It was the 1982 Independence Bowl in Shreveport. Surely you remember that classic: Wisconsin (6-5) vs. K-State (6-4-1). The I-Bowl people did them both a favor inviting them, passing up a 7-4 Miami team that the next year would win the national championship.
Smart I-Bowl committee. And they were trying to sell tickets in Shreveport and North Louisiana?
The K-State people were overjoyed -- it was first bowl invitation in the school's sordid (well, make it sorry) 87-year football history. Actually, K-State got the bid because it promised to buy the 15,000 tickets the I-Bowl wanted it to; no such assurance from Miami, which was not yet the football power it would become.
The Wisconsin people were happy, too; they saw a chance for the first bowl victory in school history (0-4 to that point). They also bought their 15,000 tickets.
Here was the gimmick Coach Jim Dickey and his staff used at K-State: They redshirted 18 players, including eight seniors-to-be, in 1981 -- thus saving many of their best players for the '82 season. (It was to be the only winning season in Dickey's seven years at the school.)
When Jerry Byrd wrote a column in the Shreveport Journal calling it "The Lemon Bowl," no one at either school was happy. The I-Bowl people were, uh, not pleased. The bowl chairman lectured me on the media always "looking at the glass half empty." A bowl committee member yelled at me, then stormed away. But the worst was yet to come.
On the Friday night before the game, a pep rally drew both schools' fans and teams and media to Expo Hall. As Beatrice and I and Journal sports staffer Ed Cassiere were leaving the building, we noticed the Wisconsin athletic director leaving at the same time.
His name: Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, one of the greatest players in Wisconsin history and Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver. A tall man with a crewcut and a presence.
I stopped to speak to him. When I said I was the Journal executive sports editor, "Crazy Legs" went crazy. Don't know to what extent he'd been partying, but he clearly wasn't happy.
I think the first sentence included a reference to "Lemon Bowl." Not sure because my ears -- and Bea's and Ed's -- were ringing. Mr. Hirsch went on, loudly -- very loudly; they could hear him back in Wisconsin -- for what seemed like a couple of minutes.
None of us said a word. We had no more luck stopping "Crazy Legs" than NFL defensive backs had. It was as good a chewing-out as I've had in 45 years of sports journalism ... and for something I hadn't even written.
And you wonder why I was pulling for Kansas State the next night?
Turned out that Saturday was one of those rare brutal weather days in Shreveport. There's been one other Independence Bowl played in a near blizzard (2000 Texas A&M-Mississippi State), but the 1982 game wasn't fun, either, weather-wise.
|Darrell Dickey at Kansas State |
It was an unexciting game in unexciting conditions. Kansas State scored first, a field goal midway in the second quarter. But Wisconsin came right back to drive for a touchdown, then hit an 87-yard pass midway in the third quarter -- and won 14-3.
My lead on the game in Monday's Journal read: Where was this game played anyway? Alaska? The North Pole?
The crowd was announced at 49,523. There were maybe some 20,000 people in the stands. It was too cold to count.
The Wisconsin quarterback was Randy Wright; I saw a story that listed him as one of the five best Badgers QBs ever. The best player in the game was Wisconsin nose tackle Tim Krumrie, who went on to be an All-Pro with the Cincinnati Bengals, played in a Super Bowl and then coached in the NFL.
The best thing about the game was the Wisconsin band, which despite the weather put on a great show, especially after the game.
K-State turned the momentum of that bowl trip into records of 3-8, 3-7 and 1-10 in succeeding seasons. Dickey resigned after two games of the 1-10 year.
His son, Darrell, quarterbacked K-State in the game. I would see his name again often when I came to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram late in 2001; by then, Darrell was the head coach at the University of North Texas. Small world.
So now you know why I have not-so-fond memories of Kansas State's first bowl trip.