Big 8 Farewell: Kansas

Seeing Turner Gill in Memorial Stadium wearing the opposing team's colors was a surreal experience for Husker fans. Husker fans are now free to cheer for Gill's squad now that the two aren't scheduled to meet in the future. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)

Nebraska's move to the Big Ten means the end of the nation's longest continuously played series. For the past 105 years, Kansas has played Nebraska every year in football. It's been a one-sided rivalry, as the Huskers went 91-23-3 against the Jayhawks. But when you look at baskeball, the two schools flip positions. Nebraska basketball is somewhat similar to Kansas football; perennial underachievers that every-so-often do something to cause a bit of a stir, but never getting over the top.

Right now, I can hear the Jayhawk football fan screaming that at least they've won a bowl game (unlike Nebrasketball, which is winless in the big dance), but I also counter with the Huskers 1994 Big Eight basketball championship.  Kansas last tied for a football conference championship in 1968, and last won a title outright in 1930 (Big Six). It's nitpicking at that point; let's just agree that both schools have an impressive resume in one sport, and have underperformed in the other.

From 1991 to 2005, I had always taken pleasure in going on the road to Lawrence every two years to follow the Huskers. The Kansas campus is one of my favorites; we typically parked over by Allen Fieldhouse, then walked through the campus and down the hill. Absolutely breathtaking, especially when the leaves are turning. When I first set foot in Kansas Memorial Stadium, it was rather run-down, but in recent years, they've remodeled it and it's not too bad. Not state of the art, mind you. Seating is far away from the field thanks to the track... but it has some character.

While the games typically have been rather one-sided at the end, there's been a share of excitement when the Huskers went to Lawrence. In 1991, Kansas jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead until Calvin Jones came in off the bench to set a then-school record with 298 yards rushing. In 1993, Kansas coach Glen Mason inexplicably pulled June Henley out of the game for a two-point conversion after Henley scored with :52 seconds left. Henley was gashing the Blackshirts at the end of the game and had the momentum, but Mason stuck with his predetermined two-point conversion play, which failed, allowing the Huskers to eek out a 21-20 victory.

In 2005, the Bill Callahan Clusterfool seemed to be ready to implode right there, as Kansas surged late to defeat Nebraska 40-15 as Callahan's west coast offense was especially inept that day. It was Kansas' first victory in 36 years, and brought tears to the eyes of Jayhawk fans who thought they might never ever see that day. But Callahan salvaged the 2005 season after that game, and even seemed to have some momentum for the next year or so. But 2007's "Rout 76" was the final nail in the coffin for Callahan's head coaching career; no way any coach survives losing 76-39.

In basketball, the Nebraska-Kansas series was a little more competitive --- at least in Lincoln. Yes, Barry Collier's teams got drilled in Allen Fieldhouse, but at least in the 90's, the two schools usually split each season. Beau Reid was a Jayhawk killer, and the games were so competitive that ABC even sent Dick Vitale to Lincoln once to televise the game.

This season, I have a feeling that most Husker fans will be cheering hard for Kansas in football. Turner Gill is still a beloved, legendary figure to Husker fans, and I don't know that there is a Husker fan around who doesn't want Gill to succeed. And with the two schools separated in different conferences, Husker fans won't be conflicted in cheering for the Jayhawks.

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