It’s … been a rough year for everyone. The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on us all, and about things far more important than football.
Having said that, this is a blog about football. And specifically for Nebraska football, this has been a rough year. New B1G commissioner Kevin Warren earned himself no friends with being the public face of cancelling, then un-cancelling, the B1G football season.
On at least two separate occasions this year, Nebraska has born the brunt of national scorn for the (apparent) crime of wanting to play as many football games as possible. The second act of that particular drama, after Wisconsin cancelled its game against Nebraska after a COVID-19 outbreak, seemed to push many Nebraska fans to the breaking point.
Nebraska, apparently, had an agreement in place for a replacement game against the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. According to Nebraska, UTC’s testing protocols were at least as stringent as those of the B1G, so playing the game in that context would not increase any risk of exposure.
The B1G said no, and elements of the Nebraska fanbase – who already blamed the conference in general and Warren in particular for everything from negative national attention to having no fans in the stands – took their online outrage to the next level.
Now throughout the Nebraska fanbase – and even with some prominent local media members – the wisdom of Nebraska’s continued membership in the B1G has been called into question. I know it’s been a long year, and surviving this pandemic has been tough on everyone but … that’s crazy talk.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. According to USA Today here and here, the per-team conference payouts for each of the Power 5 conference schools looks like this.
|Conference||Per-School Distribution (approximate)|
|Big 12||$38.2 – $42 million|
|ACC||$27.6 – $34 million|
|Pac 12||$32.2 million|
*pausing to let the obligatory “it’s not all about money” folks get that out of their system*
That’s a huge different in terms of per-team payouts. And before your eyes glaze over, stop for a second and think about the power that money brings. Power to hire the best coaches – like, I don’t know, some guy like Fred Hoiberg to help turn around a moribund men’s basketball program. Power to build facilities that can rival anyone in the nation and help a school like Nebraska that has to compete nationally for the best players.
And that’s just talking about the athletic side of things. I know you don’t come here for a discussion of academia, but Nebraska’s membership in the B1G is a game-changing difference for the university’s academic mission. Nebraska’s B1G membership allows the university to attract the most sought-after professors, access to some of the most lucrative grant opportunities, and the prestige to put its work before the world’s stage.
Getting back to the football field, though, the B1G provides for Nebraska something it’s never truly had – rivalries.
I know, Husker Fan, I know. Nebraska-Oklahoma holds a special place in your heart, and rightfully so. The Game of the Century will always hold a place in the lore of college football.
But, I have some hard news for you. Oklahoma was never really all that into you. Oklahoma’s rival was, is, and always will be Texas. We saw that as the Big 8 morphed into the Big 12 and Nebraska got kicked to the curb by Oklahoma.
After that? Colorado was kind of a spicy fling, but the Buffaloes bolted for the west coast at first opportunity. Missouri was just starting to feel like it had possibilities, before the SEC came calling for the Tigers (and, by the way, the B1G said an emphatic no). Kansas State? Come on, Husker Fan, are you seriously holding a torch for a game in Manhattan, Kansas?
Now, Nebraska’s got Iowa. Whether you know it or not, Husker Fan, Iowa’s had a thing for you for a very long time. As much as the black-and-gold faithful won’t admit it out loud (especially after winning five straight), there’s a special place in their hearts every time they see their scarlet-and-cream neighbors with their five national titles fall on their collective faces.
Nebraska fans are juuuuuuust starting to return the favor to their noisy neighbors. And if you, as a Nebraska fan, can’t find some hate in your heart after this, I can’t help you.
The point being, though, is that Nebraska’s home in the B1G gives the space NU to have a true, honest-to-heaven, 12-month-a-year rival, something it has never had before. That’s a good thing, as it gives Nebraska fans a chance to feel those unchecked emotions that can only come from vanquishing a truly hated rival.
Wait until Nebraska knocks off Iowa, Husker Fan, and see how you feel. Trust me, once that happens, you’ll get it.
Besides, what’s the option if Nebraska were to leave the B1G? Go back to the Big 12?
Texas is still, last I checked, Texas. True, Texas might not quite be back, but that’s not going to change how Texas as an administration operates. And as you might recall, Husker Fan, that was pretty intolerable when Nebraska kept losing votes to Texas in those halcyon Big 12 days y’all are apparently pining for.
Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel has been pretty open in his willingness to consider Nebraska leaving the B1G. Back in August, here’s his justification (if you can call if that) for such a move.
There’s money in the Big 12, too — especially one that would add Nebraska and Arkansas or UCF.
BWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!!!
*deep, cleansing breath*
BWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!!!
Yes, clearly the difference between the money brought in by the B1G and the Big 12 is the addition of those ratings giants … Arkansas or UCF.
So let me get this straight. Y’all want to go to a conference which is bringing in less per school now – and will go down once the pot has to be split twelve ways instead of ten – and have to deal with Texas and Oklahoma rolling over Nebraska again in terms of influence within the conference. You want to give up the power and stability that comes with being in the financially strongest conference. You want to give up the academic prestige and fundraising clout that the universities throughout Nebraska’s system now enjoy.
Because … the current commissioner is bad at his job?
Yes, the B1G botched handling this pandemic. I suspect that some of the struggle comes from the two powerhouses of the conference, Ohio State and Michigan, at loggerheads about how much risk to accept in playing a football season. And when Mom and Dad are fighting like that, it’s understandable how disorganized and incomprehensible the conference’s response has been.
There’s also, of course, a heaping dose of B1G arrogance that’s backfired. I’m firmly convinced that the decision in early August to cancel the season – when a decision did not have to be made – was done in large part because the B1G thought that the other conferences would follow suit. I mean, it is a conference that chose “Legends” and “Leaders” as division names.
When that failed, and with the two powers of the conference pulling in opposite directions, it’s not hard to understand why the conference response has been such a mess.
That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow, of course. But take a deep breath, Husker Fan.
This year was always going to be hard, regardless. Don’t let these short-term frustrations make you lose sight of the long term. Nebraska has a stable home in the most powerful conference in college sports. And you get a for-reals rivalry in the bargain.
Complain about the conference all you want, if it makes you feel better – and those are pretty sweet shirts. But Nebraska’s right where it needs to be.