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We do not have a collegiate football champion; what we have are contenders. And any supporter of the Big Eight claimants--Oklahoma and Nebraska lately, but Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado sometimes--will want this book as evidence. McCallum makes the case that this conference is ""the most skilled, the best balanced conference in the country."" The reason? ""Out in the corn belt they grow them bigger, stronger, and tougher."" The character of the Big Eight was formed when Dana (DX) Bible came to Nebraska in 1929; ""the lip-smacking, scripture quoting son of a Latin and Greek scholar"" frowned on frills and taught solid fundamental football. But the team at the heart of the book is Oklahoma. And looming over Oklahoma is the figure of Bud Wilkinson. Winning 61 conference games between 1949 and 1959 (including 47 in a row), Wilkinson not only brought glory to Oklahoma, but says McCallum, he expunged the ""Okie"" inferiority complex. Wilkinson perfected the ethos of team spirit, emphasizing meticulous preparation, milk, greens, study, and sleep. (He admitted, though, that his teams didn't adjust too well to new situations.) In the Sixties the Big Eight ""came of age""--though, curiously, they won no national titles; in the Seventies Bob Devaney made Nebraska into a power with homegrown athletes and a crushing defense. After a season-by-season rundown of the major games from the early Thirties to 1978, McCallum provides a battery of rankings and other records. Since he moves quickly, younger fans may need some fill-in from their elders--but like his College Basketball, U.S.A. of last year, this is a sprightly account with a wealth of illustrations.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Scribners