It was Pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.
– St. Augustine
After Nebraska’s 28-20 loss to Iowa dropped NU to 5-7, many fans thought there would be no postseason. But because of the proliferation of bowl games, and the loss of other teams in contention, it appears that Nebraska is almost certain to receive a bowl invitation. The most likely destinations for Nebraska would be the Foster Farms Bowl in San Francisco or the Quick Lanes Bowl in Detroit.
Sure, those aren’t the most glamorous of destinations, especially for a program with the history of Nebraska. As a result, many have suggested that Nebraska should turn down a bowl bid this year.
Look, I love Kenny Bell, both as a person and for what he did in Lincoln. But on this one, he’s just wrong.
What’s important about a bowl invitation for Nebraska isn’t really the game. It’s the extra practices. By going to a bowl, Nebraska should get somewhere between 12 and 15 practices. That’s close to an entire spring practice work of extra work.
That amount of extra time with the players would be invaluable for any team. But for Nebraska, just finishing its first season under new head coach Mike Riley, those extra practices are absolute gold.
It’s not just for installation of Nebraska’s new offensive and defensive schemes, although the extra time working on those concepts is certainly welcome. But coming off a 5-7 season, the bowl practices will provide the coaching staff with more time to work with the current roster, with an eye on 2016.
Again, that’s the point. Sure, bringing home a trophy from the Foster Farms Bowl or the Quick Lanes Bowl would be nice. But it’s the preparation for next year that makes the bowl opportunity one Nebraska can’t afford to turn down.
What’s the argument against going to a bowl? Well, one is that the coaching staff could use the time to focus on recruiting. And, sure, recruiting is a 24/7 activity, and any time spent on future classes should be a benefit.
But Nebraska will still have plenty of time to recruit between the end of December and the beginning of February. And a bowl appearance will give recruits another opportunity to see Nebraska play a meaningful game, and get an idea of how their talents could fit in with Riley’s program.
The recruiting angle, though, isn’t where most people object to Nebraska taking part in a lower-tier bowl. Instead, the argument fundamentally centers around Nebraska being above such a thing. It’s embarrassing, the line of thinking goes, for the scarlet and cream to be seen in a bowl game crammed between ads for oil changes. And if, God forbid, Nebraska loses the game, it ends the season with eight losses.
But, let’s face it. How much of a difference is there in terms of embarrassment between a 5-7 season and a 5-8 season? There’s no question that Nebraska’s season has worked out in a way that no one (well, almost no one) could have seen coming.
Closing your eyes and wishing the 2015 season away, though, doesn’t work. And by declining a bowl invitation solely to avoid embarrassment, Nebraska would be throwing away an extra spring practice worth of time the coaching staff can use to prepare for next season.
Pride in your school, your team, and your program is a good thing. But when pride leads you to make foolish decisions, it’s a problem. While a 5-7 Nebraska team may not be as far away from glory as its record indicated (indeed, this dope even thinks NU should be favored to win the B1G West next year), it’s also not the Nebraska program of the 1990’s.
Nebraska hasn’t won a conference championship since 1999. It is no position to be indulging in selfish pride and turning down an opportunity to get better.