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Let's ignore the biological improbability and assume a 29-year-old sportswriter could have a 17-year-old son. The lad has thrown 100

ommentary Let's ignore the biological improbability and assume a 29-year-old sportswriter could have a 17-year-old son. The lad has thrown 100

touchdown passes in prep football, averaged 28 points a game in prep basketball, and could play either sport in any big-time collegiate program.

Casually, I ask him one evening if he's leaning toward a school. "The more I think about it, Dad," he says, "I want to stay in the Big Eight."

My face turns purple. My hands tremble. I pace frantically. When I begin to scream, a doctor is called to sedate me.

I would not let my son play in the Big Eight these days. Nor should you let yours. If I wanted him to sell drugs, play for wacko coaches, take payoffs from sleazy people, shoot Uzi guns, assault coeds and do time, I'd send him to the Big Eight. If I wanted him to become an honorable, responsible citizen, I'd send him far, far away.

Such is the state of a league that is fast becoming the darkest, most crooked, most scandalous in college sport. That's a difficult distinction to achieve, considering the problems of the SWC, SEC and others.

The Big Eight has two schools on football probation (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State), one on basketball probation (national champ Kansas) and two with more crime within their football programs (Colorado and Oklahoma) than some reasonably sized U.S. cities.

Want a prototype of everything that's wrong with college athletics? Look no further than the Big Eight. Not only is it the league most likely to produce the NCAA's next death-penalty offender, it is almost deserving of its own permanent FBI investigator. To be fair, we should not group all eight schools in the category of troublesome - Kansas State and Iowa State have avoided recent travails, and until recently Missouri has had only the antics of basketball coach Norm Stewart, whose senselessness turned to sorrow Tuesday with the removal of a cancerous tumor from his colon.

But including Nebraska, which long has had a suspicious cloud over its football program, the Big Eight is now the Big Degenerate.

In Boulder, they celebrate the daily disintegration of the despised Oklahoma program. But don't laugh too hard, folks. The crime story drags on at Colorado, where the offseason has produced more collisions with the law that do nothing for Bill McCartney's helpless off-field image.

The lowlight was last week's arrest of freshman tailback Marcus Reliford on first-degree sexual assault, the impact of which may have been worsened by some curious timing.

If the incident took place Jan. 20, and university police obtained a warrant for Reliford's arrest Feb. 3, why did the player not surrender until Feb. 9? Could it be because the national signing date was Feb. 8 - and McCartney didn't want adverse publicity during the wooing period to hurt his recruiting cause? Coincidental or by design?

Still, nothing out of Boulder or any other Big Eight school comes close to matching the stench out of Norman, Okla. Old B.S. himself, Barry Switzer, is watching in horror as his monster swallows him up.

Since August, when Brian Bosworth played tattle-tale and told stories of cocaine, steroids, payoffs and Buster Rhymes' Uzi, this program has been ravaged by: (1) the breaking of the wishbone and the loss of the conference title; (2) a brawl between two assistant coaches at a Orlando, Fla., country club; (3) a loss in the Citrus Bowl; (4) a three-year probation for 20 recruiting violations, including a two-year ban from bowl games and one-year ban from live TV; (5) suspension of star cornerback Jerry Parks, who is charged with shooting with intent to injure teammate Zarak Peters; (6) suspension of players Bernard Hall, Nigel Clay and Glenn Bell, who are charged with first-degree rape; and (7) in perhaps the most stunning news of all, the suspension of quarterback Charles Thompson, charged with selling cocaine.

Go ahead and laugh at Kansas State's football team. But at least it's clean, which makes it one of the prouder entities in the Big Degenerate.