A suggestion by a faculty athletic representative could have a profound effect on Bill Musgrave's future.
And this fall, Oregon's talented senior quarterback has other things on his mind besides leading his team into a bowl game or playing in the NFL. He has applied for a Rhodes Scholarship and although he says it's a longshot that he'll be considered, the possibility still intrigues him.
"All the paper work is in, and I'll find out if I'll get interviewed in November," Musgrave said. "I had to write an essay, something to the effect of your strengths and how those strengths at Oxford would help you.
"So, I wrote how sports is an integral part of today's world and how I'd like to choose a career that was involved with sports, like in a leadership position--an athletic director, or a conference commissioner."
Musgrave is aware that Pat Haden, a former USC quarterback, and Bill Bradley, the former Princeton and NBA star, were Rhodes Scholars.
Then, on a flight back to Eugene, Ore., last year after a game in Iowa, James O'Fallon, Oregon's faculty athletic representative, suggested that he should apply for the prestigious postgraduate opportunity.
"I thought I'd take a shot at it and apply and see how it goes," Musgrave said. "The interview process for state committees begins in mid-November. Then, they narrow it down to a regional committee. Finally, they pick two for every region. The competition is pretty stiff."
Musgrave, who is majoring in finance, estimates that he has a grade-point average of 3.4 or 3.5.
It was suggested to Musgrave that there might be a conflict between a pro football career and a Rhodes Scholarship.
"I'm not counting on either," Musgrave said. "I'll worry about that if it ever happens, but the Rhodes thing probably won't happen."
In reality, what is more likely to happen is that Musgrave will be the latest in a distinguished line of Oregon quarterbacks to play in the NFL.
Chris Miller, who preceded Musgrave at Oregon, is the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. Norm Van Brocklin (Rams, Philadelphia Eagles) and Dan Fouts (San Diego Chargers) had outstanding careers in the NFL.
Musgrave will be playing in his last home game Saturday against UCLA, and a victory would help boost the Ducks into position for a second consecutive bowl bid.
The opportunity is there with a 6-2 record that could be improved to 9-2 if Oregon beats UCLA, California and Oregon State in its final three games.
Certainly, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound Musgrave will finish his college career with some impressive numbers. Already, he has:
--Thrown 56 touchdown passes, second only to John Elway's 77 in the all-time Pacific 10 Conference rankings. --Passed for 7,698 yards in his four-year college career for seventh place on the Pac-10 list. Since he is averaging 245.7 yards a game, it is conceivable he could wind up in the No. 3 spot behind Oregon State's Erik Wilhelm (9,393 yards) and Stanford's Elway (9,349).
--Completed 57.2% of his passes, an Oregon career record if he sustains that percentage.
It is also significant that Musgrave has a 24-9 won-lost record in games that he has started and finished.
Yet, for all of Musgrave's accomplishments he hasn't received much recognition outside of Oregon because the Ducks are seldom seen on national or regional television.
"I'm not playing college football for recognition," Musgrave said. "If we get recognition and someone from the East Coast knows our names, it's purely immaterial."
It bothers Oregon Coach Rich Brooks, who says: "He owns all of our records. It's unfortunate that he doesn't get the national recognition he deserves."
Musgrave is used to limited publicity, despite his accomplishments.
He was an all-state quarterback while playing prep football in Grand Junction, Colo. Nonetheless, he didn't attract much attention.
"Grand Junction is not too close to anywhere--it's four hours west of Denver and four hours east of Salt Lake City," he said. "We didn't get that much exposure."
Nor was he heavily recruited. Only Wyoming, Colorado State and Kansas showed much interest in him, although he said he took a recruiting trip to Stanford.
"I always had a longtime dream of playing in the Pac-10," Musgrave said. "I'd watch the Rose Bowl game and cheer for USC against Ohio State. I didn't get trips to USC, or UCLA, but I got a trip to Oregon and they play those teams, so I thought I'd take a shot at it.
Asked if he's especially motivated when Oregon plays UCLA or USC, considering that he wasn't recruited by either school, Musgrave said: "Not really. It's just fun being on the same field with a UCLA helmet or a Trojan helmet and that you can compete with these great programs."
Injuries frustrated him as a freshman and sophomore, and a rib injury that he suffered this season in a 38-17 loss to Washington on Oct. 13 bothered him for a while. But he said he's sound now.
He cited the highs in his career--beating Washington in 1987 and '88 and the Ducks' impressive 32-16 victory over then-No. 4-ranked Brigham Young on Sept. 29.
The lows include a 22-17 loss to Arizona at Tucson on Sept. 22, when he was tackled at the Wildcat six-inch line by cornerback Darryl Lewis in the waning seconds, and, of course, the defeat by the Huskies in Seattle.