Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal was Rachel Bachman’s cotillion as the first featured female sportswriter at the paper.
Start out with her front-page A-Hed:
Conflicting Title Claims Abound, Some of Them Written in Stone
The University of Alabama football team boasted six national championships when Wayne Atcheson took over as the school’s sports-information director in 1983. Within three years, the Crimson Tide had five more titles.
What Mr. Atcheson did to expand Alabama’s haul wasn’t illegal, miraculous or even unique, though it has stoked a fiery debate. He simply exhumed the titles from dusty record books and added them to the school’s football press guide, instantly enshrining them.
Major-college football is unusual among American sports in that for most of its history it had no playoff, no Super Bowl, to determine a champion—just a handful of exhibition-like postseason bowl games. Many of the nation’s top teams didn’t play one another, leaving open the perennial question: Which was the nation’s best? That void spawned dozens of sportswriter and coaches’ opinion polls and opaque mathematical “systems,” each crowning its own champion. Some titles were so dubious the winners themselves didn’t bother to claim them.
But the explosion of college football games on TV has intensified interest in the counting of national championships. Hence, Mr. Atcheson’s reclamation of Alabama’s nearly forgotten early 20th-century titles. The advent of an actual championship game after the 1998 season has only aggravated disputes about the relative worth of teams’ claimed titles—the Tide’s in particular.
Well, At Least There’s Northwestern
For the Big Ten, a Long 2012 Leads to Yet Another Rough New Year’s Day
For three quarters Tuesday, the Rose Bowl seemed like that Clint Eastwood commercial at halftime of last year’s Super Bowl about an auto-producing Rust Belt city rising up to reclaim its former glory. It had been a staggering year for the Big Ten Conference, but here was Wisconsin, threatening to topple newly glamorous Stanford.
The Badgers were as unheralded a team as the 99-year game had seen. They were its first five-loss squad, and were recovering from losing seven coaches to other programs since last season, including head coach Bret Bielema in an oddly lateral move to Arkansas.
But before Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany could record a stirring voice-over about conference jobs being outsourced to the South, the Cardinal kicked a 22-yard field goal and sealed a 20-14 victory with an interception, preserving the painful status quo.
The Journal’s status quo as a bastion of male sportswriters, however, is now inexorably changed.