Berry Tramel

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Big 12 football: Missing the Cornhuskers

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 23, 2014 at 4:05 pm •  Published: January 23, 2014

Tom Osborne was never a fan of the Big 12.  By Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Tom Osborne was never a fan of the Big 12. By Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

I miss all the old Big 12 expatriates. I miss the trips to Colorado and the flatirons. Watching college football in the Rocky Mountains is a blessing in life. I miss the trips to Missouri, too, because the games with OU or OSU always seemed to be in October, when the Missouri hillsides were at their loveliest. I miss Texas A&M mainly for the Aggie band.

But in terms of straight-up football, I really miss only Nebraska. The trips to Lincoln weren’t all that easy, the topography was nothing special, even the stadium, while packed and loud, isn’t anything memorable. But man, Nebraska football was fun. The games were great, the emotions high, the spectacle supreme. You knew you were in a place that cared.

I thought a lot about Nebraska this week after reader Blake Fite sent me an email about the Huskers. This is the email, with my responses:

“I think it is about time to assess Nebraska’s move to the Big 10. Here are points to ponder:

“1. After they arrived in the frozen tundra, Michigan and Wisconsin did them a disservice by helping to vote them out of the prestigious AAU membership. Are they any worse conference mates than Texas!”

It’s an excellent point. Nebraska got into the Big Ten in part because of its membership in the American Association of Universities, then was voted out, in 2011. Those hoity-toity academic organizations are largely insufferable. Nebraska is just as well off without the AAU. But the Huskers had to feel knifed in the back by its new Big Ten partners.

“2. They lost the OU rivalry at first annually then every other year and now they have no rivalry. A rivalry only happens with a lot of games and water under the bridge. They have neither and creating some hokey jug or brass cup as an annual trophy comes off as contrived and cheesy. Maybe my children’s children will see a rivalry emerge.”

The Huskers have some cool games in the Big Ten. No doubt about it. They’ve been in a division with Michigan and Michigan State. They’re about to be in a division with Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern. They’ll play Ohio State and Penn State on a rotating basis. But it’s not the same as Oklahoma-Nebraska. The Sooners are to be blamed for letting that rivalry wither. I maintain what I said three years ago. If OU had treasured the Nebraska series, the Huskers never would have left.

“3. Their recruiting has consistently ranked 15th to 40th, still with no positive spike except they are recruiting in the Northeast and not the Southwest. Translation: selling colder games, status quo and less talent in Texas.”

On, I suppose. I think recruiting in Texas was going to be difficult for Nebraska. Recruiting the upper Midwest will be about the same. Let’s not pretend this is Arkansas.

“4. They definitely long term are making more money, but is their brand as strong? The Big 10 does not have to disclose network ratings but they have not been great. How does that old Beatles song go, ‘Money can’t buy me love.’”

Nebraska will make more money in the Big Ten, no doubt about it. The Huskers, I don’t believe, have been surprised by anything (other than the AAU). They know what they left and they know where they’ve gone.

“5. The Big 10′s bowl record is atrocious as of late and not sure it is getting better anytime soon, but raiding the ACC for Maryland and Rutgers only hurt another conference.”

The Big Ten does stink. It’s mediocre, and adding Rutgers and Maryland certainly didn’t help the Huskers. Adding Kansas and Missouri, or Kansas and Oklahoma, now that would have been a different story.

“6.  Population shifts are moving South. Let’s hope for their sake Mr. (Jim) Delany channels some more of his inner narcissism and acquires one of those glossy SEC teams to warm up their footprint.”

I think the Big Ten commissioner would love to look South. If Missouri had just hung on a few months, it could be in the Big Ten, which is where it wanted to be all along. I don’t know where else the Big Ten would look, though. The ACC seems locked up now.

“7. I am certain there are a lot of benefits to the move educationally and financially, but here is one guy who thinks them moving up North has more to do with sour grapes, A few undisclosed axes to grind by Dr. Osborne and the exploitation of those issues by Jim Delaney than feeling quote ‘vulnerable’ as the main reason for leaving. I hope it is worth it because those axes will go to the grave with Dr. Osborne, and in a quiet moment the Cornhusker brass have to at least have some regrets.”

Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Tom Osborne led the way in Nebraska leaving. He never liked the Big 12. Some say he wanted to go back to the Big Six. But what’s done is done. Does Nebraska have regrets? I’m sure it’s mixed. Football, I would guess, would prefer to be back in the Big 12 North, a division Nebraska could conceivably have dominated just by getting its program back in good shape. Nebraska brass? Probably loved the Big Ten, though the AAU thing might give pause. Nebraska fans? No doubt split, but I’d be guessing more regret than not, because fans love tradition and rivalries. But those were slowly disappearing anyway.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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