The football gods saved their best for last this past season, as Auburn’s 22-19 victory over Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game was named College Football Game of the Year by the United States Sports Academy.
Noted Alabama artist Daniel A. Moore has been commissioned by the Academy to commemorate the historic achievement in oils on canvas. In addition to a $5,000 cash scholarship, the USSA Eagle Exemplar medallion and the framed Award Proclamation, the Academy will present the school with a framed canvas replica of Moore’s original oil painting. Moore was named as the Sport Artist of the Year by the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA), a division of the Academy, in 2005.
The annual Award was initiated by the Academy in 2005 to pay tribute to a team whose efforts in a college football game exemplify the principles of high athletic endeavor, complete dedication to victory, and unified team effort. The College Football Game of the Year Award is a part of the Academy’s Awards of Sport series, which was established as “a tribute to the artist and the athlete.”
A game that was expected to be a high-scoring shootout became one with almost as many big plays and story lines as points, including:
- Auburn wins its first national championship in 53 years.
- The Tigers succeed their state rivals, Alabama, as national champions. Both Alabama schools won the national title and had a Heisman Trophy winner in the same season (and Alabama also won the Academy’ Game of the Year last season, with its 32-13 victory over Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game).
- The game was won on the final play, a field goal by senior Wes Byrum as time expired.
- Heisman winner, junior quarterback and Academy Alabama Male Athlete of the Year winner Cameron Newton directed the winning drive in the final 2:33.
- A freshman running back, Michael Dyer, rushed for 143 yards and got his team into range for the winning kick when he rolled over a defender, got up thinking the play was over and responded to cries from his sideline to keep running in a play that resulted in a 37-yard gain.
- On the Oregon side, the Ducks trailed by eight points with five minutes left and Auburn had the ball, until Newton was hit from behind, having the ball jarred loose by an Oregon helmet.
- The fumble set up a Duck touchdown, and Oregon tied the game with its second two-point conversion of the night. The first came on a fake extra point in the first half.
- Down 11-7, Auburn tried to secure a lead by going for it on fourth and goal late in the first half, but the pass fell incomplete. The change of possessions left the Ducks with the ball on their own one-yard line, and the score was narrowed when Duck running back LaMichael James was nailed in the end zone for a safety.
College Football Game of the Year Sketch by Daniel Moore
A panel of experts helped the Academy decide the Game of the Year. Chairman was Hall of Fame coach Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the U.S. Naval Academy and coach at Marshall University.
A group of people with distinguished backgrounds in college football and the media worked with the Academy’s Awards of Sport on the College Football Game of the Year Committee, including: Hall of Fame coach Vince Dooley from the University of Georgia and Dr. Homer Rice, the former head coach at Rice University and longtime Georgia Tech athletic director.
This was the fifth Academy Game of the Year, the first being Rutgers’ emergence into college football prominence in 2006 with a 28-25 victory over Louisville.
In the second Game of the Year, Appalachian State became the first Division 1-FCS (formerly 1-AA) team to defeat a D1-FBS (formerly 1-A) team ranked in the top five, with a 34-32 victory over Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich. the first week of the 2007 season.
In the third Game of the Year, a Texas Tech team coached by 2003 Academy Alumnus of the Year Mike Leach upset No. 1-ranked Texas 39-33 in 2008.
Founded in 1984, ASAMA is dedicated to the preservation of sport art, history, and literature. The ASAMA collection is composed of more than 1,500 works of sport art across a variety of media, including paintings, sculptures, assemblages, prints, and photographs.
The museum is free and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.