Saturday, February 20, 2010

Say It Ain't So, Dick

In 1969, President Richard Nixon attended the Texas-Arkansas football game and, on his own initiative, awarded the national championship to the winner, Texas. But Penn State also had an unbeaten team that year and has always felt that it was unfairly denied the championship.

Maureen Minielli sent me a photo (from her iPhone!) of this document from the Nixon archives -- apparently a suggestion from William Safire, a Nixon speechwriter, for how Nixon might answer a question about the award, and Penn State's likely reaction, at an upcoming press conference.

Some time later, Nixon offered a sort of consolation award to Penn State. Joe Paterno, Penn State coach then and now, replied, according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, "You tell the president to take that trophy and shove it."

In a Penn State commencement speech in 1973, Paterno said: "I'd like to know," Paterno asked the graduates, "how could the president know so little about Watergate in 1973 and so much about college football in 1969?"

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