The speculation about the Pac-10 and Big Ten/11 expansion have caught the attention of Tom Osborne, who has publicly indicated that Nebraska is open to discussions with the Big Ten. Solid move by Osborne, who recognizes that while the Big XII makes sense today for Nebraska, conference realignment might irrevocably change that.
The Pac-10 and Big Ten are driven by a desire to add a conference championship football game (or more accurately, the revenue generated by a game). With the Big Ten indicating that they might consider adding three or possibly even five teams throws even more chaos into the future.
Imagine what the Big XII would look like without Colorado, Missouri, and perhaps Kansas and Texas as well. Is that a conference that Nebraska wants to be a part of? Then add in the schools that might join to bring the roster back to twelve teams: BYU, TCU, Boise State?
Frankly, that's not a particularly compelling conference lineup. Look at what happened to the Big East after they lost Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College to the ACC. They actually upgraded themselves as a basketball conference, but how much respect does Big East football command anymore?
Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald looked at conference realignment and what's possible and what's unlikely. Texas to the Big Ten? Barfknecht says H-E-double hockey sticks no...but what about the Pac-10? What about Texas going independent, as has also been rumored? Texas carries a lot of weight in this battle, and probably can dictate much of what happens going forward. They control the media markets of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
But why would another conference be interested in Nebraska? It wouldn't be the Omaha and Lincoln television markets, that's for sure. But the national following of Husker football, with over three hundred sellouts and a reputation of rabid fans who follow them across the country, makes Nebraska a very desirable asset when you are negotiating deals with television networks. From a game-action perspective, Nebraska vs. Wisconsin/Illinois/Michigan State gets a lot more interest from the football people than does Missouri versus those teams. Although our friends at Rock-M and Rock Chalk Talk might dispute this, Nebraska is still Nebraska, especially now that the Huskers have seemingly polished off the damage from the Callahan/Pederson error.
Osborne knows this, and won't sit back and wake up some morning to find themselves back in a "Big Eight" minus Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, and Texas. In that environment, Nebraska might find an expanded Big Ten more appealing. Yes, it's quite a distance to get to State College, PA...but what about Boise, ID? Salt Lake City, UT?
I don't know that Nebraska necessarily is interested in the Big Ten as things currently stand... but in the scheme of a complete realignment of college football, it's not where things were twenty years ago, or where things are today...but rather where things might be in the future. Osborne knows this, and doesn't want to find themselves in the conference equivalent of the Dumont Network or the Whig Party.