Nebraska-Oklahoma a blast from the past

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“What makes it attractive? All the other schools?” Switzer said. “You’re losing the gem of the North.”

Osborne, now Nebraska’s athletic director, said the Big 12 forced a clash of cultures. From the start, Nebraska believed the Big 12 was too Texas-centric in the way things were run.

Still, Osborne said he never pined for the days of the Big Eight _ “Life goes on,” he said _ but he acknowledges he was more comfortable there.

“It was a pretty high level of competition, and geographically, in terms of culture and attitude, there was a fair amount of similarity,” Osborne said. “We were all kind of part of this high plains Midwestern area, so people understood each other pretty well.”

Nebraska and Oklahoma dominated, but other teams would throw a scare into them from time to time.

Colorado was no slouch under Eddie Crowder, and Bill McCartney won a share of the 1990 national championships with Eric Bieniemy and Alfred Williams.

Oklahoma State had Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders, Kansas had Gale Sayers and Bobby Douglass, Missouri had James Wilder and Kellen Winslow, Kansas State had Mack Herron and Lynn Dickey, Iowa State had Dexter Green and Troy Davis.

“I’m sounding like an old person reminiscing,” said the 73-year-old Osborne, “but it was a good era in college athletics because your level of athletics were certainly rising. Players were bigger and faster and strength training had kicked in, and so had offseason programs.”

There was a limit to the number of times a team could appear on television those years. Coaches’ salaries weren’t outrageous, they knew each other personally and spent time together out of the competitive arena.

“I just don’t think the Big 12 ever came close to having the family atmosphere we had in the Big Eight,” said Jim Walden, a former Nebraska assistant and Iowa State head coach. “We tended to agree to do things that helped us all.”

Nebraska-Oklahoma will fade way, but traditional old-school Big Eight/Big 12 rivalries live on, such as Texas-Oklahoma, Kansas-Missouri, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Kansas-Kansas State.

As for Nebraska-Oklahoma, Huskers tight end Kyler Reed said the coaching staff has made no reference to the history of the programs this week. What Reed knows about the rivalry _ and he admits it’s not much _ was told to him by his father.

“If you want to look up the history, it’s kind of on your own,” Reed said. “I’m sure you can find the game somewhere or watch highlights of the old games on YouTube.”

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