The great Nebraska-Penn State debate was the top story of 1994 sports. The college football season saw both teams go undefeated, and very clearly separate themselves as the best two teams in the country. Prior to the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), there was no mechanism to allow them to meet to settle the national title, so it had to be decided by debate—and there was a lot of that.
Nebraska, with its great “Black Death” defense, gained the upper hand in the polls over an explosive Penn State offense led by quarterback Kerry Collins and running back Ki-Jana Carter. The Cornhuskers beat Miami in the Orange Bowl to secure head coach Tom Osborne’s first national title, even as Penn State won the Rose Bowl and pleaded for justice.
Read more about the 1994 Nebraska football team and how the #1 debate unfolded.
There was a lot of excitement in the spring, with both the NHL and NBA postseasons producing compelling matchups and a number of seven-game series, including the Finals in each sport.
Mark Messier led the New York Rangers on a magical ride to their first Stanley Cup since 1994. The city of New York nearly pulled off the NHL-NBA Parlay, but the Houston Rockets ultimately edged the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals.
The NHL playoffs were marked by a change in format, while the NBA saw its first-ever #8 seed win a playoff series. It all added up to a lot of good sports viewing in the spring.
Read more about the 1994 New York Rangers
Read more about the 1994 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Read more about the 1994 NBA Playoffs
The 1994 Final Four provided compelling matchups, good games and a memorable play that ultimately settled the national championship. Arkansas and Duke were an ideal foil for an NCAA final. The Razorbacks were the consensus best team in the country, while the Blue Devils were now the gold standard program in college basketball.
Each team won good games in the national semifinals and then the championship battle was settled by a memorable three-pointer from Arkansas’ Scotty Thurman, a rainbow trey that seemed to arch forever, before hitting the bottom of the net and breaking a 70-70 tie late in the game.
Read more about the 1994 Final Four
The 1994 NFL season was marked by redemption. On one level, the San Diego Chargers, whose past and future was marked by postseason disappointment, enjoyed the one January where they made the big plays at someone else’s expense and reached the Super Bowl for the first (and thus far only) time in franchise history.
But on a higher level, the 1994 NFL playoffs were about the redemption of Steve Young. After producing great regular seasons from 1992-94 and winning two MVP awards, the 49er quarterback finally got his team to the top. San Francisco won a big battle with the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game and then hammered the Chargers in the Super Bowl.
Read more about Steve Young’s Moment
Read more about the 1994 San Diego Chargers
And finally we come to the baseball season. It was the year that baseball shot itself in the foot, not just for this year, but seasons to come, when the players went on strike and the season was cancelled in mid-August. There were a number of great stories, both on the individual and team level that never got a chance to come to fruition.
Read more about the 1994 MLB Season