A Season in Purgatory: Villanova and Life in College Football's Lower Class

A Season in Purgatory: Villanova and Life in College Football's Lower Class

A Season in Purgatory: Villanova and Life in College Football's Lower Class

A Season in Purgatory: Villanova and Life in College Football's Lower Class

Synopsis

At a school where basketball is king, the Villanova football team battles opponents both on and off the field. Low on cash and recruiting power, the Division I-AA Wildcats must constantly justify their existence to a prestigious academic institution and the students and alumni who bemoan the team's "minor league" status. This story of Villanova's 2005 season is an inside account of a football program wading through the political mire to bring glory to a school largely indifferent to its efforts. Through the Wildcats' experience, Tony Moss explores the inner workings of college football, particularly the chasm between Division I-A, home of the most visible, successful programs, and Division I-AA, where crowds are smaller but competition is just as intense. As alumni and faculty question the cost of funding sixty-three football scholarships and a full-time coaching staff, Moss leaves us to decide whether the struggle is worth the cost to schools outside the spotlight and whether the game has any inherent value apart from the bottom line.

Excerpt

Moe Gibson stood alone, facing his locker, bawling like a baby. He had already removed his shoulder pads and the navy blue jersey emblazoned on both sides with No. 22, the one with his surname printed in large capital letters on the reverse and “Villanova,” in smaller type, along the front.

Gibson, by now the only person remaining in the university’s spacious football locker room, cried for the name on the back of the jersey, and he cried for the name on the front. For four years the kid who was known by his given name, Martin, to just about no one, had returned kicks and played running back for the Villanova football team. On this crisp late-November afternoon, Gibson had made his last run and had also run out of time.

Villanova had been manhandled by its archrival, the University of Delaware, in its season finale, which was also the last game for Gibson and his fellow seniors. It was a fitting end to an uneven, disappointing year, one that had included flashes of joy and triumph as well as extended periods of misery.

Gibson, clinging in vain to his last moments as a college football player, wept in honor of the journey’s end and in honor of the personal journey he had faced. a street kid who had been raised in a rough neighborhood in southeast D.C. and an only slightly less mean section . . .

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