The Big Eight Conference is a defunct college athletic conference that was formerly affiliated with the NCAA's Division I-A (now known as FBS).
The Big Eight Conference was a successful football conference, with its member schools being recognized as consensus national champion on eleven occasions, including the last two football seasons the conference existed (1994 and 1995). Seven players from the Big Eight won the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious national award for college football players.
The conference was formed in 1907 as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA) by five charter schools: the University of Kansas, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, University of Iowa, and Washington University in St. Louis. After the MVIAA grew to ten schools, six state schools split away on their own in 1928, becoming known as the "Big Six": Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The University of Colorado was added in 1948, and the conference became known as the "Big Seven Conference". Oklahoma State joined in 1958, becoming the eighth and final member. The conference broke up when its members joined the Big 12 Conference in 1996.
Due to its common history with the Missouri Valley Conference, Big Eight championships from 1907 through 1927 are also claimed by the MVC.
The first Big Eight conference team to attend a bowl game was Missouri, at the 1924 Los Angeles Christmas Festival. Following the 1938 season Oklahoma became the second to attend a bowl game, at the fifth-annual Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. In 1951 and 1952 the conference had a brief ban on its members attending bowl games. When the conference resumed accepting invitations in 1953, its champion regularly thereafter attended the Orange Bowl. This tradition was broken only five times: 1964 (when Nebraska faced #2 Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl); 1966 (when Nebraska faced #3 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl); 1973 and 1974 (when undefeated Oklahoma was on probation and barred from bowl games); and 1995 (when #1 Nebraska played in the Bowl Alliance championship vs. #2 Florida at the Fiesta Bowl).
At the 1979 Orange Bowl, #6 Nebraska and #4 Oklahoma were paired against each other in a rematch of their conference game earlier in the season.
In the 1971 NCAA University Division football season, Big Eight teams finished ranked #1 (Nebraska), #2 (Oklahoma) and #3 (Colorado) in the nation in the AP Poll – the only time in college football history teams from one conference have held the top three spots in the final poll. In the final AP Poll issued before the Big Eight became the Big 12, half of the conference's teams were ranked in the nation's top 10 (#1 Nebraska, #5 Colorado, #7 Kansas State, #9 Kansas).
The Nebraska–Oklahoma football rivalry was one of the most significant in the nation, with national title implications involved during many seasons. The 1971 Nebraska vs. Oklahoma football game is commonly referred to as "The Game of the Century."
With common histories dating back even before the 1907 formation of the conference, many of the Big Eight's rivalries were among the most-played in college football. At the time the Big Eight Conference dissolved in 1996, the conference had the two longest uninterrupted series in Division I-A football: Kansas–Oklahoma (played annually since 1903) and Kansas–Nebraska (played annually since 1906). Many of the conference's series began in the 19th century, including:
All of the above series except Kansas-Iowa State have been inactive since at least 2012 due to conference realignment.
Following are the MVIAA/Big Eight football conference champions from 1907 to 1995 (shared championship years are shown in italics):
|Football conference championships (1907–1995)|
|School||Total titles||Outright titles||Years|
|Colorado||5||3||1961 ·1976· 1989 · 1990 ·1991|
|Kansas||5||2||1908 · 1930 ·1946·1947·1968|
|Missouri||12||10||1909 ·1913· 1919 · 1924 · 1925 · 1927 · 1939 · 1941 · 1942 · 1945 ·|
|Nebraska||41||31||1907· 1910 ·1911·1912·1913· 1914 · 1915 · 1916 · 1917 · 1921 ·|
1922 · 1923 · 1928 · 1929 · 1931 · 1932 ·1933· 1935 · 1936 · 1937 ·
1940 · 1963 · 1964 · 1965 · 1966 ·1969· 1970 · 1971 · 1972‡·1975·
1978· 1981 · 1982 · 1983 ·1984· 1988 ·1991· 1992 · 1993 · 1994 ·
|Oklahoma||34||26||1920 ·1933· 1938 · 1943 · 1944 ·1946·1947· 1948 · 1949 · 1950 ·|
1951 · 1952 · 1953 · 1954 · 1955 · 1956 · 1957 · 1958 · 1959 · 1962
1967 ·1968· 1972‡· 1974 ·1975·1976· 1977 ·1978· 1979 · 1980 ·
1984· 1985 · 1986 · 1987
|Oklahoma State||2||1||1926 ·1976|
|Washington (St. Louis)||0||0|
† Kansas would have won the 1960 title, but after found to be using an ineligible player they were forced to forfeit their victories over Missouri and Colorado, which meant that Missouri was awarded the 1960 Big Eight title.
‡ Oklahoma initially won the 1972 title, but after it was found that they used ineligible players, they were penalized by the NCAA, though they did not force OU to forfeit games. The Big Eight asked them to forfeit three games and awarded the title to Nebraska, but Oklahoma still claims these wins and this title.
Big Eight football teams were recognized as national champion on eleven occasions, including four times as back-to-back champions:
The Big Seven Conference established a Coach of the Year award in 1948. The conference began awarding a Player of the Year award in 1967, and began giving separate offensive and defensive awards in 1971. The final awards were given after the 1995 season, after which all of the Big Eight schools entered the Big 12 Conference.
† Repeat winner
† Repeat winner
After the final Big Eight season was completed in 1995, a panel of twelve longtime observers selected an all-time conference team:
Seven players from the Big Eight won the Heisman Trophy, the most prestigious national award for college football players:
Thomas William Osborne is a former American football player, coach, college athletics administrator, and politician from Nebraska. He served as head football coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 1973 to 1997. After being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, Osborne was elected to Congress in 2000 from Nebraska's third district as a Republican. He served three terms (2001–2007), returned to the University of Nebraska as athletic director in 2007, and retired in 2013.
The Big Eight Conference was a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)-affiliated Division I-A college athletic association that sponsored football. It was formed in January 1907 as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA) by its charter member schools: the University of Kansas, University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, and Washington University in St. Louis. Additionally, the University of Iowa was an original member of the MVIAA, while maintaining joint membership in the Western Conference.
Robert Simon Devaney was a college football coach. He served as the head coach at the University of Wyoming from 1957 to 1961 and at the University of Nebraska from 1962 to 1972, compiling a career record of 136–30–7 (.806). Devaney's Nebraska Cornhuskers won consecutive national championships in 1970 and 1971 and three consecutive Orange Bowls.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers football team competes as part of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, representing the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in the West Division of the Big Ten. Nebraska plays its home games at Memorial Stadium, where it has sold out every game since 1962. The team is coached by Scott Frost.
The 1997 NCAA Division I-A football season, play of college football in the United States organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association at the Division I-A level, began in late summer 1997 and culminated with the major bowl games in early January 1998. The national championship was split for the third time in the 1990s. The Michigan Wolverines finished the season atop the AP Poll after completing a 12–0 campaign with a Big Ten Conference championship and a victory in the Rose Bowl over Washington State. The Nebraska Cornhuskers garnered the top ranking in the Coaches' Poll with a 13–0 record, a Big 12 Conference championship, and a win over Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. Michigan's Charles Woodson, who played primarily at cornerback, but also saw time on offense as a wide receiver and on special teams as a punt returner, won the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first primarily defensive player to win the award. The 1997 season was the third and final season in which the major bowl games were organized under the Bowl Alliance system. The Bowl Championship Series was instituted the following year.
The Oklahoma Sooners football program is a college football team that represents the University of Oklahoma. The team is a member of the Big 12 Conference, which is in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The program began in 1895 and is one of the most successful programs since World War II with the most wins (606) and the highest winning percentage (.762) since 1945.
The Kansas Jayhawks football program is the intercollegiate football program of the University of Kansas. The program is classified in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Bowl Subdivision (FBS), and the team competes in the Big 12 Conference. The Jayhawks are led by head coach Lance Leipold.
The 1975 Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma in the 1975 NCAA Division I football season. The team was helmed by Barry Switzer in his third season as head coach. After sailing through their first eight games, Oklahoma suffered a surprising home loss to Kansas, which snapped a 28-game winning streak. With only two regular season games and a bowl trip left, any hopes for a repeat national championship looked slim.
The 1974 Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma in the 1974 NCAA Division I football season. This was the first of three national championship squads for head coach Barry Switzer. Only one opponent played the Sooners within 14 points and four failed to score a touchdown. At the same time, OU led the nation in scoring offense with an average of 43 points per game to finish the season as the only undefeated team in the country at 11–0.
The 1971 Nebraska vs. Oklahoma football game was the 51st edition of the rivalry, one of several labeled as a "Game of the Century." The Big Eight Conference matchup was held on Thursday, November 25, 1971, in Norman, Oklahoma.
The 1968 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team represented the University of Nebraska in the 1968 NCAA University Division football season. The team was coached by Bob Devaney and played their home games in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.
The 1979 Oklahoma Sooners football team represented the University of Oklahoma in the college football 1979 NCAA Division I-A season. Oklahoma Sooners football participated in the former Big Eight Conference at that time and played its home games in Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium where it has played its home games since 1923. The team posted an 11–1 overall record and a 7–0 conference record to earn the Conference title outright under head coach Barry Switzer who took the helm in 1973. This was Switzer's seventh conference title and fourth undefeated conference record in seven seasons.
The 1961 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team was the representative of the University of Nebraska and member of the Big Eight Conference in the 1961 NCAA University Division football season. The team was coached by Bill Jennings and played their home games at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The 1974 Cotton Bowl Classic was played on January 1 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. It matched the Texas Longhorns of the Southwest Conference and the Nebraska Cornhuskers of the Big Eight Conference.
The 1951 All-Big Seven Conference football team consists of American football players chosen by various organizations for All-Big Seven Conference teams for the 1951 college football season. The selectors for the 1951 season included the Associated Press (AP) and the United Press (UP). The AP selected separate offensive and defensive teams in 1951; the UP selected a single 11-man team. Players selected as first-team honorees by both the AP and UP are displayed in bold.
The 1964 All-Big Eight Conference football team consists of American football players chosen by various organizations for All-Big Eight Conference teams for the 1964 NCAA University Division football season. The selectors for the 1964 season included the Associated Press (AP) and the United Press International (UPI). Players selected as first-team players by both the AP and UPI are designated in bold.
The 1995 All-Big Eight Conference football team consists of American football players chosen by various organizations for All-Big Eight Conference teams for the 1995 NCAA Division I-A football season. The selectors for the 1995 season included the Associated Press (AP) and the Big Eight Conference coaches (Coaches). The 1995 team was the final All-Big Eight football team due to the conference's merger in 1996 with four teams from the Southwest Conference to form the Big 12 Conference.
The History of Nebraska Cornhuskers football covers the history of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's football program, from its inception in 1890 until the present day. Nebraska competes as part of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, in the West Division of the Big Ten. Nebraska plays its home games at Memorial Stadium, where it has sold out every game since 1962. The team is currently coached by Scott Frost.