Breaking News about the Independence Bowl!

Here’s my advice for whichever team wins today’s Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl and is presented with the trophy: Hang on to it.

With both hands.

Here’s my advice for whoever wins one of the Player of the Game awards: If you see a guy wearing a red blazer headed your way in the locker room with a serious look on his face, stuff the award in your equipment bag. If they ask you any questions, borrow the quote from Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes – “I know nothing.”

Here’s my advice to this year’s Spirit of Independence winners, Operation Senior Surprise (better known as “Secret Squirrel”) from Barksdale AFB: There’s 57 of y’all; all we need is one of you to carry that baby outta there.

As detailed last week, the Independence Bowl has a unique history of many things … and some of them actually happened on the field.

This will be the 46th of these games, so they’ve pretty much got it running on cruise control when it comes to game operations. But when it comes to trophies? Not so much.

You never know what’s going to happen.

The best of all is the 2011 game, when Missouri was playing North Carolina. The Missouri mascot (Truman the Tiger) either had a little too much of a good time in the pre-game festivities or didn’t realize the dimensions of his cartoonish-length tail, but was posing for a picture and bumped into the trophy before the game even started.


Which could also be said for the North Carolina defense, since Missouri put a 41-spot on the Tar Heels. If ever bowl officials needed one team to win over another, it was this one. The last thing they needed was to try to tell interim UNC coach Everett Withers (there’s some trivia for you!) if Carolina had won, “Well, coach, it’s a funny thing about that trophy … it’s sorta broken. In a few thousand pieces. And it was the Missouri mascot that did it.”

It’s one thing to break Aunt Martha’s crystal stemware at Christmas dinner when you reach for the gravy, it’s another to try to explain broken crystal to a national TV audience.

But that’s not all.

After the game, the trophy that was going to be presented to Offensive MVP James Franklin was, you guessed it, knocked over near the locker room and shattered.


Lee Michaels Fine Jewelers came to the rescue, getting a temporary replacement for the post-game team trophy and then eventually shipping two replacements to Missouri.

The next story has a little bit of urban legend to it, but I was in the locker room when something happened. It had to be in the late 1980s or early ’90s, but I know that one of the MVP trophies was given to the wrong player.

I think it may have been in 1988, when James Henry of Southern Miss was the Defensive MVP and the Offensive MVP.


Henry never even played a snap on offense in that game, but he did return two punts for a touchdown. Seems like bowl officials couldn’t figure out which one he deserved, so they gave him both, but that was after someone had already received one of them.

Or maybe it was another year. But I know somebody had an MVP trophy one minute and then didn’t have it the next.

And speaking of urban legend – and numerous people have told me this is true – there is the case of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who was the recipient of the Omar Bradley Spirit of Independence Award in 1993.

(Back in the day, the announcement of this award was almost as big as the announcement of the two teams.)

There was the usual pomp and circumstance for Justice O’Connor and all sorts of glad handing for a couple of days while she was in town. And I’m sure she was very appreciative and honored by it all – it’s still listed in her bio – but there was only one problem.

When she left town and went back to Washington D.C., she forgot one thing – the trophy.

At least it didn’t break. 

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