Jack Trice and the Ku Klux Klan

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I am haunted by Jack Trice’s life and cannot stop thinking about his last days. Over the years, I’ve often mused on the role of the Ku Klux Klan in that era and searched for an answer that simply doesn’t exist. Many popular stories only mention the presence of the Klan in Minnesota when the Iowa State team arrived for their game. The reality is much messier and adds crucial context to Jack’s tragic letter.

We should first consider an obscure tale from Jack’s senior year in high school, which I initially found in 2014. At the time, I was researching why East Tech’s football team didn’t play in another championship game in 1921, but set it aside because I felt there was a bigger story to tell. It took several years for me to piece together the full story and the shocking truth served as an ominous harbinger of events to come.

Two years later, the Ku Klux Klan sealed their presence in Ames. This is the untold story.

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In high school at East Tech, his wide eyes drinking up the city around him, Jack saw very quickly Cleveland wasn’t the small country village he grew up in. Custom dictated withdrawal here. The Great War whisked up East Tech students and they learned what burning flesh smelled like on the Western Front. Back home, the Spanish Flu took ragged bites out of America. Bodies piled up.

East Tech made sure no one forgot the sacrifice of those who never returned.

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In 1920, Jack was one of several junior players who helped East Tech polish off an undefeated regular season that culminated with a bid to the prep national championship game in Washington–a game I previously wrote about. The boys rode the rails for a week and bonded on the trip. They played cards, sang, and giggled their way through spectacular western landscapes.

During Jack’s senior year, East Tech didn’t miss a beat, rolling to another undefeated season. The papers praised his play far and wide. He had come a long way and was one of the best players in the country, a colossal talent. In addition to his suffocating play on the line, he played some at fullback and shared punting duties. He could do it all and nothing could stop him.

Opposing fans took umbrage. They lashed out in anger and hurled insults. After one emotionally charged game that ended in victory, Jack was called a “monkey.” He always had to live with the  implicit threat of bloodshed lurking in the shadows. When another high school was clobbered by East Tech, they offered an interesting cartoon recap of the game. Note the mysterious figure in the background.

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The postseason beckoned. This time, East Tech would bring the crown home. Schools across the country clamored for a shot. Anticipation teemed.

Negotiations started with a New England school. One school in Minnesota wanted a game on Christmas Day. All potential games fell through, but in mid-December, East Tech agreed to meet Bryan High in Texas for the national championship. Texas was Klan country and the game would be held about 80 miles southeast of Waco, where the infamous torture and lynching of Jesse Washington occurred in 1916.

It was not to be.

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When it became understood that Jack, the dread black phantom, presented a problem, his white teammates rallied around him and unanimously voted to give up the trip and their last shot at the national championship. One teammate said, “He gave us the best he had–we owe it to him.”

The Texas papers didn’t handle it well, fuming about the “nigger” who ruined the big game. One celebrated writer invited his readers to share in delightful imagery. Why not have Jack play in the big game before the crowd of thousands? After all, they would make sure he was carried off dead.

It would be nearly two years before Jack played in a big game again–the one that killed him.

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When Jack arrived in Ames, the Klan was already around him. Local papers speculated on how many people would join the organization. One nearby town reported Klan posters were “found in the police office, altho no one was able to explain how.” In communities across Iowa, Klan envoys brought gifts to homes, hoping to win favor.

A couple of years ago, I returned to Ames and met with Alex Fejfar, the Exhibits Manager of the Ames History Museum. The museum is a small gem directly across the street from the Masonic Temple where Jack had his last words with his wife Cora Mae before the Minnesota game.

With Alex as my guide, we rooted through the Masonic Temple basement, peering through the dust of decades, looking for any elusive sign. On the top floor, we retraced steps of long ago and breathed in the memories. In one remote staircase, we were trapped by a locked door closing behind us. It seemed, just perhaps, the ghost of Jack Trice was guiding us.

My list of research questions was immense and we had so little time. Back at the museum, Alex dug through the archives and presented a chilling example of hate so close to home. Thanks to the “Private Collection of Jerry Litzel, Courtesy of Ames History Museum,” we are able to present it here.

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In August 1923, awash with patriotic faith in their country and flag, thirteen Ames men stepped forward to enshrine their names on the Ames charter of the “Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” These men knew they were destined to be “All American” leaders of the Klan “Reincarnation.” Some time later, the Imperial Wizard, Hiram Evans, signed it. The ceremony was complete.

It didn’t take long for the crosses to start burning.

Less than a month later, the Ames Tribune reported a fiery cross was burned on the edge of town as the Ames Klan attempted to intimidate an accused bootlegger. Their presence was impossible to deny any longer. Membership swelled. More crosses were burned. Prominent Ames citizens took pride in their leadership role, including those who walked the Iowa State campus. Unbeknownst to some students they were taught by the Klan, including a very small and real possibility that Jack was among them (which I’m still researching).

Black students at Iowa State were barred from living near campus, so they usually ended up in downtown Ames near the Masonic Temple. Some worked at the Sheldon-Munn hotel. Unfortunately for them, Klan meetings were often held downtown. Members of the hooded order prowled near where Jack and Cora Mae held each other on lonely nights.

Something had to be done.

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Before Jack was a blank piece of Curtis Hotel stationary on the small desk. He was going to be the only Black player on the field against Minnesota. Hundreds of years of anguish and pain flowed from his pen. He was surrounded by hate and carried the burden of all before him. Those who were lynched without a thought. The bottomless eyes of white hoods. Flickering flames reaching high. The game was tomorrow and it was already too late.

“The honor of my race, family, and self are at stake.”

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New Jack Trice photo discovered

When Jack Trice was in high school at East Tech in Cleveland, all eyes were drawn to him on the football field. His presence was controversial and political. It was rare for Jack to see another Black athlete to commiserate with. In tribute of his sacrifice, I’m pleased to unveil a new photo of Jack Trice playing for East Tech in a game almost 100 years ago.

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This discovery was many years in the making.

I was able to use my expertise to descend into a particular, yet obscure, spot of Cleveland history to experience life during the early 1920s. Hunch after hunch had to be followed along an unknown path until one day came the metaphorical clink of my shovel. This photo was not labeled or dated, but I knew immediately. There was the lanky frame of Jack on the right, opening up a hole for Johnny Behm to plunge through. Johnny was the captain of East Tech and went on to become the captain of Iowa State, finishing his career as a honorable mention All-American quarterback.

The photo is not an original copy, but a printed version and white marks are visible on some of the players–which was a common practice for reprinting in newspapers. Johnny is not wearing an helmet again, just like the other photo I discovered of Jack and Johnny in the prep national championship game in Washington, seen in Jack Trice and the Nazi Olympiad.

Once again, let us pay homage to the hero of Iowa State formed in the crucible of East Tech.

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Jack Trice in the Minnesota game

I have often wondered what it was like to watch the Minnesota game that killed Jack Trice. It’s difficult to be satisfied with the existing grainy photos that show indiscernible blobs on Northrop Field. With one photo in particular that was reprinted in the Iowa State yearbook and multiple football programs, I know one specific dark smear is Jack, but without additional research, there is no visual evidence to prove this.

Through my years of research, I’ve held out hope for the holy grail, which would be a newsreel film showing the game, but haven’t found anything yet. In the meantime, this is the best photo I’ve found that shows Jack in game action. To help clarity, I edited it from the original source and to the best of my knowledge, this photo hasn’t been reproduced anywhere else for 95 years.

Without further ado, here is Jack Trice playing on Northrop Field shortly before he suffered the injuries that killed him.

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A timeless legacy

The next three years bring three key anniversary dates in Iowa State athletic history. These milestones will give Iowa State the opportunity to update their athletic vision by utilizing the most timeless historical elements to create a truly cohesive vision that recalls successful teams and experiences of past decades.

As always, let’s begin with Jack Trice.

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2018: JACK TRICE’S SACRIFICE

This fall marks the 95th anniversary of Jack Trice’s heroic stand against the University of Minnesota and the enduring letter that launched a legacy. To date, there still has been no official recognition of his jersey number by Iowa State University, despite ample available research showing it as 37.

Past stories have shown how Iowa State can honor him through jersey design, helmet stickers, and more. The jersey number can either be retired or given to a special player on a yearly basis.

It is time to do something.

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2019: CY’S MILESTONE

The following year brings a milestone birthday for our favorite feathered avian, born 65 years ago. Since his introduction in 1954, there have been various iterations of Cy, peaking with multiple variations during the 1980s, especially with Johnny Orr’s Hilton Magic teams.

The modern Cy logos have never been overly popular with fans and the vast majority of Cy merchandise features one of the four vintage versions. Thus, I took the best elements of each logo and designed an entirely new logo that feels entirely at home during any period of Cyclone history.

Introducing Timeless Cy.

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2020: CYCLONE NICKNAME

This year brings the 125th anniversary of the beloved, unique Cyclones nickname.

Last year, the athletic department brought back the missing nickname logo by using the same designer previously tapped for the Cy logos. Iowa State’s willingness to listen to fan feedback and try new things should be applauded.

The current branding package is clearly cohesive and fills its mission well, but has struggled to gain traction with fans, partially because more popular alternates exist. In contrast to the current branding package, let’s see what a truly timeless set of logos could look like.

I tweaked the I-STATE logo to make the “A” and “E” outlines more legible, while getting rid of the bevels. The updated Cyclone logo by Friendan Design makes its appearance again, while my new Timeless Cy is paired with a slightly tweaked 1980s Cy head.

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It’s time to be proud of our Cyclone history.

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The heritage of Jack Trice and Johnny Orr

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Two football seasons from now marks the 125th anniversary of the very first hardscrabble Ames football team to be bestowed with the Cyclones nickname, one that is older than the Iowa State moniker. As the oldest surviving varsity sport on campus, the football team drives the overall identity of athletics, as shown by the new Cyclone logo reveal during the Texas game last week.

The heritage of Iowa State University stretches back from generation to generation over American history, to a time before the Civil War. The trials and tribulations of the athletic teams serve as shorthand in our memories, the nectar of success sweetened by the lows, yet something tangible with the current identity appears missing.

The answer lies within two statues.

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In Hilton Coliseum stands a fist pump frozen in time, a statue commemorating the true birth of basketball greatness with Johnny Orr. The original Cyclone school logo from this period, in use for roughly a dozen years, famously oversaw nearly all of Johnny Orr’s years as the progenitor of Hilton Magic, culminating with Fred Hoiberg’s initial stint as the Mayor of Ames.

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It also served as the helmet logo for four football seasons from 1983 to 1986, a period that saw typical football and a minor recruiting scandal that resulted in a temporary loss of just four scholarships.

As seen in previous stories, the updated Orr Cyclone by professional designer and alumnus Friendan.Design is the closest thing Iowa State has ever had to a timeless look and lends well to fresh, yet timeless branding possibilities, including my Storm Cyclones football helmet concept that caught the attention of many, including those within the football program.

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When Coach Matt Campbell arrived in Ames, he quickly made clear his desire to shake up some dowdy brand elements, by pushing concepts including the return of a Cyclone logo that some within the school felt was already sufficiently covered by the unpopular Cy Head logo, despite being just about the only major school without a nickname logo, (as pointed out last year).

The reveal during the Texas game represents clear and tangible internal progress in loosening up branding and marketing possibilities, but did the new logo hit the target?

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Designed by Joe Bosack & Co., a brand consulting agency previously tapped for the current mascot logos, this logo has a few immediate issues. (To be fair, every designer is only as good as their client and its impossible to say what constraints were placed upon the agency.) When considering a timeless design, it all starts with the line, a simple mark on a surface. Ancient art is replete with simple outlines and shapes that resonate to this day, easy for the human eye to recognize.

The primary logo has three colors, including two red shades for contrast that don’t read legibly, and relies on a very thin yellow border as the outline. All fans could see during the Texas game was a big red smear on a red helmet, the nuances of design lost. The edgy lines remind me of the dated mid-1990s Iowa State basketball shorts and the old oval ABC Sports logo.

On merchandise rolled out the same day, the design appeared best on white or gray backgrounds. If a primary logo needs to move away from school colors to read in a legible manner, that’s a problem. Also, a solid version of the mark appeared, but with the same reliance on very thin lines.

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The I-State logo initially suffered from a reliance on excessive bevels for a contemporary look, but recent efforts have evolved towards a stencil or solid color design, which appears much more iconic and timeless. The new Cyclone just looks like an inverted Hershey Kiss.

Change is usually met with some resistance, but feedback this time has largely been negative. The official Iowa State Facebook account had hundreds of negative comments and only a handful of positive. In a Twitter poll, I put up a simple image of the new Cyclone and the updated Orr Cyclone and simply asked which one people preferred. Hundreds of votes later, 86% were in favor of the Orr Cyclone.

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After some inquiries this past weekend, it appears many in the football program favored the Orr Cyclone redesign making an appearance on football helmets, but unfortunately had to adhere to the final decision of others who felt the new logo would be a better direction.

It seems pretty clear below which version appears more iconic and timeless.

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In the past, athletic director Jamie Pollard openly shared with alumni that the department felt the Orr Cyclone evoked memories of bad football teams with a small portion of the fan base and they had no desire to go through the travails of adding another secondary logo, thus giving the perception of Iowa State always changing their brand.

Do the facts support this? Let’s look at some numbers via Winsipedia:

Overall Iowa State winning % (1892-2017) = .442

Original Cyclone helmet logo winning % (1983-1986) = .409

Current I-State helmet logo winning % (2008-2017) = .336

It’s also worth noting the current I-State logo was inspired by a logo from the 1970s basketball uniforms, the exact same era that saw the worst basketball team in school history, the 1975-76 team that finished 3-24.

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This makes the new Cyclone logo all the more puzzling. Hopefully, internal resistance to the updated Orr Cyclone will continue to melt away, given how much history is behind it when compared to the I-State logo. It remains the best option for Iowa State to properly honor its heritage and get off the endless spinning wheel of new secondary logo after new secondary logo with no real tradition behind them.

For now, this new Cyclone logo should serve as a retail mark, not quite making the leap to official nickname logo status, joining the many tornado variations seen on clothing and marketing materials. There is precedent for this as many football teams have used alternate logos on helmets that don’t become part of official school branding, but are found on merchandise.

Sometimes a design transcends time, just like a story familiar to many of you …

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South of Hilton Coliseum stands the modest statue of a black pioneer, head bowed in contemplation of the letter that made him famous. Jack Trice’s story remains the most enduring and important piece of Iowa State history and transcends the bounds of sport, spilling over into what it means to be human. Many are rightfully proud of the football stadium being named after him, but the accompanying details seem lacking.

In the earliest days of Kagavi, before I became a crack Jack Trice historian, I asked Iowa State athletic department if they knew what his number was and no one could give me an answer. Along the way, I found people like author Steven Jones who suspected his number was 37 from newspaper accounts, but it was the discovery at Simpson College of perhaps the only surviving game program from Jack’s single full game at Iowa State that confirmed the case.

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Since then, multiple people including influential former Iowa State professor and historian Tom Emmerson who was one of the first to highlight Jack’s legacy in 1957, have asked the athletic department for Jack’s number 37 to be retired or honored. In a recent book, “Moments of Impact” by Jaime Schultz, she wrote that Pollard declined these requests to honor Jack further by noting how many parts of the stadium were named after him, essentially enough was enough.

In April 2016, I wrote a story asking Iowa State to elect Jack to the Athletics Hall of Fame, noting that they have honored people who didn’t even attend or play sports for Iowa State, so they certainly could find room for the pioneer of racial integration in sports, a player that may have been the finest to ever step on the field in Ames. This has not occurred yet.

This summer when I was reviewing the new football media guide, I saw a new section of compiled historical jersey numbers worn by players. For some odd reason, this ended with the year 1924, meaning that the last entry of players who wore number 37 was Tawzer in 1924. Surely there was space for just one more line in the guide to slide in an acknowledgement of Jack’s number, which still hasn’t formally been acknowledged in any way?

As Coach Matt Campbell continually preaches, the details matter.

By simply halting Jack’s honors with just the stadium name, Iowa State is willingly giving up the ability to take his story on the road for half of the football season. Many other teams use helmet stickers or patches to commemorate significant parts of their heritage. Look no further than Iowa and their ANF stickers, in use for decades, for how impactful a simple sticker can be. When reviewing ideas, I couldn’t stop looking at various East Tech scarab designs from Jack’s time there and two caught my eye, eventually leading to my new design of a proposed Trice Oval memorial sticker.

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This proposed design recalls the shared gold color between East Tech and Iowa State, the triumphs of Cleveland and the sacrifice in Ames. The stylized block T evokes vintage Iowa State logos and the ancient scarab also represents rebirth, perfectly appropriate for this enduring tale.

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Don’t stop with Jack Trice either.

More throwbacks and vintage logos should be introduced into the rotation and help strengthen the connections between the past and present. Let’s solidify the heritage connection of Storm Gray as a neutral color in the current branding package by taking one game to honor the original Cyclones team of 1895 and their school colors of silver, gold, and black. The helmets and uniforms could be auctioned off afterwards.

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To some, Iowa State may represent just a job or a way to pay the bills, but to thousands of alumni, it’s far more. By properly honoring two iconic figures in Cyclone sports history through design, Iowa State University can take a strong step forward, with a clear and cohesive timeless brand that advertises the Cyclone difference to the world.

Heritage matters.

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CYCLONE SOUP: CY JAM 2

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(Originally published at SB Nation’s Wide Right Natty Lite.)

The Iowa State basketball season officially starts this Friday with preseason All-American Monte Morris and a bevy of talented seniors looking to make some noise in the Big 12.  A couple of years ago, I created a Cyclone version of NBA JAM, imaginatively called CY JAM, and it was a smash hit, selling thousands of fake copies. Fans were able to play as some of Iowa State’s most iconic players of the past century and fan favorites from recent teams, plus the Spirited! duo of Cy and Clone.

Now for the anticipated sequel.

CY JAM 2 adds even more Iowa State legends, plus a bunch of secret players accessible only by password. NBA JAM had music legends, politicians, football players, and more, so CY JAM 2 dug into Cyclone history to find some of the most skilled players with special powers and a will to win. Let’s look at the sixteen players of CY JAM 2.

Read more…

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CYCLONE SOUP: Big 12 meets Public Enemy

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(Originally published at SB Nation’s Wide Right Natty Lite.)

Last month, the Big 12 announced there would be no expansion and the issue was tabled until schools could find a tranquilizer gun large enough to take down David Boren. Despite actual results with teams and revenue, the Big 12 has struggled to reverse public perception of continually wobbling on the verge. With their immediate future established, the next big movement will likely be in the mid-2020s when the next set of media contracts expire.

In the meantime, the Big 12 should strongly consider veering off in a risky direction and establishing a contrarian brand as the future of college football. The anthem for this change should be Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” which was first released in conjunction with Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing. Chuck D and Flavor Flav’s lyrics spoke of the inherent adversity faced by the black community.

As a marshmallow fluff who grew up on the mean streets of Ames, I can identify with the struggles espoused by the song and want to make a difference. Thus, I am appointing myself the new Big 12 commissioner and immediately issuing three proclamations to push back against the corrupt, hypocritical aspects of college football.

Read more…

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CYCLONE SOUP: Farmageddon needs a trophy

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(Originally published at SB Nation’s Wide Right Natty Lite.)

Conference realignment has ripped apart nearly all of Iowa State’s historical football rivalries. One of the few surviving schools is Kansas State, which Iowa State started playing in 1916, and this fall will mark the 100th consecutive edition of the game. Both schools are some of the very earliest agricultural institutions in the entire nation, established by the Morrill Act in 1862. They are also the sole remaining conference rival that was an opponent during Jack Trice’s two years in Ames.

There still isn’t a trophy marking the game that many have dubbed Farmageddon in recent years. Part of that probably has to do with the long and distinguished history of losing by both teams. With the Big 12 eroding by the minute, the schools should take some steps to solidify this rivalry and start playing for a Farmageddon trophy.

College football is best when upholding fun, goofy traditions and the best trophies follow some simple rules.

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CYCLONE SOUP: Time to fix the Cy logo

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(Originally published at SB Nation’s Wide Right Natty Lite.)

Change is difficult. It can take years for new logos to gain acceptance, to worm their way into the warm memories of yore. The I-STATE logo, which never met a bevel it didn’t love, took some time to become established as the primary athletic mark, but is now widely accepted by Iowa State fans. The current walking Cy logo that was released after the I-STATE logo has struggled to reach the same level of acceptance.

It probably has something to do with how irritated Cy looks, like he’s walking out of Jack Trice Stadium after watching Iowa clobber Iowa State, only to find a parking ticket on his windshield.

Years after this modern iteration of Cy was released, most fans still refuse to embrace the design. On Twitter last week, I asked Iowa State fans whether they preferred the new version of Cy or the old versions of Cy. Hundreds of votes later, 80% voted in favor of the old versions. I’m no statistician, but that can’t be a good sign for the current logo.

It wasn’t always this bad.

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CYCLONE SOUP: 2016, an Orwellian parody

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(Originally published at SB Nation’s Wide Right Natty Lite.)

The story began with the great football purges early this millennia. Traditions were destroyed and unlikely alliances formed. Members were absorbed into larger groups and became more powerful. Others teetered. A constant state of war existed, year after year, never resolving. A smaller collection of members known as The Conference saw Big Bob arrive to take control. He was their savior.

Stuck between two great powers, the members of The Conference were told Big Bob was a welcome contrast to previous leadership that had allowed discord to fester. He informed them it had always been BIG undermining and constantly attacking, never anyone else. The SEC was a friend. Big Bob and the Striped Police protected the conference members from the enemy, BIG.

Big Bob was always watching the members, because he loved them. He was troubled still, for the real struggle laid within The Conference.

Read more…

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