The year was 2006. It was year two with Charlie Weis and his “decided schematic advantage” coaching the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and benefits were being reaped. The Irish were preseason #2 in the AP Poll, had earned a cover appearance on Sports Illustrated, and were primed to improve upon the 2005 campaign - a 9-3 surprise that had fizzled out by way of a blowout loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl.
After a close win to open the season over Georgia Tech and an exciting 41-17 victory over then-#19 Penn State, everything seemed to be going just as planned. The win over Penn State vaulted the Irish back to #2 after having fallen to #5 following the Georgia Tech game. But then, the first real blow landed. The Irish lost at home to rival Michigan, 47-21. Was something southbound in South Bend?
Following the loss, the Irish dropped from #2 to #13, heading into a trip to East Lansing for a night game against the Michigan State Spartans. Now, everyone remembers what happened that night. The Irish stormed back (in the rain) from a 16-point deficit heading into the fourth. The rally was capped by a Terrail Lambert pick-six to take the lead, and a Terrail Lambert interception to seal the game.
It was a dramatic series of moments for sure, but people tend to forget that Michigan State was not very good that year. They finished 4-8 (it happens to other programs too, you guys). Nonetheless, Notre Dame stayed at #12 in the AP poll, but on the outside, questions were already swirling.
Three weeks later, the Irish had beaten Purdue and Stanford convincingly, and had risen back to #8 in the polls. However, the iconic Quinn-to-Samardzija play as time expired in Notre Dame stadium was all that saved them from a loss to unranked UCLA (who would finish just above .500 that year). More drama. More questions. A storm was brewing.
Inflated preseason expectations. Dramatic games against teams Notre Dame was supposed to be far better than. A blowout win. A blowout loss. Brady Quinn to Jeff Samardzija. These represented merely the build up to one of my favorite moments of the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame.
In the week following the UCLA game, something happened that rubbed Coach Weis the wrong way. Maybe his team was under-performing and maybe their flaws had been exposed against lesser opponents. Maybe. But that’s not what had Chuck worried. He was far more interested in what was such an undeserved slight to he and his team by the AP pollsters. The Irish had dropped from #8 to #10 following a win. A win! And a dramatic and entertaining win at that! But, oh no. One of the teams that had leapfrogged the Irish - the Florida Gators - did so in a week in which they had a bye. Preposterous.
Chuck would not stand for this. “How could these teams have earned this?” he wondered. In a brave move that amused and befuddled some corners of the sports media world, and downright enraged others, he was quoted as saying to the media the following:
"One of the teams [Tennessee] that jumped us had the same game that we had. They're down, they're playing at home and they win by a field goal," Weis said Tuesday. "Another team [Florida] that jumped us wasn't even playing. They were home eating cheeseburgers and they end up jumping us. That befuddles me."
"Tell me how that works? Maybe I'm just stupid. Tell me how that works?"
So today, in honor of the Fighting Irish’s bye week. I’ve been inspired to investigate further into the 2006-2007 Florida Gators football team and their bye-week cheeseburger-eating habits. I’m also curious as to just how that affects the way AP Poll votes are cast. Did Florida players indeed eat cheeseburgers that weekend? What kind of cheeseburgers were they? Where did they get them? Did the AP Poll voters know of these cheeseburgers? Was it all a psychological warfare tactic orchestrated by the media and Urban Meyer to bring down Notre Dame and Charlie Weis?
Welcome to One Foot Down at SBNation, where we ask the important questions and get to the bottom of the important answers.
The Cause For Suspicion
Let’s rule out the obvious. It was absolutely not Florida’s superior resume up to that point in the college football season that the AP pollsters used in deciding to vote them higher, despite not playing. It’s impossible to think that, even with the way some AP voters roll, wins over ranked Tennessee and ranked LSU squads were better than blowing out Penn State. And certainly a loss to Auburn is worse than a loss to Michigan. This is Notre Dame we’re talking about! Charlie Weis’ Notre Dame squad! In the midst of another Return to Glory! Preseason #2! Does preseason mean nothing?
I think also we can be sure that it had nothing to do with the perceived flaws Weis’ team had shown to the point. Maybe they couldn’t really run the ball, and had to rely on the passing game. But the passing game was good! Ever heard of Brady Quinn? Jeff Samardzija? Huh? John Carlson? Need I say more?
Please. What did Florida even have going for it? I mean, the quarterbacks split time! That’ll never be effective, even if one of your quarterbacks would go on to become a college football demigod. He wasn’t one yet!
Think about it. Urban Meyer hadn’t won a single national championship yet at this point. Tim Tebow was a freshman. The Gators were even coming off a loss to SEC foe Auburn! Do you truly believe any program in that state of being could just, oh, up and go on to Florida-levels of success?
No. And to prove it, I give you:
Every ounce of success Florida football saw between 2006 and 2009 came AFTER they jumped Notre Dame in the AP Poll on a bye week. Two SEC titles, three SEC East titles, two National Championships, and those two billion or so awards Tim Tebow won. You may think to yourself, “well, yes, they were a really good team. That answers the ‘why did they jump Notre Dame’ question right there.”
And to that I say, “WAKE UP SHEEPLE!” Clearly something happened in Gainesville on that fateful bye week, October 21st and 22nd, 2006. It had to. That sort of sustained success is reserved for only the Notre Dames of the world. The Charlie Weises. The Brady Quinns. The Darius Walkers. The God Damn Tom Zbkowskis. The real heroes.
Some. Thing. Happened. Something wrong. What, that’s not enough for you? Take a look at this photo of Chris Leak:
You know what causes fumbles like that? Not Alabama defenders, that’s for sure. It’s cheeseburger grease. This photo comes from a September win over the Crimson Tide, meaning that the Florida Gators had been visiting cheeseburger joints in the Gainesville area prior to the bye week, almost as if they were scouting for the perfect one.
According to sports-reference.com, the Gators offense finished the 2006 season with an average of 0.7 fumbles per game. That’s like, almost a fumble per game. That must mean that some guys had greasy hands for every game, probably from cheeseburgers. And some of those games took place after the bye week, which means Florida players don’t wash their hands! Gross!
And look, there’s a photo of Tim Tebow calling in his burger order ahead of time. I’m on to you, Tim. On to all of you. Also shown in the above photo is Urban Meyer, advising Tebow as to what he should get on his burger, how he should have it cooked, and probably saying, “get me a milkshake, too”. Almost as if there is, say, premeditation behind an otherwise innocent move. Innocent says you; a nefarious plot at work says I.
So I did a little deeper digging into what the cheeseburger scene looks like in Gainesville. Here’s what I found.
That’s only some hits from the four pages of Google results I got when I searched “Gainesville Florida Burgers.” Now tell me, if you were in the Gainesville area and wanted maybe a greasy, unhealthy type of food, and this was staring back at you from Google Maps, what would you do? Eat cheeseburgers, that’s what.
So now there should be no doubt in any of our minds that the Florida Gators ate cheeseburgers on October 21st and 22nd, 2006. But what kind of cheeseburgers? Where did they get them?
Well, I dug even deeper. Not just Google, no. I turned to Yelp.
I thought at first that a spot called Relish Big Tasty Burger, the number one Yelp result, was the surefire culprit. But after a quick look over their website, they weren’t in business until 2009. Shucks. The second option is a drive-through called Mac’s, but they are closed Saturdays and Sundays. Ruling out Mac’s. Search result number three? Loosey’s. No indication of how long Loosey’s has been around. Ok, I’ve lost my patience with Yelp. I’m going to pick a random place on the map.
BINGO. Burgerque, WE GOT YOU. According to the website something about the 1990’s... oh wait. No. Only been around since 2011. I’m starting to falter in my resolve.
But wait. What’s this? 2.8 stars? Looks like a White Castle? Longtime fast-food chain? Open 24 hours? Could it be? Yes, I’m sure of it. Krystal is the burger-supplying culprit we’ve been searching for this whole time.
After a quick perusal of the menu, my mind is made up. It’s perfect. Under the radar, no one will suspect anything. Anything that looks like a White Castle burger has to be nice and greasy and unhealthy. I can say with all-out certainty that the Florida Gators did indeed enjoy multiple Steamer Packs of Cheese Krystals and maybe some Krystal Sackfulls later just for good measure.
And I can promise you that some group among the AP voters knew this very fact. And they didn’t think it made Florida a better team than Notre Dame. No, it was all part of the plan.
What plan, you ask? Well, well, well.
I posit the following: the Florida Gators ate the aforementioned cheeseburgers during their bye week. And the AP Poll voters knew about it. In fact, they were in on it. In an effort to completely demoralize Charlie Weis and all of his players, and to get them to drive the program into the dirt over the coming years, Urban Meyer and the voters of the AP College Football top 25 poll fed Florida players cheeseburgers, and then leaked that information to Charlie Weis. Then, when Coach Chuck saw the AP Poll that following week, he had to come to terms with the fact that greasy cheeseburger eating players were better than his team.
I mean, need I remind you of the collapse that followed? Over the next few weeks after the cheeseburger leapfrog, the Irish would play their way back to #5, but only against clearly inferior opponents. A blowout loss to USC in the Coliseum and a blowout loss to LSU in the Sugar Bowl was the beginning of the end for a program that only now in the mid-to-late 2010s has begun to show signs of one day returning to prominence.
And what happened in 2009 after Florida’s glorious run? Charlie Weis was fired by the University of Notre Dame. And in the following season, Urban Meyer’s Gators fell to 8-5, and Meyer resigned due to health issues. Coincidence? I think not. The great cheeseburger maneuver of 2006 had finally run it’s course, and some order was restored in the minds of Golden Domers everywhere.
But what motive could exist behind such a sinister, wicked plot? Prior to the 2005 season, Urban Meyer was an up-and-coming coach who many thought would one day return to lead the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to glory. After all, he was on the coaching staff from 1996-2000, and many thought it was his “dream job”. But talks fell apart, and many believed that Urban Meyer turned down the job due to Notre Dame refusing to lower academic standards.
Somewhere in all of this haziness lies the truth. And what if this truth turned Urban Meyer hellbent on destroying Notre Dame? He watched Charlie Weis take his “dream job” and turn it into a surprisingly successful 2005 campaign, and he saw the hype surrounding the program heading into 2006. He was mad.
The AP Pollsters, on the other hand, were sick of being tricked into ranking crappy Notre Dame teams high in the preseason, only to watch them tumble. They were sick of their credibility being questioned. They were sick of the Notre Dame hype. Some of them just obviously hate Notre Dame.
So they got together, and said to one another, “how can we destroy this thorn in our sides?”
And out of the night came the answer: cheeseburgers.
Cheeseburgers are not banned as a performance enhancing substance by the NCAA. But employing them as an act of psychological warfare is at best against the spirit of the game, and at worse an unthinkable crime sent straight from the depths of hell. I am of the opinion that we should petition the NCAA to retroactively sanction Florida, Urban Meyer, the entire group of people that have ever voted in the AP Poll, and hell, sanction Krystal while you’re at it.
That’s what really happened.