“I think Big Ten football, through the chancellors and presidents, has made the decision to try to be national,” Carter said.
That would be unique for a power conference in football. Even the mighty SEC hinges itself on, well, being from the south. Changing the image of the B1G from corn-fed Midwesterners to a truly coast-to-coast league seems like a heavy lift – and an open question as to whether it will work.
But Carter had more to say. Although there was still a little mystery, Carter’s quotes had a surprising amount of detail.
“I think the ACC has some work to do. Make sure they understand what their media rights are, what the penalties are. You’re talking $110 million to walk out the door. That’s a big price tag.”
“Two teams that move from one of the power five conferences that cause things to unravel,” Carter said. “There’s a domino effect. One team leaves (ACC) it has a domino effect. Same with the Pac-12.”
So at least on the radar of the B1G is the turmoil in the ACC (and the monster grant-of-rights agreement which might keep the conference together) as well as the Pac-12. And at the very least, the B1G appears to be ready to move if either conference begins to fall apart. What is left unsaid is whether the B1G would be the cause of that breakup.
As to when it could happen?
“I think we have another year or two of the status quo, with a few minor changes. But I think over the next year there’s going to be a lot of big changes that are going to happen.”
Now, does this mean anything for sure is going to happen? Of course not. But Carter is connected like few people are, and if he thinks that there’s big changes coming soon, then it’s a safe bet you shouldn’t be writing your conference schedules in ink.
On Saturday, Nebraska’s spring practice will conclude with the annual Red-White Spring Game. With the arrival of new head coach Matt Rhule, the Nebraska football program looks quite different and the Spring Game will be fans’ first opportunity to get a glimpse at the new regime.
So as you’re watching the Spring Game (in person or on BTN), here are some things to be looking for.
WHAT’S THE FORMAT?
Rhule has said he wants, to the greatest extent possible, the first-team offense to go against the first-team defense, to make a true test of the team. The quarterbacks will not be wearing green jerseys and will be open for full contact. The only concession to practice is that the offensive line will be wearing grey jerseys, and will be playing for both the Red and White teams.
WHAT DO THE QUARTERBACKS LOOK LIKE?
Two of the quarterbacks that saw playing time last year, Casey Thompson and Logan Smothers, are injured and will not be participating in the Spring Game. As a result, we should get a good look at Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims, and Nebraska native Heinrich Haarberg under center. Along with Richard Torres and Chubba Purdy (who saw action last year), we should get a good look at Nebraska’s quarterback options for the upcoming season.
WHAT IS A 3-3-5?
No, it’s not a suggestion Roy Kent would make to Ted Lasso as a formation to help AFC Richmond break a losing streak. Nebraska’s new defensive coordinator Tony White brings an unconventional defensive structure with three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs. On both offense and defense, Nebraska under Rhule will focus on player flexibility, working towards “positionless” football. How that would fit in to what the 3-3-5 defense would look like will be one of the things to watch.
HOW MANY TIGHT ENDS ARE ON THE FIELD?
After two years of waiting, it looks like four-star phenom tight end Thomas Fidone is finally healthy and ready to see the field. And Georgia transfer tight end Arik Gilbert is awaiting an NCAA ruling to be eligible this season. Those two four-star talents, along with returners like Nate Boerkircher, could give Nebraska a very different look offensively.
WHO ARE THOSE FAMILIAR FACES?
At the Spring Game, Nebraska will be welcoming back former head coach Frank Solich for the first time since his firing twenty years ago. Solich’s dismissal caused a huge rift in the Nebraska fan base, and in some ways is a marking point for the decline of the program. So – at least Nebraska fans hope – Solich’s return can heal that wound.
But Solich isn’t the only familiar face. Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts announced that NU would be returning to the old-school, blond-with-bib-overalls Herbie Husker. If seeing Solich on the sidelines isn’t enough to remind fans of Nebraska’s former glories, the old Herbie Husker should help as well.
On Saturday, Nebraska announced that Matt Rhule had been hired as the 31st permanent head coach of the Cornhusker football program. Rhule signed an eight-year contract with Nebraska.
There’s plenty of other outlets that will tell you who Rhule is and what to expect from him in Lincoln. We won’t try to duplicate that.
But given that the coaching search went on for some months – and given the long-suffering Nebraska fan base since the 1990s – many fans have expressed concern and anxiety about Rhule. Specifically, many fans pointed out similarities to former head coaches Mike Riley and Scott Frost, which is not a compliment in this neck of the woods.
Look, there’s no such thing as a guarantee. No one – not Matt Rhule, not Scott Frost, not Urban Meyer – is a guarantee of success. But let’s take a deep breath, Husker Fan, and at least see how catastrophizing comparisons between previous failed head coaches are misplaced.
He’s not Mike Riley
Rhule’s college experience consists of four years at Temple and three years at Baylor. Some Nebraska fans hear echoes of Riley’s experience at Oregon State as a justification for optimism. Much like Riley, Rhule’s teams overperformed at smaller schools but were never able to reach the elite levels Nebraska fans yearn for.
But there are three significant differences between the coaches. First, Riley coached at one place, Oregon State, for 14 years. In that time, Riley’s teams won ten games only once, in 2006. Rhule coached at Temple for four years and Baylor for three. In three of those seven years (twice at Temple, once at Baylor), Rhule won at least ten games.
Both Temple and Baylor were huge rebuilding programs, for different reasons. Rhule went 2-10 and 1-11 respectively at his two stops before building 10-win programs by the third year. Oregon State in Riley’s 12-year tenure plateaued at 10-wins in 2006 before drifting back to 5-7 in 2014, his last season in Corvalis.
The other obvious difference is age. Rhule is taking over Nebraska at age 47. Riley was 61 when he was announced as Nebraska’s head coach, and referred to the move as his “last great adventure.”
Finally, Rhule is taking over a Nebraska program that is significantly more unified that what Riley inherited. Outgoing coach Bo Pelini infamously poisoned the water of the team Riley would lead before departing. Additionally, there were still many within the Nebraska athletic department that were upset about Pelini’s dismissal and did his replacement no favors in his attempt to be successful.
Riley did himself no favors, of course, in his management of the program. But Rhule will not be inheriting the headwinds Riley had upon his arrival in Lincoln.
He’s not Scott Frost
Anxious Nebraska fans also see echoes of Scott Frost in Rhule. Much like Frost, Rhule is a young coach with a brief resume of success at a smaller school. What evidence is there, those fans fear, that Rhule will not hit the same ceiling that Frost did?
Again, there are significant differences. Most importantly, there is no evidence that Rhule is anything like the fraud Frost turned out to be.
Additionally, Rhule’s second stop was at Baylor, a member of a Power-5 conference, as opposed to Central Florida. In three years, Rhule was able to take Baylor from near death’s door to the Big XII conference title game.
And the “death’s door” part of Rhule’s resurrection at Baylor should not be underestimated. Rhule took over a Baylor program led by Art Briles that was riven with a culture accepting sexual assault. More than perhaps any other rebuilt in modern college football history, Rhule had to start from absolute scratch when he arrived in Waco.
Three years later, the Bears were in the Big XII conference title game.
In addition to being the prodigal son returning, Frost was thought to be a can’t miss prospect given his success at Central Florida. But as a smart and particularly handsome analyst pointed out, Central Florida wasn’t exactly a disaster when Frost arrived.
But there’s more to the story. Yes, going from 0-12 to 13-0 is an amazing feat. But let’s broaden the lens a little and look at UCF’s performance over the last seven years.
Yeah, UCF was terrible in 2015, enough to get previous head coach George O’Leary fired mid-season. But it’s not like UCF was a year-after-year disaster that Frost resurrected. The squad that Frost inherited was only a year removed from a nine-win season. It was only two years removed from being a three-point loss to South Carolina away from being in the mix for the final BCS title game.
Now, let’s be clear. This doesn’t take any credit away from Frost’s accomplishments at UCF. Going from 0-12 to 13-0 is remarkable, regardless of context.
But UCF’s 2015 debacle was clearly the outlier. So to assume Frost is a necromancer that can raise the football dead based on two years of work in Orlando ignores the platform upon which Frost stepped when he arrived at UCF.
He’s Matt Rhule
I get it, Husker Fan. You’ve been burned so many times, and it makes sense that you’re going to be leery of letting your heart be broken again.
And Rhule is no guarantee. Heck, Temple was only two years removed from consistently winning 8 and 9 games before he arrived in 2013.
But there’s lots of reasons to think Rhule can be successful in Lincoln. Keep an open mind about those reasons. Just don’t let the echoes of the past drown out the hope of things to come.
rivalry (noun): competition or fighting between people, businesses, or organizations who are in the same area and want the same things.
Collins Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
I am 53 years old, and have been a Nebraska football fan since my father took me to Memorial Stadium for the first time in 1976. So, yes, it’s his fault.
In that time, I have watched Nebraska be a dominant national power in college football. I’ve watched it rise to the top of its conference, only to be frustrated at attempting to reach the pinnacle of the sport. I’ve watched it reach that peak, and stand astride the mountaintop for five glorious years. I’ve also watched Nebraska fall back to earth, slowly at first, then faster as the descent steepened.
But in all those decades of watching college football, I never really understood what a rivalry meant. Not until Friday night.
Growing up, Nebraska fans liked to fancy themselves as a rival to Oklahoma. And sure, Nebraska-Oklahoma in the days of the Big 8 produced memorable games and storylines.
But Oklahoma wasn’t ever really Nebraska’s rival. In part, it’s because Oklahoma never really thought of Nebraska as a rival. Sure, things usually came down to beating Nebraska for Oklahoma to win a conference title and play for a national championship.
That was (and is) different, though, than Oklahoma beating Texas. Beating Texas was (and is) everything for Oklahoma. In college football terms, Nebraska was just a side piece for Oklahoma.
I always thought that was the reason why Oklahoma-Nebraska never felt like a rival the way “real” rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan, Cal-Stanford, Ole Miss-Mississippi State, or any other of those rivalries were. But I was wrong, because I didn’t understand the missing piece.
When Nebraska joined the B1G and Iowa took up the Black Friday spot, I remember there being lots of talk about how Nebraska-Iowa could become a natural rivalry. In my hubris at the time, I remember saying that we’d only know if it was a rivalry when Nebraska had a losing record and was still overjoyed to beat Iowa to keep the Hawkeyes from a conference title.
How silly, I thought at the time. How impossible that scenario seemed a mere decade ago.
We know where Nebraska football has been since then. Losing season after losing season. Losing to Iowa again. And again. And again. And after each loss, living with friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers wearing black and gold and reminding us (some more politely than others) of the scoreboard.
When I was younger, I thought winning nine or ten games then losing just before reaching the pinnacle was pain. I thought I understood what that frustration and anger was having to settle for “minor” New Year’s Day bowl games.
That wasn’t pain. Husker Fan. You know what pain is now. You’ve lived it for the last half-decade.
(To be clear, we are talking pain in a sports-fandom context. It’s obviously not real pain, and to confuse it as such is an insult to the truly suffering. But the joy of sports is to be able to invest such passion in something so utterly meaningless. And in that context, Nebraska fans’ pain has been searing).
That’s what made the fourth quarter so gut-wrenching. A 24-point lead going into the fourth quarter should have felt insurmountable. But we’ve seen this movie before. We knew when Rahmir Johnson fumbled that Nebraska had found oh, so many creative ways to lose games and break hearts. At some level, muscle memory kicked in and we were ready for yet another preposterous, mind-boggling, soul-melting ending that would see the Heroes Trophy in Iowa’s hands yet again.
And then it didn’t happen. When Chris Kolarevic intercepted Alex Padilla with 42 seconds left – and when Casey Thompson executed a victory formation snap without fumbling – Nebraska fans finally got to feel what it is to end seven years of misery and frustration against your neighbors who would have gladly smashed their metaphorical boot in your face forever.
I can only speak for myself. I’ve watched Nebraska try to get past Oklahoma for years. I’ve watched Nebraska get oh-so-close to titles for years and come up short. I’ve watched Nebraska finally win national titles.
But I’ve never felt the way I did when Thompson’s knee hit the Kinnick Stadium turf that one last time on Friday.
Because now I finally get it. Rivalries are born out of pain. They’re forged in the crucible of all that defeat and frustration that comes from watching your neighbor experience the joy you ache for, and remind you about it every day for the following year.
The University of Nebraska has played college football since 1890. Nebraska has been nationally famous for football for over half a century. But Nebraska has never truly had a rival, at least not in the modern era of college football. It does now. That’s how a sloppy victory to end a 4-8 season can reduce a grown man to tears.
Thanks, Dad. Without you, I never would have experienced any of this.
There really is no experience quite like Memorial Stadium on game day. The sights, the sounds, the history, the band, the balloons, all of it makes for a culture-defining experience.
But, let’s face it Husker Fan, the games themselves haven’t been all that fun. I have not witnessed Nebraska win a game in Memorial Stadium since October 02, 2021 – and it’s not for lack of going to games.
Of course, I keep going. We keep going. The Wisconsin game on Saturday is officially a sellout, keeping the streak alive.
Some of going to the games is tradition – it’s just what we do as Nebraskans on an autumn Saturday. Some of it is the belief that something glorious will happen – even if that belief has been harder and harder to maintain over the last few years.
But getting the pre-game right is a guarantee of an experience. You can be undefeated in the pre-game. You can scratch that itch, connect with your history, and feel good about being a Nebraska fan in the pre-game, and bring that good feeling in … well hopefully for a quarter or two, at least.
Many of you are tailgaters, and I am constantly amazed at the creativity – and investment – that tailgaters put into their get-togethers. I’ve done it in the past, and it’s fun, but it’s not really my jam.
I have, however, over the years put together what I believe to be the optimal pre-game routine that gives you the best experience, both logistically and experientially. And because we’re a full-service content provider, we’re going to let you in on the pre-game hack.
Park at the baseball stadium
This is for those of you coming from Omaha, or at least east of Lincoln. You turn off I-80 going towards downtown, but before you reach it (and the inevitable traffic snarl) you pull off at the turnoff for the baseball stadium. As you drive towards the baseball complex, you’ll pass by a number of surface parking lots that are without charge if you’re up for a walk. You can go a little farther and there are pay lots to shorten your hike to the stadium.
The advantage to parking here is twofold. First, you avoid having to drive into Lincoln proper and dealing with all the traffic. Second, when you’re leaving the game, you’re also avoiding the Lincoln traffic leaving the city. You’ve got basically three turns to get onto I-80 and head home.
Also, the restrooms on both sides of Haymarket Park are open and operational, which is a nice option both departing and returning.
Choices over the bridge
Once you cross the bridge over the railroad tracks, you’ll have a number of options. You can head straight to the stadium, walking under the interstate, if you’re pressed for time. If you have a lot of extra time, you can walk right into the Haymarket and choose from any number of options for food and drink before the game.
But the optimal choice is to go just a few blocks east and walk onto the campus. Specifically, you walk to the open area outside the Glenn Korff School of Music to the southeast of the stadium. Make sure you’re there an hour before kickoff.
Listen to – and watch – the band
You’ll see the crowd assembling, waiting for the band to come out. An hour before kickoff, the band will assemble and rehearse their halftime show, ending with Hail Varsity. The band is cool to see from the stands. To be right up next to them, hearing the sounds, seeing the sights, and letting Hail Varsity wash over you is pretty amazing.
Don’t leave once the rehearsal is over, though. Within about ten minutes the band will assemble and prepare to process to the stadium. You can walk along with them through campus as they make their way.
Once the band reaches the stadium, they’ll sing the band song (“let the team all know the band is here!”) and then play Hail Varsity again – and sing you the words to the song too (yes, there’s words to the song!)
At this point, not only have you gotten a really neat experience, you’ve also timed your appearance at the stadium perfectly. You’ve got enough time to go in, get your hot dogs and popcorn (but not a Runza because, come on, that’s gross) and get up to your seats. By the time you sit down there will be about 20-25 minutes before kickoff. You’ll be able to relax for just a bit before the pregame spectacular starts and Sirius plays the team onto the field.
Once the game is over (because you’re not leaving before the end of the game, one way or the other, right?) then you can make your way out of the stadium. If you’re feeling good (or have time and need to drown your sorrows), the Haymarket is right there for you. If you’re just ready to go home, you can walk right back to the car and hit the road without having to navigate downtown Lincoln traffic.
There you have it, Husker Fan. I can’t promise you that the result of the game will make you happy. But follow this routine, and at least you’ll win the pre-game.
Sure, most of Husker Twitter was pretty excited about the performance against Purdue. Interim head coach Mickey Joseph has built up quite a bit of capital with the fanbase after pulling out consecutive conference wins (which, fair enough, Nebraska hasn’t done that since 2018).
But I came across this tweet on my timeline during the game, and it really got me thinking.
It’s a fair point. Before we found out about the … other stuff, the j’accuse on former head coach Scott Frost was that he could get close but couldn’t win the big game. So what exactly is the difference between this team and the teams Frost coached?
When I sat down to write this, I thought the first point would be that Nebraska made a comeback against a large deficit. But then as I did my research (yes, Mr. Snarky-Pants, I do research for this), I realized that Nebraska was down 13 at the half against Michigan and down 12 at the half against Minnesota.
Nebraska could make comebacks at the half last year too. So why should we feel different about this Nebraska squad as opposed to last year’s?
Singular vs. Plural
One reason is contained in the headline. This is the first one-score loss under Joseph Nebraska has suffered. Sure, that happened all the time under Frost. But teams take on the personality of their head coach, and there’s little doubt this squad is starting to emulate Joseph’s personality. The “here-we-go-again” mentality that haunted Nebraska under Frost is at least somewhat mitigated by the fact that there’s a new man in charge.
A Broken Streak
Part of the reason the one-score game hobgoblin haunted Frost was his continuous inability to win those game. That’s not the case under Joseph. A week ago, Nebraska won a one-score game on the road against Rutgers.
Sure, the game was retina-searingly sloppy. But there ain’t no style points in the standings. That means the Purdue one-score loss wasn’t just another brick in the wall. These Huskers have in their memory that they can win games like that – making it more likely they can retain the confidence they will be able to win the next one.
The Other Stuff
Why should we think that the team under Joseph is different than the team under Frost? Well, we now know that Frost as a head coach was quite the fraud. Once put in charge, Joseph fired Frost’s defensive coordinator Erik Chander after one week and has fundamentally purged the leadership of Frost’s influence.
We know that, at the very least, there are adults in charge leading the Nebraska football program. And because – maddeningly – that’s a change, that’s a reason to think this team could be different.
A Question of Faith.
Is this team under Joseph really just the same team under Frost?
Maybe. We’re really not going to know until we get through the rest of this season.
But is there reason to think – to hope – that things are different? Sure. And so it comes down to a question of faith. Does a new regime in charge give you reason to believe as a fan things could be different?
A smart and particularly handsome analyst talked about this back in 2018. Here’s what he said (with the inevitable nerdy pop culture reference to remain strongly On Brand).
None of us know the future. So Husker Fan, you’re faced with a choice given those competing arguments, as to how you respond. And many of you are making the kind of choice we saw the android chief operations officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise face in Star Trek:The Next Generation.
Lt. Commander Data: Yes. The Starfleet officers who first activated me on Omicron Theta told me I was an android – nothing more than a sophisticated machine with human form. However, I realized that if I was simply a machine, I could never be anything else; I could never grow beyond my programming. I found that difficult to accept. So I chose to believe… that I was a person; that I had the potential to be more than a collection of circuits and subprocessors. It is a belief which I still hold.
Lieutenant Worf: How did you come to your decision?
Lt. Commander Data: I made… a leap of faith.
Star Trek:The Next Generation, “Rightful Heir” (S6:E23), quote courtesy of IMDB (emphasis added).
That’s what you’re doing now, Husker Fan. Certainly if you’ve made it this far, you’re choosing to make that leap of faith, choosing hope over despair even in the face of current evidence.
You may be doing it in part for your own history, honoring your forebearers who introduced you to Nebraska football. For me, that’s my dad, with his comically-trinket-ladened Nebraska hat, taking me down to a frozen Astroturf field after Nebraska’s Halloween evisceration of Colorado in 1992 to throw around a stocking hat like it was a football. It’s my mom, who still comes to the home games with me to share the experience (and to sneak in a little time to spend with each other). I suspect many of you who have read this far have a similar story as to why Nebraska football is important enough to expend this energy.
And even if there’s not a sentimental attachment, don’t lose track of one very important thing – this is supposed to be fun. At the end of the day, it’s just a football game. No one is going to lose their life or their freedom as a result of a college football game.
That blessed silliness is what makes an emotional investment in a sporting event so powerful and so liberating. As fans, we can wrap ourselves in the minutiae of the game and the roster, and surrender our emotions to the highs and lows of the contest. We get to feel those intense, authentic, irreplaceable feelings of joy and sadness that only come from following a game over which we have no control of the outcome.
And, win or lose at the end of the contest, life goes on around us. We can invest fully, experience those emotions fully, and walk away at the end of it with nothing lost outside of the feelings we chose to put on the line.
If that’s why we all get on this ridiculous roller-coaster in the first place, then why not choose hope? Why not make that leap of faith and believe in the possible, especially when there are still good reasons to think those dreams could come true?
At the very least, Husker Fan, you’ve got reason to believe, to hope for things to be better. If you’re a fan – especially a Nebraska fan – I’m not sure how much more you can ask for.
On Saturday, interim head coach Mickey Joseph got his first win when Nebraska beat Indiana 35-21 on Homecoming. Nebraska held a 21-7 lead in the first half, but the Hoosiers went on a 14-0 run to end the first half tied.
Indiana went into the locker room with all the momentum, and Nebraska fans felt like they had seen this movie before. The third quarter didn’t help. Every time the game seemed like it was turning Nebraska’s way, something bad would happen. Sometimes it was an inopportune penalty. Sometimes it was an ejection of a key player. In one series, Nebraska got a turnover and a chance to take control, and promptly turned the ball right back to Indiana.
Nebraska fans knew what was coming next. Early success. Self-inflicted adversity. And when push comes to shove and the game is on the line, Husker Fan, you know what’s coming.
For years, Nebraska fans solaced themselves with being *that* close, knowing that mythical corner was about to be turned. A smart and particularly handsome analyst went through Nebraska’s history under Mike Riley and Scott Frost trying to show how the gap was closing and soon, soon, wins would come.
And boy weren’t we desperately looking for that corner to turn. This dope thought it might have been Nebraska’s 56-7 win over Northwestern last year might have been the turning of that mythical corner for NU.
Instead, it was Nebraska’s last win for almost an entire calendar year. Any corner the Northwestern game turned just ran into a brick wall.
So why is this different? Why should you, Husker Fan, invest even a tiny bit of hope into this program?
Well, first, Frost is gone. And as it turns out, Frost may have been quite the fraud as a head coach. Now he’s gone and Joseph is in charge. And it seems like he might be a popular guy with the team.
But here’s the big reason why you should not immediately dismiss those feelings of optimism. Sure, Nebraska beat Northwestern last year and it felt good. But there was no time in that Northwestern game where Nebraska faced adversity. No time where that team felt a “here we go again” moment in the second half. No time where the ghosts of close losses passed had a chance to be exorcised.
We saw that moment on Saturday. Once Casey Thomson hit Trey Palmer for that long touchdown, it seemed like finally – finally – Big Mo was wearing scarlet and cream at the end of the game. And the defense – yes, that defense – twisted the screws and shut Indiana’s offense out.
So now, for the first time in a very long time, a Nebraska team can feel the weight of collapses past ease a little on its shoulders. Now when the next moment of adversity arrives, instead of “here we go again” Nebraska can think “we’ve done this before.”
It’s no guarantee, of course. Nebraska’s got to play a game in Piscataway on a Friday night, which is a recipe for weirdness.
But at least now Nebraska has had a little taste of success, of overcoming adversity. Let’s see how it responds now that it has that taste of blood in its mouth.
The dismissal of Scott Frost after his loss to Georgia Southern was far from a surprise. Indeed, it seemed like a relief, with interim head coach Mickey Joseph now getting a nine-game audition for the job.
Even with such a monumental change at the heart of the Nebraska program, it was hard to come up with anything new to say about it. A smart and particularly handsome analyst talked about the potential for Frost’s failure before his tenure started, and how the commitment of the fanbase would be part of Nebraska recovering.
Ironically, it’s the dark side of that fanbase’s passion that has created a new controversy after Frost’s firing. Mike’l Severe, a fixture in the local sports media, was featured on a video from Hurrdat Sports talking about how the firing was about more than wins and losses.
“[Athletic Director Trev Alberts] can’t talk about his head coach being late for practice every day. He can’t talk about his head coach not making recruiting phone calls.”
Damon Benning, on 1620 The Zone’s “Sharp and Benning” show, had more to say on Severe’s comments, and more broadly on whether local sports media should be really be covering the bad things that are happening behind the scenes at the beloved football program.
To summarize, Benning quotes the famous “you can’t handle the truth” line from “A Few Good Men” in saying that Nebraska fans were neither interested in nor able to handle negative reporting about their team or the coaching staff. Benning’s perspective, echoed by co-host Gary Sharp, was that reporting about problems within the program would just be met with criticism and anger. The deluge of calls, e-mails, and tweets to “quit being negative” and “just support the program” would be, in their words, exhausting.
And I get that! There’s a portion of the fanbase – a vocal one, to be sure – that just wants the sunshine pumped for Dear Old Nebraska U. Any member of the media who is perceived as being critical of or challenging the current coach gets labeled as “disloyal” or “negative” or (what might be my least favorite word in the English language) a “hater.”
Just as Dirk Chatelain, or Sam McKewon, or Mitch Sherman, or anyone who has pushed back on the company line or asked tough questions what their inbox and Twitter mentions have looked like.
But that really raises a bigger question as to what the point of having an independent media is in the first place. Let’s presume for a moment that Severe’s allegations are true. If that was actually happening, wouldn’t it have been better for the program for it to come into the light, so the problem could have been addressed – one way or the other – before the program unraveled as spectacularly as it has?
Now let’s be clear. I’m not talking about rumor-mongering. The internet is full of salacious stories and rumors of all the goings-on within the Nebraska football program. Repeating rumors and amplifying them with a large platform would be incredibly irresponsible and inappropriate for the local media.
If that’s what Benning was talking about – hearing rumors but not spreading them – I’m with him all the way. But that wasn’t the impression I got. What it sounded to me is like there were knowable, reportable things happening, and a choice was being made to not report them because the Nebraska fanbase “can’t handle the truth.”
Remember, though, that famous line in the movie was from Colonel Nathan Jessup – the villain of the movie. And trying to suppress the “truth” that Jessup was so sure we couldn’t handle was going to result in an innocent man going to jail.
I get not wanting to deal with that vocal portion of the fanbase that gets upset at anyone being a “hater.” But if that vocal portion of the fanbase is given a heckler’s veto to stop truthful, factual reporting on problems within the program, then any problems hidden behind closed doors will just continue to fester.
The purpose of journalism is to speak truth to power. Sports journalists who require ongoing access to the team they cover – and thus staying in the good graces of that team’s administration – are presented with all kinds of challenges and ethical quandaries.
But that doesn’t change the fact that no one ultimately benefits if the heckler’s veto stops us all from finding out if there are problems within the walls of the program we love. If Severe’s story is to be believed – that off-the-field problems were at least at part to blame for Nebraska’s mystifying inability to win close games – then failing to report on those did nothing but prolong the agony of Nebraska fans everywhere.
I’m wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn
“Torn,” Natalie Imbruglia
In a season-defining, career-defining, program-defining opening game, Nebraska lost to Northwestern 31-28. Nebraska lost despite holding an 11-point lead twice in the game. Nebraska had chance after chance as the game wound down to pull the game out, but fell short yet again.
Nebraska is now 5-21 in one score games under Frost, including 0-9 since 2021. Nebraska is now 15-30 overall, reaching the stage where they’ve lost two games for every one win.
We can dissect the details of the game, including the decision to try an onside kick (a reckless but aggressive one which, at the time, I was fine with).
But, really, this isn’t about Xs and Os anymore, is it? You know what it felt like, Husker Fan. The bad break that lead to a slide and the late-game collapse. Be honest, once Northwestern took the lead, did you think that Nebraska was going to win?
I didn’t. And it sure looked to me like no one wearing scarlet and cream did either.
Please hear me, I’m not calling the players quitters. But in the fourth quarter, it looked like those uniforms weighed a thousand pounds. That the players felt the weight of every close loss, every dashed hope, every suffering Saturday throughout the Nebraska fanbase. It’s quite a lot to ask college kids to bear that weight.
I honestly don’t know what to do now. I thought about waiting for a few days before writing anything, so I wasn’t writing something for public consumption while being so up in my feelings about this.
But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe this is the honest part.
For the whole week before the game, my friends and family kept asking if I was excited for the game. And I kept saying no, and it was true. I wasn’t excited. I was dreading it.
Apparently, for good reason.
So now what? I know you’ve come here for years now to hear about how Nebraska football connects us to our history and how we can all stick together in all kinds of weather and all that rah-rah jazz.
Right now I’m just pretty numb inside. I am all out of faith.
I never thought I would look myself in the mirror and realize that I don’t want to go to Lincoln next week for the North Dakota game. I have consistently referred to Memorial Stadium as my favorite place on earth.
Now? The thought of being one of the greatest fans to pass through those gates just fills me with sadness.
I’ll will go, more than likely. The season tickets are my parents’ and having the opportunity to spend that day with my mom is a gift I would be a fool to turn down.
But Nebraska football isn’t fun anymore. It’s an obligation. It’s muscle memory on a Saturday afternoon.
I can hear myself saying to stay the course, to take in the pageantry, to live in the hope that something wonderful will happen.
So I will probably be there, performing the rituals I have since I was small. Chanting the chants and clapping slightly off-beat to the band. Hoping to find some solace in that familiarity.
But I’m out of faith in this program. Maybe it will come back. Maybe a win over Oklahoma will wash the taste of this Irish debacle out of my soul.
In what might have been the most don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it events, Nebraska last week announced their alternate uniforms for the 2022 season. Here’s the announcement on Twitter.
The uniform is an homage to the 1983 “Scoring Explosion” team, which is utterly appropriate. You can see above what the new threads look like. Ordinarily we’d go into a piece-by-piece breakdown of the uniform.
Except … we’ve kinda seen it before. In 2017, Nebraska wore an homage to the 1997 team that had the same mesh numeral concept. Really all that’s different is the sans-serif N on the sleeve and the stripes on the pants (more on that in a moment).
That’s it, that’s the list. And I can tell you from experience, the mesh on the numerals is not at all visible live and barely visible on TV. So basically we’ve got the same concept as 2017, and including the N that Nebraska already puts on its practice jerseys.
As a result, we aren’t going to waste your time breaking this thing down. Let’s just talk about what should be obvious.
Bring. The. Stripes. Back.
Look, I know I’m a bit of a radical on Nebraska uniforms – I think they should change the numeral font on the jersey to match that on the back of the helmet, and the original scoreboard clock, of which there is a replica inside Memorial Stadium (if you’ll pardon that dope and his kids standing in front of it). Fer crying out loud, they had a proof of concept in 2018 and it looked awesome (and would have been so much better without the silly helmets).
I get that’s not going to happen. But the stripes can happen. The stripes should happen. Heck, the team already has striped pants to practice in.
I understand that Frost wanted to change something in the uniform to bring it back to the glory days when he won a national title here. But, honestly, 2022 feels like an opportunity to reboot from the first three years of Frost’s time in Lincoln.
What better way to do that then to get rid of the white yoga pants and put the stripes back where they belong, all the time.
Once we get that sorted out, we can then work on getting “The Cornhusker” and “Thunderstruck” played at proper times every home game.
NEBRASKA ALTERNATE UNIFORM POWER RANKING
The infamous trash bag uniforms, which had numerals which literally couldn’t be read from the stands. The two-toned helmets were pretty cool, but overall the unis were a disaster.
Mystifyingly, adidas took its disastrous 2014 concept and made just a slight tweak, putting it on a black background instead of a red one, and made the uniform only marginally less horrific.
These original (well, except for 2009) throwbacks get far more hate than they deserve, especially how well they combined with Wisconsin’s to make a truly memorable spectacle. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, Wisconsin had the better unis that night.)
The first road alternates Nebraska has worn ended up making good use of the trash-bag silver, working them into an ice concept that ended up very sharp.
The concept was brilliant, to pay homage to the 1997 team by replicating the mesh uniforms. And while it came out great, it was also hard to tell the unis apart from normal ones on the field during the game. (In full disclosure, this picture is also my avatar on an unsettling number of websites).
Yes, the 2022 version is entirely derivative from 2017. But the N on the sleeve makes it just the tiniest bit cooler.
Even early in the process, adidas got this one right. The basic black uniforms, the different-but-legible stencil numerals, and the overall simplicity gives this one a place of honor in the Nebraska alternate uniform pantheon. The unique stenciled numerals and (of course) the stripes on the pants give 2013 the nod over 2019.
Yes, Nebraska has never actually worn this outfit, but it doesn’t make it any less sharp (especially with the scary Hallowe’en motif for which I am a total sucker). Once you’ve swallowed the concept that the Blackshirts logo is for the whole team – which took some work – then it’s hard not to love this set.
I really do love a monochrome uniform set as an alternate (or unless you’re the Seahawks). And mainly because you can’t really see the camo unless you look hard, this set is incredibly clean. The old-school NU logo on the helmet is a nice change of pace without the helmet looking dramatically different, and the typeface on the numerals is unique and sharp.
And then there’s the stripes. Those blessed, amazing, gorgeous stripes matching the shoulder sleeves and making the uniform connect rather than wearing yoga pants. Hopefully a bellweather of things to come.
OK, I admit it, these things have grown on me to the point where they surpassed the 2013 set, something I didn’t think would happen. Now, if Nebraska goes the full Darth Vader and rolls out with these shirt and the 2020 black pants …
Anything that involves old-school numerals, a shout-out to the Stadium Clock, and the full In the Deed The Glory inscription is going to be hard to beat. If it wasn’t for the silly helmet, this one would be the one to beat. Also, adidas, why could I not buy an “18” jersey with the cool 8 numeral, instead of getting stuck just buying a “1.” Just take my money already!
Because of the three-year hiatus, these gorgeous threads frequently get left out of the alternate uniform consideration. That’s a shame, because these throwbacks, with the curly-Q numerals and numbers on the helmets, have yet to be surpassed. Quite honestly, Nebraska could go to these uniforms as their regular ones tomorrow and I’d be quite happy (as long as they put the stripes back on the pants, natch).