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The last time the Oklahoma Sooners won the national championship…

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The Oklahoma Sooners have been to the College Football Playoff each of the past two seasons, but the search to end Oklahoma’s championship drought continues in 2019.  It’s been nearly two decades since Oklahoma last claimed the title of national champion, with the Sooners winning their first national title since 1985. Bob Stoops restored Oklahoma to their championship glory in his second season as head coach of the Sooners in 2000, and Oklahoma has been ticking ever since, albeit without another national title to brag about.

It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of national championship games we’ve seen, with Oklahoma defeating Florida State by a score of 13-2 in the Orange Bowl, but the Sooners would take it any way they could get it. The quarterback of that Oklahoma squad? Current UCF head coach Josh Heupel, of course.

Oklahoma’s current string of 18 consecutive seasons without a national championship is tied for the longest championship drought in program history since winning its first national title in 1950. Oklahoma’s previous 18-year drought ran between championship seasons in 1956 and 1975. Can Lincoln Riley and the high-powered Sooners offense keep things humming right along and add another national championship trophy to the collection?

Last National Title Season: 2000 (19 years and counting)

Who was President?

Oh, what a doozy this year was for American politics. Bill Clinton was in his final year in the White House at the end of his second term. His Vice President, Al Gore, ran for the office in the 2000 election, only to lose the Republican George W. Bush. Although Gore won the popular vote in the United States, Bush was declared the winner in the electoral college after the results of the election hung in the balance in the state of Florida. Oh yes, there were hanging chads to determine the winner of Florida’s electoral votes. Bush edged Gore by five electoral votes, 271-266.

Someone else who briefly ran for president in 2000? That would be current president Donald J. Trump. Trump’s brief campaign came to an end in February of 2000. He would, of course, give it another try later on.

What was on TV?

Reality competition took the airwaves in a big way in 2000 with the introduction of “Survivor,” the top-rated television show in 2000. Regis Philbin was asking contestants of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in its second year on the air and still widely popular, leaving many to ask “Is that your final answer” in everyday situations.

Monica was proposing to Chandler on “Friends” and “ER” was still bringing in top ratings for NBC’s Must See TV lineup in a post-Seinfeld world. But this was the final year you could watch a baseball game on NBC. The network chose not to renew its broadcast deal with Major League Baseball.

What movies were hot?

Are you not entertained? Russell Crowe took on the role of Maximus Decimus Meridius, father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife, and he would have his vengeance in this life or the next, in the blockbuster hit Gladiator.” Topping it at the box office was impossible for nearly every film, but Tom Cruise did just that with Mission: Impossible 2. We also saw Tom Hanks talking to his volleyball friend Wilson in Cast Away and Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro teamed up in Meet the Parents.

Of course, one of the best football movies also hit theaters with Remember the Titans.

Who was on the cover of NCAA Football?

NCAA Football 2001 - Shaun AlexanderAlabama running back Shaun Alexander landed on the cover of “NCAA Football 2001,” available exclusively on the Sony PlayStation. This was the first time the ability to create your own player was included in the game, along with the option to create your own school and even your own league. Not only that, but you could play an actual playoff in the game’s dynasty mode with spots for up to 24 teams. The playoff mode never appeared in the franchise again.

The year 2000 also saw the introduction of the PlayStation 2, although the NCAA Football franchise would have to make the leap to the next generation console in 2001 with “NCAA Football 2002.” In the meantime, gamers were probably getting hooked on “The Sims” on PC, “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” on the Nintendo 64 or “Jet Set Radio” on the SEGA Dreamcast.

What else happened in 2000?

The year started with the St. Louis Rams hanging on to beat the Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl. It was the first Super Bowl victory for head coach Dick Vermeil, and the Titans have not come as close to a Super Bowl victory as they did that day. Also earlier in the calendar year of 2000, capping the 1999 college football season, Florida State topped Mike Vick and Virginia Tech for the national championship game.

The Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees defeated Mike Piazza and the New York Mets in the World Series, dubbed the Subway Series. The staredown between those two remains one of the fall classic’s more bizarre and intense moments of the 21st century. It was the third straight World Series championship for Derek Jeter and the Bronz Bombers.

The Los Angeles Lakers won their first NBA title in 12 years by topping the Indiana Pacers in six games. The Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant era would go on to win two more titles for a three-peat. Team USA won the gold medal at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia with a roster consisting of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, and Gary Payton. The highlight of the tournament, however, was Vince Carter dunking on France.

Tiger Woods was at the top of his game in 2000 with victories in the U.S. Open by 15 shots, the British open to complete a career grand slam at -19, and the PGA Championship with a to-par record of -18.

Zion Williamson, who was just drafted No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft, was born.

Current head coach Lincoln Riley was playing quarterback for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. Future Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford was in junior high school.

America Online, purchased Time Warner for $162 billion, and some people were still using dial-up to access their AOL email.

The final “Peanuts” comic strip was printed a day after the death of comic strip artist Charles Schultz.

Close calls

Oklahoma has had multiple chances to add another national championship to their program’s history since winning it all in the 2000 season. In 2003, the Sooners ended the year ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, but Nick Saban and No. 2 LSU won the 2004 Sugar Bowl for the national championship (which was technically split after USC was named the national champions by the Associated Press). Oklahoma returned to the BCS championship game the following season but were no match for No. 1 USC, with the Trojans thrashing the Sooners 55-19 in the Orange Bowl for the BCS title.

No. 1 Oklahoma reached another BCS Championship Game in 2008 but Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and company ran into a buzz saw with Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators. Oklahoma has since made three appearances in the College Football Playoff, but they have yet to win a game. The Sooners have lost semi-final matchups against Clemson (2015), Georgia (2017) and Alabama (2018) despite having a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback each of the past two seasons (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray).

No team has come so close to adding so many national titles in the 21st century without getting across the finish line as Oklahoma. Will the ball bounce their way again soon?

Team that hasn’t been to a bowl game since 1972 close to announcing bowl-affiliation agreement

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It’s always good to be prepared. In the case of UMass football though, they might be a little too prepared in one particular case.

According to MassLive.com, the Minutemen are close to announcing a bowl-affiliation agreement for the program — one of the few FBS independents who do not have a ready-made path to a postseason appearance as things currently stand.

“We’re down the path with some relationships with some bowls that we’re going to be announcing in the next 30-45 days that we feel good about,” AD Ryan Bamford said. “We’re going to have a relationship that’s going to cover us through 2025. That will cover us so if we’re bowl eligible we feel very good about being placed in a bowl if we get to 6-6.

“It will have a number of iterations, a number of variables to it. We feel good about the relationships we’ve been able to build and our ability, when we become a bowl-eligible team for the first time, to have a place to go. That our fans will be able to travel there and support us and that will be a seminal moment for our program.”

Banford later confirmed that ESPN is likely to play a role in the agreement, which likely hints at a conditional spot in one of the 13 or so bowl games they own through a subsidiary.

While such a deal would be nice to have, UMass actually following through and using it remains another matter. The 2019 team is among the worst in the country at 1-10 on the year and the program overall hasn’t made a bowl game since the defunct Boardwalk Bowl pitted the Minutemen against UC Davis in 1972.

In fact, UMass has only finished above .500 once in the past decade and that came before the school transitioned to the FBS level. So while the deal is nice to have, it’s more of one that the program will utilize in theory rather than practice until proven otherwise.

Ahead of first SEC meeting with Georgia, Jimbo Fisher hints at conference scrapping division format

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Texas A&M joined the SEC in 2012 but the Aggies are only now, in November of 2019, playing their first game against Georgia — an opponent they won’t see again in the regular season for another five years.

Such is life in a 14 team conference that refuses to move to nine conference games to increase the frequency of cross-division matchups between programs.

Such a lengthy rotation against teams that are not permanent rivals has led to plenty of suggestions on how the SEC could improve their scheduling and it appears that the leadership involved is at least opening the door to the possibility of change. As noted by FootballScoop, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher hinted that a new format could be on the horizon for the league.

“I know they’re looking at some formats going forward that keep the three main and rotate five and all those things,” Fisher said. “I think it is good for your players, eventually, to play everybody in the conference. I really do believe that…. When you have conferences as big as you have now, that’s kind of the way it goes.”

The philosophy behind the schedule is sure to be a talking point at spring meetings in Destin, Fla. next year and from the sounds of what Fisher is saying, it’s possible a “PODS” setup is in the running for schools where they would play three opponents every year and rotate among the others as part of the remaining five conference games.

Such a setup would eliminate the imbalance there sometimes is between the SEC West and SEC East and could go a long ways at preventing players (and fans) from going a decade-plus between visits to certain campuses.

Of course the easiest solution is just to go to nine conference games like the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 but nobody has been more resistant to such a move than the SEC in the recent past. We’ll see what ultimately ends up happening but hopefully for fans who want to make more regular trips to places like Athens and College Station, the cha-cha-changes come sooner rather than later.

FIU unveils new ‘Miami Lights’ helmet for local showdown against the ‘Canes

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Miami is taking a break from ACC play this weekend to host local rival FIU in a series that has probably been most notable for the two program’s on-field skirmish back in 2006.

The Panthers, however, may soon be known for something else far more positive by announcing a new look for Saturday’s game, unveiling a stunning city-themed ‘Miami Lights’ helmet that they’ll sport against the Hurricanes:

That is jaw-droppingly good FIU. Now we just need head coach Butch Davis to dress up against his old team with a white sport coat a la Sonny Crockett to really complete the look.

The ‘Canes are going with their standard issue look either for the contest as they announced they’ll be switching out the usual all-white setup and using gray facemasks against the Panthers. The move is a nod to the teams of the past that sported the look at the old Orange Bowl, the program’s former home in the city which is now the baseball venue known as Marlins Park, where Saturday’s game will be played.

Kudos to both sides for mixing it up with a bit of old and new for what should be a unique setup in Little Havana.

Report says Auburn has not discussed moving on from perpetual hot seat coach Gus Malzahn

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Owing to his position as Auburn head coach, Gus Malzahn is a perpetual member of the college football hot seat club.

Despite the fan base’s occasional frustrations with the way this season has transpired however, Tigers brass does not appear to be set on making an expensive move away from the embattled coaching staff.

Per AL.com, a source told the site that “that Auburn has not had any internal discussions about making a head coaching change.”

“We’ve had one of the toughest schedules in the country,” AD Allen Greene said Friday. “We’ve been competitive in every one of those games. Our focus right now is on Samford, on Alabama and the Iron Bowl, and recruiting. Our whole focus right now is finishing out the season on a strong note and then focusing on reloading for next year.”

Now it’s worth noting that Malzahn could very well wind up not being the coach at AU in 2020 if he chooses to leave, having been linked quite a bit the past few years with the now open gig in his home state at Arkansas. While he would owe a hefty seven-figure buyout to the school if he wanted to do so, that’s nothing compared to the cost that the Tigers would need to raise if they wanted a change.

That amount, roughly $27 million, makes Florida State’s expensive golden parachute for Willie Taggart look tame by comparison.

Malzahn is 60-30 overall at the school and 32-23 in SEC play over seven seasons, including an SEC title in 2013 and a national title with the program while serving as an offensive coordinator in 2011.