11 Richard Nixon College Football Moments


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Nixon cut a budget meeting short short on Nov. 22, 1969, to watch Michigan take on top ranked Ohio State. He later had a television set up in a dental office so he could keep an appointment and continue watching the Wolverines drill the Buckeyes, 24-12.

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Nixon congratulates unbeaten Texas.
Nixon traveled to Arkansas to watch the Texas-Arkansas game on Dec. 6, 1969, but not without controversy. The final regular season game pitted the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in college football polls against one another, and Nixon had agreed to present a presidential plaque to the winner, recognizing college's No. 1 team of the season. But Pennsylvania's congressional delegation had complained before the trip because Penn State, like Texas, was undefeated--with an even longer winning streak. Nixon suggested giving Penn State a plaque for having the longest winning streak. Texas won its game 15-14, and Nixon presented head coach Darrell Royal a plaque in the locker room.

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Paterno wasn't yet ready for Nixon honor.
Penn State won its last regular season game as well, but coach Joe Paterno refused his honor from Nixon, saying "It would seem a waste of his very valuable time to present a plaque for something we already have undisputed possession of--the nation's longest winning streak. To accept any other plaque prior to the bowl games games, which will determine the final number one team, would be a disservice to our squad, to Pennsylvania, to the East, which we represent and perhaps, most important, to Missouri, which may be the best football team in the country."  Missouri was Penn State's Orange Bowl opponent.

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The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame awarded the MacArthur Bowl, its national championship trophy, to the Texas Longhorns on Dec. 7, 1969. Nixon hid under his desk in the Oval Office to avoid potential gunfire from the direction of Pennsylvania. Well, that's what I imagine he did.

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"As long as it isn't a football question . . ."
United Press International followed up on Dec. 8, 1969, by also naming Texas numero uno, prompting Nixon to really joke at a press conference that he may have made a mistake playing a role in determining the national championship.

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A Poet and he know it.
Honored at the National Football Foundation's Hall of Fame Dinner in New York City's Waldorf-Astoria on Dec. 9, 1969, Nixon said, "I can only say that as far as this award is concerned, that it is certainly a small step for the National Football Foundation and a small step for football, but it is a giant leap for a man who never even made the team at Whittier.
 . . . I got into a game once when we were so far behind it didn't matter. I even got into one against Southern Cal once when we were so far behind it didn't matter." Nixon also mentioned that Penn State deserved a portion of the national title.
 
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"Oh, and operator, can you reverse the charges?"
Texas defeated Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl 21-17 on Jan. 1, 1970, the same day Penn State beat Missouri in the Orange Bowl 10-3. Nixon called Royal to congratulate him. Upon Penn State receiving its third straight Lambert Trophy recognizing the best college team in the East, Paterno received a telegram from Nixon that stated, "Any team that can tie the record of the Army juggernaut of 1944-45-46 has carved for itself an enduring place in the annals of football greatness," Paterno reacted in accepting the award, "I couldn't feel better about receiving this trophy if it were presented on television by the president of the United States."

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