Football was once central to the Texas educational system. (Perhaps it still is? Alas, I've lost touch.) Several decades ago my high school twice won the State Football Championship. This was, to understate matters, an Amazingly Big Deal. Huge digits representing those victory years were proudly posted in on the side of the building, where they remain to this day.
Rice University, my alma mater, also partook of football. For a tiny science-and-technology research-oriented institution to play in the Southwest Conference --- against a long list of superpowers including Texas, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Louisiana State, Southern Methodist, Oklahoma, ... --- might seem the height of folly. It was. "The Fighting Owls" virtually had a lock on last place in the standings, year after year, in spite of heroic efforts on the part of the players, coaches, boosters, and everyone else involved.
Vigorous recruiting created a subculture of jocks within Rice, an anomalous clique that had its own area of study to major in: "Commerce", a discipline which no one outside the scholarship-athlete club was permitted to sign up for. Eventually the Southwest Conference fell apart, victim of its own abuses. At one time near the end a majority of universities in the SWC were either suspended from play or on the verge of it, due to various fraudulent activities.
Rice students nonetheless had a healthy attitude about football. Many came to home games at the on-campus stadium only during halftime, strictly in order to watch the Marching Owl Band. "The MOB" had a grand time making fun of the serious choreography of other schools' performances --- to such an extent that on occasion the Rice musicians had to have police escorts to protect their exit from the field after a game, when disgruntled visiting-team fans threatened to express their criticism in violent fashion.
The schedule of football games always included a week of rest, called "Off Week". Note that I confess to being seriously naïve. (Perhaps I still am!) Only years later did I figure out the meaning of the handmade banners and signs that appeared that time of year and bore the words:
|Beat Off Week!|