When it comes to sports movies, it would be hard to find one that follows the classic underdog formula better than Necessary Roughness, which was released 25 years ago this week. The college football comedy tells the story of Ed Gennero (Héctor Elizondo), the rare breed of coach that always played by the rules and never let his players cut corners or take gifts. Hence, his cleverly rhymed nickname: “Straight Arrow.” He’s the exact opposite of what the film’s Texas State University Fightin’ Armadillos had become while winning back-to-back college football championships, and so he becomes the only man for the job when the program receives the death penalty for a slew of NCAA violations.
Of course, with no scholarships comes little opportunity for success, and as such Gennero’s new Armadillo squad is a group of colorful characters that have no business on a college football field. On top of the penalties and sanctions, Gennero has to deal with the stuffy Dean Elias (Larry Miller), who would simply prefer that his university had no football program at all. Consequently, he disqualifies most of the coach’s new players, leaving coach with just 17 men, meaning that almost everyone will have to play old school ironman football. One of the few exceptions is a truly creative choice for quarterback, a 34-year-old former state high school champion named Paul Blake, played by then-37-year-old Scott Bakula.