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The Only Thing Big in 1971 Was Nothing

The USC-UCLA football game usually brings out the best in both teams, even when their seasons have been lackluster. But there is at least one game in the rivalry that began in 1929 that didn’t register as a classic.

In the book, “60 Years of USC-UCLA Football” writers Steve Springer and Michael Arkush said the 1971 game was a yawner. “It ended in a 7-7 tie. Much of the normal hysteria was missing. Fewer cheers. Fewer boos. Mostly yawns. ‘That was the most boring game in the history of football,’ said junior quarterback Mike Rae.”

Add boredom: “For USC,” the book continues, “the tie symbolized the futility of two straight sub-par seasons. [Coach John McKay] simply called the big game ‘the big nothing.’ ”

Trivia time: What is UCLA’s biggest margin of victory over USC in football?

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Nothing new here: The book also describes how college football changed off the field in 1956, when the Pacific Coast Conference decided to police itself by focusing on under-the-table money paid by university booster clubs to the school’s football players.

“ ‘I remember we were freshmen,’ UCLA back Terry Debay said, ‘and [assistant] coach George Dickerson told us that some guy might ask us questions about [how] much money we get. We told him [he] shouldn’t talk to us because we’d tell the truth. He told us not to come around the office for a few weeks, so we didn’t.’ ”

A costly 4.8 seconds: The Missouri Tigers, who watched Tyus Edney drive the length of the court for a game-winning layup in last year’s NCAA tournament, have practice T-shirts that read, “4.8.” But Coach Norm Stewart remains in denial: “We beat a team and they won the game.”

Not quite $4.8 million: According to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, UCLA’s first basketball title in 20 years helped boost its bank account considerably. The campus bookstore has sold $2 million worth of basketball-related items, $500,000 was received in additional donations from boosters, all home games are sold out for the first time in 20 years, and additional television exposure will add $210,000 more.

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Trivia answer: In 1950, UCLA won, 39-0.

Quotebook: USC’s John McKay, after he was helped up the steps to the podium by former UCLA quarterback Gary Beban at the L.A. Sports Council dinner last Sunday at Pauley Pavilion: “I didn’t like Beban much then, but I like him better now.”


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