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Adventures In Sports Betting or: How The 2007 College Football Season Ruined Everything

If anything, the 2007 college football season should be looked upon as a cautionary tale for young, dumb college kids.

Pittsburgh v West Virginia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Gather ‘round, children, and listen to a tale of a man that flew too close to the sun and ended up being severely burned; a man that had a chance at glory, but got too cocky and lost it all. I’m not talking about Icarus and his wings of wax, although that was an all-time bonehead move. How are you gonna try to take on the sun? No, instead, I’m going to tell you the story of possibly the greatest bonehead move that no one has heard tale of...until now.

The year was 2007. August, to be exact. I was entering my junior year of college, and had finally made it into a house off-campus. That, of course, meant I didn’t have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a meal plan, since I managed to escape the dorms on the Fairmont State University campus. The plan going into the semester was to keep my student loans the same - as if I were still on campus - and use the money that the University had been sucking out for room & board and the meal plan as a backup during the school year in case I couldn’t manage a job and school at the same time. That move was the beginning of the end of the downfall.

A week or so after the semester started, a student loan refund check showed up with disaster written all over it. I sacked the money away into my savings, but for some reason it kept calling to me. “Play with me,” it would say every time I logged onto my online banking, “just have a little bit of fun!” So, in typical bonehead college male fashion, I gave into the urges. I decided to transfer a few hundred bucks out of my savings account and put it into an online sports book. That, right there, was my second mistake.

The 2007 was supposed to be the season for the West Virginia Mountaineers. They’d just come off of an 11-2 season in 2006 and beat a Georgia Tech team that was led by some guy now known as Megatron in the Gator Bowl. They had the trio of Patrick White, Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt, who had made the program a household name, returning. They’d just signed this five-star kid from Florida named Noel Devine, and he was supposed to be the second coming of Barry Sanders. Head coach Rich Rodriguez had reneged on a contract offer from the Alabama Crimson Tide at the end of 2006, deciding to return to Morgantown to lead the Mountaineers to the promised land. Everything was in our favor. In Rod we trusted, which was the third major mistake.

The 2007 season ended up being the year that college football forgot the rules. The Appalachian State Mountaineers beat the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor on the opening Saturday, and it was off to the races. Luckily for me, I managed to come out on the better end of the deal for most of the season. I started out placing small bets on the spread of the games I felt most confident about. By the third week of the season I had a pretty impressive win-loss record going on the book, so I started getting a little brave. I’d sink some money into the moneyline here and there, including the Stanford Cardinal over USC Trojans at something like +7500. I started to throw together three team parlays and had a really good success rate doing so. When the last week of November rolled around, I’d accumulated a really nice bankroll. But instead of cashing out, I wanted to see how close to that huge ball of flaming gas I could get before my wings evaporated. Mistake numero quatro.

West Virginia went into the last week of the season with an 10-1 record, hot off a 66-21 drubbing of the then No. 20 ranked Connecticut Huskies. They’d just moved up to No. 2 in the latest rankings. A spot in the National Championship was theirs for the taking. The only thing that stood in their way was an unranked Pittsburgh Panthers team with a 4-7 record. This one was in the bag. Mountaineer fans would be vacationing in New Orleans come January and I was determined to be there with them.

Saturday, December 1st came, and I’d talked myself into placing a surefire bet if there ever was one. West Virginia was favored by 28.5 points which, even though I knew the Mountaineers would walk away with the win, I didn’t want to touch with a ten-foot pole. The moneyline was out of play as well, unless I wanted to put it on Pitt to win. I was left with the over/under, which Vegas had set at 59 points. The smart play here was the over. West Virginia had been hanging points on opponents all season, and there was no way the pathetic Panthers were going to stop that trend. If anything, this one would turn into a shootout, and we’d hit the over by halftime.

Being the very intelligent person that I am, I put the entire bankroll on the over an hour or so before kickoff. I knew that when the game clock hit zero and the Mountaineers stood victorious, the payout would give me plenty of money to buy a couple tickets to the BCS National Championship game, plane tickets down to New Orleans, a hotel room and plenty of money left over to enjoy the city. Oh how wrong I was.

West Virginia took a 7-3 lead into the half. It was then I knew that I had really messed up. There was a little glimmer of hope though; 50 points in a half between two teams isn’t really that far out of the realm of possibility. As the night went on, and the beer cans piled up on the table beside me, a piece of my soul died with it. Everything I’d worked for all season had just evaporated into thin air, and I was sent crashing down to Earth.

To this day, they say if you step onto Lowell St. in Fairmont, WV on the first Saturday in December, you can still hear the wails of the man who’d lost it all.