BTN to air IU’s ’79 Holiday Bowl win

Indiana’s 38-37 victory over No. 9 BYU in the 1979 Holiday Bowl ranks as one of the program’s most exciting games.

There were 874 yards of total offense between the two squads. There were 52 first downs. The lead changed seven times, including Tim Wilbur’s 62-yard, fourth-quarter punt return to give IU the final edge.

Only thing is, there are more than a few people in Bloomington who’ve never seen it. This was before the age of wall-to-wall ESPN coverage of bowls. The ’79 Holiday Bowl aired on Mizzlou Television Network, which syndicated postseason games back then.

But IU’s glorious win will reach a national stage 5 p.m. Saturday when it airs on the Big Ten Network as part of a day of classic bowl games. That Holiday Bowl shootout is something Mark Deal, IU’s assistant athletic director for alumni relations, has been wanting to see on BTN for years.

Deal was on the sideline watching in ’79, as a graduate assistant for Lee Corso. When he heard from BTN that the game was airing, he decided to organize a Zoom watch party with former coaches and players.

“So bang, I sent an email out to the team right away,” Deal said. “For the first time in 41 years, it’s going to be on a national platform. It hasn’t been shown on television, ever.”

It will be a sight to behold. The game featured two high-profile quarterbacks, BYU’s Marc Wilson and IU’s Tim Clifford. Wilson became the 15th overall pick in the 1980 NFL draft. Clifford was the Big Ten’s most valuable player that year.

Wilson threw for 380 yards on the Hoosier defense, but that same defense picked him off three times. A lost fumble by BYU added to IU’s fuel, and Corso’s squad was already the more motivated team.

While BYU headed into the game 11-0, somewhat disappointed to not be in a more high-profile bowl, the 7-4 Hoosiers were raring to go.

“We felt disrespected, to be honest with you. Not from the bowl people, but from BYU,” Deal said. “They were undefeated … saying ‘Why are we playing the fourth-place team from the Big Ten?’ That pissed us off.

“If you watch the body language of the two teams, it’s night and day.”

Now, more people will get to watch, though it will be different than watching live.

The game will be pared down to a 60-minute format, Deal said, cutting out downtime between plays. But the source of the broadcast is an original VHS tape that’s been in Deal’s possession for years, which was more recently cleaned up and converted to DVD.

It’s a copy Deal has used to pull highlights for the ’79 team’s reunions, which occur every five years. They most recently gathered for a 40th anniversary this past season during the Eastern Illinois game.

The broadcast on BTN gives the team another reason to assemble, albeit virtually. Deal said he expects at least 50 former players and coaches to connect to the Zoom watch party on Saturday.

Corso, unfortunately, does not have an email, but Deal called him and made sure he was in the loop.

“He said ‘I don’t even get Big Ten Network down here in Florida.’ I find that hard to believe, but that may be true,” Deal said. “He won’t be there, but we got six of our coaches, three in their 80s, the other three in their 70s, and we love those guys as players. I love those guys.”

One comment

  1. Gotta brag. I was there. Fantastic game. Non-stop shootout. And I remember Wilbur’s scintillating punt return.

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