Big 12: Barry Sanders

Nobody questions the excellence of Barry Sanders during the 1988 season. The former Oklahoma State running back was a sight to behold during his Heisman-winning campaign, slithering through defenses with relentless consistency and eye-popping production.

One season before, Thurman Thomas was almost as lethal with an OSU decal on his helmet.

Thomas was an Associated Press All-American and Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year, rushing for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns in 1987. Yet Sanders’ greatness the following season -- he recorded 2,850 rushing yards and 39 TDs in the regular season -- completely overshadowed one of the best seasons in Cowboys history from Thomas the year before.

“There’s no question [his greatness was overshadowed],” said former Oklahoma State coach Pat Jones, who coached the duo during the 1987 season. “What Sanders did was so unworldly. This is the only time in the history of college football that two running backs overlapped in their college careers and ended up in Canton. That speaks volumes for how good they were. It’s happened one time and we were fortunate to be a part of it.”

Thomas averaged 147.2 rushing yards per game and 6.2 yards per carry in 1987 while sharing time with Sanders, and both players earned All-America accolades (Sanders earned All-America honors as a kick returner as a sophomore). Thomas rushed for more than 100 yards in 11 games that season, including 173 against Oklahoma and a 293-yard performance against Iowa State.

“Thurman’s true greatness collegiately was overshadowed by the unbelievable year Sanders had in 1988,” Jones said.

Thomas remains OSU’s leading all-time rusher with 5,001 career yards and 50 touchdowns during four years in Stillwater. And his excellence rubbed off on Sanders, helping to create a foundation for what Sanders accomplished in 1988.

“The most impressive thing about Thomas was how he was on a daily basis,” Jones said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been around a more competitive, tougher guy. It helped Sanders' development to be around Thurman. It did Sanders a lot of good; by the time Sanders got going, Thomas was a legitimate All-American. Work habit-wise, maturity-wise, study-wise, all of it. It was invaluable to him to be around that guy, and there never was any animosity between them.”

Thomas’ 1987 season was overshadowed excellence, but excellence nonetheless.

“He had virtually every honor you could have outside of a Heisman Trophy,” Jones said. “A lot of Thomas’ stuff has gotten overshadowed just because of the sheer volume of what Sanders accomplished.

“The bust in Canton totally validates what [Thomas] was.”
Somewhere on a playground -- probably in Texas -- there are kids arguing about whose father was the better football player.

"My dad was better than your dad."

"No, my dad was obviously better than your dad. If Coach woulda put him in in the fourth quarter, he would've been a state champion. No doubt. No doubt in my mind."

Barry J. Sanders was never one of those kids, but if he was the argument would have ended pretty quickly: "1988."

ESPN.com readers voted this week and determined it was that year in which Sanders' father, the elder Barry Sanders, turned in the best season in college football history. There were plenty of good options to choose from -- including Vince Young's 2005 season at Texas, which was the other finalist -- but the whole time there was only one common-sense choice.

Pops isn't one to talk much publicly about that season -- it's just not his style. But with his son, who is now fighting for playing time in a crowded Stanford backfield, he's surely spoken at length about the year Dad won the Heisman Trophy, right?

“Not directly, no,” the younger Sanders said this week.

Of course, that doesn't mean he hasn't gone out and done his own research. He's watched plenty of highlight tapes and read up on it as best he could.

When asked what he knows about that season, Sanders was quick to rattle off his father's accomplishments, one after the next.

"I know that he broke or set 38 NCAA records that year," Sanders said with pride. "And he had something like 2,600 yards, not including the bowl game and almost 2,900 and 40-plus touchdowns including that bowl game.

"Incomparable year to any other running back in the history of the game."

And there was really no need to limit it to just running backs.

Sanders said the football discussions he has with his father, a College and Pro Football Hall of Famer, are more about how he should have fun playing the game. They talk about competing and about what he learned from his experiences.

Coincidentally, 1988 also was the final year of a four-year stretch in which Willie Shaw, the father of Stanford coach David Shaw, was on the coaching staff for the Detroit Lions. The following year, the Lions made Sanders the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft and Shaw moved on to Stanford, where he was named the Cardinal's defensive coordinator.
 The nation believes a pair of players from Big 12 programs delivered the best seasons in college football history.

Now it's time to decide who was the best. Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders in 1988? Or Texas quarterback Vince Young in 2005?

Sanders broke 34 NCAA records on his way to rushing for 2,850 yards and 44 touchdowns. Young quarterbacked the Longhorns to their first national title in 35 years, dashing for the game-winning touchdown on fourth down in the national championship game.

But who had the best season?

Vote here in the final matchup of The Season to decide.
Our ESPN Stats & Info crew put together 100 numbers you should know with 100 days left before the season starts, and plenty of them are taking up residence in the Big 12.

Colleague Mark Schlabach also has a fun column about the inevitable, brutal, annual summer of anticipation for every college football fan. Let's take a close look at the numbers.
13. (OU streak free): Oklahoma has gone 13 seasons without losing consecutive regular-season games. That's right, the last time the Sooners lost back-to-back regular-season games was in Bob Stoops' first season in Norman in 1999 (to Notre Dame and Texas).

What's more impressive? That stat, or the fact Stoops has never gone consecutive seasons without a Big 12 title while at Oklahoma? Crazy.
16. (Conference realignment): There will be 16 teams with new conference / independent homes entering the 2013 season.

And for the first time since 2010, none of them have any Big 12 ties? Throw a party, Big 12 fans. Stability!
25. (Barry Sanders' Heisman Trophy season): Twenty-five years ago, Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State claimed the Heisman Trophy. In his Heisman-winning campaign of 1988, Sanders rushed for an FBS record 2,628 yards.

Still 25 years later, that rushing number is unfathomable. The Big 12's leading rusher last year, Joseph Randle, had just over 1,400 yards. I really don't think we'll ever see anyone break Barry's record.
31. (New coaches): There will be 31 FBS coaches entering their first seasons at new schools.

Just one in the Big 12, but he's been a high-profile addition. The King, Kliff Kingsbury, returns to his roots in Lubbock as Texas Tech's head coach.
47. (Oklahoma's win streak): Oklahoma's NCAA-record 47-game win streak spanned 1953-57, including back-to-back national titles in 1955-56. The streak ended with a 7-0 loss to Notre Dame on Nov. 16, 1957. Those two programs will meet this season on Sept. 28 in South Bend.

Another record that's not going to be touched ... ever.
73. (Bill Snyder still going): Age of Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder, who is the oldest active FBS coach. His Wildcats are 21-5 over the past two seasons and appeared in a BCS bowl for the first time since 2003 when they fell to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl last season.

K-State seems due for a step back this season, but are you willing to guarantee it?

Which number piques your anticipation the most?

Today's the day, video game fans

July, 10, 2012
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The college football season is still painfully far away, but for fans with an affinity for video games, today's a mini version of Christmas.

EA Sports' "NCAA Football 13" arrives in stores today, and it's the obvious must-have for any fan. I've bought the game on release day (or at midnight) every year but one since Chris Weinke graced the cover in 2002.

Every year, there's a new hook on the game, and this year, it's the ability to put Heisman winners from the past on any current team you want. You've probably seen the humorous ads previewing the game with Eddie George in a Michigan jersey, Baylor's RG3 wearing TCU purple or LSU purple and gold or Tim Tebow rocking a Georgia uniform.

Colleague Jon Robinson took one Big 12 (or Big 8, whatever) legend for a spin in some new digs. Cover boy Barry Sanders signed up to form the first father-son backfield duo at Stanford, where Barry Sanders Jr. signed to play last February.

How'd it go?
Funny thing is when you pick Sanders as your player, you're shown a video of him talking about which schools he would like to play for and, what do you know, Stanford is his top choice. He talks about how they're old school in the way they like to run the ball, and he could see himself playing in their offense. And it doesn’t hurt when you can split carries with Junior.

The statistical goals of matching the real Barry are a bit daunting, however. My targets are 2,628 rushing yards, 39 rushing touchdowns, five rushing touchdowns in a single game and 332 rushing yards in a single game. Each goal completed boosts my chance at winning the Heisman. I just hope my Stanford offensive line is up to the challenge.

Check out the full post to see more. Then go buy the game. You'll be pleased.
Today, there are more than 100 FBS teams with rosters that often broach around 100 players. In simplified math, the game has seen more than 500,000 players take the field over the past 50 years.

[+] EnlargeBarry Sanders
Malcolm Emmons/US PresswireOklahoma State's Barry Sanders set 25 NCAA records and rushed for over 300 yards four times during the 1988 season.
Barry Sanders' 1988 season was better than every single one of them. Nobody's really even that close.

Future NFL Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas left the program to a little-known junior who had rushed for just over 600 yards as a sophomore in 1987.

Over the next year, Sanders wrote his legacy every single week with the single greatest season of college football ever played. His 2,850 yards are more than even some of the best running backs log in a career. That NCAA record still stands, and it's one of 34 he set that season. Winning the Heisman Trophy that season is laughably far down the list of remarkable accomplishments for Sanders in a season to remember in Stillwater.

He scored 39 touchdowns, 44 if you count his five in the Holiday Bowl. The NCAA didn't begin counting bowl stats in the official record books until 2002. He rushed for 300 yards in four games during the season, and his lowest total of the entire season came against Missouri, with a paltry 154 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

He scored at least two touchdowns in every game, and set the tone for the entire season by returning the opening kick against Miami (OH) 100 yards for a touchdown.

He scored at least four touchdowns in seven games that season, helping Oklahoma State go 10-2, which tied what was then the best record in school history.

Sanders' hips swiveled like no one else's, and he embarrassed defenders on what seemed like every run. He was quicker than everyone, shiftier than everyone, and when he reached the open field, proved he was faster than everyone.

Sanders saved his best for last. He was awarded the Heisman before the final game against Texas Tech in Tokyo and proceeded to carry his team to a 45-42 win over the Red Raiders with a career-high 332 yards on a career-high 44 carries. His coach, Pat Jones, loved to call the Kansas native "The Wichita Comet."

When the dust settled on a blowout win over Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl, Sanders had averaged 7.6 yards per carry on 373 carries and stood alone atop the list of the greatest seasons in college football history. He averaged just under 240 yards per game. In 2011, nine teams in college football averaged more rushing yards per game than Sanders did in 1988.

Sanders' season forecasted one of the greatest NFL careers ever, though Sanders abruptly ended it in 1999, within striking distance of Walter Payton, who held the NFL career rushing record.

Sanders was a quiet personality who kept to himself and never liked to talk about his exploits, even declining to dispute his father's contention that he wasn't the greatest running back in the history of the game. That didn't stop others from acknowledging the greatness he showcased every week of the 1988 season at Oklahoma State.

After his record-breaking season, he left Stillwater for the NFL, where he spent 10 more record-breaking seasons with the Detroit Lions.

Lunch links: Mike Gundy extravaganza

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
12:00
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Your kid forgot his cereal. There's a surprise in every box. Spoiler alert: it's diabetes.

'NCAA Football 13' cover exclusive to Big 12

April, 16, 2012
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The votes were tallied. The results are in.

Oklahoma State Heisman winner Barry Sanders will join Baylor's Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, on the cover of "NCAA Football 13," EA Sports' college football game set for a July 10 release.

Here's a look at the cover. Pretty solid.

Sanders beat out seven other Heisman winners in a fan voting contest to snag a spot next to RG3 on the cover, making the game feature a pair of former Big 12 talents. (Well, Sanders was in the Big 8, but ... whatever.)

Sanders outpaced Herschel Walker in the final vote.

Here's a look at what's new in this year's game from the cover release. I've played the game since Chris Weinke nabbed the 2002 cover, so I can't wait. Dates following the features are when the details will be explained.
Gameplay (to be released April 17): With a new passing system that changes the way quarterbacks and receivers play and respond, combined with a new read and react defensive AI system, NCAA Football 13 delivers greater realism on the virtual gridiron.

Dynasty (to be released May 7): Gamedays come to life with mid-game updates featuring a new studio analyst, plus enhanced commentary from NCAA Football veterans Kirk Herbstreit and Brad Nessler. Recruiting now goes deeper than ever with the addition of dynamic grades and the ability to scout players. Plus, there are even more ways to interact with your Dynasty from the web.

Heisman Challenge (to be released May 30): There are familiar faces on the field in NCAA Football 13, which now features a selection of former Heisman Trophy winners. With the new Heisman Challenge mode, fans have the ability to utilize the skill set of a legendary Heisman Trophy winner in a quest to match his award-winning historical performances and win the Heisman Trophy once again.

Road to Glory (to be released June 11): The experience of being a college football superstar is now even more exciting with a new feature in Road to Glory that allows players to see and feel the game differently during key moments, increasing on-field awareness and creating amazing opportunities.

You'll be able to buy the game July 10. I know I'll be there.

Lunch links: UT aims to extend Mack Brown

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
12:00
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The mascot unintentional comedy bar has been set. Go forth and be merry, fur friends. AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Missouri 41, North Carolina 24
Monday we began a week-long project looking at the most famous touchdowns from 100+ yards down to one yard, and we'll be taking a look at each of the Big 12 entrants on the blog throughout the week.

You can see the full project here.

Barry Sanders' NFL career was abbreviated, but Wyoming surely wished his college career would have been the same after this game, which earned him our spot for the best 67-yard touchdown in college football history.

Dec. 30, 1988: Oklahoma State suited up for the Holiday Bowl against No. 15 Wyoming as the nation's No. 12 team, but Barry Sanders was too much for Wyoming to handle. The score was 17-7 at the half, but Sanders broke a 67-yard touchdown run as one of his four third-quarter scores and eventually finished with 222 yards and five touchdowns in the 62-14 win. That made life easy for his quarterback, current OSU coach Mike Gundy.

-- David Ubben
All the pieces were in place. Zac Robinson was the senior franchise quarterback who would eventually leave as the program's all-time leader in total offense. Kendall Hunter was the running back coming off the All-American season and ready to run past his 1,555 yards as a sophomore. Receiver Dez Bryant was the playmaker like no other, one that would eventually leave as a first-round pick in the NFL Draft.

Best of all, they'd be operating behind an experienced offensive line headlined by a four-year starter protecting Robinson's blind side, Russell Okung, who eventually was selected sixth in the NFL Draft.

The next in a line of triplets at Oklahoma State that have included greats like Barry Sanders, Rashaun Woods and Mike Gundy looked ready to compete for a Big 12 title -- maybe more.

But Hunter suffered an ankle injury early on and didn't look like the same back until the season's final game. Bryant was suspended for the season after the third game for lying to NCAA officials about a visit with Deion Sanders. Robinson suffered a shoulder injury and wasn't himself in a shutout loss to Oklahoma to close the regular season, when a win would have sent the Cowboys to a BCS bowl.

They settled for 2nd in the South, the highest finish ever for the program, and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden and Kendall Hunter
John Rieger/US PresswireBrandon Weeden and Kendall Hunter have given the Cowboys a shot at the Big 12 South title.
This year, a new group of unsuspecting triplets have emerged.

Brandon Weeden, a 27-year-old first-time starter, leads the Big 12 in passing yards, completion percentage, touchdowns (his 26 are tied for No. 1 nationally) and passer rating. Hunter is better than ever as a senior, leading the Big 12 in rushing and ranking third nationally.

And Justin Blackmon, a sophomore with 20 career catches that no one outside the Big 12 had ever heard of before the season, has emerged as the favorite for the Biletnikoff Award and a possible Heisman finalist. He leads the nation in receiving yards per game by a wide margin, and is tied for the most touchdowns with 15.

Together, they have the No. 10 Cowboys (8-1) on top of the Big 12 South and in position to reach the Big 12 title game for the first time ever. With a win at Texas on Saturday, Oklahoma State would come home from Austin as winners for the first time in 11 tries since 1944.

"This is what you play for. Every game gets bigger as you go and this one is a big one," Weeden said.

Even an offensive line with four new starters has become a strength.

"I thought we had a pretty good product to work with," said new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. "You never know how kids are going to develop, but that’s why you get out there and practice every day and put guys in a position to improve."

The hype surrounding the team wasn't there when the season began, but attention on the Cowboys -- picked fifth in the Big 12 South in the preseason -- has grown as the wins have piled up.

"It’s only a factor if you start to listen to it," Gundy said. "I’ve said this for four or five weeks now. If you start to think you’re a pretty good player and that your team is better than they really are, you just need to look around the country every Saturday and you will see teams get knocked off. I’m a firm believer in that. We have some good players who have made a lot of good plays this year. And we have a good football team. But we’re not beyond practicing well and keeping the right frame of mind in order to win our football game."

Big 12 links: Anybody else missing college football?

February, 8, 2010
2/08/10
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Heck of a Super Bowl game last night, wasn't it?

But as good of a game as the New Orleans-Indianapolis matchup was, I'll take a college football game over a pro one any day of the week.

The passion you saw last night at Sun Life Stadium is a regular occurrence every Saturday during the fall.

Here are some Big 12 lunch links to help provide some information to get us ready for the upcoming spring practices across the conference.

Roger Craig up for pro football HOF

February, 5, 2010
2/05/10
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Former Nebraska running back Roger Craig is among the finalists whose credentials have been studied and analyzed before the new class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is announced on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeRoger Craig
US PresswireDuring an 11 season career, Roger Craig compiled 8,189 rushing yards and 4,911 receiving yards.
Craig is the only product from a Big 12 school among the group of 17 finalists. Others who made the final cut include Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Don Coryell, Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Russ Grimm, Charles Haley, Rickey Jackson, Cortez Kennedy, Dick LeBeau, Floyd Little, John Randle, Andre Reed, Jerry Rice, Shannon Sharpe and Emmitt Smith.

Craig's candidacy appears to be strong. He was a member of three Super Bowl championship teams with the San Francisco 49ers. He was a four-time Pro Bowler who led the league in receptions in 1985 and ranked among the top seven receivers during four consecutive seasons from 1985 to 1988. He also finished in the top 10 in rushing for three straight seasons from 1987 to 1989.

His numbers appear strong, but he likely will be hurt by two "no brainer" selections. Smith and Rice have to be picked in their first seasons of eligibility. Smith was the greatest running back of his generation and Craig pales compared to him. And I'm thinking if voters choose to reward a player from the San Francisco dynasty of the late 1980s, it will be Rice.

The Big 12 is underrepresented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There hasn't been an alumnus from the conference selected since Thurman Thomas and Roger Wehrli in 2007.

Here's a look at the Big 12 schools and their alumni chosen for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Baylor: LB Mike Singletary (1998)

Colorado: None.

Iowa State: None.

Kansas: T Mike McCormack (1984), RB John Riggins (1992), RB Gale Sayers (1977).

Kansas State: None.

Missouri: CB Roger Wehrli (2007), TE Kellen Winslow (1995).

Nebraska: T Bob Brown (2004), E/coach Guy Chamberlin (1965), T William "Link" Lyman (1964).

Oklahoma: QB Troy Aikman (later finished at UCLA/2006), WR Tommy McDonald (1998), DE Lee Roy Selmon (1995).

Oklahoma State: RB Barry Sanders (2004), RB Thurman Thomas (2007).

Texas: RB Earl Campbell (1991), DB/coach Tom Landry (1990), QB Bobby Layne (1967), administrator Tex Schramm (1991).

Texas A&M: DB/P Yale Lary (1979).

Texas Tech: None.

How about it, readers? Are there any Big 12 products either retired or playing today in the NFL who deserve a slot in Canton for their deeds in the NFL?

I think an argument can definitely be made for Craig and for former players Tommy Nobis (Texas) and Lester Hayes (Texas A&M). I can also see recently retired players like Zach Thomas (Texas Tech) making it one day. And it also wouldn't surprise me to see Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma) and Wes Welker (Texas Tech) there if they can keep progressing in their careers.

What do you think?
If it’s Friday, how about some letters to send us out into the weekend?

Steve Johnson from Gretna, Neb., writes: With the recent decommitments by Tyler Gabbert and Curtis Carter from Nebraska, how do you think that affects the current Nebraska recruiting class. And does it signal that there will be a change in how the Cornhuskers’ offense has evolved under Shawn Watson?

Tim Griffin: I think both recruits must have been watching the Cornhuskers’ struggling offense last week before they made their calls to decommit. It wasn’t just in the Texas game, but throughout the last quarter of the season, that the Cornhuskers turned to a ball-control heavy offense with heavy use of a fullback and tight end on most plays.

It was the offense that was good enough to clinch the Cornhuskers the North Division with five straight victories down the stretch.

Because of that, it will be interesting to see which way the Cornhuskers go. Watson is comfortable coaching offenses many ways. While I’m sure he’d like to have a quarterback “sling the ball around the lot,” his current collection of talent seemingly lends itself better to a running game.

And considering Gabbert’s senior-season statistics, I’m not sure if that his decommitment will be such a big loss for the Cornhuskers. Carter would have been exactly what the Cornhuskers needed – a speedy receiver who can make big plays. That’s the element Nebraska’s offense is most sorely missing. And it was obvious in the game against Texas.


Jack Scarbrough from Tulsa, Okla., writes: Tim, I’m sure you are getting your fair share of castigation from the Nebraska fans after your Heisman vote. I’m sure it was a tough vote and you made what you felt was the right call.

My question is this. Which Heisman winner do you think had the most dominant season in history?

Tim Griffin: Jack, thanks for your sentiments. And your question is an easy one -- a lot more simple than my Heisman vote was this season.

Give me Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State in 1988. Something about rushing for 2,628 yards, scoring 234 points on 39 touchdowns, and having five consecutive 200-yard games impressed me.


Josh Jungman of Washington, D.C., writes: I noticed your post about the effect of Mack Brown's contract on Will Muschamp.

While I haven't seen the contract myself, the reports I have read suggest that his compensation does not require him to be the head coach for the full term of the contract since it includes a provision for re-assignment within the Texas athletic department. I have no idea what market rate is for an AD (though I would assume $5 million per is way above market), but if any athletic department could afford that, it would be Texas. Another way to think of the contract -- if my analysis is right and Mack were to transition to AD in a year or two -- is that they're just deferring compensation for him to later years. If I'm correct, it would seem that this week's amendment would then have little effect on his decision of when to retire from coaching.

Tim Griffin: Josh, you raise a good point that Brown conceivably could take the other job and continue as athletic director at his new salary. And you are correct that a $5 million contract for an athletic director would be the highest in college sports history. My point is Brown has never looked as relaxed and casual as he currently does. The fact his new salary has come along will likely make him want to stay in his job. I’m thinking it might be a couple of years longer than some would suspect. And like I wrote yesterday, I’ll be extremely curious to see how that would affect Muschamp if some other top jobs start popping up around the country. I’m thinking there is only a handful he would consider -- probably less than five. But if Alabama, LSU or Georgia materialized, would he be loyal to Texas or would he decide to go elsewhere? And if he did have one of the job opportunities, would it make Brown more likely to leave coaching to make room for his hand-picked successor?

My thought is that Brown has several more years of coaching in front of him. And the new contract only guarantees that.


Steve from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Tim, It seems over the past few years Missouri has been snubbed over and over again for bowl games.

The Orange Bowl picked Kansas in 2007, the Gator Bowl selects Nebraska in 2008, and now the Insight Bowl chose Iowa State over Missouri in 2009. I just don't get it. Does Mike Alden not have enough pull in the conference and does someone have it out for MU?

Tim Griffin: I know it’s been frustrating for Missouri and their fans over the past three seasons in their bowl placements. I think the only way for the Tiger and their fans to overcome those perceptions is to become known among bowls as a group of fans who travel to bowl destinations regardless of where they are.

I know that the Texas bowls aren’t the most glamorous stops in the Big 12 food chain. But I also know that Missouri has a lot of alumni scattered across the Lone Star State. If they want the trend to turn around, they need to pack the Texas Bowl for their game against Navy, or at least sell a large number of tickets. If that happens, the next time the Tigers are involved in competition with another Big 12 school for a bowl slot, those selectors will remember what Missouri has done in the past.


Mike from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Tim, I enjoy reading your blog.

But I have one question for you. Why do Suh's and Gerhart's teams having four losses make an impact on why you don’t vote for them for the Heisman? Last I checked, the Heisman wasn’t for the most outstanding player on the best team.

Tim Griffin: Many are curious about why I put Colt McCoy over Ndamukong Suh. As I considered my vote, I think a quarterback that completes more than 70 percent of his passes on a team that is undefeated and playing for a national championship is a pretty special player. One who would be worthy of a Heisman Trophy on most people’s ballots.

In a tough year where there’s no cut-and-dried winner, those facts resonate for me. Everybody has their own definition of how to vote.

That is mine.


Ken Lawson of Houston writes: Tim, do you think the NCAA should restrict teams from interviewing coaches till post bowl season?

The game is about the fans, teams etc. Not the coaches. We have seen time in and out as coaches bail on the team, or stay as a lame duck and it impacts the outcome. The distraction and emotion is too great for all.

Tim Griffin: Ken, your thought sounds good in theory. But with recruiting season coming up so soon after the end of the season, most losing programs feel a compunction to make a change as soon as possible.

Administrators want to get the best coaches possible, hoping to turn downtrodden teams around quickly. There will always be a rush to get what is presumed to be the best candidate.

And for that reason, I don’t see your idea ever happening. Although I agree with your sentiments.

Thanks again for of all the good questions. We’ll check back again early next week.

Whatever happened to the Big 12's Heisman winners?

August, 12, 2009
8/12/09
5:51
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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Back in my former life at the newspaper in San Antonio, there was a wildly popular weekly column we used to run every Sunday called "Where Are They Now." A veteran staffer with loads of institutional knowledge tracked down some of the area's most memorable athletes and found out whatever happened to them after their athletic careers finished. 

The concept has always been intriguing. It's why the list I found today at lostlettermen.com was so interesting to me (hat tip to the wizofodds.com.)

And heck, it's even topical with today's stories highlighting all of our Heisman Trophy stories.

Lost Letterman lists what has happened to all 73 previous Heisman winners. It's fascinating to see what men who had such football success have done with the rest of their lives.

Here's a list of the Heisman Trophy winners from Big 12 schools along with what happened to them after their college careers.

1952: Billy Vessels (Oklahoma) -- Worked in the horse racing business and real estate in South Florida before dying of heart failure in 2001 at the age of 70.

1957: John David Crow (Texas A&M) -- Former college coach and athletic director, now retired and living in College Station, Texas (age 74).

1969: Steve Owens (Oklahoma) -- CEO of a real estate company, Steve Owens & Associates, in Norman, Okla. (age 61).

1972: Johnny Rodgers (Nebraska) -- Owns JetWear kid's bedroom store in Omaha, Neb. (age 58).

1977: Earl Campbell (Texas) -- Assistant to the vice president of student affairs at Texas (age 54).

1978: Billy Sims (Oklahoma) -- Owns a chain of Billy Sims BBQ restaurants in Oklahoma (age 53).

1983: Mike Rozier (Nebraska) -- Stay-at-home dad living in Sickerville, N.J. (age 48).

1988: Barry Sanders (Oklahoma State) -- Retired from the NFL in 1998. Currently resides in West Bloomfield, Mich. (age 41.) His son, Barry Sanders Jr., is currently a high school star in Oklahoma City.

1994: Rashaan Salaam (Colorado) -- Promotes martial arts fights in China. Currently resides in San Diego, Calif. (age 34).

1998: Ricky Williams (Texas) -- Member of the Miami Dolphins (age 32).

2001: Eric Crouch (Nebraska) -- Owns playground equipment business called "Crouch Recreation" in Nebraska (age 30).

2003: Jason White (Oklahoma) -- Owns memorabilia stores in Norman, Okla., and Oklahoma City (age 29).

2008: Sam Bradford (Oklahoma) -- Starting quarterback at Oklahoma (age 21).

It's hard for me to believe the Steve Owens, a player who I avidly followed when I was a kid growing up, is now 61 years old.

And in a way, I can see Mike Rozier as a stay-at-home dad. He was always one of my favorite players to deal with when I was covering the Houston Oilers back in the day. I'm sure he a great dad -- and a very colorful one at that.

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