On Football Ties and Kissing Your Sister

Lyn Scarbrough

October 25, 2021 at 3:50 pm.

“A tie is like kissing your sister.”  – Naval Academy assistant athletics director Edgar “Rip” Miller, 1946.

Couldn’t find a lot about Rip Miller, really just two significant things.

Long before he was in the athletic department at Navy, he was a member of the “Seven Mules” offensive line that blocked for the famous “Four Horsemen” backfield at Notre Dame under Knute Rockne in 1924.

And, he was the first attributed to making the statement quoted above.

No idea if Rip Miller had a sister.

 I do know that I’m not qualified to have an opinion about what he said.

As an only child growing up in Rock Creek, I didn’t have any sisters, so that’s not something that I could have ever considered. I do have some sharp female cousins, but I never thought about that with any of them either.

From stories that I’ve heard about my wife and her brother on long rides in the back seat of their parents’ car on trips to see their grandparents, apparently not many people have ever thought too favorably about sisterly kisses.

Understandably, sports fans have never been much for ties either.

As I followed the progress of the nine-overtime game between Illinois and Penn State at State College on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think about Rip Miller’s old adage. As weird and unattractive as that game seemed from long distance in my press box seat at the UAB/Rice game, I could imagine how unpleasant it must have been to the 100,000 fans at Beaver Stadium. When I was there about a month ago, I didn’t talk to any fans that would seem to like long drawn-out games or overtime losses.

For what it’s worth, I’m not wild about this new overtime procedure for college football. It mandates that starting with the third overtime period, each team in alternating possessions can only try a two-point conversion. The outcome of the game will be determined by whether a team can gain three yards.

One reason for the change was to eliminate long games.

Before Saturday, there had been five 7-overtime college games.

** Arkansas 58, Ole Miss 56 … Back in 2001

** Arkansas 71, Kentucky 63 … Razorbacks again two seasons later

** Western Michigan 71, Buffalo 68 … 2017

** Texas A&M 74, LSU 72 … 2018, second highest scoring game ever

The fifth one … North Texas 25, Florida International 22 in 2016. The reason that score was so low compared to the others – The two teams missed eight field goals before a successful kick by the Mean Green.

The final score in State College was Illinois 20, Penn State 18. The reason for this low score … After the second overtime, neither team could even gain three yards in overtimes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8. Finally, on the Illini’s seventh try, they gained three yards.


The system designed in part to help reduce the number of overtimes, produced the first nine-overtime game ever played.

Is this really the best way to determine the winner of a close game? Was the previous way really that bad with each team having a full set of downs 25 yards from the end zone?

The rules back before we had overtimes produced some classic games.

** Washburn 0, Fairmount 0 (1905) … Significant because it was the first college game in which the legal forward pass was thrown.

** Notre Dame 0, Army 0 (1946) … Undefeated defending national champion Notre Dame against undefeated No. 2 Army. The Fighting Irish were given the national title again.

** Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 10 (1966) … The No. 1 Fighting Irish faced No. 2 Michigan State. Alabama fans will remember this one well. Notre Dame chose to run out the clock rather than try to get in field goal range and was voted No. 1 at season’s end.

** Syracuse 16, Auburn 16 (1988) … Playing in the Sugar Bowl, No. 4 Syracuse met No. 6 Auburn. On the final play of regulation, Auburn kicked a 30-yard field goal to tie the game rather than chance one more throw to the end zone. Tiger Coach Pat Dye later sold ties to commemorate the game, raising money for charity.

We haven’t had any of those games since overtime rules were implemented for the 1996 season. Fans don’t like tie games, but a lot of tie games have been historic and memorable.

Do any other sports leave it to just a single play to determine an outcome, like the new overtime format has done to college football?

Basketball plays five-minute overtimes until there is a winner, not a shoot-out from the free throw line. Baseball plays complete extra innings until there is a winner, not giving each batter just one strike or having a home run contest.

In tennis, a tiebreaker rule applies for each set within a match. Many ice hockey leagues play overtime periods requiring that each team play a player short, sometimes two players short. And, of course, a lot of sports still allow competition to end in a tie.

Not sure what most college football fans think about the new tiebreaker format. Since last week was the first time that fans have seen the new procedure in a real game, it might take a while to form an opinion. But, I’ll be surprised if the majority of fans think it’s a good idea.

Why not go back to the rules before this new policy was started?

As far as that goes, why not consider allowing ties again?

Remember that while a tiebreaker does determine a winner, it also determines a loser. It’s a 50/50 deal.

So, before you make up your mind, consider this quote from MLB Hall of Famer George Brett …

“If a tie is like kissing your sister, losing is like kissing you grandmother with her teeth out.

Ponder that one before you make up your mind.

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