USMNT Can Take Inspiration from the Greatest Ties in College Football History


After going to a 2-2 draw with Portugal in the World Cup, the USMNT is another tie with Germany away from advancing to the knockout round.

Now, the American sports fan is preconditioned to recoil at ties–especially college football fans. Former Navy head coach and quip machine Eddie Erdelatz is credited with coining the phrase, “A tie game is like kissing your sister.”

Wisconsin and Illinois played to a 3-3 stalemate on Nov. 25, 1995. The game itself was unremarkable, aside from giving soccer fans fodder for football elitists who use the former’s low scores as evidence that the Beautiful Game is the boring game. However, this matchup lives in the annals of college football history as the sport’s last tie game.

The next season, college football adopted its current overtime format sans the go-for-two rule at three extra frames. Ties were commonplace previously, sometimes playing pivotal roles in the sport’s history.

Sunday’s USMNT draw with Portugal is proof-positive that the outcome of a tie is all about perception. Down 1-0 before Jermaine Jones’ goal, Americans would have fully embraced a tie. Taking a 2-1 lead on Clint Dempsey’s score, the tie felt like a letdown.

USMNT played the role of the Syracuse Orange in the 1988 Sugar Bowl, one of the greatest ties in college football history. Seeking its first national championship since the Ernie Davis-led 1959 team, undefeated Syracuse played Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

Down three in the waning moments, Auburn head coach Pat Dye opted for a field goal that forced a 16-16 tie–and forced Syracuse out of contention for a national championship Miami claimed.

Former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson told in 2006 that the finish did not sit well with him.

“I honestly feel like the Auburn players were a little embarrassed for a couple of reasons. For one, we weren’t supposed to be on the field with them. They were Auburn. According to a lot of people, we were a Canadian team. We’re in New Orleans, playing against Auburn, and they kicked a field goal to save face, it felt like.

“I’ve been to Auburn several times since, and I bust their chops about it all the time. That’s the sense I got, that they were a little embarrassed to kick a field goal.”

McPherson’s assessment seems accurate, based on Auburn kicker Win Lyle’s statement to Sports Illustrated afterward: “Our guys were not real happy. They really didn’t like it when I went out there. They were screaming that they wanted to go for the touchdown.”

Syracuse fans mailed Dye thousands of cheap neckties in the days to come as a gesture of scorn. But if Portugal advances to the knockout round of the World Cup, Portuguese soccer fans might consider adopting the idea as a sign of adoration for Cristiano Ronaldo.

Sunday’s result may have been bitter for the Americans, but it was no “Choke at Doak,” as Florida State fans fondly member the Seminoles’ 31-31 tie with Florida in 1994.

Florida State rallied from down 31-3 in the fourth quarter. Puts Ronaldo’s stoppage time goal in perspective, doesn’t it?

There’s no question for USMNT a tie Thursday against Germany qualifies as a victory, and the U.S. can take inspiration from some of the other greatest ties in college football history in general–and Notre Dame in particular.

The Fighting Irish played Army to a scoreless stalemate in 1946, a game that marked a major turning point in the course of college football.

Army dominated the landscape during World War II, winning the 1944 and 1945 crowns. The Black Knights would stake claim to a third straight in 1946, but Notre Dame also had claim to the national championship.

“[In 1946] it was postwar America, the boys had come back home,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick told the Associated Press in 2010. “In a sense, the game really represented that transition. America had returned to normal, Notre Dame had its football team back and its coach back.”

Fast forward 20 years and Notre Dame was the preeminent college football program. Two decades after it played one Game of the Century to a stalemate, the Irish replicated the feat in 1966 against Michigan State in another Game of the Century.

As it would USMNT against Germany, a tie suited Notre Dame just fine that day. The Fighting Irish weren’t thinking about kissing their sisters–they were kissing a championship trophy as a result of the draw.