There's a book out there from the outgoing President of Kansas State University, Jon Wefald, that details a lot of his time in Manhattan. From the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson, he tweeted a Kansas City Star interview that Wefald had done with columnist Blair Kerkhoff.
In the book, Wefald documents his time with Kansas State and gives a good recollection about his Presidency which ended in 2009 after 23 years.
During his time, Wefald was around for the transition from the Big Eight to the current Big Twelve Conference, and he had some interesting quotes that Nebraska Cornhuskers fans should be paying attention to.
Primarily, it is his statements about then University of Texas President Bob Berdahl in several issues that should point to how Nebraska has seen their relationship with the Big 12 Conference, then and now.
For the record, Berdahl was the President of the University of Texas from 1993-97, then, later on, the President of the Association of American Universities from 2006-2011.
On forming the Big 12:
Wefald was Chairman of the Association of Big Eight schools in 1990, when the college sports landscape started trembling. Over the next couple of years, the Big Ten, Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences expanded. The Southwest Conference was wobbling and the Big Eight needed to change or would be left behind.
Initially, Wefald talked about a merger of the 16 schools. But on a conference call in February 1994, Wefald recalled then-Texas president Bob Berdahl shaping the league. "’Here is what we decided,’" Wefald quoted Berdahl. "’We encourage the Big 8 Conference to invite Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor and Texas to form a new conference.’"
Wefald: "For four years, I had hoped we could convince Texas to join the Big 8. I did not want to ask Bob Berdahl any questions about the fate of Rice, Houston, SMU and TCU. I knew there was only one difference between K-State and them: we were in the Big 8."
In my eyes, this could have made the Big 12 (or 16 if you want to call it) a bigger deal than the SEC could have ever become. That being said, who knows what the SEC does in that aspect. They (probably) bring in schools from the ACC at that point, and then it's a free for all.
Also, it's interesting that Texas's President was calling the shots and deciding who was going to be with the school and who wasn't. Rice and SMU hasn't been the same, TCU has finally gotten their place at the table, and it looks like Houston may as well.
Further from the book:
On the academic rule that limited the number of Proposition 48 qualifiers — the SWC didn’t allow them, the Big Eight did and new league settled on one such qualifier for football and men’s basketball: "It was aimed directly at (Nebraska) Cornhusker football. By the late 1990s, this new Big 12 rule has seriously damaged the quality of Nebraska football. In fact, you could say it brought the era of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne to a close."
I kind of get that one, in that it's a way that Osborne did rely on this to keep talent coming in. That being said, I don't think it's the biggest reason that the Devaney/Osborne era ended. However, it's fair to say that was a big deal and made recruiting a bigger need, something that wasn't seen until the 2002 season when all of Osborne's recruits were gone and it was up to Frank Solich to step up in that aspect.
Plus, let us all remember that, when Nebraska and Texas co-existed in the same Conference, they had the same number of National Titles.
We now move on to another interesting tidbit:
Wefald recalled Berdahl harmed Nebraska after leaving Texas. Berdahl was the president of the Association of American Universities (AAU) in 2011 when Nebraska was voted out of the prestigious group. Wefald said Berdahl could have used his influence to sway a close vote.
"The truth is," Wefald wrote, "no outside academic leader has dented Nebraska’s athletic and academic standing over the years more than Bob Berdahl.
"In another irony, if Nebraska had not been a member of the AAU in 2010 when the Big 10 was adding a new school, the University of Missouri, an AAU school, would likely be a member of the Big 10 today."
This is the most interesting to me. I don't seem to recall how Nebraska's status with the AAU was before the move to the Big Ten, but folks told me that it wasn't great to begin with before the talk of the merger happened. If this was true, then I would think that Missouri's lobbying of getting to the Big Ten seemed to make no point to the Big Ten decision makers.
While I do call BS on that last statement, it seems that Nebraska was in the crosshairs of one man who headed a school that wanted to neuter Nebraska in some parts. What reasons that is, only someone like Berdahl could answer.
So, while this book excerpt doesn't necessarily justify a lot of things that Texas wanted done and the reasons Harvey Perlman split with the school to the B1G, it's a good (albeit one sided) look at the backchannels that were in play. And, it's interesting how one person seemed to just want to control a school from 700 miles away.