I had a hard time coming up with a headline. The following was suggested, but, well, maybe I should have gone with it instead.
The Texas Conference Massacre: Nebraska Was Smart Enough to Get In the Running Car And Not Hide Behind The Chain Saws
It’s FIVE YEARS AGO TODAY that the University of Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference.
In honor of this momentous day, members of the CN Staff vomited forth a roundtable, answering a difficult series of questions about where we were, where we are, and where we might hope to be.
(There’s a lot less swearing than I expected.)
Five years ago, Nebraska left the Big XII for the Big Ten. On a scale of 1-10, where 1 means you have extreme regret for the decision and 10 means that you are completely happy with the move, where do you rank this decision?
Jill: I’d say at least an 8 or 9. The B1G has better leadership, more stability, and a vision for the future. The only thing that keeps it from being a "10" is that it we, as fans, gave up some short road-trips and have to fly more to follow the Huskers.
Jon: 9.98. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only reason Nebraska fans wouldn’t be happy with this decision is because they’re cranky contrarians. They’re just one of those guys or gals who has to be argumentative about whatever the current topic is being discussed among friends at the time. I recognize these people because I’m one of them - but even I know that Nebraska is much much much much better off in the Big Ten than they were the Big 12.
David: It seems like opinions on this rise and fall like the tides. By and large, this has been a good move for Nebraska, almost across the board. There are times when I think people, myself included, long for the good ‘ole days, but then, just when we think we could have made it work with the old, beautiful-but-crazy ex, we hear something new about her that reminds us of why we left in the first place. It’s been an adjustment, no question, but this is a better place for NU. Even if the grass isn’t quite as green as we thought, it isn’t brown like it is in the Big XII. If I have to give it a number value, I give it a Big 1G.
Greg: I was born and raised in B1G Country, so I was thrilled when the announcement was made. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a Husker basketball game and football game (losses to Illinois in both...WHAT THE HELL). While we are a part of the conference with better leadership, stability, vision, etc, I’m just glad I don’t have to drive to stupid Columbia to see the Huskers play.
Mike: I’d give it a 9. I don’t like the travel that fans and teams have to endure, but everything else has been a win for Nebraska.
Patrick: I like waking up in the morning knowing that Nebraska will most likely not have to worry about instability in the conference they are in. This will probably not change for the foreseeable future. I say 9 just because every once in awhile I look south across the high plains and wonder "If Nebraska doesn’t play a team in the state of Kansas, do those teams even exist?" It’s existential questions that bounce around in the deep pits of my psyche and keep the number from being a 10.
Brian: 9.5. I do miss the fact that, living in DFW, there was the chance of going to one Nebraska FB game a year along with a couple Basketball/Baseball trips. That being said, the fact that the B12 has not figured it out yet makes this much of a easier decision. The only bad thing about this move is a Baseball conference type of thing, but the B1G is *slowly* coming around on Baseball.
Salt Creek: Of WVU and TCU, I did not expect TCU to cause more drama in the Big 12. On a related note, I have zero regrets about Nebraska leaving the Big 12, mostly because Missouri left for the SEC, Oklahoma made their bed, and the rest of the Big 12 North was creating a false standard for Nebraska football.
Keith: It’s a 9.7 for me. Everything is better, well except the quality of baseball has gone downhill. Academics are better, being able to tell people you graduated from a Big Ten school impresses people. As far as sports, Nebraska joined the premier volleyball conference, and the Big 12 has not won a national championship in football since 2005. The only thing that could be more decent would be for the conference basketball tournament to make it to Omaha once every four or so years.
Name two things you miss most about the Big XII, and two things you don’t miss one bit.
Jill: What I don’t miss? Big. Twelve. What I do miss? By the time I moved to Nebraska (1996), the NU-OU series had already been gutted so I never really witnessed it firsthand. But looking back, it was a monumental failure of the Big 12 to let that annual series go away. So, I guess I’ll be like most Husker fans and say I miss Oklahoma..
Jon: One thing that’s obvious to miss about the Big 12 is the history that we established with teams like Kansas and Iowa State and Missouri. Nebraska played these teams for decades, and it seems forced when the Big Ten tries to include us in their history.
Notice I didn’t include Oklahoma. Screw them. They chose Texas when the Big 12 was formed. I don’t miss them one damned bit. I miss Texas more than Oklahoma. I miss the chance to even the series we had against them. I miss the idea that they were complete bastards and everyone knew it, instead of the Oklahoma people who acted like they cared but really didn’t.
David: I miss Big 12 baseball and basketball, specifically, I miss playing Kansas hoops and Texas baseball.
I don’t miss everything else about Texas. And since everything is bigger in Texas, I think that counts as two.
Greg: I don’t miss Texas. And I don’t miss Big XII officiating (which we still run across occasionally). Two things I do miss? The decade-long rivalries that were built (as Jon stated, some B1G rivalries feel forced *cough*Iowa*cough*) and being more centrally located. It wasn’t very far to Columbia, or Manhattan, or Ames, or even Stillwater. But who the hell wants to travel to New Jersey?
Mike: I don’t miss the drama and the Texas dictatorship of the Big XII. Deep down, I suspect nobody really expects the Big XII to exist in ten more years. Any school not named Texas would love to bolt for a better offer, and are just biding their time until that happens. (Iowa State will be waiting a long, long time.)
Speaking of things I miss, I miss road trips to Ames and Lawrence. Ames, because they’ve actually invested in their football program and it’s an easy daytrip for a football game. And I have fond memories of not only upsetting Kansas basketball, but the Kansas campus is one of the most scenic around.
Patrick: First thing I miss is the baseball. While Big Ten teams have improved, there just isn’t the culture that is in the Big 12. It’s a bigger deal and you can tell on the field. Second thing I miss is basketball. The Big Ten has some great teams but the style of play is dull compared to what goes on in the Big 12. As for what I don’t miss, let’s go with the instability that is still ruling the conference and lack of money coming in. #Big10CashBaby
Brian: I miss the ability to have a chance to go to something, and I also miss having the conversations with fellow OU/UT/TAMU/Tech fans on what Nebraska is doing. I do NOT miss the crappy ass Pay Per View’s that you had to have to get to watch some games, and also I don’t miss the instability of "well, we’re Texas so play by our rules or LOL". Sorry Iowa State and Kansas State.
Salt Creek: A stunningly easy schedule annually is about the only thing I’d miss about the Big 12. Other than that, I miss absolutely nothing about that conference - we gained nothing from it, and it was designed, from the get-go, to dismantle Nebraska.
Keith: Miss playing Texas in baseball, and being able to trek to Manhattan Kansas. Don’t miss the instability and the ego of everyone who lives and breathes Texas football.
What has been the highlight of Nebraska’s five years in the Big Ten?
Jill: Ruining Sparty’s will to live in most sports. Also volleyball. Women’s basketball winning the B1G tournament championship in 2014.
Jon: Well it sure as hell hasn’t been getting the shit stomped out of us every time we go to Madison, Wisconsin. Otherwise, Jill took all the good ones.
David: No Sit Sunday. Haven’t experienced anything like it, before or since. I’m the lucky one on the staff that actually gets to go cover these games, and be on the sidelines. Being able to cover a volleyball national title and be on the field when Westerkamp caught the Hail Mary vs. Northwestern and last year when they knocked off Michigan State was something I feel very privileged to have been able to cover.
Greg: All the tears. The Michigan State tears (in football and basketball, as we play our best Nebrasketball in East Lansing, it seems), the Northwestern tears, the Penn State volleyball tears when we beat them in sound competition.
Patrick: Who brought home Nebraska’s first Big 10 title? That would be the Speech and Debate team. I’m going with this as the highlight.
Brian: Well, Basketball has been okay in that aspect, the NCAA Tourney year was alright. Nothing much here to really talk about, hopefully that changes soon!
Salt Creek: VOLLEYBALL. But really, women’s sports have been doing pretty good in a conference that was historically pretty good in women’s athletics. Because women handle change better than men, I guess? Life lesson, folks.
Keith: The classic Penn State/Nebraska volleyball matchups are a good tradition. However, getting the better half of Michigan State in both football and basketball a handful of times seems to take the cake. Michigan State fans are much like Wal-Mart Wolverines, very annoying.
Mike: My highlight has to be the No Sit Sunday victory over Wisconsin. Granted, it was all downhill from there, but still, it was quite an accomplishment for Nebrasketball to miss not just the opening day of the Big Ten basketball tournament, but also the second day.
What has been the biggest disappointment during that same time?
Jill: Not capturing a single conference title in either football or baseball. Melvin Gordon. The meltdown against Purdue last year. I’ll give Nebrasketball a break since it is mostly always disappointing and that is not the B1G’s fault.
Jon: Getting the shit stomped out of us every time we go to Madison, Wisconsin. Right now the performance of the baseball team has to be at least mentioned. Nebraska fans felt like they would own the conference, the lowly Big Ten, and our results haven’t been anywhere near what we expected.
David: We were sold that we would get to play schools like Penn St., Michigan and Ohio State on a more regular basis. It feels a bit like we were sold a bill of goods on that.
Greg: I would have to say that Jill’s response and Jon’s are in a neck and neck race for biggest disappointment. We’re Nebraska fans. We know conference titles are the stepping stone to national championships. And we also realize that you don’t win conference titles by getting the crap kicked out of you with every trip to Camp Randall.
Patrick: The minimal improvement in the men’s sports. In some cases we are stuck in neutral and others we have regressed. Pick your sport and take a deep breath before the synapses in your head start to shake.
Brian: Wisconsin’s Route 70 in Indy, not winning a B1G Baseball title yet, and the fact we don’t have Hockey yet.
Salt Creek: No Husker Hockey.
Keith: We build a hockey rink, but have no hockey team? Add Women's hockey if title nine is a concern. Most disappointing besides hockey is baseball, can we hit anyone in the Big Ten?
Mike: Biggest disappointment? Besides getting blown out in Indy in 2012, I’d say it’s that the football scheduler threw all of the conference blue-bloods at us the first two years, then started serving Rutgers and Maryland as of late.
What has surprised you the most about the Big Ten?
Jill: That all of the other baseball teams, sans Wisconsin, did not just roll over and let the Huskers run roughshod. Seriously, I thought that was in the fine print somewhere.
Jon: The success of BTN. Jim Delany was scoffed at when the BTN was first created, now it’s making everyone wealthy. I’m sure everyone would say they saw it coming, but I’m pretty sure everyone is lying - it’s an election year and more in vogue than ever.
David: How tightly they hold on to their traditions. It’s annoying, or maybe I’m just jealous. I’m not sure which. But I think NU still feels a bit on the outside looking in. It feels like the Big Ten and Iowa has begrudgingly let NU keep it’s Friday after Thanksgiving tradition. It’s gonna take a while longer before NU really fits in in that regard.
Greg: I agree that the Big Ten Network has been a huge surprise, and it’s one for which I’m thankful. But really I think what has surprised me the most about the Big Ten is the lack of a hated rival. Now I get it. We all hate Iowa, and for good reason.
How do Hawkeye brain cells die? Alone.
And while the Conference wants us to embrace Iowa as our rival based on geography, the fact that Wisconsin and Michigan State have proven themselves to be better competition has caused much confusion in the World of B1G.
Patrick: I would say the hate between the schools is probably the biggest. The Big 12 had teams to hate and there was plenty of it (mainly focused at us and Texas, depending on who you asked) but the Big 10 takes it to another level. Maybe we are too nice on the Great Plains and the Rust Belt doesn’t know how to let things go. I have yet to meet someone who can curse out Iowa like a Minnesotan. Just chill baby!
Brian: Have to agree with BTN here, it’s been a godsend even if I have to spend more money to get it than I want to. Also, as the recruiting donk, it’s nice to see that the crootin efforts have gotten better, even if you’re going to shudder if the thought of Urban Meyer making it happen.
Salt Creek: That Iowa fans could be more insufferable than dealing with Texas. Also, Northwestern being terrible at the definition of prior art. (Come on, you fancy pants geniuses - Nebraska used the NU well before you did. Give it up.)
Keith: That there has not been more expansion. I really thought the Big Ten would be the first 16 team conference. Just wait Delaney is going to poach Oklahoma and North Dakota State.
Mike: Seriously? North Dakota State? But I digress. What surprises me is the quality of Big Ten baseball. Going in, I figured the Big Ten could not care less about baseball. Minnesota even wanted to write off the NCAA tournament and the College World Series, and just play in the summer time - off in their own little world. I figured Nebraska would come in and blow everybody away. Well, Nebraska hasn’t been that good since Dave Van Horn, and I seriously underrated the Big Ten. Indiana made the CWS, and the Big Ten hasn’t been a one-bid league like, oh, say the Big East.
If you could make Jim Delany change one thing about the Big Ten, what would it be?
Jill: If expansion is inevitable, I’d like to have another friend out here on the western reaches of the B1G empire. I get that Iowa sits next to us at the lunch table and they occupy our "rival" spot on Black Friday, but no one likes Iowa. It’s like the rest of the conference just shoved them at us so they didn’t have to deal with them anymore.
Jon: More live mascots. Everyone would have to have at least one, which means Indiana would have to actually choose a mascot, as would Illinois. To make it more interesting, Delany could specify that a percentage of money, say 5% coming from the conference to each school would be used on genetic modifications for each live mascot.
David: Continue to take baseball more seriously. I think the schools have done a nice job of upgrading their facilities and investment in their programs, but the number of games on BTN is still a joke. I don’t think the conference puts much energy into promoting what’s become a pretty good product. The championship of the sport is in the Big Ten footprint and the conference has been a relative non-factor at the event for quite some time. It’s time to change that.
Greg: While Illinois would only bring back a live mascot if Chief Illiniwek were re-installed, and there are thousands of drunken Hoosier live mascots at each Indiana game, where I want change is in the form of the Big Ten Network being a separate streaming service, where I could disconnect from cable and still be able to watch the Big Red at my leisure.
MLB.TV is $99/year, or $8.25/month, which is comparable to Hulu, Netflix, and WWE Network (Channel 9.99). You tell me that I can get all of the Big Ten games every week for any sport throughout the year for $120/year and my response is
Mike: I’d like to say the Rose Bowl, because that shithole has been the Big Ten’s albatross for years - and the other eleven schools don’t realize it. It’s like Great Aunt Myrtle’s china that’s all stained and chipped, yet you have to use it for all of your holiday dinners.
And because Grandma doesn’t want it damaged any more than it already is, she refuses to serve prime rib for Christmas because steak knives would damage those precious plates. That’s the Rose Bowel. The Big Ten’s obsession with it keeps it as the New Years’ afternoon game, bumping the playoff games to New Years’ Eve most years. Before that, it was keeping the Big Ten out of national championship games. (Waives at Michigan.)
Patrick: Kick out Maryland and Rutgers and bring in Kansas and Missouri. I know, it makes little sense but it’s what I want (takes ball and goes home).
Brian: I’m down with keeping Maryland, but Rutgers can go back to the AAC with a used car lemon tag for it’s AD. Bring in three teams from the B12, (OU, Kansas, and anyone but Iowa State) and make it feel like a true regional conference once again. Plus, to hell with worrying about being in New York. I get the Eastern eyes BS with TV and such, but if you get someone like OU or such, you’ll get DFW and Oklahoma City. Those cities don’t totally make up for it, but the regions around there do. And that will matter.
Oh yes, with Mike, fuck the Rose Bowl.
Salt Creek: Open an office next door to the SEC offices, and moon them every single day. Egg their offices. Leave some upper-deckers. And then buy off local police with your mountains of cash that the SEC doesn’t have. Or just open that office to facilitate buying recruits.
I mean, the heck else is that money good for, really?
Then retire, become the AD at Purdue, and turn them into a national powerhouse.
Because he’s Jim F***ing Delany and if he can make money out of Rutgers, he can make Purdue competent at football against more than just Mike Riley’s Passing Clinic Offense. ("WE TOOK THIS WALK-ON AND HAD HIM THROW FOR 400 YARDS!")
Keith: Get rid of the Florida trio of crap bowl games. God the Outback Bowl sucks. The Rose Bowl has tradition and being someone from Michigan, I can understand why people in the Big Ten have a passion for the Rose Bowl. Some Nebraskan’s I believe will never share that passion but it is okay. Delaney should push for more bowl games in Puerto Rico, The Turks and Caicos, and maybe one in Jamaica.
As far as conference expansion, keep Rutgers and Maryland. Add North Dakota State, Oklahoma and Colorado. The rest of the Big 12, who cares.