Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Canon-McMillan hits ESPN "30 for 30" spotlight

ESPN's "30 for 30" documentary series is the occasional must-view, particularly when it aired programs on the day Reggie Miller beat the New York Knicks or a look inside the dynasty that Miami (Fla.) football.

The most recent installment "Pony Excess" aired Saturday night. It explored the rise and quick demise of Southern Methodist University football in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

As a young college football fan during the days of SMU's Pony Express, I viewed the backfield of Eric Dickerson and Craig James in much the same way I did Nikita Koloff and his deadly Russian Sickle. I was convinced Koloff would take over the world and, at the time, SMU was on top of the college football world. (In a wrestling sidenote, is it just me or does recently hired WVU "coach in waiting" Dana Holgorsen look like the long, lost member of the Midnight Express?)

The Mustangs looked unbeatable on the field. They sure ran a dirty program off it.

The beginnings of SMU's fall can be traced to Canon-McMillan High School. Back in 1983, Stopperich was considered one of the top recruits in college football - a muscle-bound, bullying offensive tackle, the type of player offenses are built behind.

At 6-3, 265, Stopperich was courted by college across the country and, as a senior, he earned a spot on the USA Today High School All-America Team. Thanks to some shady deals, SMU landed Stopperich, but, as "30 for 30" explains, he was damaged goods because of a severe knee injury suffered in wrestling season.

For more on the Stopperich case as SMU, click

It's an interesting read, and the Stopperich connection to SMU's downfall was one reason why I wanted to watch the documentary. Stopperich died in 1995 and I would have like if the documentary dug a little deeper into that aspect, but it did not.

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