Category Archives: College Football

Holiday no reason to celebrate for NC State

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.
Not so.
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.
–30–

Tricky technology and Cornhuskers

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.

Voodoo (aka Ohio State) strikes down Clemson

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.

Let them (LSU and Mizzou) play! MORE!

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.

LSU lost. I didn’t.

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.

The infrequent spectator

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.

Time to scratch the 17-year itch

In 16 hours, your lazy blogger will be in attendance at his first LSU football game in almost 17 years.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

LSU and Missouri were not originally scheduled to play each other in 2020. The schools are in opposite divisions of the Southeastern Conference (which is stupid; I’ll get into that in another post), which means they play once every five years, as is the case with every school in the opposite division except one.

LSU’s designated permanent Eastern opponent is Florida, something which has pissed off every LSU coach and administrator since the SEC expanded in 1992 and split into divisions. LSU played Kentucky every year from 1992 through 2001, but in 2002, the SEC elected to cut the number of permanent cross-division rivalries from two to one. That meant Florida and Auburn had to end their yearly series which had been played every year since the 1940s, while LSU and Kentucky played every year from 1949 through 2001.

Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 from the Big 12. At first, the Tigers and Aggies were paired as permanent foes, but in 2014, the SEC saw the opportunity for a border war, and made Arkansas Mizzou’s permanent opponent from the West. South Carolina, which played the Razorbacks every year since the two joined the SEC, got Texas A&M.

LSU and Mizzou first played 1 October 2016 in Baton Rouge. It turned out to be Ed Orgeron’s first game as Bayou Bengal coach after Les Miles was fired six days earlier, four games into Miles’ 12th season. Mizzou also had a new coach, Barry Odom, who succeeded Gary Pinkel, who resigned after the 2015 season due to a cancer diagnosis. Pinkel coached Mizzou for 15 years, rebuilding the Tigers from a bottom feeder in the Big 12 back into a respectable program, not quite what it was under Dan Devine in the 1960s, but certainly not as wretched as it was under Woody Wiedenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith from the mid-1980s through 2000.

The Bayou Bengals won 42-7 in a game most notable for a melee as the teams were leaving the field for halftime. Every person in uniform was charged wtih a fighting penalty, meaning if they received another unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul penalty, they would be ejected and suspended for the next game.

The new rotation began in 2017 with LSU playing Tennessee in Knoxville, followed by Georgia at home, at Vanderbilt, and this year, vs. South Carolina in Baton Rouge. It was scheduled to be Kentucky in Lexington, Tennessee at home, and then Mizzou in Columbia in 2023.

Mizzou’s scheduled Western road game this year was Mississippi State; the Tigers were going to move their home game vs. Arkansas from Columbia to Kansas City. The game is back in Columbia due to COVID.

In August, the SEC decided to have its team play a 10-game, conference-only schedule. Most believed the league would simply take the next two cross-division opponents in rotation and place them on the schedule. For LSU, that would have meant Kentucky in Lexington and Tennessee in Baton Rouge; for Mizzou, it would have been Ole Miss in Columbia and Texas A&M in College Station.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey and his administrative team, which includes my mentor, Herb Vincent, didn’t take that route, instead trying to balance out the schedules.

LSU, which obviously won the national championship in 2019, thus got the sixth- and seventh-placed teams from the SEC, Mizzou and Vanderbilt. Meanwhile, Mizzou, sixth in the East, got the #1 and #3 (Alabama) from the West (Auburn was second).

Mizzou lost its opener to Alabama at home, 38-19. LSU won 41-7 at Vanderbilt last week.

When LSU’s plane landed in Baton Rouge after midnight Sunday, plans were already in place for Mizzou’s second visit to Death Valley in five seasons. It was going to kick off at 20:00, which was the regular start time for LSU home games from the late 1940s through 1965.

Meanwhile, Mother Nature had a cauldron brewing in the far southern Gulf of Mexico which would throw everything into chaos.

Tropical Storm Delta formed Sunday, and havenby Monday afternoon, the storm was upgraded to a hurricane.

Tuesday morning, the National Hurricane Center in Miami released a sobering forecast for Louisiana.

The “cone of error” for Delta encompassed the entire Louisiana, with landfall between Morgan City and Grand Isle.

On that track, it would be next to impossible to fly into Baton Rouge after Thursday evening, and by Friday morning, LSU’s campus would be facing winds of upwards of 170 km/h and flooding rain. Mizzou might be able to get into town Thursday, but would they be stranded until Sunday and not be able to play?

Wednesday morning, the game was moved to Columbia. I decided I would go.

I made it to Columbia yesterday. Yet i’ve spent a lot of time burning up Interstate 70 between here and western St. Charles County.

I was dismayed to discover Columbia’s White Castle was closed yesterday and today. I would have to find something else to eat.

No way Jose.

I blew past Columbia and kept on trucking 130 km (80 miles) to Wentzville, the western edge of the St. Louis metro, to get my White Castle fix. It wasn’t until 20:30 that I got to the hotel.

Today, more of the same. Not only did I get my White Castle fixes, but I found a lot of goodies I haven’t been able to find in Russell, Hays, Salina or Kansas City.

I have not witnessed LSU play football since the evening of 4 January 2004. On that ridiculously warm and humid Sunday, the Bayou Bengals defeated Oklahoma 21-14 in the Sugar Bowl, giving LSU the Bowl Championship Series national championship, its first since 1958. The Bayou Bengals had to share the title with Southern California, which won the AP poll, but finished third in the final BCS poll after the regular season behind Oklahoma, which was destroyed by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, and LSU.

Since moving to Kansas, I’ve attended two forgettable college football games: Kansas 62, Southeastern Louisiana in Lawrence (8 September 2007) and Kansas State 45, North Texas 6 in Manhattan (30 August 2008). My dad and I went to the Jayhawk game; I was on assignment at the Wildcat game for the Smith County Pioneer, since former K-State All-American Mark Simoneau, a Smith Center native, was inducted into the Ring of Honor at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

It will be a very interesting experience attending a college football game during the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be no more than 17,000 fans allowed into Memorial Stadium aka Faurot Field, masks must be worn, social distancing will be enforced, and LSU will not have its band, cheerleaders or radio broadcasters in attendance.

Lucky for me, I have plenty of yellow in my closet. I can wear something good and be completely neutral. It will be warm tomorrow, with an expected high of 29 Celsius (84 F), which will be close to the record for Columbia on 10 October.

I’ll report from CoMo in less than 24 hours. I promise. Have a good night and a better tomorrow.

Normal for me? Somewhat. Nebraska? Not so much.

Even with the Big Ten and Pac-12 declaring life should not go back to normal, pushing back fall sports until at least the spring semester, if not to fall 2021, I’m trying to find normal in any way I can.

Normal for me in August is a few days in Kansas City and eating in a sit-down restaurant. That restaurant is Brewtop in Kansas City, North, where Dana Tenpenney, whom I met at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa seven years ago, works weekdays behind the bar.

This is the first time I’ve been in a sit-down restaurant with wait service since I ate at Old Chicago in Hays seven months ago. My last dine-in experience was with Peggy at McDonald’s in Russell in February.

Normal included a visit to Milan Laser to continue to eradicate the legacy of my late grandfather. I don’t get why my grandfather had bear hair, my father has next to none, yet my brother and I were bears. I hope my 4-year old nephew, Luke, doesn’t end up like his dad and uncle (at least before laser treatment).

Normal includes a visit tomorrow to the fancy men’s salon in Leawood, which, like Milan Laser, closed for almost three months at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring. I’ve been cutting my own hair since the last time I visited The Gent’s Place, and fortunately for me, I can cut my own hair without it looking too terrible.

I’ll never forget swiping my mother’s sewing shears one evening in June 1987 and attempting to cut my own hair while watching a College World Series game between LSU and Arkansas.. I had longer hair—the short hair arrived on Memorial Day weekend 1989–and it was awful. My longtime barber in New Orleans, Roy LaCoste, almost died laughing at my foolishness.

Hopefully normal will be getting to see Robb and Larry, some of the people at Buffalo Wild Wings Shoal Creek (especially GM Rita Roberts, Tina, Nikki, Sherman and Ashley), and Lindsay and Bailey at Minsky’s Barry Road.

Maybe normal will include a side trip to Columbia for White Castle and Schnucks, but now that I’ve learned how to cook the frozen White Castle sliders properly, it’s not a higher priority. I did most of my grocery shopping last week after I had major repairs done to my car at Cable-Dahmer Buick.

Kansas City hopes normal will be the Chiefs kicking off on time vs. the Texans Sept. 10 in the NFL season opener.

Right now, normal must seem like another galaxy in Nebraska.

In case you don’t know by now, the Big Ten and Pac-12 opted to not play sports until at least January. The Pac-12 vote was supposedly unanimous, but Iowa and Nebraska vociferously protested in the Big Ten, wanting to play. The ACC, Big 12 and SEC are proceeding for now with reduced schedules, but most don’t think the season will be played to completion.

Nebraska’s administration and coach Scott Frost, who led the Cornhuskers to a share of the 1997 national championship in coach Tom Osborne’s last season, is attempting to go rogue and see if it can play elsewhere, including a return to the Big 12 for this year.

That probably can’t happen.

FIrst, the Big Ten would likely hold the threat of expulsion over Nebraska (and Iowa if it tried). Expulsion would mean a severe loss of revenue for at least a decade due to grant of rights the 14 Big Ten schools signed in its latest media contract.

In short, if a school departs the Big Ten, then the Big Ten, not the school, would receive all revenue generated by media for the length of the grant of rights, which in the Big Ten, runs into the 2030s

The ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 also have them, leaving the SEC as the lone major conference without one. The last school to willingly leave the SEC was Tulane in 1966, so the SEC is justified in feeling secure in its membership. Any school which leaves the SEC, especially Vanderbilt and others at the low end of the revenue scale (Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina) would be cutting off its nose despite its face.

Second, if Nebraska and/or Iowa was ousted from the Big Ten, those schools would likely be blackballed by the Big 12 from joining, lest the Big Ten threaten the Big 12 with cutting off all interconference competition during the regular season.

Third, Iowa State might block Iowa from joining the Big 12. I’m certain the rest of the Big 12, save TCU and West Virginia, harbors ill will towards Nebraska for jumping ship the same way Baylor hates A&M and Kansas hates Mizzou for joining the SEC.

Nebraska already lost this year’s College World Series due to the pandemic. Now not only is it losing Cornhusker football, but Nebraska is also losing its superpower volleyball team, which has sold out the 12,000-seat Bob Devaney Center, the former basketball facility, on a season ticket basis since moving there a few years ago.

Lincoln and Omaha are fine places to live, albeit with the same problems of every big city. Right now, it doesn’t seem like it.

COVID-19 and Kent State: two sad stories of American history

Kansas’ stay-at-home order has expired. Some businesses have reopened, but many have not.

This was evident today when I went to Hays.

The Wendy’s at the corner of Vine and 43rd north of Interstate 70 was doing quite a business. Ten vehicles in the drive-thru, elderly couples sitting at the tables outside, and people inside the restaurant for the first time in seven weeks.

The nearby Applebee’s and Old Chicago were not seating customers, although they were accepting takeout orders.

I haven’t missed sitting in a restaurant. I’ve been able to procure takeout from Chick-Fil-A without difficulty. Unfortunately, Arby’s and Popeye’s don’t have mobile ordering, which stinks, because I could really go for Popeye’s right now. Then again, the chicken would get cold on the 70-minute drive from Salina to Russell.

The three large cities in southwest Kansas–Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal–are all overrun with COVID-19. Each county has more cases than Sedgwick County, where Wichita is located.

Coincidentally, the same thing has happened in Nebraska. The three large cities of south central Nebraska–Grand Island, Hastings and Kearney–have more cases between them than either of the state’s large metropolitan areas, Lincoln and Omaha.

Missouri also lifted its stay-at-home order, although Kansas City and St. Louis are still locked until at least May 15. St. Louis couldn’t care less about lockdown right now; all the Gateway City wants is for the Blues and Cardinals to return.

Today marked the 50th anniversary of the infamous shootings at Kent State University in northeast Ohio. Sandy Scheurer, William Schroeder, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller were killed, and nine others injured when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire during an anti-Vietnam War protest. Krause and Miller were participating in the protest, but Scheurer and Schroeder were innocent bystanders who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Due to COVID-19 and the closure of every college campus in the United Staes, the celebration at Kent State was quite subdued, a far cry from what organizers of the school’s May 4 Committee hoped for. Had campus been open, it’s likely Kent State’s most famous alumnus would have appeared (see below), not to mention Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and possibly three of the school’s greatest athletes, Jack Lambert, Antonio Gates and Julian Edelman.

One of Krause’s classmates was a freshman from Monagaha, West Virginia named Nicholas Saban, who, of course, would become the most successful college football coach of the last 50 years, leading LSU to a national championship in 2003 and Alabama to titles in 2009, ’11, ’12, ’15 and ’17.

Saban and a classmate were walking to a dining hall and saw the shooting unfold. He rushed back to West Virginia after campus closed to spend time with his longtime girlfriend, Terry Constable, now better known as Miss Terry, Nick’s wife of almost 49 years.

There was another future Southeastern Conference football coach on Kent State’s campus that day.

Gary Pinkel was a tight end for the Golden Flashes who went on to earn All-Mid-America Conference honors. He eventually followed in Saban’s footsteps as head coach at Toledo before going to Missouri in 2001.

When Pinkel arrived in CoMo (to differentiate from the other Columbia in the SEC), Mizzou was in sorry shape. The Tigers were a powerhouse under Dan Devine throughout the 1960s, and even though they fell on hard times after Devine left for the Green Bay Packers in 1971, Mizzou bounced back to respectability under Al Onofrio and Warren Powers.

When Powers was fired after the 1984 season, the Tigers tanked. Woody Widenhofer, Bob Stull and Larry Smith all failed miserably in pulling Mizzou out of its funk. Sadly, the thing Mizzou is best known for during the tenure of those three coaches was the infamous Fifth Down Game vs. Colorado in 1990.

It took Pinkel a few years to get it going, but when he did, Mizzou zoomed to heights it had not seen since Devine’s glory years. The Tigers reached #1 in the polls in 2007 following their victory over Kansas, although their hopes of a date with Ohio State in the BCS championship game ended with a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. LSU was the beneficiary, ending up as national championship following their victory over the Buckeyes in New Orleans.

Mizzou ended up #5 in the polls following the 2007 season, and repeated it in 2013, the Tigers’ second season in the SEC. The Tigers have struggled since winning the SEC East (why is Mizzou in the SEC East when it is farther west than five of the seven SEC West schools?) in 2013 and ’14, but it hasn’t relapsed into the pitiful form it showed from 1985-2000, when it became roadkill for Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and later, Kansas State.

Here is an excellent New York Times retrospective of Kent State.

Given the late hour, I’ll end it here.

Vegas’ deadline, David Glass’ two acts, and something else ranch doesn’t go with

CORRECTION from the last post: the next FOUR College Football Playoff national championship game sites have been named. It will be Miami, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Houston, in that order, from January 2021-24.

The 2025 and 2026 games will probably go to two of these three sites: Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Detroit. I blacked out earlier and forgot all about the Raiders’ stadium in Nevada (named Allegiant Stadium), which opens either later this year or in 2021. I’ll take a guess and say 2025 goes to Minneapolis since the NFL will want to host Super Bowl LIX in Las Vegas, and 2026 heads to Nevada.

The construction schedule in Vegas is tighter than a pair of skinny jeans. If the stadium cannot be completed on time for the Raiders, they’re screwed. They have the option to play in Oakland for 2020, but would (a) fans attend and (b) the Athletics acquiesce? It may force the Raiders to become tenants in Santa Clara with the 49ers, or else play as many games as possible on the road early in the season.

The NFL could conceivably schedule the Raiders’ first eight games on the road, a game in London or Mexico City, and their bye week within the first 10 weeks, leaving them to play weeks 11-17 in Vegas. It would be highly unusual, but what else can you do? If the NFL were to schedule it that way and the stadium were ready in September, the game sites with the AFC West teams could be flip-flopped.

The College Football Playoff committee says it will let northern cities without climate-controlled stadiums bid, but how many fans would attend if the game were in New Jersey, which would entail the exorbitant costs of traveling to and from New York? Foxborough, where it’s a nightmare to get to and from the stadium, no matter if you’re flying into Boston or Providence? Seattle? Better hope Oregon or Washington has a magical season like LSU just completed, and I can imagine how many residents of the Pacific Northwest would react to legions of invaders from Alabama, South Carolina or elsewhere in the south.

One city which cannot host: Chicago. Soldier Field’s capacity falls a little more than 3,000 seats short of the minimum of 65,000. However, the CFP committee would be wise to grant a waiver if the nation’s third-largest city wants the game.

As the Chiefs prepare for what they hope will be their biggest victory since 11 January 1970, there was some sad news out of the Truman Sports Complex.

Former Royals owner David Glass passed away last week at 84 due to complications from pneumonia. This came only two months after the sale of the Royals from Glass to John Sherman was approved by the other 29 MLB owners.

Glass was named the Royals’ CEO at the end of the 1993 season, a little less than three months following the death of founder Ewing Kauffman. Glass was the representative of the Kauffman trust which owned the team until he bought the majority stake before the 2000 season.

During the 1994 Major League Baseball players’ strike, Glass was one of the hardest of the hard-liners, demanding a salary cap and pleading poverty, claiming small-market Kansas City could not compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and the other big-market teams. Glass’ biggest allies were the White Sox’ Jerry Reinsdorf and the Brewers’ Bud Selig, who had been acting Commissioner since the ouster of Fay Vincent in September 1992. Selig got the full-time gig in 1998.

While Orioles owner Peter Angelos refused to use replacement players during 1995 spring training, Glass endorsed the idea wholeheartedly. Thankfully for Glass, future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor forced the owners to allow the union players back to work before any regular season games were played with scrubs.

Glass, who was once the CEO of Walmart (then known as Wal-Mart), ran the Royals like the discount giant, slashing salaries to the bone in order to pocket large profits from revenue sharing and MLB television rights.

To be blunt, Glass was probably the most hated man in Kansas City for the first decade of the millennium.

The Royals lost 100 or more games four times in five seasons between 2002-06, bottoming out with a 56-106 disaster in 2005. Somehow, Glass and a dying Lamar Hunt convinced Jackson County, Missouri voters to approve almost $500 million in improvements to Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums in April 2006, although a proposed rolling roof was rejected. Hunt did not live to see the improvements to his baby; he died in December 2006.

In June 2006, Glass revoked the press credentials of two reporters who asked questions he deemed too critical. The Baseball Writers Association of America got involved, and Glass was forced to back down.

The questions were asked at Dayton Moore’s opening press conference as the Royals’ general manager.

Glass owed Moore a debt of gratitude, for if not for him, Glass would be as reviled now as he was then.

Moore took advantage of most of the high draft picks the team received for losing and turned them into future standouts Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Heavy investment in Latin American scouting yielded Salvador Perez, Kelvim Herrera and Yordano Ventura, and a trade with the Brewers sent Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar to Kansas City for Zack Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young Award winner who wore out his welcome one year later.

Glass went from goat to hero in 2014 and 2015.

The 2014 Royals made the franchise’s first postseason appearance since winning the 1985 World Series, sweeping past the Angels and Orioles before losing Game 7 of the World Series to the Giants and Madison Bumgarner’s bionic arm.

One year later, the boastful Royals took advantage of the error-prone Mets and won the World Series in five games. Reportedly more than 800,000 people turned out for the victory celebration two days after the series ended, but I think it was closer to 400,000.

Even though the Royals lost over 100 games in 2018 and ’19, Glass’ legacy was secure. He brought Kansas City from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the mountain in 10 years, allowing Royals fans to look down their noses at title-starved fan bases in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee (UGH), Oakland, Pittsburgh and Queens. Houston and Washington were on that list until the past three seasons.

Glass was Richard Nixon in reverse. Had Nixon announced he would not run for re-election in 1972, he could have gone out a hero for negotiating peace with the Soviet Union, opening trade between the United States and China, and ending the quagmire in Vietnam. Instead, many remember Nixon for one thing only: Watergate.

I’d like to know why Old Chicago serves ranch with its calzones. I noticed this tonight at the Hays restaurant when two ladies ordered them. I was there to play some more trivia. It was packed, as were all other fine dining establishments in Hays.

I don’t like ranch, but people I care about very much (you know who you are) love it. However, it just doesn’t seem right with a dish loaded with pepperoni, sausage, mozzarella cheese and maybe vegetables.

I posted twice today to make up for the previous three days of non-posting. I won’t bore you any further.