 2005

Theo Stewart:

After reading the feedback above, I’m going to start a campaign to NOT buy ANY books by Todd Erickson, the professional writer with a BYU bias.

March 5, 2005

Adam Russell:

Okay, people. You’ve made your point. My list sucks. So, let’s see yours! But let’s see one based on numbers and NOT opinion. Objectiveness is the key. Someone come up with a list based on “legitimate” research since mine is supposedly “fraudulent.”

March 13, 2005


Again, this is supposed to be Quarterback U. Not which school produces the most Pro QB’s, but which school produces the best college QBs. In which case, Nebraska is far superior to most schools… There, ah, Dave.

March 14, 2005

Adam Russell:

Thanks, Matt, for seeing the whole point behind the list. Like I said before, if a quarterback doesn’t do well in college, he won’t be scouted by the NFL. But, of course, that doesn’t mean he’s going to be an NFL quarterback.

April 27, 2005

Adam Choppin:

Adam, your list is fine. It does seem, however, if Todd Erickson’s list is correct, that BYU did have 11 QBs that fit your criterion. What might be another interesting study is to look at which schools have produced the most Heisman, Unitas, and O’Brien finalists (at QB of course, and this would necessitate some adjustment of the years since the O’Brien award is only since 1978). Also, how many all-American QBs were produced by each school, all quantifiable studies. If you do any of them, let me know…I’d love to see the results! And for anyone else who’s reading, get this guy a paying gig! He’s got good fundamental sports news sense.

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