Fourth and Long
Fourth and Long
The Fight for the Soul of College Football
Simon & Schuster, Hardcover, 9781476706436, 343pp.
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
In search of the sport's old ideals amid the roaring flood of hypocrisy and greed, bestselling author John U. Bacon embedded himself in four college football programs Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern and captured the oldest, biggest, most storied league, the Big Ten, at its tipping point. He sat in as coaches dissected game film, he ate dinner at training tables, and he listened in locker rooms. He talked with tailgating fans and college presidents, and he spent months in the company of the gifted young athletes who play the game.
Fourth and Long reveals intimate scenes behind closed doors, from a team's angry face-off with their athletic director to a defensive lineman acing his master's exams in theoretical math. It captures the private moment when coach Urban Meyer earned the devotion of Ohio State's Buckeyes on their way to a perfect season. It shows Michigan's athletic department endangering the very traditions that distinguish the college game from all others. And it re-creates the euphoria of the Northwestern Wildcats winning their first bowl game in decades. Most unforgettably, Fourth and Long finds what the national media missed in the ugly aftermath of Penn State's tragic scandal: the unheralded story of players who joined forces with Coach Bill O Brien to save the university's treasured program and with it, a piece of the game's soul.
This is the work of a writer in love with an old game a game he sees at the precipice. Bacon's deep knowledge of sports history and his sensitivity to the tribal subcultures of the college game power this elegy to a beloved and endangered American institution.
"John Bacon's exploration of the uncontrolled greed, intellectual corruption, and sheer mendacity that have captured college football would be depressing - if it weren't so wonderfully reported, engagingly written, and utterly persuasive. If you care about college sports, Fourth and Long is required reading."
-Daniel Okrent, bestselling author of Last Call
"No one knows the Big Ten better than John U. Bacon, so it's no surprise he picked the perfect football season to chronicle in his groundbreaking book, Fourth and Long. Bacon has written a riveting portrait of a watershed season in the most venerable college conference in the nation. The Big Ten is at the vortex of so many issues in college sports, and Bacon expertly covers them all."
-Christine Brennan, USA Today national sports columnist and bestselling author of Best Seat in the House
"John U. Bacon went deep inside the world of college football, penetrating the locker room doors to meet some players you won’t forget and, most amazingly, learn the secrets coaches protect more fiercely than the CIA. By getting so close to the heart of the sport, Bacon reminds us what we love about our greatest game."
-John Saunders, Emmy-nominated studio host of ESPN and ABC College Football
“John U. Bacon has gotten to the core of the tug-of-war between the players and fans on one side, and the people running college sports exclusively for their own profit on the other. Bacon provides unique perspective that causes even the most ardent supporter of the status quo to question the future of this cherished American institution."
-Jay Bilas, ESPN basketball analyst and best-selling author of Toughness