We're one year removed from Nebraska's move from the Big XII to the Big Ten Conference. Last year, Nebraska left the Big XII along with Colorado, and this year, Missouri and Texas A&M left for the SEC. Meanwhile, the Big XII added TCU and West Virginia to remain at ten teams for this year. On the field, Nebraska went 5-3 in the Huskers first season of football in the Big Ten. Stirring victories over Ohio State and Michigan State were offset by disappointing losses to Wisconsin, Michigan, and Northwestern.
So how do fans feel now? Any buyers' remorse? Or are we even more excited? Or just grateful that we're in a more stable situation. Or are we just giddy that more people in Paxton, Nebraska can watch Husker sports on BTN than get the Longhorn Network anywhere in the world?
After the jump, a little question-and-answer session about Nebraska's first year in the Big Ten Conference.
First impressions of Nebraska's first year in the Big Ten conference
Mike: In football, I thought Nebraska fans underestimated the difficulty in planning for eleven unfamiliar opponents last season. I know I did. That, combined with an unreliable secondary, led to a sub-par season by Husker fans perception. In men's basketball, once Brian Jorge Diaz's injury problems started holding him out of games, I knew the game was over for Doc Sadler. If anything, I was surprised by the big upsets of Indiana and Illinois.
Jon: We didn't take over. We thought we'd take over, but we didn't. Maybe we did in volleyball, but in every other sport.... I mean, Northwestern, really? Northwestern in football, basketball, basketball, wrestling, chess, pocket pool, baseball, how many sports do we have - because that's how many times Northwestern beat us (ALTHOUGH NOT IN DEBATE!). I guess they really wanted that "NU" thing. Bastards.
What surprised you about the Big Ten? Did you learn something about the Big Ten, or come to understand something about the conference that you didn't quite realize before.
Mike: In football, not everybody is three yards and a cloud of dust. I think from top to bottom, the Big Ten is much stronger at the bottom than some other conferences. But as someone who ripped Big Ten football in the past, the top isn't at the same level as the other conferences. Hopefully Nebraska can get there before the rest of the schools.
Jon: Having lived in Minnesota for the past 20 years, I'm accustomed to Big Ten sports. OTOH, I didn't expect the Big Ten fans to be as welcoming as they were, given the amount of hate they have for each other.
The Big Ten has a certain amount of collegiality between the member schools in how the conference operates. Tradition is another huge part of the Big Ten experience. But is there something that you'd suggest that the Big Ten conference consider changing?
Mike: My experience at the 2002 Rose Bowel (spelling intentional) was so horrific, I question why the Big Ten continues to obsess over and worship Pasadena's Tournament of Roses. I understand the tradition part; it's how it's been done in the Big Ten for years. But there are much better venues than the Rose Bowel stadium for football out there. The mindset that the Rose Bowel game is the "granddaddy of them all" in terms of prestige is a delusion that only the Big Ten and Pac-12 fans believe in.
I'm not saying that the Rose Bowel should be eliminated. I'm suggesting that tradtion would have been better served by keeping the Rose Bowel game separate and outside of the playoff system. After the four teams (or eight, as it's likely to become inevitably) are selected for the playoff, take the best remaining Pac-12 and Big Ten team and send them to Pasadena. You still have all of the pomp and circumstance, you still have the parade and the tailgating, and you still have the Big Ten and Pac-12 meeting up. It's the way the people in Pasadena like it, it's the way Big Ten and Pac-12 fans like it, and it doesn't interfere with the playoff
Jon: ARRRRFGGGGHHHH. Mike always takes all the good ideas.
Given the success of Kent State and Stony Brook, it's time that the Big Ten pulled their heads out of their collective asses about this baseball thing. Is it fair these teams have to play their first 20 games on the road?
No. It's not, it's probably the biggest unfair advantage in any sport. At the same time... well, really... Stony Brook? You heard of them before the CWS thing, right? Yeah, I thought so. It was their world renowned research into.
Mike: Well, that's what happens when wait to answer these things!
How long until the newness of "Nebraska in the Big Ten" wears off?
Mike: From my perspective, it may not be until 2013 once Nebraska plays Illinois and Purdue. Yeah, we have to wait until 2015 for Indiana, but nobody cares about Indiana football. Or unless Nebraska wins the Big Ten this year, in which everybody else will hate the Huskers.
Jon: Uh, how ‘bout now? Nah?
I think it'll be years. Maybe a generation. I love Husker football, I love our fans, but holy crap are we the best at convincing ourselves that we're in a better position than we really are. Here's the thing. Bo Pelini is the right coach for Nebraska, but if he doesn't win a conference title, say, in the next three years, fans are going to go nuts. Fact is, this new conference division is a helluva lot harder than the the Big Eight or the Big 12.
If Husker fans don't understand that, we're going to waste a pretty good coach who will never meet expectations.
Mike: So you don't think Husker fans don't realize Michigan and Michigan State are tougher than playing Colorado and Iowa State each season?
Nebraska's decision to switch conferences was made two years ago, and became official one year ago. Knowing what we now know about the two conferences, has your opinion changed?
Mike: Nope. It was the right decision in 2010, and it was validated in 2011 when the Big XII went through seemingly weekly meltdowns. Chuck Neinas brought desperately needed stability to the conference, but he hasn't been able to completely contain the ego of Texas. The Champions Bowl was a brilliant move, though with the new playoff format, isn't as big of a deal as we first thought.
Replacing Missouri and Texas A&M with TCU and West Virginia is still a net loss for the Big XII. And the flirtation with Florida State just points out the line of demarcation between the top four conferences and the rest of college football.
The idea that all is well in the Big XII now was dis-proven this week when the Longhorn Network tried to obtain the rights to Texas Tech's game with Texas State, who just joined the WAC. Seems the WAC was negotiating with LHN to broadcast the game to the fifteen or so Texas fans who have access to LHN. Texas Tech were so offended by the idea that they threatened to cancel the game, and just play eleven games this season. How many times has Texas threatened the stability of the Big XII? There's no reason to think that Austin is ever going to change or accept to merely being a member of a conference.
That, in a nutshell, is why Nebraska left the Big XII, and why moving to the Big Ten was the best move for Nebraska. It's a safer, more stable place. Better television deals and eventually better money. Now, if we can only figure out that football thing.
Jon: I am proud of the fact that I'm a Big Ten alum. It doesn't buy me anything, and honestly, it's just fluff, but I think the biggest benefit has nothing to do with sports.
The University of Nebraska is a member of the Big Ten. That's huge for academics. That's enormous for the university. Nebraska couldn't have purchased that much cache' with anything, but by joining the Big Ten, the university gets the prestige. Does that mean it's a better university just because it's in the Big Ten?
But it means that it has to uphold a certain standard. And it means that avenues are open for Nebraska that weren't before in terms of research and resources.
The Big 12 gave us nothing relative to academics. The Big Ten gives us a lot.