Category Archives: College Football
I knew I wouldn’t get far in my quest to post something on this blog every day. I should not put pressure like that on myself.
I went to bed early last night. I did not watch a single down of the College Football Playoff championship game.
Good thing I didn’t.
Georgia destroyed TCU 65-7 to successfully defend its championship. The Bulldogs claimed their fourth title (1942 and 1980 were their others prior to last year) and prompted many of the “experts” on television to proclaim (a) Georgia is the new superpower of college football, supplanting Alabama, and (b) Georgia coach Kirby Smart is the best in the game, surpassing his mentor, Nick Saban, who has won a record seven championships (the first at LSU in 2003, then six at Alabama between 2009 and 2020).
Alabama would have made the playoff had they beaten either Tennessee or LSU. The Crimson Tide would have been in the SEC championship, even if they lost to LSU (the Bayou Bengals’ choke vs. Texas A&M would have sent Alabama to Atlanta had the Tide defeated Tennessee). It would have mattered not had Alabama won or lost vs. Georgia, because there’s no way the committee would have put BOTH TCU and Ohio State ahead of the Tide.
The Tide would have been the No. 3 seed and played Michigan in one semifinal. Georgia would have played either Ohio State or TCU, whichever got in. Then it would have been Alabama-Georgia in the title game for the third time since 2017.
As long as Nicholas Lou Saban is leading his machine in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will win big. When your fans, players and coaches consider 11-2 and a Sugar Bowl rout of Big 12 champion Kansas State to be a down year, you’re doing a hell of a lot right.
I find Saban’s sideline behavior to be unacceptable at times, but the man can recruit, and the man has the right ideas, such as getting rid of cupcakes on the schedule. Unfortunately for Saban, he is not in complete control at Tuscaloosa the way Bear Bryant was. The Tide will not have a non-conference schedule of Nebraska, Missouri, USC and Washington the way Alabama did in 1978. Not anytime soon at least.
Greg Byrne will continue to demand at least one of those patsies come to Tuscaloosa every year. However, I don’t understand why Alabama won’t invite Jacksonville State, Troy, UAB and South Alabama to Bryant-Denny. It’s not worth it to play New Mexico State, Kent State (that being Saban’s alma mater notwithstanding) and UMass when there are four FBS schools within 200 miles of Tuscaloosa.
Georgia’s non-conference schedule for 2023 is an absolute joke. Yes, I am aware the SEC cancelled the Bulldogs’ scheduled game vs. Oklahoma because of the Sooners’ impending move to the SEC, but Greg McGarrity could have found someone tougher than Ball State to fill that spot. UAB and Tennessee-Martin, an FCS program, also go between the hedges next year. Georgia’s season ender at Georgia Tech should also be a walk, especially since the Bulldogs haven’t lost at Grant Field since 1999, when Smart was one year removed from his final season as a Georgia defensive back.
The Bulldogs have cemented their status as one of the three or four programs which should be expected to make the playoff every year, along with Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson.
Those writing off Dabo Swinney are way, way, WAY too early to be doing that. The Tigers will rule the ACC for as long as Swinney is on the sideline in northwest South Carolina. Florida State is the only major threat I can see to the Tigers’ dominance. North Carolina is too inconsistent, and will be looking for a new coach soon, as Mack Brown is 72. Miami can’t get it together. Virginia Tech has bottomed out. Pitt and North Carolina State will have good years from time to time, but never string them together. Duke and Wake Forest have done well considering their rigorous academics and limited enrollment, but I don’t see it as sustainable.
There is no reason Clemson should not be 12-0 or 11-1 every year heading into the ACC championship. If that’s the case, the Tigers only have to win the championship game to go to the playoff when it expands in two years.
Oklahoma was once a playoff regular, but the Sooners took a major step back after Lincoln Riley left for USC and took Caleb Williams, among others, with him to Los Angeles. The Sooners will find the sledding much tougher when they join the SEC in either 2024 or ’25.
The Big 12 will be wide open once Oklahoma and Texas leave. Baylor, Houston, TCU and Texas Tech should always be in the running, considering just how talent-rich Texas is. Oklahoma State should get it back on track under Mike Gundy. As much as it pains me to say it, Kansas State found the right coach in Chris Klieman.
How will BYU adjust to the rigors of nine games vs. Power Five opponents in conference, and an occasional one vs. Utah? The Cougars have as rich a tradition as anyone left in the Big 12, but let’s see how it plays out.
Michigan has made it in back-to-back seasons, but if Jim Harbaugh leaves for the NFL, does that last? Also, the Wolverines and Buckeyes still have to deal with Penn State in the Big Ten right now, and with USC and UCLA on the horizon, it should only get tougher. The Big Ten is getting rid of divisions when the California teams join, which will be a big relief for Indiana, Rutgers and Maryland, but could be a nightmare for Nebraska and Northwestern.
I did not mention the Pac-12 in the last section.
I don’t know how much longer the Pac-12 (which will revert to Pac-10 once the LA schools depart) can hold up. Adding UNLV, Fresno St. and San Diego St. isn’t going to bring much to the table. Adding Gonzaga as a basketball-only member won’t cut it, either.
The rumors are everyone except Oregon State and Washington State should have a place to land if the conference dissolves. The Big 12 is looking at going to 16 by adding Arizona, Arizona State and Utah, and of course bringing back Colorado. California, Stanford, Oregon and Washington will get into a power conference some way, some how. All four could join the Big Ten and make it 20, which could lead to a split for sports outside of football and basketball. It is not fair to ask students at Maryland and Rutgers to spend a week on the west coast, or vice versa.
It would be a crying shame if Oregon State and Washington State get dumped into the Mountain West. Nothing against the Mountain West, but the administrations in Corvallis and Pullman have invested way too much time and money into keeping up with the powers in Eugene and Seattle, not to mention LA and the Bay Area.
Somewhere, Mike Leach is pleading with the Good Lord to save the Coogs from purgatory. Dee Andros and Ralph Miller are probably doing the same for the Beavers.
As it stands now, at least one conference champion from outside the Power 5 will earn automatic entry to the CFP once it expands.
Tulane has the opportunity to be that team on a consistent basis.
The Green Wave should be picked no lower than third next year in the American Athletic Conference. Willie Fritz has committed to Tulane, something Larry Smith, Mack Brown and Tommy Bowden did not. I’m surprised Georgia Tech did not pursue Fritz harder, given his success in New Orleans and his ties to the Peach State at Georgia Southern.
Problem is, if Tulane keeps winning, it’s going to be that much harder to keep Fritz.
Before going to Statesboro, he coached at Sam Houston State, which lies in the shadow of Texas’ death row in Huntsville.
If Texas A&M becomes tired of Jimbo Fisher’s mediocrity and is willing to pay his asinine buyout, Aggie boosters will almost certainly be crossing the Sabine River and headed straight for the Big Easy. Texas is always a volatile situation until the Longhorns prove they can win at Darrell Royal/Mack Brown levels on a consistent basis. Will the SEC lure Dave Aranda away from Baylor?
Tulane football is at its highest point since the spring of 1949, when it was coming off a 46-0 rout of LSU in Death Valley to close the 1948 season 9-1. If you read my post from Jan. 2, you’ll know the Wave was ranked as high as No. 4 in 1949 before losing badly in South Bend, coming back to win the SEC championship, only to lose the Sugar Bowl bid when they were flattened 21-0 by LSU in New Orleans. Tulane didn’t sniff another bowl until 1970.
In the Mountain West, Boise State should be a yearly contender, as should Fresno State. San Diego State could be if it doesn’t bolt for the Pac-12. Air Force has done quite well for decades under Troy Calhoun and his predecessor, Fisher DeBerry, but the Falcons don’t have the “big uglies”, as Keith Jackson used to say, along the lines. That, plus the rigors of military training and the commitment following graduation drive many young men away from Colorado Springs, West Point and Annapolis.
Speaking of the academies, without a conference, Army’s chances are next to zero. The Black Knights would have to catch lightning in a bottle, or reincarnate Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard in 1945-46 form.
Navy is in a conference, but is far behind Tulane, SMU and Memphis in the American. Firing Ken Niumatalolo and replacing him from within was a very dumb move by athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who made a similar faux pas at Tulane in the early 1990s by bringing in Buddy Teevens from Dartmouth. Teevens is a hell of a nice guy, but he was overmatched at the top level. After a brief failed stint at Stanford, Teevens returned to New Hampshire and has the Big Green back to its familiar perch at or near the top of the Ivy League.
I saw Smart play for the Bulldogs on the evening of 3 October 1998, when Georgia came to Death Valley for a highly-anticipated matchup with LSU, which was ranked sixth in the AP poll following wins over Arkansas State, Auburn and Idaho.
The talk around Baton Rouge was if the Bayou Bengals prevailed, they were automatically contenders for the first BCS championship, and Gerry DiNardo would take his place alongside Paul Dietzel and Charlie McClendon as the greatest LSU coach ever.
Smart, wearing No. 16, was overshadowed that evening by future Pro Football Hall of Famer, who played nearly the entire game on defense AND offense, and quarterback Quincy Carter, who made play after play to keep Georgia afloat.
With the game hanging in the balance and the Bulldogs ahead 28-27, Bailey made an acrobatic catch on a deep ball down the left sideline to clinch victory.
LSU went into total freefall after Georgia returned to Athens.
The Bayou Bengals won only one of their next seven games to finish 4-7. They got worse in 1999, starting 2-0 before losing eight straight.
On 15 November 1999, Gerry DiNardo was fired by LSU chancellor Mark Emmert, who heroically took the coaching search reins from cheapskate athletic director Joe Dean, who did all he could to keep DiNardo around for 2000.
Fifteen days after DiNardo was booted, Emmert introduced LSU’s new coach, Nick Saban. The rest is history. Mostly good.
Once again, I’ve rambled on. I’ll stop. Thanks again for reading.
The world is a scary and sick place.
Between the Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin’s scary medical emergency on the field last night in Cincinnati and several Trump worshippers sabotaging the vote for Speaker of the House, the last 27 hours have been horrible. It can only get better, right?
Four hours before Hamlin’s collapse, Tulane wrote the fairytale ending to one of the greatest Cinderella stories in college football this century.
The Green Wave, 2-10 in 2021, rallied from a 15-point deficit in the final six minutes of the Cotton Bowl to stun mighty Southern California 46-45. By going 12-2 this season, Tulane now has the greatest single-season turnaround in the history of college football’s top division.
Tulane deserves the moment in the sun, considering it has been among college football have-nots for most of the last 73 seasons.
In 1949, the Wave was ranked No. 4 when it went to South Bend and was crushed 46-7 by Frank Leahy’s Fighting Irish. Tulane recovered to win the Southeastern Conference championship, but was denied a berth in the Sugar Bowl–on its home field–when it lost 21-0 to LSU. The Bayou Bengals went to the Sugar Bowl and were demolished 35-0 by Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners, whose offense was led by quarterback Darrell Royal.
Starting in the early 1950s, Tulane forced athletes to take the same rigorous course load required of all other undergraduates. This meant physical education and other so-called “fluff” classes were no more.
Additionally, Tulane drastically reduced the number of scholarships it offered, leaving it with precious little depth when battling LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss and other SEC behemoths.
Years of losing caught up to Tulane’s administration and boosters, and on 31 December 1964, the school announced it was leaving the SEC at the end of the 1965-66 school year.
The Wave had a few good seasons here and there–8-4 under Jim Pittman in 1970, 9-3 under Bennie Ellender in 1973, 9-3 under Larry Smith in 1979–but by the mid-1980s, the program was at its nadir.
Wally English, Tulane’s coach in 1983 and ’84, began his tenure by starting his son, Jon, at quarterback. Problem was, Jon English was ineligible, and the Wave was forced to forfeit four wins in ’83, including one over Florida State. When 1984 ended with a bench-clearing brawl vs. LSU in Baton Rouge, Tulane athletic director Hindman Wall had seen enough and sent English packing.
Meanwhile, two very dark clouds hung over Willow Street.
The first was a point-shaving scandal involving the men’s basketball team. Several players, including superstar John “Hot Rod” Williams, were forced to testify in front of a grand jury. Williams was eventually acquitted, but others were not so lucky.
On 4 April 1985, Tulane president Eamon Kelly announced the immediate termination of the men’s basketball program. Tulane was expelled from the Metro Conference later that month, as a men’s basketball program was an ironclad requirement for membership.
Shortly after the point-shaving scandal, Tulane football appeared to be on life support.
Mack Brown was hired to replace English. He soon became Tulane’s interim athletic director following Wall’s resignation in the wake of the point-shaving scandal.
As Brown led the Wave through a depressing 1-10 campaign in 1985, a 14-member committee studied whether or not the university should drop football.
The night before Tulane faced Southern Mississippi, the committee deadlocked 7-7. Another vote was taken before the Wave hosted LSU, and it came out 8-6 in favor of football.
One of the members of the committee was Darrell Royal, who won 190 games and three national championships coaching Texas from 1957-76. Royal told Brown that he should get the hell out of New Orleans as quickly as possible, because Tulane was never going to be able to compete with LSU.
Brown stayed at Tulane through 1987, then went to North Carolina, a large state school, but one where he was in the large shadow cast by Dean Smith. Ironically, Brown made his way to Austin in 1998 and spent 16 seasons on the 40 Acres, winning the 2005 national championship, the Longhorns’ first since Royal’s last in 1970.
Tulane, which had been an independent since leaving the SEC, joined the new Conference USA in 1996. The Wave went 12-0 in 1998 and finished No. 7 in the national polls, but soon returned to the lower echelon of the sport it had become too accustomed to.
Willie Fritz was hired from Georgia Southern in 2016 and led Tulane to three consecutive bowl games from 2018-20, the first time the Wave had achieved that feat.
Hurricane Ida destroyed any hopes Tulane had of making it four in a row.
What transpired Monday in Arlington has more than made up for it.
LSU won 63-7 over a depleted Purdue team in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. No need to say much about that one. LSU was expected to win big and it did. Now it needs to carry the momentum into Brian Kelly’s second season.
Camping World Stadium in Orlando and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas are 1,780 kilometers (1,106) miles apart. It will take at least 17 hours driving to get from one to the other.
In less than three hours, two universities whose football stadiums are a mere 132 km (81 miles) apart will be playing simultaneously in bowl games.
Tulane, located in a upper-class residential section of New Orleans, will play Southern California (USC; DON’T call them Southern Cal) in the Cotton Bowl at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, while LSU, nestled along the Mississippi River at the southwest edge of Baton Rouge, will face Purdue in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando.
This is the first time LSU and Tulane are playing in bowl games on the same day. Of course, ESPN and ABC would put them on against each other at noon Central.
Tulane is enjoying one of its finest seasons ever. The Wave went to Manhattan (the little one) and defeated eventual Big 12 champion Kansas State, then went on to win the American Athletic Conference championship, defeating Central Florida in a rematch from the regular season won by the Knights.
Last year, Tulane went 2-10 in a season severely disrupted by the August landfall of Hurricane Ida. The Category 4 storm forced the Wave to move its highly anticipated opener vs. Oklahoma from New Orleans to Norman. Tulane then spent several weeks living and practicing in Birmingham, and one home game had to be moved there.
Instead of a knee-jerk reaction by firing coach Willie Fritz, athletic director Troy Dannen reiterated his unwavering support for Fritz, and that faith has paid off handsomely.
Strangely, this will not be the first bowl game between Tulane and USC. The Trojans defeated the Wave 21-12 in the Rose Bowl following the 1931 season. A Rose Bowl appearance is one thing Tulane can claim and LSU cannot.
LSU enjoyed a solid first season under Brian Kelly, who surprisingly left Notre Dame after 12 seasons to clean up the mess left in the wake of Ed Orgeron’s unseemly departure. The Bayou Bengals bounced back from an opening loss to Florida State (the Seminoles won 24-23 by blocking an extra point on the game’s final play) and a 40-13 shellacking at home vs. Tennessee to earn a trip to the SEC championship games, with big wins over Ole Miss and Alabama, LSU’s first over the Crimson Tide in Baton Rouge in 12 years.
The Bayou Bengals need a win vs. the Boilermakers to avoid a three-game losing streak. After rising to No. 5 in the College Football Playoff poll, LSU was hammered by Texas A&M in College Station, then overwhelmed by Georgia in the SEC title game. The losses knocked the Bayou Bengals out of trips to the Sugar, Orange or Cotton Bowls and instead to the Citrus Bowl for the fourth time since 2009. Ironically, the last time LSU played in this bowl, it lost 21-17 to Kelly’s Fighting Irish.
Had LSU not lost to A&M, it more than likely would have ended up playing Tulane in Arlington.
Sadly, it will take a bowl game to revive this series, barring a miracle.
The Green Wave and Bayou Bengals used to have a spirited gridiron rivalry. It was played continuously from 1919 and 1994, but sadly, it has been played only six times since, the last in 2009.
As an LSU alum and New Orleans native who attended numerous Tulane games growing up in New Orleans, I am very angry about this. I am especially pissed LSU sees fit to play the lower-level in-state schools–McNeese State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls, Southern and Grambling–but refuses to consider playing Tulane.
It is inexcusable LSU will only play the four Division I FBS schools in the state–Tulane, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech–only occasionally, if at all, yet will fork over huge sums of cash to prop up the smaller schools, especially when one is only 132 km to the east and the other is only 80 km to the west.
This past September, LSU played Southern, which is 18 km (11 miles) north on the other side of Baton Rouge. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a notorious LSU booster, and many others praised the meeting of the cross-town rivals on the gridiron.
I thought it was asinine.
I’m not opposed to LSU playing Southern and other smaller in-state schools in baseball and softball. There are more than enough games in those sports to allow room for those games while still being able to schedule larger non-conference opponents.
In basketball, LSU should attempt to schedule one or two per season, but also need to attempt to play higher-caliber foes. Should LSU’s men play Kansas, Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan State and North Carolina in the same season? No. However, LSU’s non-conference schedules have been laughable to pitiful since Dale Brown’s retirement 26 years ago.
That said, LSU and Southern should not be playing on the same football field. Neither should LSU and Southeastern, LSU and McNeese, LSU and Northwestern St. (a game vs. the Big Ten’s Northwestern would be fine, but there could be no home-and-home due to the Wildcats’ stadium in Evanston being less than half the size of Tiger Stadium, unless it were moved to wherever the Bears are playing), LSU vs. Nicholls and LSU vs. Grambling.
LSU and Tulane should be happening every year, or barring that, at least once every three years.
In 2014, Tulane opened Yulman Stadium, a 30,000-seat facility which occupies largely the same footprint as the legendary Tulane Stadium, which stood from 1926 until its demolition near the end of 1979. The 80,000-seat steel behemoth hosted 41 Sugar Bowls from January 1935 through December 1974, three Super Bowls (IV, VI and IX) and 56 Saints home games.
Tulane moved to Superdome in 1975, and the Green Wave’s crowds, already small by southern standards, fell precipitously, except for games vs. LSU and the occasional matchup with a national power.
The LSU-Tulane game at New Orleans sold out in most years between 1975 and ’87 (the Dome hosted the game in odd-numbered years in that era), but by 1994, the last year of the annual series, less than 33,000 came to Poydras Street to watch LSU, led by lame-duck coach Curley Hallman, defeat the Wave 49-25.
LSU athletic director Joe Dean, a notorious cheapskate, demanded Tulane give up the home-and-home if it wanted to continue the series. The Green Wave stood their ground, and thus the series terminated after 1994, with single games in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Only the 2007 game was played in New Orleans.
Dean was ruinous for LSU athletics with his cheapness. Had it not been for five baseball national championships from 1991-2000 and numerous track and field titles, both men and women, the years Dean was athletic director (1987-2000) would have been worse than they were. Of course, Dean inherited baseball coach Skip Bertman, his future successor as athletic director, and track had long been a power before he hired Pat Henry.
Thankfully, then-LSU chancellor Mark Emmert told Dean to shut up in November 1999 after Dean’s buddy, Gerry DiNardo, was fired as football coach. Emmert took charge and got the deal done with Nick Saban.
I understand the desire of Green Wave fans to want to play LSU home-and-home.
However, Tulane boosters should seriously consider just how much better the athletic budget would be if the Wave plays every year in Baton Rouge, where there are 70,000 more seats.
Tulane would not only make a substantial gate playing in Tiger Stadium, much more than it would make for a home game or a road game against a non-Power 5 program, it would only have to pay travel expenses for bus rental to and from Baton Rouge. Even if it wanted to stay in Baton Rouge the night before the game, there would be no expense for a charter flight.
If LSU is to play in New Orleans, the game has to be in the Superdome.
Tulane is scheduled to play Ole Miss (2023), Kansas State (2024), Northwestern and Duke (2025) and Iowa State (2029) at Yulman. I’m surprised the Rebels agreed to this. I was shocked Oklahoma agreed to play Tulane on campus and not at the Superdome before Ida changed everything.
LSU is a different animal than most.
It would not be fair to the Bayou Bengals to play the game in a 30,000-seat stadium, not when LSU could bring many more fans than that and ensure a sellout at the Superdome, which would mean more for the bottom line for both schools.
If I were calling the shots, I would offer Tulane a three-for-one contract for 12 years–three games in Baton Rouge for every one in New Orleans. I would also be open to two-for-one.
I hope and pray LSU vs. Tulane returns to the gridiron before I pass. I’m asking too much, aren’t I?
I’m going to be rooting hard for both my alma mater and the Wave today. I have special interest in Tulane since a dear friend of mine, Rebecca Hale, is a passionate Wave booster. She taught me one semester of English during my junior year at Brother Martin High, and she quickly became one of my favorite teachers ever. We got back in touch four years ago, and it has been gratifying.
ROLL WAVE! GEAUX TIGERS!
For those of you who woke up with a hangover this morning, I have ZERO sympathy for you. In fact, I mock your stupidity. You got what you deserved for partying all because a calendar changed. Congratulations. Remember how you felt this morning when you make the decision whether or not to repeat this 364 days from now. (HINT: if you do, you are far dumber than I thought).
In case you haven’t heard, Georgia and TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERISTY (TCU) will play for the 2022 college football national championship a week from Monday at Inglewood, California. That’s right, the TCU Horned Frogs, a team which was relegated to 16 years in college football’s wilderness thanks to powerful Texas politicians, is one win away from its first national championship since 1938.
A remarkable story considering the wilderness the Horned Frogs were forced to wander through before making it back to the big stage.
By the end of 1993, it was apparent the Southwest Conference was on life support.
Arkansas, a powerhouse in football, men’s basketball, baseball and track and field, departed for the Southeastern Conference in the fall of 1991 for all sports except football; the Razorbacks played a last lame-duck year in the SWC before moving over in 1992.
The Razorbacks’ departure was mostly for financial reasons, but Arkansas athletic director Frank Broyles, who coached the football team to unprecedented success from 1958-76, was tired of fellow members being slapped with severe sanctions by the NCAA, which in turn tarnished the reputation of the entire SWC.
The worst of the worst was at Southern Methodist, where the Mustangs had a large slush fund football and men’s basketball athletes. Mustangs All-America running back Eric Dickerson, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL with the Rams and Colts, joked he had to take a pay cut when he left SMU and reported to Anaheim, where Rams owner Georgia Frontiere was known as one of the tightest owners in the league. Craig James, who helped the Patriots reach Super Bowl XX in 1985, was part of the “Pony Express” backfield with Dickerson when the Mustangs went 11-0-1 in 1982 and finished second behind Penn State in the final rankings, also was paid, but not as much as Dickerson and others.
SMU was placed on probation under coach Ron Meyer for the 1981 season. The Mustangs went 10-1 and won the SWC championship, but could not play in the Cotton Bowl, which happens to be less than 12 kilometers (7 miles) from SMU’s campus. Meyer left to coach the Patriots following the 1981 season, but his successor, Bobby Collins, found more trouble with the boosters, and SMU was placed on probation for 1985 and 1986–no TV, no bowl games.
That wasn’t enough to deter the Mustang bigwigs, led by former–and future–governor Bill Clements. Therefore, the NCAA was forced to take the most drastic step.
On 25 February 1987, SMU’s football program was handed the “death penalty”. There would be no games in 1987, and if the Mustangs chose to play in 1988, it could only play its eight conference games, all on the road. SMU could sign NO new players in February 1988, and would be penalized 55 scholarships in all through February 1990. Also, the Mustangs would be banned from live TV and bowl games for 1988 and 1989. SMU saw the writing on the wall and cancelled its 1988 season as well.
While SMU’s egregious violations were well-known from Seattle to Miami, from San Diego to Boston, there was chicanery also occurring on the opposite side of the Metroplex.
TCU went 8-4 in 1984, its first winning season since 1971. Not bad for a program which went 23-104-5 from 1972 through 1983.
However, two games into the 1985 season, it was revealed numerous Horned Frogs, including star running back Kenneth Davis, had been accepting payments from boosters, the same as their rivals to the east on Interstate 30.
Instead of waiting for the hammer to drop from NCAA headquarters in Kansas City, TCU coach Jim Wacker reported the violations himself.
Angered by the problems at SMU, Houston and other SWC schools, the NCAA hammered the Horned Frogs, placing them on three years’ probation and taking away 45 scholarships between 1986 and ’88.
TCU sank back to the depths it experienced previously. It never truly recovered until the late 1990s, when Dennis Franchione took over the coaching reigns and brought in a once-in-a-lifetime running back named LaDanian Tomlinson.
In early 1994, the eight remaining SWC schools went hat-in-hand to the Big Eight Conference and proposed a merger to form the first 16-team superconference.
The Big Eight was receptive…but only to adding Texas and Texas A&M. The other six (Baylor, Houston, Rice, SMU, TCU, Texas Tech) were told they would have to fend for themselves.
Not so fast, said then-Texas Governor Ann Richards and Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock.
Richards and Bullock, whose position also made him president of the Texas Senate, told the Big Eight that if did not include Texas Tech and Baylor in the merger, then the Longhorns and Aggies would not be allowed to join.
If the Big Eight was going to take two other schools besides the behemoths in Austin and College Station, wouldn’t it want one in each of the major metropolitan areas? What sense would it make to take the schools in Lubbock and Waco instead of one in Houston and one in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex?
That would have made sense, but Richards and Bullock both had degrees from…BAYLOR.
With an election looming, one where Richards would have to face George W. Bush, the son of the former president and then-owner of the Texas Rangers, the incumbent governor figured she could get votes from traditionally-Republican northwest Texas by adding in Texas Tech to the merger.
On 25 February 1994, the Big 12 was unveiled, with the Big Eight (Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) being joined by Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor. It would start play in the fall of 1996.
Not surprisingly, the reaction from Houston, Rice, SMU and TCU was swift and blistering.
Houston was angry it was the lone public school from the SWC being left out. Rice, SMU and TCU were angry that Baylor got the lone invitation among the private schools.
If I had been in charge, I would have taken TCU and Rice. That would have given the Big 12 the metro areas while also adding academic prestige. Houston had way too many run-ins with the NCAA under Bill Yeoman in the 1970s and 1980s, and it continued into Jack Pardee’s tenure. SMU had too much baggage for the obvious reasons. Baylor also had run-ins with the NCAA, and the religious fanaticism on that campus is not attractive.
Houston, Rice, SMU and TCU were marooned on island with no life raft in sight.
The Owls, Mustangs and Horned Frogs latched on an expanded Western Athletic Conference. Beginning in 1996, the conference had 16 teams, with four quadrants of four locked into two divisions. The unwieldy conference stretched from Hawaii to Houston, with teams in three of the four major American time zones.
The travel proved to be a breaking point for many of the old-line WAC members, most notably its two most prominent football powers, BYU and Utah.
The Cougars and Utes convinced Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming and San Diego State, the other consistent football winners, to form a new conference, with basketball powers New Mexico and UNLV also invited. The Mountain West Conference was born in 1999.
Houston, which refused the WAC’s overtures, joined the new Conference USA, where it joined schools without football (Charlotte, DePaul, Marquette, Saint Louis), basketball powers with middling football programs (Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis), former southern independents (Southern Miss, Tulane), and two schools (UAB, South Florida) with nascent football programs.
Two years after the WAC old-timers left, TCU also departed the WAC, joining its former SWC rival in C-USA.
The Horned Frogs’ stay in C-USA would be short. In 2005, TCU reunited with BYU, Utah and all the rest in the Mountain West.
Utah and TCU dominated the MWC in football in the late 2000s. The Utes went undefeated and bested Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after the 2008 season, while the Horned Frogs put together back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and ’10.
TCU lost the Fiesta Bowl after the 2009 season to Boise State, but one year later, the Horned Frogs, led by Andy Dalton, stunned Wisconsin and J.J. Watt in the Rose Bowl. TCU finished the 2010 season ranked #2 behind Auburn.
As the Horned Frogs made their run to Pasadena, they were invited to join the Big East in 2012. The Big East had an automatic berth to the Bowl Championship Series, something the MWC did not, and the conference figured to be ripe for the Horned Frogs to dominate on the gridiron.
By October 2011, the Big 12 was on the verge of a sudden collapse.
On 1 July 2011, two Big Eight expatriates, Colorado and Nebraska, were out of the Big 12, with the Buffaloes joining the Pac-10 (renamed the Pac-12 with the simultaneous addition of Utah) and the Cornhuskers becoming the 12th school of the Big Ten.
Two months later, Texas A&M announced it would be heading to the SEC the next year. Rumors were swirling Missouri would join Aggies as the SEC’s 14th member.
To fill A&M’s vacancy, TCU received the invitation it had been waiting on for almost 18 years. Bye bye Big East! Nice not knowing ye.
The Horned Frogs were back among college athletics’ elite. West Virginia took Missouri’s spot.
Next year, TCU will be reunited with three former conference rivals when BYU, Houston and Cincinnati join the Big 12, along with Central Florida.
TCU becoming the first Big 12 team to play in the CFP championship game came from absolutely nowhere.
In the midst of a terrible 2021 season, the Horned Frogs did the unthinkable by firing longtime coach Gary Patterson, whose bronze likeness greets visitors to Amon G. Carter Stadium. Patterson coached the Horned Frogs to their greatest success since Abe Martin in the late 1950s, going 181-79 over 21 seasons, including the unprecedented dominance of 2009 and ’10.
To replace Patterson, TCU raided its old archrival to the east, hiring SMU coach Sonny Dykes.
Dykes is a scion of Texas football royalty as the son of the late Spike Dykes, a three-time SWC Coach of the Year at Texas Tech and still revered in Lubbock as much as the late Mike Leach, who sadly passed away three weeks ago.
Many outside of the Metroplex worried Dykes would be overwhelmed by the challenges of the Big 12. The media picked TCU to finish seventh in the 2022 Big 12 standings.
The Horned Frogs started with wins over Colorado, Tarleton State (??) and SMU, but a 55-24 rout of Oklahoma in Fort Worth made the experts take notice.
TCU went to Lawrence the next week and handed Kansas its first loss after five consecutive wins. A thrilling 43-40 win in two overtimes vs. Oklahoma State and a comeback from an 18-point deficit vs. Kansas State catapulted the Frogs into national championship conversation.
West Virginia, Texas Tech and Texas all went down, but those title hopes appeared to be dead in Waco.
TCU was out of timeouts and trailing 28-26 in the final minute. The Horned Frogs had to rush their field goal team onto the field in order to get an attempt off before time expired. The snap came with maybe six-tenths of a second remaining. The kick was good. TCU 29, Baylor 28.
The Frogs routed Iowa State to conclude the regular season undefeated, but in the Big 12 title game vs. Kansas State, they were stuffed on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. The Wildcats kicked a field goal to win the game 31-28 and their third Big 12 championship.
TCU’s playoff hopes were tenuous. Ohio State claimed it was worthy of a spot despite being crushed at home by Michigan in its regular season finale. Alabama said it should be the first two-loss team in the playoff, with the losses coming to Tennessee on a field goal at the gun and to LSU when the Bayou Bengals were successful on a 2-point conversion in overtime. Nick Saban went on TV at halftime of the Big Ten title game to plead his case.
The next morning, the Frogs were not penalized for the loss to the Wildcats. TCU was in at No. 3, where it was expected to be if it won vs. K-State.
TCU was not expected to have a chance against mighty Michigan, the program which has won more games than any in NCAA history. The Wolverines had learned from their rout at the hands of Georgia the previous year. Jim Harbaugh and his team were united and focused upon winning the Maize and Blue’s first title in 25 years.
That’s why they play the games.
TCU defeated Michigan 51-45 in the Fiesta Bowl. Now it’s time to take on the Bulldogs, who will be aiming for back-to-back titles, which hasn’t been done since the playoff started in 2014.
Earlier in this rambling post, I mentioned TCU went 23-104-5 from 1972 through 1983.
In 1971, TCU hired Jim Pittman, who led Tulane to an 8-4 record and a Liberty Bowl victory vs. Colorado in 1970. Pittman had the Frogs at 5-3 heading into their 30 October game in Waco.
Late in the first quarter, Pittman collapsed on the visitors’ sideline at Baylor (later Floyd Casey) Stadium with a massive heart attack. He was rushed to Providence Hospital, but at 2003 (8:03 p.m.), he was pronounced dead. The 55-year old Pittman was a Marine Corps veteran who served during World War II, seeing action at Iwo Jima, as well as a husband and father of two sons.
Somehow, the Frogs soldiered on that evening, winning 34-27. One of TCU’s starting defensive backs was Dave McGinnis, the future coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
TCU finished 6-5 in 1971. I can’t help but think Pittman would have kept TCU on the upswing had he lived, the same as he did at Tulane.
In the next 12 seasons, the Frogs had four one-win seasons and an 0-11 campaign in 1976. There was also the tragic paralysis of running back Kent Waldrep during a 1974 game vs. Alabama in Birmingham.
I hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Mississippi State in the wake of Mike Leach’s tragic death. The Bulldogs already had an uphill battle in the SEC due to its remote location and relative lack of success compared to Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee, but without one of the greatest offensive minds college football has known and a man with a personality larger than the Magnolia State, it will be that much more difficult.
With TCU headed to the national championship game and Tulane playing in the Cotton Bowl tomorrow, I can’t help but think Jim Pittman has a broad grin on his face as he watches from his cloud in heaven.
I’m in the Omaha Marriott composing this War and Peace post. I must be bored. It feels like winter in Nebraska outside. Praise Jesus.
Last night’s scheduled Holiday Bowl between North Carolina State and UCLA was postponed less than five hours before the scheduled kickoff of 1800 PST. The Bruins felt they could not compete due to a large number of COVID-19 cases within the program. The Wolfpack and coach Dave Doeren were not pleased; they felt UCLA coach Chip Kelly manipulated the situation by waiting until the last minute to say they had COVID problems. NC State tried find an opponent, but just before noon CST, the game was officially cancelled. Last year’s Holiday Bowl, which has been a staple of the bowl season since 1978, was cancelled by COVID.
I’m calling this John Wooden’s payback, with the I.O.U. dated 23 March 1974.
It was that Saturday evening when NC State did the unthinkable, defeating UCLA in the Final Four at Greensboro. The Wolfpack’s 80-77 double overtime win ended the Bruins’ dream of an eighth consecutive national championship, as well as Bill Walton’s quest to match Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) by winning three titles under Wooden’s tutelage.
It ended UCLA’s phenomenal 38-game NCAA tournament winning streak. Prior to that, the Bruins had not lost when it counted most since falling in the 1963 regional semifinals (Sweet 16) to Arizona State, which at the time was in the Western Athletic Conference (the Sun Devils joined the Pacifc-8 with Arizona to make it the Pac-10 in 1978).
Too many people under age 40 think NC State basketball’s only shining moment was when Jim Valvano led the Wolfpack to their stunning 1983 championship over Houston.
A man named Norm Sloan built a team which churned out one of the most impressive two-year runs in college basketball annals.
The iconic Wizard of Westwood, who passed away in 2010 at 99, led UCLA to seven consecutive NCAA men’s basketball championships from 1967 through 1973, and had the Bruins poised to make it eight at the 1974 Final Four, despite THREE (3!) regular season losses: one to Notre Dame which ended UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak, then a pair of inexplicable stinkers in Corvallis (Oregon State, coached by Kansas native Ralph Miller) and Eugene (Oregon, where Bill Bowerman was still coaching the Ducks’ track and field team while helping Phil Knight with some two-year old startup company called Nike).
To make it eight in a row, which would have matched the Boston Celtics from 1959-66 for the most consecutive championships in a team sport at the collegiate or professional level, and 10th for Wooden since 1964, the Bruins would have to fly across the fruited plane to Greensboro.
As in Greensboro, North Carolina.
There, a hometown favorite and Atlantic Coast Conference power was lying in wait, along with Kansas and Marquette. The Jayhawks of Ted Owens and Warriors (don’t give me the p.c. crap; Marquette was the Warriors until the 1990s) of Al McGuire faced off in the “undercard” to the main event.
It was not North Carolina. Topeka native and former Kansas Jayhawk Dean Smith was already a Tar Heel legend, but that elusive championship was still a few years off. Meanwhile, 11-year old Michael Jeffrey Jordan of Wilmington had yet to hit puberty.
It was not Duke. Yes, UCLA defeated the Blue Devils in the 1964 championship game to give Wooden his first title, but the Blue Devils were relegated to the middle of the pack of the ACC, save for a 1978 championship game loss to Kentucky, for most of the years between then and the 1980 hiring of you know who.
Virginia? Ralph Sampson was in seventh grade.
Wake Forest? Tim Duncan wasn’t born.
Georgia Tech? In exile after leaving the SEC in 1965, with rescue by the ACC still five years away.
Clemson? Basketball was filler between football and spring football
South Carolina? Left the ACC three years prior. Its lifeline from the SEC was still 17 years away.
Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville? In 1974, suggesting any of these schools would someday be in the ACC was a one-way ticket to the looney bin.
The ACC is unusual in that the only champion is the team which wins the conference tournament. There is no official “regular season champion” in ACC men’s basketball. Every school which finishes first or tied for first after the regular season hangs a banner in their arena, but don’t expect the conference office in Greensboro to provide a trophy for it.
It’s win the tournament or no ACC trophy.
Since 1980, the first year the NCAA allowed an unlimited number of qualifiers per conference to the men’s tournament, the ACC tournament final has almost always matched two teams which would be going to the Big Dance, win or lose. Those epic Duke-North Carolina finals were fun to watch, but in the grand scheme, would mean zilch once CBS’ Selection Sunday show began at 1800 EST.
In 1974, this wasn’t the case.
Each conference was allowed ONE team into the tournament. One. Uno. Solitary.
When Wooden had his dynasty humming in Westwood, the other seven members of the Pacific-8 knew their odds of making the NCAA tournament were about as good as those given Leicester City before it won the Premier League championship in 2015-16.
In the SEC, Kentucky was, and still is, the undisputed king. Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt had some very good teams in that era, but all knew the Wildcats would be representing the conference barring a major slip. Pete Maravich scored 3,667 points in three seasons at LSU to set the NCAA record–which still stands–but the Bayou Bengals never sniffed the Big Dance because they needed binoculars to find the Wildcats in the standings.
The Big Eight boiled down to Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri, with the Jayhawks prevailing more often than not, as they did in 1974.
The Big Ten centered on the Hoosier State, with Indiana and Purdue taking their turns at the top. Fred Taylor still had Ohio State rolling, and Michigan played for the 1965 championship.
The NCAA kept several spots reserved for worthy independents, mostly in the northeast. Providence and Pitt took this road into the 1974 tournament (see below), as did Notre Dame, which lost to Marquette (also independent) in the Mideast regional semifinals.
In the Pac-8, SEC, Big Eight, Big Ten and most every other conference, the regular season champion went to the NCAA tournament. The second place team could hope for an NIT berth. Everyone else? Better luck next season.
The ACC dared to be different.
In 1961, the conference declared the tournament champion would be recognized as the sole champion of the conference and its representative to the NCAA tournament.
In 1974, it meant March 9 was Armageddon.
No. 2 North Carolina State vs. No. 3 Maryland in the tournament final at Greensboro.
The winner would be dancing.
The loser would be weeping.
In 1973, the Wolfpack of coach Norm Sloan went 27-0 and deposed the Tar Heels atop the ACC, but the NCAA slapped NC State with probation and a tournament ban for recruiting violations.
(The NCAA had a much more serious infractions case on its hands at the time in my native state, one which landed Southwestern Louisiana, now Louisiana-Lafayette, a two-year death penalty and nearly got the school booted from the NCAA, period.)
The silver lining for Sloan? All of his studs would be back the next season.
Those studs included 7-foot-4 Tommy Burleson, who played on the 1972 Olympic team which was royally screwed in the gold medal game by the Soviets and corrupt officiating; Monte Towe, one of the slickest playmakers to grace an ACC court despite standing all of 5-foot-7; Tim Stoddard, who enjoyed a solid career as an MLB reliever, notably with the 1984 Cubs division championship club; and David Thompson, who was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan and would have to be on any all-time ACC team, even in 2022.
Maryland—which now likes to forget it spent 61 years in the ACC–took NC State’s place in the 1973 NCAA tournament. The Terrapins were led by the flamboyant and personable Charles “Lefty” Driesell, who built a strong program at James Madison before landing at College Park in 1969.
Driesell’s 1973-74 team featured John Lucas, Len Elmore and Tom McMillen. All would play in the NBA, and McMillen and Elmore went on to great success outside of basketball, McMillen as a U.S. Representative from Maryland and Elmore as an attorney. Elmore was also a respected television analyst for many years.
The Wolfpack had an early opportunity to prove themselves in December 1973 against UCLA in a showcase game at The Arena in St. Louis, home to the Blues and the same place where Bill Walton scored 44 points by going 21 of 22 from the field in the Bruins’ 87-66 victory over Memphis State (the “State” was dropped in 1994) in the 1973 championship game, the first to be televised in prime time.
Walton’s last appearance in St. Louis–the Gateway City hasn’t had an NBA team since the Hawks left for St. Louis in 1968, and it’s highly unlikely the NBA will return to Missouri anytime soon–was just as fruitful, with the Bruins winning 84-66.
It was UCLA’s second victory over an ACC power in less than two weeks. The Bruins scraped past the Terps 65-64 at Pauley Pavilion two weeks before taking out the Wolfpack.
NC State responded by reeling off 22 consecutive victories to end the regular season 24-1 overall, 12-0 in the ACC for the second straight year.
The Wolfpack edged the Terrapins 80-74 at Raleigh on Super Bowl Sunday (a better show than the Dolphins’ rout of the Vikings in Houston), then completed the season sweep 86-80 at venerable Cole Field House 17 days later.
Maryland also lost to North Carolina in Chapel Hill and ended the regular season 21-4 overall, 9-3 in the ACC.
With only seven teams in the ACC from 1972-79, the team with the best regular season record earned a bye to the tournament semifinals, a huge advantage in the era of one bid per league.
NC State didn’t waste its advantage, crushing the Cavaliers from Charlottesville 87-66. Maryland was no less impressive in Greensboro, blistering the Blue Devils 85-66 and the Tar Heels 105-85.
No. 2 NC State vs. No. 3 Maryland. Winner to the NCAA tournament. Loser doesn’t.
Forty minutes wasn’t enough to decide the issue. Forty-five were enough–barely.
Wolfpack 103, Terrapins 100.
It has been called by many who witnessed it, either in Greensboro or on television, as the greatest college basketball game they witnessed.
I wasn’t born for another 33 months. I’ve seen bits and pieces on ESPN Classic and YouTube.
I won’t name a greatest game, but in terms of what was at stake, it has to be among the top non-championship games in the history of the sport.
This was the game which prompted the NCAA to begin allowing more than one team per conference into the tournament, although it was capped at two from 1975-79.
Playing in their cozy home, Reynolds Coliseum, NC State steamrolled Providence and Pitt in the East regional to punch a return to Greensboro for the Final Four.
UCLA needed triple overtime to take out Dayton, led by one of the most underrated coaches in the history of the sport, Don Donoher. The Bruins then scorched San Francisco, which had just as much a death grip on the West Coast Conference from Bill Russell’s time until the early 1980s (the Dons in the 1980s is a story for another post) as Gonzaga has today.
Kansas, which lost to UCLA in the 1971 Final Four at the Astrodome, came up short again. The Warriors cruised 64-51, and the Jayhawks would not be heard from again on the national stage until 1986.
UCLA held an 11-point lead in the second half. The Bruins blew it.
The Bruins then led by seven in the second overtime. They blew that, too.
And this was long before the shot clock and 3-point shot in college basketball.
Combine this with Valvano’s magic act nine years later, and NC State has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt it knows how to pull a surprise on the biggest stage.
Just how big was UCLA-NC State? So big the Los Angeles Times‘ front page the next morning featured a photo of Bill Walton losing his balance while battling David Thompson for a rebound.
Jim Murray, the famed Times sports columnist, compared the UCLA loss to the end of the British Empire, the Titanic sinking, Napoleon’s surrender at Waterloo and Caesar’s stabbing by Brutus in the Roman Curia.
NC State’s conquest of UCLA featured a scenario which would be repeated six years later in Lake Placid following the Miracle on Ice.
The Wolfpack had Marquette.
The U.S. hockey team had Finland.
Herb Brooks’ skaters almost blew it, trailing 2-1 after two periods before three third-period goals rescued gold.
Sloan’s cagers were never threatened. Al McGuire didn’t stick around until the end. He was ejected in the second half.
Final: NC State 76, Marquette 64.
UCLA and Marquette both earned redemption.
Even without Walton, the Bruins returned to the Final Four in 1975, defeating Louisville in the semifinals before ousting Kentucky 92-85 in Wooden’s grand finale. Joe B. Hall and the Wildcats had to wait three years for their first title since 1958.
Wooden’s 10 championships in 12 years have rightfully earned him a permanent place on the Mount Rushmore of college basketball coaches. Adolph Rupp would be on my mountain, and so would
McGuire also went out on top. His Warriors returned to the Final Four in 1977, and Marquette toppled Dean Smith’s Tar Heels 67-59. Smith’s first title, and UNC’s first since 1957, was still five years away, as was that Michael Jordan fellow.
Sloan stayed at NC State until 1980, when he surprisingly returned to Florida, his alma mater, in an attempt to save the Gators from basketball irrelevance, as well as sell season tickets to the Gators’ new arena, now known as the O’Connell Center, which would open in the fall of 1981.
The Gators didn’t reach the Final Four until 1994, five years after Sloan’s departure, but all of his successors–Lon Krueger, Billy Donovan and Mike White–are quick to point out the groundwork Sloan laid in the 1980s for the Gators’ rise to powerhouse status.
The move to Gainesville opened the door for NC State–reeling from the shocking death of former football coach Bo Rein in a January 1980 plane crash–to hire a young, energetic coach from Iona in New Rochelle, New York.
I won’t expound on Jim Valvano’s story any longer, at least this time.
Meanwhile, just down the road in Durham, Duke president Terry Sanford, a former Governor of North Carolina and future United States Senator, rolled the dice on the 33-year old coach at West Point after Bill Foster left for South Carolina.
Needless to say, Sanford hit seven on the come out roll.
Valvano and Coach K are forever linked because of the timing of their hires, and sports is better for it.
Maryland beat the dog out of Virginia Tech in today’s Pinstripe Bowl. Yippee.
How the F**K Is Maryland in the Big Ten? Or Rutgers? I’d still like to know what was going through Jim Delaney’s brain. Somewhere, Bill Reed and Wayne Duke, Delaney’s predecessors as Big Ten Commissioner, must be spinning in their graves.
Thank you for reading if you’ve gotten this far.
Technology made a fool out of me yesterday.
The story begins two weeks before Christmas (11 December), when I purchased a new case for my iPhone directly from Apple at its store in Leawood. I had been using an OtterBox case, since it was the only one which came with a belt clip, but the belt clip kept coming off. I counted at least 491 times between my old iPhone Xs and the 13 Pro Max I acquired on 29 September.
With the new case (Marigold silicon), I purchased a small leather wallet which would hold a few cards and attached to the back of the phone. I didn’t know until I put the wallet on the phone it could be traced by the phone whenever you took it on and off. I found out when I returned to my hotel; I took the wallet off and the phone notified me the wallet had been removed at 8320 North Stoddard, the location of the Springhill Suites in Platte County where I was staying.
Yesterday, I began an eight-day journey away from Russell, beginning in Omaha. At first, I was going to go the long way through Kansas City and St. Joseph, but when I woke up, I decided to go the proper way from Salina to York via US 81. Good call.
I made a stop at a Walgreens to pick up a bunch of Ghirardelli chocolate for someone I’m going to meet in Omaha later this week. Everything seemed normal until I pulled up to the Hallmark store across 132nd Street.
The wallet was not on the back of my phone, and the phone told me the wallet had been last located at Walgreens. I frantically went back to Walgreens, but neither cashier said they had seen a wallet.
Oh God. Here I go again with losing things. I was panicked. Not only was my ATM card and American Express in that wallet, but so was my driver’s license. I could easily replace the financial products. The license? Not so much, considering I was out of state and it was the last week of December, when offices are either closed or barely staffed.
I searched through a trash bag and turned over everything on my front seat. I searched the bag I got from Walgreens. Nothing.
Fortunately, I discovered it on the floor behind the armrest. Holy crap.
Apple’s wallet technology is great. I am going to keep using it. Sometimes, it is too smart for its own good, and way too smart for its users. I’m going to try to find a belt clip for this case. It would be nice to have my right front pocket freed again, but if I have to keep carrying it in my pocket, it’s leaps and bounds better than any third-party. And I will never patronize OtterBox again.
I woke up at 0400. I didn’t go to bed that late (2245) and I was up at 0500 Monday. Again, more energy on the road than at home.
I’m staying at the Marriott in west Omaha near Interstate 680. The rooms have been renovated since I last stayed here in June 2012, and I was upgraded to a two-room suite. The only problem is the faucet barely runs. I get trying to conserve water, but it’s going a bit too far. The shower does not have a door nor a special floor, but the wood dries quickly and the water doesn’t get far past the curtain.
I’m on the first floor, which suits me just fine this time, even though I’m partial to higher floors. I’m going to be in a rush to get to a 0900 appointment Thursday, then on to Des Moines after that. Kind of wish I could stay here longer, but there’s something about Iowa now, including Joe’s Crab Shack in West Des Moines.
The closest Joe’s Crab Shack is in the Denver area, but (a) I didn’t realize it when I was there in October; (b) there’s one thing I crave in Denver, and it comes from a bull, not the sea; and (c) driving to Colorado is dicey in winter, since I don’t own chains for my tires (Colorado requires chains in snow, whereas states in the Plains make it optional or forbid it). Des Moines does fine, considering it’s not in Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Wichita. The only thing which would be better would be an oyster bar like Louisiana, but the occasional crab legs do nicely.
Last night it was calamari from Cheesecake Factory, which is the closest restaurant to the Marriott. I watched the Saints lay an egg against the Dolphins, to be expected staring a quarterback (Ian Book) who probably has no business starting an NFL game.
It’s overcast this morning, befitting the feeling of football fans from Scottsbluff to Omaha. The Cornhuskers went 3-9 in 2021, their worst record since 1961, the year before Bob Devaney arrived and built Nebraska into a perennial power.
Saturday happens to be the 50th anniversary of Nebraska’s 38-6 demolition of Alabama in the Orange Bowl which clinched the Cornhuskers’ second consecutive Associated Press national championship. Nebraska went 13-0 in 1971, with its other signature win coming on Thanksgiving when it beat Oklahoma 35-31 in Norman in what is considered by some to be the greatest college football game ever played. I don’t know if I’d rank it first, but I’d have to put it in the top three with Texas-Arkansas in 1969 and Notre Dame-Michigan State in 1966. (As for games I actually witnessed, either on TV or in person, I can only think of
The 1971 Huskers were generally considered Nebraska’s greatest team until those with very short-term memory began putting the 1995 Huskers ahead.
I have one word for those who think 1995 was better than 1971: BULLSHIT. (pardon my French)
Nebraska beat the teams which finished 2-3-4 in the final AP poll: Oklahoma, Colorado and Alabama. It dominated the Buffaloes in Lincoln and mauled the Crimson Tide as mentioned previously. The Huskers could not hold two 11-point leads vs. Oklahoma, but the Sooners were at home and weren’t half bad. Heck, even Iowa State went 7-4 and played LSU in the Sun Bowl.
The 1995 Huskers had no real competition. Yes, the Big Eight had four teams finish in the final AP top ten, but the three other than Nebraska–Colorado, Kansas and Kansas State–would not have stacked up to the Sooners, Buffaloes and Tide of 1971.
Nebraska mauled Michigan State 50-10 in East Lansing in the second game of 1995, but the Spartans were trying to find their way under their new coach. Nobody could have predicted Nick Saban would have seven national championships and Nebraska none between 1998 and 2020. 0
As for the rest of the Big Eight in 1995, Oklahoma was listing through its first and last season under Howard Schnellenberger. Oklahoma State was digging out of the devastation of severe probation under a new coach. Missouri hadn’t had a winning season since 1983 and was still bitching about the fifth down vs. Colorado from five years prior. Iowa State was a hot mess, which it had been since Earle Bruce left the Cyclones in early 1979 to replace Woody Hayes.
It’s 3 Celsius (37 F) outside. Balmy for late December in Nebraska. Global warming sucks.
Nobody would blame a Clemson football fan if they believed in voodoo.
New Orleans has been a hellhole for Tiger football, especially over the last four seasons.
Clemson’s dreams of its third national championship in five seasons was squashed last night when Ohio State rolled to a stunningly easy 49-28 victory in the Sugar Bowl, the second College Football Playoff semifinal.
The Buckeyes, who played only five regular season games, then defeated Northwestern in the Big Ten Conference championship game, faces Alabama in Miami Gardens for the championship a week from Monday. The Crimson Tide had no trouble in rolling over Notre Dame 31-14 in the Rose Bowl, relocated from Pasadena to Arlington due to California’s ban on spectators at sporting events in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers are 6-5 in CFP games. They have been in college football’s version of the Final Four every year since 2015, the second year of the playoff.
Tonight’s loss dropped Clemson to 0-3 in CFP games in the Superdome. The Tigers lost 24-6 to Alabama in the 2017 semifinals and 42-25 to LSU in last year’s championship.
Clemson’s cursed history in the Big Easy goes back to the Tigers’ longest-tenured coach, the man who is honored prior to every Clemson home game.
Frank Howard was already a near-deity in South Carolina, and a living legend in the college football coaching ranks, in 1958. He was in his 19th season at Clemson, and by then, he established the Tigers as a southern stalwart, highlighted by an 11-0 campaign in 1948 which saw the Carolina Tigers defeat Don Faurot’s Missouri Tigers in the Gator Bowl.
What did an 11-0 record get Clemson in 1948? The No. 11 spot in the final Associated Press poll, which was taken prior to bowl games. The AP’s first post-bowl poll was in 1965, and it did not become permanent until 1968..
The Tigers were ranked eight spots behind North Carolina, which went 9-0-1 in the regular season before losing to Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners in the Sugar Bowl.
In 1948, North Carolina and Clemson were toiling in the Southern Conference, which was nothing more than a loose confederation of teams most in the Carolinas and Virginia, with Maryland the northern edge of the conference. There were big names like UNC, Clemson, South Carolina, North Carolina State and Maryland in the SoCon, but lesser lights like Washington and Lee, The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and Furman.
UNC and Clemson didn’t play in 1948. However, the Tigers defeated SEC members Mississippi State and Auburn away from Memorial Stadium, Boston College in Massachusetts and South Carolina in Columbia.
The Tar Heels rocketed to No. 2 after wins over Texas and Georgia, the latter in Athens. UNC hit the top spot after defeating Wake Forest, but somehow dropped two spots after a win over NC State. Then UNC beat LSU and Tennessee, the latter in Knoxville, but was tied 7-7 by William & Mary, which had a fine team and finished No. 20 in the final AP poll of 1948.
Should Clemson have been higher than No. 11? Absolutely. Not ahead of the top three (Michigan, Notre Dame, North Carolina), but no lower than No. 7, where 7-2 Northwestern resided.
Two years later, Clemson went 8-0-1 in the regular season and finished 10th in the final AP poll. The Tigers won their ninth game by defeating Miami on its own field in the Orange Bowl.
In 1953, the large schools from the SoCon formed the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson won its first ACC title in 1956 and a trip to the Orange Bowl, where it lost 27-21 to Colorado, which was not yet in the Big Eight. The Tigers went 7-3 in 1957, but only 4-3 in the ACC, and thus did not get invited to a bowl.
Howard’s 1958 squad started 4-0 and rose to No. 10 in the AP poll, but a 26-6 loss in Columbia to the Gamecocks dropped the Tigers nine spots. Clemson lost two weeks later to then-SEC member Georgia Tech in Atlanta before winning its last three regular season games vs. NC State, Boston College and Furman.
South Carolina, which lost to North Carolina two weeks before defeating Clemson, had the inside track to a bowl bid, but blew it by losing 10-6 to Maryland in College Park.
The Terrapins did the Tigers a huge favor. Clemson was then home free after winning in Raleigh. North Carolina took itself out of the running with losses to NC State and the Tigers in the first two weeks, and Duke lost its first two conference games to South Carolina and Virginia, the Cavaliers’ lone win of 1958.
Howard’s club climbed back into the rankings at No. 16 after the NC State game. His coaching cachet and Clemson’s rabid fan base was mighty appealing to the New Orleans Mid-Winter Sports Carnival, which was under pressure from Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Morrison, the City Council and the Louisiana Legislature to invite only all-white teams to Tulane Stadium.
The Sugar Bowl had to look only 80 miles west to find Clemson’s opponent.
One week after inviting LSU, the Bayou Bengals wrapped up the 1958 national championship by stomping Tulane 62-0 in New Orleans. Paul Dietzel’s White Team, Go Team and Chinese Bandits pillaged the Green Wave for 56 second half points, one record which survived Joe Burrow’s passing frenzy of 2019.
This was not Howard’s first rodeo in New Orleans. He took Clemson to Tulane Stadium to play the Green Wave four times between 1940 and 1946, coming away a loser three times. The lone Tiger win was 47-20 in 1945. Tulane was also 2-1 vs. Clemson prior to Howard’s arrival, leaving the Tigers 2-5 in the Crescent City prior to playing the Bayou Bengals.
Clemson was a decided underdog, facing the national champions in what amounted to a road game. Yet Howard, much like Swinney, had the Carolina Tigers loose and ready to roar. What did they have to lose?
It took a trick play, a halfback option pass from Billy Cannon to Mickey Mangham, for LSU to overcome its stubborn foe 7-0. The Bayou Bengals cemented their national championship without much complaint from the peanut gallery, even though Iowa was voted No. 1 in the Football Writers Association of America poll after the Hawkeyes crushed California 38-12 in the Rose Bowl. The Golden Bears haven’t returned to the Granddaddy of Them All, much as Chuck Munice and Aaron Rodgers tried.
Two years after the loss to LSU, a rock found in the real Death Valley was given to Howard by Clemson booster Samuel Jones. Howard used the rock as a door stop until 1966, when another booster, Gene Willimon, told the coach to do something with the rock or get rid of it. Howard took Willimon’s advice and placed it on the pedestal in the east end of Memorial Stadium.
Clemson did not rub the rock during the 1966 season, although in its first home game of that season, it rallied from an 18 point deficit vs. Virginia with 17 minutes left to win 40-35.
The next season, the tradition of rubbing the rock began. It actually ended in 1970 when Hootie Ingram succeeded Howard and continued through most of 1972. Ingram chose to have Clemson enter the stadium from the west end instead of the east.
Bad idea, Hootie.
Prior to the 1972 season finale vs. South Carolina, Ingram realized the Tigers were a putrid 6-9 at home under his leadership. He decided to have the team enter from the east end before facing Paul Dietzel’s Gamecocks.
Clemson won 7-6. The tradition carries on.
Back to Clemson and New Orleans.
After losing the Sugar Bowl to LSU, Clemson did not return to the Big Easy until 1981 to play Tulane in the Superdome. The Tigers won 13-5 (not a typo) en route to their first national championship, claimed with a 22-15 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.
Clemson left the Superdome last night with a humbling 3-8 lifetime mark in the Big Easy.
Two silver linings:
–The Superdome will have a new sponsor when Clemson returns. Mercedes-Benz’ naming rights deal expires later this year, and the German automaker will not renew the contract, due to its sponsorship of Atlanta’s stadium. Clemson’s three CFP losses came during this naming rights deal.
–Trevor Lawrence will only have to play in New Orleans once every eight years, since the Jaguars and Saints are in opposite conferences. If you think the Jaguars have a chance of playing in Super Bowl LIX following the 2024 season, I’ve got a beachfront condo in Russell to sell.
A rambling post about Clemson football. Foots Prints at its finest. Goodbye for now.
LSU and Missouri have been together in the Southeastern Conference since 2012.
Yesterday was the first time the Bayou Bengals visited Columbia, and only the second time the purple Tigers and black Tigers faced off as conference opponents.
Blame one man. He resides in Tuscaloosa.
Nicholas Lou Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama, believes the world would stop spinning on its axis if the Crimson Tide did not play Tennessee every year.
Alabama and Tennessee have a rivalry which dates to 1901, less than two months after President William McKinley was assassinated in Buffalo. The Tide and Volunteers have played every year since 1930 except 1943, when neither school fielded a team during the height of World War II.
General Robert Neyland wanted Tennessee to play Alabama every year, knowing if the Volunteers defeated the Tide, Tennessee would be the undisputed king of southern football.
Bear Bryant, who played on a broken leg when Alabama won 25-0 in 1935 at Birmingham, considered Tennessee a bigger rival than Auburn. It was his trainer, Jim Goostree, who began the tradition of handing out victory cigars to players and coaches following victory in the series. Tennessee soon copied the tradition.
It is a vile and disgusting tradition. The Birmingham News’ website, AL.com, posts hundreds of photos of players and fans smoking cigars after a Crimson Tide victory over the Volunteers. They are glorifying a product which has killed tens of millions of Americans (although cigars have killed fewer than cigarettes). Memo to the women who smoke cigars: it doesn’t make you prettier. It makes you repulsive.
Nick Saban loves the cigars, given he once chain-smoked cigarettes. Unlike Bryant, he had the guts to give them up, but he still chews Red Man.
Alabama fans shouldn’t be lighting up cigars anyway. Tennessee is as impotent against Alabama these days as I am with the disgusting little thing between my legs. No reason to bother.
No wonder Saban wants to keep Tennessee on Alabama’s schedule permanently. He beats them all the time.
On the other hand, the world will not end if the Crimson Tide and Volunteers don’t play every year.
Conference realignment has cost us Maryland-Virginia, Maryland-North Carolina, Penn State-Pittsburgh, Nebraska-Oklahoma, Nebraska-Colorado, Nebraska-Missouri, Missouri-Kansas, Missouri-Oklahoma, Colorado-Oklahoma, Texas A&M-Baylor, Texas A&M-TCU, Texas A&M-Texas Tech, Arkansas-Texas, and the biggest of all, Texas-Texas A&M.
LSU and Tulane haven’t played since 2009. That sucks. Tulane bears some of the blame for demanding every other game be played in New Orleans, but LSU has a point by not wanting to give up a home game and play in a stadium which seats 30,000. Tulane blundered massively by leaving the SEC in 1966, but it could make up somewhat for it by playing every year in Baton Rouge and accepting a generous check from LSU. It really angers me LSU will play McNeese, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, and now Southern and Grambling, but not Tulane.
Even within conferences, some rivalries aren’t played every year.
When the SEC split into divisions in 1992, it ended the yearly battle between Auburn and Tennessee. In 2002, Auburn’s yearly rivalry with Florida ended. LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001, but now don’t see each other but once every five or six years. Alabama and Georgia once played every year, but haven’t since Vince Dooley’s early days in Athens. LSU and Alabama was NOT a yearly rivalry until 1964. LSU and Auburn rarely played until they were thrown into the SEC West together. Same with Tennessee vs. Florida and Georgia in the East; Tennessee played Ole Miss every year before divisions.
The ACC stupidly divided the four North Carolina schools. This means North Carolina and Wake Forest don’t play every year, nor do Duke and North Carolina State. Last year, the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons played a game which didn’t count in the ACC standings just to play. Clemson also doesn’t play Duke, North Carolina and Virginia every year, while NC State and Wake Forest don’t see Virginia every year.
Before Nebraska and Colorado left the Big 12, it stranded Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with the Texas schools, and refused to have even one cross-division rivalry which was played every year.
In the Big Ten, the Little Brown Jug isn’t contested between Minnesota and Michigan every year. Same with Illibuck, the turtle contested by Ohio State and Illinois. Fortunately, Iowa and Minnesota still battle every year for Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig which is bar none the best trophy in college sports.
Anyone who can read a map knows Missouri is farther west than 11 of the other 13 SEC schools. Only Arkansas and Texas A&M are west of Columbia.
Yet the SEC refused to consider moving one team out of the West to let the Big 12 expatriates join the same division.
Then-Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs repeatedly said he would gladly move to the East to allow Mizzou into the West, yet then-SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and league presidents refused.
The biggest reason was Saban’s bellyaching about the cherished Alabama-Tennessee rivalry. Such bellyaching was not as loud from Knoxville, although I’m certain some Volunteer fans want their team to play the Crimson Tide, even with the yearly slaughter.
If Auburn was moved to the East, the Tigers of the Plains would become the Crimson Tide’s permanent cross-division football opponent, meaning they couldn’t play the Volunteers every year. Tennessee probably would have picked up Mizzou or A&M as its permanent West rival.
There is no rule stating Alabama and Tennessee cannot play a game which wouldn’t count in the SEC standings. Bear Bryant did this vs. Ole Miss near the end of his tenure. Has nobody thought of this? I’m not just talking about the Crimson Tide and Volunteers. Everyone in the SEC could do this. It would be an easy way to schedule the required non-conference game vs. a Power Five team.
The above ideas are good, but definitely not the best.
I realize Tuscaloosa is farther west than Nashville, home to Vanderbilt. However, the SEC could fudge its geography just a little bit and make it all right.
Swap Mizzou and Vandy for Alabama and Auburn. There, problem solved. Alabama would have Auburn and Tennessee as division opponents, and playing Georgia and Florida would more than make up for not playing LSU every year.
Tennessee-Vanderbilt would become the lone cross-division game to be played every year, the same way Indiana-Purdue is the only one in the Big Ten. This would get teams into each stadium more frequently.
Your blogger would be pumped to see LSU and Mizzou play every year in football, baseball and softball, meaning the Bayou Bengals would be in Columbia every other year for those sports instead of once in a blue moon.
It just makes too much damned sense, so it will never happen.
Then again, Missouri sports teams have a history of being geographically misaligned.
The Cardinals played in the National League EAST from 1969-93, even though it was farther west than Atlanta and Cincinnati, which were in the West.
The Cardinals and Cubs raised holy hell when the National League wanted to align geographically when the two-divisiion format was approved for 1969. Both were afraid of (a) 27 games per year in California, which meant late start times for television, and (b) not playing in New York. NL president Bill Giles gave the Cardinals and Cubs what they wanted, giving the big “F YOU” to the Braves and Reds, which faced longer trips to California and later start times for their fans, since Atlanta and Cincinnati are on Eastern time.
Giles didn’t have the balls AL president Joe Cronin did. He told the White Sox flat out they were going into the West, and if they didn’t like it, tough shit. The Sox’ owners at the time wanted to be in the East, citing tradition, as five of the other six old-line AL teams were in that division (the exception was the second Senators franchise, the one which became the Rangers in 1972). The White Sox tried again to move to the East when the Senators’ relocation was approved, but the Brewers, who were originally the Seattle Pilots, were moved from West to East, trading places with the Senators/Rangers.
The AL should not have moved the Brewers. It short-circuited rivalries with the White Sox and Twins, and since the Cowboys were in the NFC East, and the Cardinals and Cubs were in the NL East, it wouldn’t have been too bad to keep the Rangers in the AL East.
Speaking of teams from Dallas and St. Louis, it was totally asinine the Cowboys and football Cardinals were in the NFC East. Those cities aren’t east of anything, except San Francisco and Los Angeles in the NFC.
Pete Rozelle wimped out when the AFL and NFL merged. Rather than unilaterally imposing an alignment on NFC owners, he allowed secretary Thelma Ekjer to blindly pick an alignment out of a vase. And wouldn’t you know, the only one with the Cowboys and Cardinals in the NFC East was picked.
Let’s see..the Cowboys in the East and the Falcons in the West. Brilliant.
Rozelle should have put the Cowboys in the West, then added either the Cardinals or Saints (probably the latter, since it would have preserved a Dallas-New Orleans rivalry, one Cowboys’ president Tex Schramm loved). The other should have gone into the Central with the Vikings, Bears and Packers, and the Lions would go into the East with the Falcons, Redskins, Eagles and Giants.
When the Rams moved to St. Louis, there was no problem for me with them staying in the West, although it would have been an ideal time to realign the NFC, with the 49ers, Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys and Saints in the West; the Falcons, Panthers, Redskins, Giants and Eagles in the East; and the Central staying the way it was. At the time, the AFC was too convoluted to try to redo the East and Central (the West was great the way it was).
I’m not giving up my hope LSU and Mizzou are more than occasional rivals. Sometimes the world actually works the way it should.
Until then, I’ll start saving up for tickets when the Bayou Bengals return to Columbia in 2023. And for LSU’s trip to Lexington next year.
My first college football game as a fan in 25 years was unlike any college or professional sporting event I’ve attended.
I parked to the southeast of the stadium behind the Hearnes Center, Mizzou’s former basketball arena and current home for wrestling, gymnastics and many volleyball matches. The walk was not bad. My dad and I had longer walks when we went to LSU games in the 1990s.
Mobile ticketing has made life so much easier. I no longer have to worry about misplacing tickets. It also is much easier to guard against counterfeits tickets. I didn’t carry a bag, even though I bought a clear bag just in case. No metal detectors, which was surprising; they have been a way of life at big sporting events since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001.
I made the mistake of attempting to walk up stairs to the upper deck. Of course, a fat ass like me is in no shape to be walking all those stairs. I needed to sit down for a few minutes near the top. Once I ascended the last flight and into the seating area, I was fine.
I had no trouble with my seats being at the very top of the upper deck. I had a little shade because of a light canopy which arched over the back row, although I could feel the sun on my neck starting late in the first half.
I hated sitting in upper levels of outdoor stadiums when I was younger. My dad bought tickets in the upper deck for a 1992 Cardinals game at the old Busch Stadium, and it scared me. I couldn’t sit in the stands. I just wandered the concourse the whole game while my brother sat in the seats. That fear of heights left my dad and brother sitting in the ridiculously hot bleachers for two games at the Rangers’ home stadium instead of the upper deck behind home plate.
I was okay in domed stadiums, sitting near the top of the Astrodome and Superdome. I also recall a 2003 Pelicans (then known as the Hornets) game where my dad and I were at the very top of what is now the Smoothie King Center. Talk about a steep climb. But with a roof over my head, I was okay.
I have been to the top of Kauffman Stadium a couple of times, although my seats were in the lower level. I might try sitting up there for a game if fans are allowed in 2021.
In the row and section where my seats were, there were blocks of two seats which were labeled “allowed”, with four empty seats between. Previously, 22 people could be seated on that row; now, it was eight.
As it turned out, row 16 of section of 305 had one occupant. That’s right, your blogger. It was a weird experience being alone in a large stadium, but I didn’t mind. Nobody walking in front of me trying to get to the stairs. No conversation distracting me. No crying babies. No drunks. I could get used to this.
I remembered all the Royals games I’ve been to by myself. I should not have worried about going alone today. I enjoyed it. I kept myself busy by taking photos and texting my dad, Bill and Larry, with occasional shoutouts to Frank, Gordy Rush and Brenda. I also did the most posting on social media I have in awhile.
The game itself was quite exciting, although I would have preferred to see more defense. Those who made it to Faurot Field won’t soon forget this one.
LSU fans might WANT to forget it.
Mizzou, which was a 14 1/2-point underdog when the game kicked off at 11:07, won 45-41. That line was over 20 points when the game was scheduled for Baton Rouge, which tells me LSU would have been a 17 or 18 point favorite on a neutral field, as the home team usually has a three-point advantage in the sports books.
It turned into the coming out party for Mizzou quarterback Connor Bazelak. Making his second start, the redshirt freshman completed 29 of 34 for 406 yards and four touchdowns. Mizzou gained 586 yards two weeks after Mississippi State’s K.J. Costello, a Stanford expatriate, threw for an SEC-record 623 in Baton Rouge.
LSU’s Myles Brennan had to carry his team with 430 yards passing. The Bayou Bengals gained a meager 49 yards rushing on 20 carries. The yardage was bad, but to attempt to run only 20 times is unacceptable. LSU would never have dared to run that little under Nick Saban and Les Miles, or even the earlier years of Ed Orgeron’s tenure.
Frankly, Mizzou was the better team today. LSU was only this close because Mizzou lost three fumbles, one on a punt and another at its own 5-yard line. Those led to 17 points. Take those out, and LSU fans would have been out of Columbia much earlier.
It was Eli Drinkwitz’ first victory as Mizzou coach. Drinkwitz has gone from Appalachian State assistant to Appalachian State head coach to Mizzou coach in three seasons. Drinkwitz succeeded Scott Satterfield after he went to Louisville in early 2019. Some thought Mizzou should hire Tulane’s Willie Fritz, but athletic director Jim Sterk went fishing in Boone, N.C., figuring if it worked for Louisville it would for Mizzou.
Drinkwitz faces an uphill climb having to play Georgia and Florida every year, but the SEC is no cakewalk, even for Nick Saban. He’s got to have some coaching chops to be one of the elite 14 leading SEC programs. Unless something catastrophic happens, I would expect him to be leading Mizzou when LSU returns to Faurot Field in three years.
That’s right, LSU isn’t back in CoMo for three years. That sucks. I’ll explain in another post very soon, but let me get back to Russell first.
This had to be the first sporting event where I did not leave the seating area. I admit I moved down a few seats on the row to get out of the sun on my back, but once I arrived at my seat at 10:10, did not leave the area until the game ended at 14:45. No concession run, no restroom run. Two 900 ml bottles of water was enough hydration.
I’m overjoyed the game started at 11:00, not at 20:00 as originally planned. If it had started at 20:00, it would have ended at 23:45, and I wouldn’t have been back at the hotel until after midnight. I would have had little chance to make it back to Russell before late afternoon.
I hate to disagree with most LSU fans, but I prefer morning kickoffs. Get the game done and have time to either enjoy the evening or get a good night’s sleep.
Other than the result, it was an enjoyable day. In less than 16 hours, I’ll be back in Russell barring something unforeseen.
Going out of town today allowed my parents to be alone for their 50th anniversary. They weren’t able to do much due to the pandemic. They married only three months after their first (blind) date.
Time to get ready for bed. 0500 will come quickly. I’ve got salmon waiting for me in Russell.
I said I would be back in less than 24 hours after my last post. I kept my promise, although it’s because I’ve had a stream of consciousness moment, not anything dealing with LSU and Mizzou.
My memory is failing me.
When I went to Wentzville and Lake St. Louis earlier today, I forgot how bad traffic on Interstate 64 west is from Lake St. Louis to I-70. I witnessed it in May when I drove into Chesterfield for my week-long stay.
I shouldn’t be too worried. After all that’s happened between 11 May and 9 October, I should forgive myself for forgetting traffic patterns in western St. Charles County. It was my third trip that way in 13 months, more than I’ve been most places, but still not enough to rise to the status between tourist and resident.
Now if I had forgotten the traffic patterns on the other side of Missouri, I’d have to worry about the old brain.
I haven’t seen an LSU football game in person in almost 17 years.
Tomorrow will be the first time I will be observing an LSU football game as a regular spectator in 25 years.
Every LSU football game I witnessed from 1996 through 2003 was in a press box. Most of them were in the old press box of Tiger Stadium (Death Valley), which was torn down after the 2004 season to make way for a new upper deck on the west side of the stadium, as well as a new press box.
The old press box at LSU was an oven. No air conditioning, and worse, no circulation, period. Breezes barely blow in Louisiana on most nights, and even if it did, there was no way to get the air circulating in the press box, at least on the second level (print media) and third level (private booths). The first level, where the radio and television broadcasters worked, as did public address announcer Dan Borne, had air conditioning. I loved lingering in Dan’s booth as much as I could, because he turned the thermostat WAY down, the way I like it.
I also watched LSU play in the Sugar Bowl twice, defeating Illinois after the 2001 season, as well as the aforementioned game vs. Oklahoma two years later.
The last LSU football game I went to strictly as a fan was with my dad on 16 September 1995, when the Bayou Bengals defeated Auburn 12-6.
Our seats were terrible—ground level boxes at the southwest corner of the stadium. Naturally, most of the big plays occurred at the north end of the stadium, including James Gillyard’s sack of Patrick Nix for a safety and Troy Twillie’s interception on the game’s last play.
On the drive back to New Orleans, my dad remarked he could not hear LSU’s Golden Band from Tigerland because of the crowd noise. LSU’s band at the time was at the northwest corner of the stadium (now it’s near the top of the north end zone), but with so many members, the sound carried well across campus. Not that night.
Tiger Stadium was sold out (80,559), and the crowd had a big part in throwing Auburn off its game. That, and the revenge LSU sought after giving away the 1994 game in Auburn, made the Plainsmen’s task that much more difficult.
I’ve seen five games from the stands at Tiger Stadium—two in 1992 (Tennessee 20, LSU 0; LSU 24, Tulane 12), two in ‘93 (LSU 24, Tulane 10; Arkansas 42, LSU 24) and the aforementioned 1995 game. I also was in the Superdome stands for LSU’s wins vs. Tulane in 1991 (39-20) and ‘94 (49-25).
This will not be my first LSU road game.
That came 26 years ago, when I watched the Bayou Bengals get embarrassed 34-21 by a mediocre Ole Miss squad in Oxford. The game was nowhere near as close as the score; the Rebels led 31-0 before they relaxed and let the Tigers score a couple of cheap touchdowns.
I bought a ticket for $18 through LSU’s ticket office. I had a good seat, 40-yard line behind LSU’s bench about 15 rows up.
I had no idea how to get there and where I was going to stay. I had a car, but there was no way I was going to find a hotel room in Oxford. My dad’s original plan was for me to stay in Jackson, 360 km (170 miles) south of Oxford the night before the game, drive to the game, go back to Jackson, then return to Baton Rouge Sunday.
At this time, Baton Rouge was the farthest I had driven. I could drive back and forth on I-10 between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but I had no confidence going out of state.
Lucky for me, LSU’s athletic photographer, Brad Messina, was going to drive to the game instead of flying with the team like he usually did. He and Steve Franz, who later became LSU’s athletic photographer, let me ride in the back seat of Brad’s Volvo and crash in their hotel room in Memphis where the team was staying.
The game was forgettable, but two incidents in the stands which stood out.
One was where I berated Adam Young, who I worked with in LSU’s sports information office. Adam told me at halftime the game was over, and I denounced him for not having faith in his school.
To be fair, Adam had to suffer through the first three seasons of Curley Hallman’s coaching tenure while working as a student in the sports information office. That, combined with the sudden freefall of LSU’s volleyball program (Adam was the volleyball team’s media relations director from 1992-94) had worn him thin.
Two female student assistants from the sports information office, Nikki Sontheimer (now Amberg) and Rebecca Borne (yes, that one) (now Brennan) found the exchange funny. Rebecca teased me about it quite a bit through the years before things went terribly south between us.
Adam and I patched things up. His wedding to former LSU volleyball standout Luciana Santana in July 1997 was the first I attended.
I had a crush on Nikki, who was four years older. I annoyed the hell out of her during the 1994-95 athletic season, but when I saw her again after the 1996 football season opener, she forgave me too.
Now if only Rebecca will…
The second incident in Oxford came after LSU scored its second touchdown on a blocked punt.
An inebriated Rebel rouser turned to the LSU fans cheering behind him and shot the finger. Lovely.
Oxford is my least favorite SEC location. If it isn’t, it’s in a dead heat with Gainesville and Tuscaloosa. I don’t have any desire to go back.
That’s it for tonight. No, really, it is.