Have you noticed that much of the country regards our state institutions of higher learning as pushovers?

Football powerhouse Notre Dame has a home game next month against the University of New Mexico.

Alabama, which makes Notre Dame look like a club team, has scheduled New Mexico State University for its home opener.

Some complain about these mismatches, saying they’re bad for college football and terrible for the self-esteem of players from the New Mexico schools.

Not me. I say a trip to South Bend or Tuscaloosa, followed by a pitiless beating, can only heighten interest in New Mexico’s universities. Any school willing to endure an afternoon of pain and humiliation for a big payday is bound to get respect.

Plus, this bold intersectional scheduling shows everyone in New Mexico why Alabama’s Nick Saban is the most brilliant coach in America. He’s so good it’s not even a contest.

Remember when Saban was a head coach in the professional ranks for two seasons? Probably not. It was a forgettable time for him, too.

His record with the Miami Dolphins was 15 wins and 17 losses. This depressed Saban, but he is a resilient sort.

He analyzed the film of every game to determine what had gone wrong, just as any honest leader would. It occurred to Saban that his competition in the pros usually had as much talent as his own team.

How could he overcome this problem of parity? Saban thought he might have to coach better, but this would mean staying up all night to squint at film in hopes of spotting some small deficiency in the opposing team.

Then a giant bubble, the kind you see in comic strips, appeared above Saban’s head. It announced a revelation: “If I return to campus, I will regain my wisdom and winner’s swagger.”

Saban’s superior intellect had led him to realize there were no Western Carolinas or Louisiana Lafayettes in pro football. And there sure wasn’t a New Mexico State.

An icy determination came over him, the kind he had felt when he coached at Michigan State and LSU. He needed to find work at another university with a strong tradition in football.

It had to be a place where he could recruit blue-chip talent via email. He didn’t want any part of a mid-tier program that would require him to grovel during a meatloaf supper in hopes of signing some 18-year-old defensive end.

Saban thought a school with pliable boosters who would recognize his genius and pay him millions of dollars also should be part of the package.

Alabama seemed like a good fit for him to resume his work in molding young men, especially ones who run like gazelles.

Sure, the skeptics will say neither New Mexico nor New Mexico State could land any of the players that Alabama and Notre Dame reel in. Why, those who are jaded might even claim everyone on Alabama’s third unit is better than any player at the New Mexico schools.

Don’t believe it. That’s an excuse propagated by those who contend the playing field in college football is tilted in favor of a handful of schools with big budgets, fabulous facilities and long winning traditions.



If Saban wanted to, he probably could pull up stakes tomorrow and build a big winner at McNeese State or the University of Akron. But he’ll turn 68 in a couple of months. He has his heart set on finishing his career at Alabama.

In many ways, it’s a tougher job than he had in the pros. Just ask him. He’ll explain how the Southeastern Conference always has one or two schools that can give his team quite a scare.

Upstarts can be dangerous, too. Saban’s Alabama team once lost to Louisiana Monroe.

As the experts say, on any given Saturday once a decade, a college dynasty can fall to an unknown.

Realistically, it won’t happen this fall for the Lobos or the Aggies. New Mexico residents will have to gear up for more winnable competitions.

Maybe Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham could show some leadership in this regard. She could tell all those loud-talking politicians in Colorado to stop bragging and start roasting.

After all the hype of summertime, no contest has been scheduled to determine which state has the superior chile. With Alabama and Notre Dame ahead, New Mexico residents need something to cheer about.

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican.com or 505-986-3080.

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