In 1996, the first Big 12 media days event took place in St. Louis at the Trans World Dome. American-Statesman reporter Randy Riggs was there covering the event.
The Statesman’s sports staff in July 1997 was knee-deep in a much bigger story at the time — one of the greatest college baseball coaches of all-time, Cliff Gustafson, retired on July 17, setting off an intense coaching search.
Was Kirk Bohls in St. Louis asking the tough questions? Nope. Because at the same time of the media days, the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta were underway and Kirk, John Maher and Mark Rosner all were there.
The storyline in St. Louis that year was pretty obvious: It was all about Nebraska.
At the time, the Cornhuskers may have been at the peak of their Tom Osborn powers, having won back-to-back national championships before the Big 8 merged with Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor of the Southwest Conference to form the Big 12.
Nebraska had the best team and the most controversial entering the season. Osborn had decided to keep Lawrence Phillips and Christian Peter in the program despite what Riggs described as “serious run-ins with the law.”
Here are the list of coaches during the 1996 Big 12 season:
- Nebraska: Tom Osborn
- Colorado: Rick Neuheisel
- Kansas State: Bill Snyder
- Missouri: Larry Smith
- Kansas: Glen Mason
- Iowa State: Dan McCarney
- Texas: John Mackovic
- Texas Tech: Spike Dykes
- Texas A&M: R.C. Slocum
- Oklahoma: John Blake
- Oklahoma State: Bob Simmons
- Baylor: Chuck Reedy
The first Big 12 preseason poll was this:
- Everyone else
OK, not really, but it seemed like that. Texas was No.2 followed by Colorado then Texas A&M.
The preseason offensive POY pick was Iowa State’s Troy Davis, while Nebraska defensive end Jared Tomich was the preseason defensive POY pick.
Bryant Westbrook, Chris Carter, Chris Akins, Phil Dawson, Mike Adams and Dan Neil were on the Big 12 preseason teams for Texas.
As far as Texas’ Big 12 media day storylines, it was mostly about — for crying out loud, what do you think it was about? — the quarterback. James Brown was recovering from a shoulder injury and here’s a segment from Riggs’ Big 12 media days story:
Since Monday, James Brown has been throwing footballs again — real ones, not Nerf ones. So Coach John Mackovic expects his starting quarterback to be ready to play when the University of Texas opens two-a-day workouts in August.
Brown, the final offensive player of the year in the Southwest Conference, has been rehabilitating his sore right shoulder since the end of last season. His rehab has been kept fairly private, fueling speculation about the seriousness of his condition, but Mackovic said Friday that Brown is making an excellent recovery.
“We expect him to show up right at the beginning (of two-a-days) and participate in everything,” Mackovic said at the Big 12’s media day at the Trans World Dome. “He’s coming along fine.”
Brown, of course, would go on to complete one of the most famous plays in Big 12 history that December against Nebraska as the Longhorns won the first Big 12 championship game in St. Louis over Nebraska, 37-27.
How close were the preseason predictions?
Davis did indeed win the conference’s first offensive player of the year award, while Grant Wistrom won the defensive player of the year award. Dykes was the league’s first coach of the year winner.
Colorado quarterback Koy Detmer was the the top passer with 3,156 yards, while Kansas State’s Kevin Lockett led the league in receptions with 72. Rae Carruth — yes, that Rae Carruth — led the league in touchdown receptions with eight.
Davis’ season was one for the ages, rushing for 2,185 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns.
Dawson led almost every category in kicking.
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