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Pigskin Classic Gets the Boot From Nebraska

March 02, 1994|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — A Nebraska-Fresno State matchup in the Pigskin Classic fell through Tuesday when Cornhusker Athletic Director Bill Byrne informed Pigskin officials that Nebraska would not play in the Aug. 29 game in Anaheim Stadium.

Nebraska, expected to have one of the nation's top college football teams next season, received an official invitation to the game Monday. Don Andersen, executive director of the Orange County Sports Assn., the event's organizer, said Monday that Byrne had agreed to play Fresno State, pending Coach Tom Osborne's approval Tuesday.

Andersen believed that approval was a mere formality, but it never came.

"I took it to the coaches and players today, and they decided, for their own reasons, that they didn't want to play," Byrne said Tuesday. "It has nothing to do with the game itself or the facilities. They just don't want to jeopardize a national championship by playing in August."

Andersen felt jilted.

"There was a total breakdown in communication between Byrne and Osborne, and we're very disappointed," Andersen said. "I felt we had a commitment from Byrne, although he did say he was going to talk to the coach and get back to us. We felt it was a slam dunk that they were going to accept the invitation."

Asked how Andersen would have gotten the impression Nebraska had agreed to play, Byrne said: "I don't know the answer to that. I never made a commitment."

Osborne could not be reached Tuesday afternoon, but he told the Lincoln Journal and Star recently that his players had a "lukewarm" response toward a possible game against Fresno State. He said players did not want to lengthen the season by two weeks, and if they did, they were more interested in playing West Virginia, which finished the 1993 regular season undefeated.

Andersen said he still expects Fresno State, which brought some 40,000 fans to Anaheim for the 1992 Freedom Bowl against USC, to play in the fifth Pigskin game.

Andersen plans to attend a Pacific 10 Conference athletic directors meeting today in Phoenix and will approach UCLA and California officials about the possibility of playing Fresno State. He had previous discussions with Notre Dame and Wisconsin, but both turned down the game.

"We're still confident we'll get another quality team," Andersen said.

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