MSU Meditations III: The Athletic Side

I remember 1987. Perles had promised Michigan State fans a rose bowl in five years, and we got it. Better yet, we won the game; something other Big 10 schools had found hard to do over the past twenty years! The Spartans had arrived, and we thought we were here to stay (yes, “WE.” Remember, universities are chosen by those attending. There are places where you go where it’s closer, those places don’t count here.).

Well, things changed. Perles turned his attention away from coaching and recruiting (and onto the Athletic Director’s job), and the team suffered; with losses to Central Michigan in 1991 and 1992 (and a near-loss in 1993) being the Nadir of his career. He lost his jobs soon after.

But that’s not the worst of it:

If you’re not an Michigan State Spartan fan, you probably have forgotten (assuming you heard in the first place) that MSU won the Rose Bowl in 1988. However, chances are you’ve heard recently that MSU’s football teams used Steroids in the eighties, and that was the only reason for their success. I heard it frequently enough on Chicago Radio to believe it was indeed true.

In fact, I’ve recently heard of the Pittsburgh Steelers supposedly using steroids during their glory years, when they won those four super bowls.

Connection? Perles. He was the defensive coach at Pittsburgh, then moved to MSU to coach during the eighties and early nineties.

Understand this, MSU fans: Reputations last longer than winning seasons. Fans remember bowl wins, everyone else remembers what is thought about the school. And reputation always trumps bowl wins; for reputation lasts (whereas bowl championships don’t). Don’t let the plaques fool you; they’re there so people don’t forget.

Part 4: Reputations and the Student Body itself

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