"That column is sick, and any paper that runs it is sick," said Stallings. "... There's no such thing as a crummy football game. Even if it's sandlot, every one of those players has a momma, poppa and sweetheart, and it's not crummy to them."
Harvey once received a letter from a coach in Utah telling him that he was ruining the lives of 19 people—the coaches, their wives and their children. It seemed that every time he ranked that school, more wealthy alumni stopped their donations.
"It's a lot to have on your conscience, believe me," said Harvey.
Actually, he has a lot of things besides football misdeeds weighing on his conscience. For instance, when he was writing for the Daily Trojan he was hanged in effigy by the USC marching band. He had reported that there had been such a poor turnout for the band that year that a lot of students had been hired just to lug instruments and march even though they couldn't play a note. Two of the three tuba players were fakes, he claimed.
"I'm irreverent, I guess," he said. "I don't know if I'm important enough to be an iconoclast. I was at USC when Gary Beban of UCLA threw two touchdown passes to beat us and it occurred to me afterward that I was going to be able to make it through life anyway."
The Bottom 10 started at the Daily Trojan in the fall of 1965 ("It just occurred to me one day," says Harvey) and he took it with him to the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner when he got a part-time job there. The West Palm Beach Post-Times picked it up, then more Florida papers and finally, in 1970, it became syndicated. Harvey, who works full time now for the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times, is reluctant to say how much he earned from the feature last year, but as salaries go it would qualify for the Bottom 10.
And there are some little satisfactions along with the irate letters and the saddened mommas and poppas. Like the Kansas State alumni on the Topeka Capital-Journal who used to run over to the sports department on the day the Bottom 10 came in to see if their alma mater had made it. Alas, Kansas State, 4-2, has no chance this season.
But one of the nice things about sport is that there are always losers, and if Kansas State, Brown and Colorado State have defected, such teams as Syracuse, Army and Florida State have stumbled in to replace them.
"I have Syracuse as the worst on the basis of their athletic budget," said Harvey last week. "I figure that they are spending more money per defeat than anyone else this year. They need a team transplant and I'm not going to hold my breath until they win a game. But there is also another important reason; inasmuch as the Bottom 10 is a parody of the Top 20 polls, I reserve the right for mine to be as inaccurate as theirs are."
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]