For years it has been common practice for many college football powers to begin their season by feasting on a less competitive program (e.g., in 2017 see Clemson vs. Kent State, Penn State vs. Akron, and Oklahoma vs. Texas/El Paso). The game provides a tune-up for the football power’s varsity players and a big paycheck for the weaker school. Heads turned, however, when the University of Alabama announced this week that it will start its 2018 football campaign by traveling to New England to play the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Initial reaction around the country was one of shock. NFL commentator and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw exclaimed, “This is madness! The average Alabama defensive lineman weighs over 360 pounds, while there is no RISD offensive lineman who tips the scales at more than 175, soaking wet. Those Rhode Island kids are risking life-threatening injuries!”
Even PETA has entered the conversation, with its President Ingrid Newkirk remarking, “I know we’ve traditionally focused our attention on protecting non-humans, but this game would be an abomination. Really, it’s no different than stuffing a litter of kittens into a burlap sack and driving over them — repeatedly — in a Cadillac Escalade.”
In response, RISD President Rosanne Somerson promised that the school would triple the number of ambulances on the sidelines during the game, and build what will amount to a MASH unit in the parking lot adjacent to the field. “We’ll be ready for whatever happens, and all of the RISD players’ next of kin will be admitted free to the game. We want them to be immediately available in the event of a worst-case scenario.”
When asked by reporters what his game plan will be for the contest, RISD football coach and part-time Ceramics Professor Jason Sedgeway commented, “On offense we’ll do the following: take a knee on 1st down, take a knee on 2nd down, take a knee on 3rd down, and then punt. On defense we’ll just get out of the way as soon as they hike the ball. Many of our players have asthma and use an inhaler, while several others suffer from anxiety disorders as a result of being bullied for their artistic interests when they were young. Their safety is more important to me than the final score.”
For his part, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban views the match-up as “just another game,” a sentiment shared by his players. Defensive linemen Ray-Bob Tucker and Bobby Ray Simms, affectionately known as ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two’ to Alabama fans, told reporters, “It doesn’t matter who our opponent is. Our job is to find the person with the ball and stop him from moving forward. If we do our job right, they won’t ever want to move that ball forward again. Hell, they won’t ever want to touch that ball again.”
When asked why she would agree to schedule such a dangerous mismatch, President Somerson pointed out that “people don’t have a clue how difficult it is to raise funds for an arts school in today’s economic climate. Quite frankly, we’re desperate, and we can’t rely on David Byrne to give us royalties from his Talking Heads albums forever.”
Las Vegas odds-makers have declined to issue a point spread for the game.