Mountain West Conference: Respect

“Yes, I know that you feel you are not strong enough. That’s what the enemy thinks too. But we’re going to fool them.”  –Knute Rockne

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LAS VEGAS — (C+P) I once heard a man say, “I think the most important thing of all for any team is a winning attitude. The coaches must have it. The players must have it. The student body must have it. If you have dedicated players who believe in themselves, you do not need much talent.” That sounds like a fantasy?

Well, the man that said that only won six national titles and 13 SEC Championships and his name was Paul Bryant, but you might recognize him as Bear Bryant, and he was not a fantasy. Alabama has won three titles in the last five years, and 15 claimed titles and 4 unclaimed in their storied 122 years of playing college football. It is this thinking that propels the Tide to the top of the rankings every single year.

Why can’t this mentality be carried forth by everybody?  I have met 12 programs in the past week that have exactly what Bear Bryant admired and taught at Alabama. My message to the rest of the country and all their fancy name brands and media coverage, individual players with their own name on both sides of their jersey that your limelight is nearing an end. The Mountain West Conference is building an army, a machine capable of rolling right over your little tailgate party.


NCAA Football: Boise State at Colorado State

Jim McElwain
Colorado State head coach and former Alabama offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain, stated that, “What we had at Alabama was something special, but here it’s a different story, a new story.” Yes indeed. Alabama is something special and you can never take that away from them. They’ve earned it the old fashioned way, but now even Alabama is part of the growing number of programs in college football that have fallen into the money pit dug by the BCS and  the big-time networks. What Coach McElwain brings to Colorado State is just another strain of a virus that has been rapidly spreading throughout the Mountain West, a deadly virus of mega proportions that are moving through the conference like the Ebola epidemic…a winning attitude.

“People who are in it for their own good are individualists. They don’t share the same heartbeat that makes a team so great. A great unit, whether it be football or any organization, shares the same heartbeat. Be aware of ‘yes’ men. Generally, they are losers. Surround yourself with winners. Never forget – people win.”

-Paul “Bear” Bryant


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Conference Unity
The Mountain West is not a conference of 12 different programs with individual players and coaches in it for personal gain or how they’ll look on the news after a big win. It is a real conference, a collective of small gears that makeup one large mechanism. It is not about the team that brings in the most money or has the most tweets, or social media likes, it is about everybody. When one gear starts to struggle the others work harder to pull it along and support it until it can repair itself and pull its weight again.

The conference will not banish a team into limbo because it goes 0-8 for a season or does not bring in billions of media deals and endorsements. College football, even in my day, was about the game, the excitement of a Saturday afternoon with your dad at the stadium. The same stadium you had a picture of above your dresser since you were three years old. Even the SEC was a simple, enjoyable conference until the BCS rose to power and promoted the SEC like it was the Barclays English Premier League or the BBVA Spanish LaLiga.


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Student Athletes
The young men that dedicate themselves in the classroom and on the field of battle in the Mountain West are probably above any other in the fact that they just love the game of football. They play for the pride of their school, and every single one of these young student athletes is about one thing, having the opportunity to play college football and everything it represents.

Nevada defensive end, Brock Hekking, said, when asked about other colleges during the recruiting process in high school, “I wanted to play at a small school and make a difference. I want to play football for a team, with real teammates and a school that cares.”

If you’ve never had a chance to watch Brock Hekking play football, this guy is somebody to pay very close attention. Besides, who wouldn’t want a young man in the locker room who wears cowboy boots with his uniform and walks around with a smile the size of Alaska and a blonde mullet that would make Brian Bosworth jealous?

The Mountain West Conference is loaded with the type of players a Bear Bryant or Knute Rockne would have salivated over


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Frontier Spirit
The region that includes the Mountain West has a little of everything. After all, it was settled by a collective of people from all walks of life and every corner of the world that braved torrential summer heat and deadly winters to settle in a land wild and untamed. It has a particular style, a color that makes it different from the rest of the country, and the people will never pretend to be something else just to impress somebody with a large bankroll.

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The people out west are a tough breed. That is how their college football programs operate. They’ll never change their traditions or what they stand for just to fit in with all the followers. After all, they were not born to follow. They were born to be leaders. The Mountain West to this day has to fight for respect and deal with the same persecution that forced their ancestors to leave their comfortable homes out East and look for a new beginning.

The Mountain West Conference is competitive, and they are getting stronger with the additions of coaches such as Utah State’s Matt Wells, Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter, and Boise State’s Bryan Harsin. The legends like Rocky Long, Norm Chow, Craig Bohl, and Bob Davie are the old school coaches that recruit players like Brian Urlacher and Steve Young. Players that want to be college football players first. Team players. Young men who want to work hard and listen.

If a player coming out of high school wants to make an immediate impact on college football then committing to a MWC program is the right move, and they’ll get an education on and off the field, which is what it is all about.


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“The only football players in my time were fellows who really loved to play football. They were not in it for the money. There wasn’t much money there. They would have played football for nothing.”

-Red Grange

It is a sad fact that in a matter of time, college football players will be paid to play and everything college football stood for will diminish. It will become a professional league and all the players from legit programs will be left out because programs from the large “commercial” schools will have endless dollars to buy players without the educational commitment.

“It’s unfortunate but inevitable that players will get paid to play college football,” says Norm Chow. “College football will never be the same when that happens.”

Maybe the subject of getting paid in college and unionizing is a Midwest-East Coast thing because out in the West they have not even made it a headline regarding schools. Not one player I have interviewed has even looked like the idea was going to cross his lips. Then again, the West is still using the Pony Express to deliver mail, right?  They do not know anything other than working hard for what they get and if you get a little extra you can take your wife out for an ice cream cone. Hey, the ice cream out West is pretty good! Their Pony Express horses are pretty quick these days, too, at least 100mbps.


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Come on, get with the program, every kid that plays college football these days is capable of leading a team to a title with dedication and good coaching, whether they are from Laramie, Wyoming or Miami, Florida.

It was present at the 2014 World Cup when the United States took the field…that the underdog believes, it can win and when it thinks it can win it takes down even the greatest. The U.S. Men’s National Team adopted the saying, “We Believe, We Believe That We Will Win!”

America loves an underdog. The Mountain West is the underdog, and they believe that they will win, and they can win. It might be your team that discovers the Mountain West can win. The Mountain West is carrying the flag for all the smaller conferences and on that banner it reads WE BELIEVE, WE BELIEVE THAT WE BELONG.


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The Mountain West has its own identity, not a fabricated, media built stage. Teams across the country are changing their entire culture to try and fit in with today’s system, a system that no longer promotes the foundation on which college football was based. Not the 12 programs in the Mountain West. The MWC stands for tradition and honor. By NCAA football standards, the Mountain West is a young conference and still building a strong tradition, and they are going through growing pains but that will pass and the conference will rise and it will be because of standing firm and maintaining their traditions.

Former Auburn coach, Shug Tordan said, “Remember boys, Goliath was also favored.”

 

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