Nostradamus you know about. The French seer, sage and soothsayer
wrote a collection of prophecies in 1555, many of which have
come to pass. But Nostradamus had a heretofore unheralded older
brother--the less ambitious Notredamus, who was content in 1520
to make his mystical "Pigskin Prophecies."
Or so goes the title of an ancient manuscript, recently
recovered by medieval scholars, in which Notredamus penned a
series of remarkably prescient predictions for college football
in the year 2020. You say football didn't even exist in the 16th
century? You're beginning to see just how prescient the man was.
So then, what will college football be like 500 years after
Notredamus but a mere 25 years from today? The great one gives
you a glimpse with his 2020 vision.
IN THE YEAR 2020, 93-year-old Joe Paterno announces that he will
coach Penn State for only five more years. His pants are
declared a National Historic Site.
Under new gender-equity guidelines, each college football team
must dress 10 female players, at least one of whom is required
to be on the field at all times. The Citadel drops football.
Ki-Janie Carter of Penn State becomes the first woman to win the
Heisman Trophy. It is immediately renamed the Heisperson Trophy.
Voting for that award is now done by a New York public relations
firm, in September, after each school has released the press kit
on its candidate.
Erstwhile ESPN prognosticator Beano Cook turns 88. He retreats
to his fortified compound in the New Mexico desert, where he
issues a doomsday prediction foretelling an imminent death
struggle between the forces of Good and the forces of Evil for
control of the world. He takes Evil minus 6 1/2. Pilgrims flock
to see the great man in his Beanosphere.
It is illegal to hit the quarterback, who now wears eight Velcro
flags on his uniform. What were once called sacks are now called
flags. The phrase flag on the play may refer to a penalty flag,
or to a quarterback flag, or even to fan interest, which flags
considerably with this new safety measure.
Half a century after the cordless phone is invented, Motorola
conceives the cordless headset. A Nevada-Las Vegas defensive
coordinator tries to pirate his opponents' frequencies, but all
he picks up are lewd conversations--apparently coming from the
car phone of Britain's King Charles. Sadly, 200 cord-carrying
freshman managers are left jobless when college football goes
Notre Dame drops the two-fisted leprechaun as its mascot. The
school finally bows to pressure from a group called Gaels
Urgently Inventing New Nicknames to Extinguish Scurrilous
Stereotypes (GUINNESS). Notre Dame's "more positive, less
belligerent" new logo is a bust of Irish poet W.B. Yeats. The
team's new nickname: the Writin' Irish. The change is lauded by
the President of the United States, Richard (Digger) Phelps.
After a 25-year lapse, the University of Miami resubscribes to
Cash-poor corporations can no longer afford to sponsor bowl
games, so entire agricultural industries pool their resources to
put their product names on the games. Result: The bowls get
absurd new tags like the Cotton Bowl and the Sugar Bowl as
football tramples the traditions of a generation that grew up
with such postseason classics as the Poulan/Weedeater Bowl. As
Yeats will have written, "I heard the old, old men say/'All
that's beautiful drifts away.'"
Economic hardships weed Division I down to 47 programs, 46 of
which play in a single superconference called the Big Ten. Notre
Dame remains independent, and all of the Writin' Irish practices
are televised on ESPN4 (which likes to call itself the Quad).
Most schools drop their bands. Except Stanford, which drops its
football team. The band beats Cal 14-3.
Limited to 60 scholarships, many programs field two-way stars.
William (the Refrigerated Boxcar) Berry plays nosetackle and
fullback for Ohio State. He weighs 418 pounds, runs a 4.3 40 and
emphatically dots the i in "script Ohio" at halftime--though the
Buckeye band, ravaged by budget cuts, now simply spells "Hi."
In Sun City, Ariz., Tom Osborne reportedly smiles. Tragically,
his face cracks and falls away like ceiling plaster.
The Fair-Catch Club of Trenchfoot, Tenn., honors Auburn's Deke
Dingle as the nation's best backup quarterback with its
Clipboard Award. CBS carries the announcement live over both of
The value of a successful field goal is now equal to the grade
point average of its kicker.
For the first time, a major program is run by a computer with
artificial intelligence. It replaces Jackie Sherrill at
Global warming turns North Dakota into the new recruiting
hotbed. The Peace Garden State produces more blue-chippers than
Florida, Texas and California combined.
High school seniors attend a national scouting combine (held
annually in the shadow of North Dakota's White Butte) at which
they are poked, prodded, weighed, inspected and graded as if
they were...as if they were college seniors. Mel Kiper Jr. Jr.
covers the combine for ESPN5 (a.k.a. the Quint).
A player is slightly injured at Pitt when the air bag in his
pants fails to inflate on a tackle. Consumer advocate Rolf Nadir
demands a recall of all gridiron equipment.
Coaches are forbidden to contact recruits at home except by
videoconferencing. (A school's E-mailings remain unlimited.) All
such conferences are videotaped and screened by the NCAA.
Telegenic coaches, therefore, consistently enjoy the greatest
recruiting success and retain the same image consultants
employed by presidential candidates. Asked if he expects to land
a prized prospect he has just video-schmoozed, Texas coach
Buford Purdy replies, "I can't say anything till I've watched
All Division I-A players are given a $2,000-a-month in-season
allowance and a $105 per diem on the road, and are restricted to
$20,000 in annual earnings under the "endorsement cap." The NCAA
bans advertising from players' faces, but the Supreme Court
declares the rule unconstitutional in a landmark case involving
a USC tailback who wears dyed-orange sideburns in the shape of
Nike swooshes. The decision, predictably, gets mixed reviews. It
is praised by the ACLU, denounced by UCLA.
Prop 48(z) relaxes academic standards, requiring only a
student's attendance at the SAT--or, failing that, a note from a
In a desperate effort to distinguish its game from professional
football, the NCAA abolishes the two-point conversion, something
college basketball did in 2011.
Retiring UConn coach Skip Holtz publishes his startling memoirs.
Written as an open letter to his famous father, Skip to My Lou
reveals that the old man's folksy, homespun humor was folksy but
not homespun: All of his stories came from The Big Book of
Humorous After-Dinner Anecdotes (Knopf, 1928).
Artificial turf is banned, forcing Syracuse and Minnesota to
grow grass indoors. "College kids have been doing that for
years," quips University of Miami president Luther Campbell.
After a quarter century of frustration, Terry Bowden leads
Central Florida to the national finals by upsetting Notre Dame
and Nebraska in the playoffs. In the final minute of the
championship game, with Central Florida leading North Dakota
24-20, the Dakota defenders "flag" the Central quarterback in
the end zone for a safety: 24-22. Dakota receives the ensuing
free kick, and with 14 seconds remaining, kicker Odd Thorkelsen
boots a 41-yard field goal. His GPA is 2.03. The Fighting Sioux
are national champions by .03 of a point.
In their annual postseason poll, college football coaches name
the AP the nation's No. 1 wire service.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY RICK SEALOCK The obscure sage has predicted (clockwise from far left) the preservation of Paterno's pants, the reign of Ki-Janie, an unflagging devotion to QB safety, and a more literary squad in South Bend. [Series of drawings depicting Joe Paterno's pants as historic site and other predictions from article in style of medieval manuscript]
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATIONS BY RICK SEALOCK The day will come, wrote Notredamus, when (clockwise from lower left) a band wins a game, Osborne cracks a smile, artificial intelligence takes over and a team wins the title by a grade point. [Series of drawings depicting Tom Osborne smiling and other predictions from article in style of medieval manuscript]