Bowled Over

Big-Time College Football from the Sixties to the BCS Era

By Michael Oriard

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1754-1
    Published: August 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-9865-9
    Published: November 2009
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8522-7
    Published: November 2009

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In this compellingly argued and deeply personal book, respected sports historian Michael Oriard--who was himself a former second-team All-American at Notre Dame--explores a wide range of trends that have changed the face of big-time college football and transformed the role of the student-athlete.

Oriard considers such issues as the politicization of football in the 1960s and the implications of the integration of college football. The heart of the book examines a handful of decisions by the NCAA in the early seventies--to make freshmen eligible to play, to lower admission standards, and, most critically, to replace four-year athletic scholarships with one-year renewable scholarships--that helped transform student-athletes into athlete-students and turned the college game into a virtual farm league for professional football.

Oriard then traces the subsequent history of the sport as it has tried to grapple with the fundamental contradiction of college football as both extracurricular activity and multi-billion-dollar mass entertainment. The relentless necessity to pursue revenue, Oriard argues, undermines attempts to maintain academic standards, and it fosters a football culture in which athletes are both excessively entitled and exploited.

As a former college football player, Oriard brings a unique perspective to his topic, and his sympathies are always with the players and for the game. This original and compelling study will interest everyone concerned about the future of college football.

About the Author

Michael Oriard is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of American Literature and Culture and former Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University. He was offensive captain and a second-team All-American at the University of Notre Dame and played four years with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is the author of six previous books on sports in American literature and culture, including Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport (UNC Press).
For more information about Michael Oriard, visit the Author Page.


"Should appeal to the general reader. . . . [A] well-written book."--Enterprise and Society

"A solid resource for those interested in the culture of sport. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice

"A gripping and insightful exploration of many of the issues that have affected big-time football programs in the sixties, seventies, and beyond."--Nebraska History

"The most thorough, balanced, and eviscerating examination of contemporary big-time college athletics to date. . . . Oriard has cemented his position as the definitive interpreter of football in American culture."--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Oriard writes with considerable grace and offers a realistic interpretation of the evolution of college football over the last half-century. . . . Original and effective. . . . An immensely interesting and important study of college football."--Journal of the Review of Politics

“A solid work that will certainly contribute to the dialogue of sports history and the management of college football. It is well-written, persuasively argued, and, above all, deeply insightful….[The] book can effectively contribute to two audiences: scholars and general readers.”--Florida Historical Quarterly

Multimedia & Links

Read Oriard's posts at the Washington Post's NFL blog, The League.