Big Eight's beginnings were humble


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It's interesting how the present-day Big Eight came into existence, now that we're hailing Nebraska as national champ. It was formerly known as the Missouri Valley Conference, but Nebraska athletic director Herb Gish wanted to schedule big teams and make some dough, so he devised a plan to jettison the likes of Drake, Grinnell, Washington of St. Louis and Oklahoma A&M.;

Gish didn't even invite Kansas to the first meeting, keeping secret the flight of Nebraska, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Missouri and Kansas into a Big Six Conference out of fear Jayhawks AD Phog Allen would leak it to the press. Kansas got invited to the second meeting and the break was made.

Colorado made it the Big Seven in 1947, Oklahoma State made it the Big Eight in 1957 (or Oklahoma and the seven dwarfs as it was known in those days). Texas, Texas A&M;, Baylor and Texas Tech will make it the Big 12 from now on. Or at least until it becomes the Big 16.

* The Washington Capitals, who have been in lock step for at least the last decade, have been quick to blame their woes on their building, USAir Arena, now that team owner Abe Pollin says he's going to spring for a new arena in downtown Washington. While calling a new home a "savior of the franchise," general manager David Poile says the team has hit a wall in its ability to interest new fans and generate revenues to stay competitive. What, choking in the NHL playoffs plays no part?

* Wait a minute, Southern Cal gets to play a cupcake (Texas Tech) in the Cotton Bowl, frolics, 55-14, and jumps from No. 21 to No. 13 in the final AP poll? The Red Raiders, by the way, finished in a five-way tie for first in the weak Southwest Conference and got the nod because they had gone the longest without an appearance in Dallas on New Year's Day. Would you believe 56 years? In 1939, the Red Raiders lost to St. Mary's, 20-13. Obviously, far too much stock is put in bowl results when some teams barely resemble what they looked like during the regular season.

* Of course Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam has to leave for the NFL after rushing for 2,000 yards as a junior at Colorado. When will his value ever be higher? But was there anything about his work while the Buffs were trouncing Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl that suggested he's another Emmitt Smith?

* Numberzzzzz: They say time of possession doesn't necessarily mean much in football, but it was the only constant in a half-dozen bowl games played Monday, all six victors having a time edge. Other stats saw the teams with the most first downs and most rushing yardage winning five of six, teams that had the advantage in passing yardage or were penalized more go 2-4 while victory in the giveaway/takeaway department meant zip. See what your computer has to say about that.

* Keep the dress, Cinderella: Prior to the season, Oregon was nearly a unanimous pick to finish last in the Pac-10, they were greasing the skids under coach Rich Brooks, quarterback Danny O'Neil was about to move to backup and the team started 1-2, one of the losses coming against Hawaii (2-9-1). A good showing against Penn State in the Rose Bowl was pretty good after all, right?

* Prior to the bowls, a collegian (his identity escaped detection) is saying during an interview, "If I'm walking off the field, I didn't play my best . . . because I'm walking." If you've ever wondered what the term football mentality means, this is it.

* The list of prospective challengers for two-thirds of heavyweight champ George Foreman's title in April doesn't remind you of the Who's Who of large boxing types. More like the Who's He: Brian Nielsen, Alex Garcia, Lou Savarese, Joe Hipp and the apparent winner is. . . Axel Schulz. But Big George can't be too careful for, as hopeful challenger Larry Holmes points out, "George was beaten by the worst fighter in boxing, Tommy Morrison, before he licked Michael Moorer." Such slams do not weigh heavily on Foreman's mind, however.

* Unbeaten St. John's/Prospect Hall of Frederick went all the way to Hawaii over vacation to lay it on a school named Waipahu, 81-23. Andrius Jurkanius, 6-foot-9 forward, appeared to have a pretty good game, scoring 27 points, including six three-pointers in 12 minutes of playing time.

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