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1993 National and Big Eight Recap – “Hitting the Jackpot”

// Mar 5 - 1993

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National and Big Eight Recap – 1993

Bobby Bowden, head coach at Florida State, finally won his first National Championship in 1993, with his Seminoles edging the Nebraska Cornhuskers, 18-16, in the Orange Bowl.

Bowden, a coaching veteran of 28 years, led Florida State to a 12-1 record in 1993. Florida State’s number one ranking marked the seventh consecutive year the Seminoles finished ranked in the top ten. Charlie Ward, the Seminoles’ quarterback, became the first Heisman Trophy winner to play for a National Championship team since Tony Dorsett for Pittsburgh in 1976.

Wisconsin was the feel good story of the year, going 10-1-1 to earn its first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1962. The Badgers capped their surprising season with a 21-16 win over Pac-10 champion UCLA to finish ranked sixth in the nation. No. 4 Notre Dame, which defeated No. 7 Texas A&M 24-21 in the Cotton Bowl, finished the season ranked No. 2.

In the Big Eight, the Big Red of Nebraska stormed through the conference undefeated to earn a birth in the National Championship game against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. With the loss, the Cornhuskers finished 11-1 and ranked third in the nation. Trev Alberts of Nebraska was honored with the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.

Elsewhere in the Big Eight, Colorado finished second in the conference, posting a 5-1-1 record. A 41-20 win over Fresno State in the Aloha Bowl capped an 8-3-1 campaign for the Buffs, who finished with a final ranking of 16th. Also bowling from the conference were Kansas State (9-2-1 overall, 4-2-1 in Big Eight play), 52-17 winners over Wyoming in the Copper Bowl, and Oklahoma (9-3, 4-3) champions of the John Hancock Bowl after dominating Texas Tech 41-10. The victory for Kansas State was the first-ever bowl win for the Wildcats, in just the second bowl appearance in school history.

Hitting the Jackpot

In December of 1991, and again in December of 1992, I had the opportunity to make my first-ever trips to the glamour city of Las Vegas, Nevada. My reason for making the trip each year, though, was not for the gambling, or even for college football. Rather, I traveled to the desert for college rodeo.

For several years, I served as the one of the Bozeman Gallatin Empire Lions Club’s representatives in meetings held to plan the upcoming year’s College National Finals Rodeo, the “Final Four” of college rodeo. The CNFR took place in Bozeman each June, and those in charge were, not surprisingly, interested in the sport of rodeo. As a result, it was no coincidence that the annual planning meetings took place in Las Vegas in December, timed to coincide with the (Professional) National Finals Rodeo.

Both years, I took with me to Vegas a set amount of funds to gamble with. Both years, I tried my hand at blackjack, poker, and the machines. Both years, I returned home without the funds I had brought to town.

I consoled myself that my gambling losses were in fact just entertainment expenses. Yes, I had lost some money, I told myself, but it had been fun just getting the chance to play in Vegas.

Yeah, right.

Fact is, I was not all that distraught with the lack of winnings (I have never been much of a gambler). Instead, what really burned me was the old saying: “Unlucky at cards -lucky at love”. I was unlucky at both. Vegas had simply confirmed a long-standing trend. I felt destined to remain unlucky at both venues, love and cards, for the remainder of my years.

Until March 5, 1993, that is.

Friday, March 5th, 1993, changed my life forever. It was on that day that I met my wife, Lee Stadtlander. Lee and I met – can you believe it? – on a blind date. Our first date was dinner at a neutral spot (Pizza Hut), with a women’s basketball game to follow. Fortunately, the basketball game, between Montana State and Montana, was as good as could be hoped for in the bleak winter evenings common in Bozeman, Montana. On that fateful night, MSU was a game behind UM in the conference standings, and the Bobcat/Grizzly showdown was the last regular season game. If Montana’s women’s team won, they would win the Big Sky Conference regular season title and host the conference tournament. A win by the Bobcat women would result in a tie in the Big Sky standings, with the conference tournament host would have to be determined by a coin flip.

The game was close throughout, with the Bobcats prevailing. The next few minutes were anxious ones for everyone. The coaches and players retired to the locker room area to witness the coin toss to determine the conference host, while several thousand fans milled about aimlessly. We all were wondering the same thing: should we stay around to hear the result, or should we leave, assuming the conference host would not be announced that night?

The announcement was made over the public address system a few minutes later, but by then the news was already known to all. A murmur from underneath the stands turned to shouts, with the shouts turning into cheers as the MSU women returned to the court, waving towels. The PA announcement was anticlimactic, as we already knew that the Bobcats had won the toss, and that the Big Sky Conference tournament would be held in Bozeman the following weekend.

I was more joyous than most.

I had an excuse to ask Lee for a second date.

Sixteen months later, we were married.

 

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