Nebraska football fans got a shocker when buzz roared through the internet that the NU athletic department had reached out to soon-to-be-former Texas head coach Mack Brown to determine his interest in replacing Bo Pelini. Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst quickly denied the rumor, according to the Omaha World-Herald, and Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman tweeted that Joe Jamail, Brown’s attorney clearly said that Nebraska was not an option:
Joe Jamail said he got a call from someone saying he represented Nebraska seeking Mack's interest. "He's not going to Nebraska," JJ said.— kbohls (@kbohls) December 15, 2013
So it's probably safe to assign this particular rumor to the scrapbook. But while it is always good to take out-of-the-blue stories like this with a grain of salt in the age of Twitter, there are particular reasons why this story never made a lot of sense.
Nebraska already has a head coach
In the days following Nebraska’s loss to Iowa, and the ensuing "Coach Chickenbleep" postgame press conference, speculation ran rampant about whether Eichorst would fire Pelini. On Saturday, Eichorst put out a statement that Pelini would "lead the program" going forward, with the idea of silencing the speculation surrounding Pelini's future in Lincoln.
Eichorst received a lot of criticism, including from Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star, for not coming out sooner with a statement and allowing the speculation about Pelini to grow. But if the criticism about Eichorst was loud for the timing of his statement, can you imagine the firestorm that would be sparked if he actually made contact with Brown just weeks after publicly backing Pelini?
And that firestorm would be totally justified. Whether or not you think Brown would be an upgrade from Pelini (a debatable prospect, at best), no coach worth his salt would be interested in a program that would offer a job while the ink was still drying on the statement of support for the guy who currently has the job. Big-time college athletics may be a cut-throat business, but there are limits.
Nebraska fans would never accept Brown
So let's say for the sake of argument that Eichorst had fired Pelini after the Iowa game, opening the position. Would Brown be the right man for the top job in Lincoln?
Purely on resume, there would be a lot of reasons to question the hire. In the last four years, Brown's Longhorns have gone 30-20. Texas has been 4-14 since 2010 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25. In 16 years, Brown has won two conference championships (2005 and 2009) and one national championship (2005) on the legs of a once-in-a-lifetime college football talent like Vince Young.
Is that good enough? Did Brown underachieve in Austin, given the enormous advantages in money, exposure, and access to recruiting talent? If Brown struggled to get the right talent to Texas, would he be able to get that talent to come to Nebraska?
Those questions are legitimate, but at the end of the day they are likely moot. The Nebraska fanbase, as a whole, simply would not accept Brown based on his ties with Texas.
Nebraska has had a number of rivalries over the years. Nebraska fans loved their "Bury Switzer" bumper stickers during the halcyon days of the Nebraska-Oklahoma series. Bill McCartney and Woody Paige did their best to make Nebraska fans dislike Colorado. Kansas State, with its "losers exit here" sticker on the interstate signs, had its moments with the Nebraska fanbase. Rivalries with Iowa and Wisconsin are on a slow boil waiting for more heat to be added in coming years.
But there is nothing in Nebraska's history to quite match the feelings of the fanbase about Texas. When the Southwest Conference broke up, and the Big 8 took in Texas and the other three members to form the Big 12, things began to change for Nebraska. Eligibility rules changed, making it harder for Nebraska to bring in the players it once did. The center of power shifted south, as former Big 8 members more and more sided with Texas over Nebraska in decisions about the conference.
And then, conference Armageddon happened. Missouri started making noises that it wanted to leave the Big 12 and join the Big Ten, coupling with Colorado's long-standing. The winds of realignment began swirling, leading to an ultimatum, as reported by Nebraska StatePaper, delivered by Texas to Nebraska—declare your allegiance to the Big 12 (in a manner that Texas was not willing to do), or Texas would take five other schools and bolt for the Pac-12, leaving Nebraska holding the bag.
We know how that story ended. Nebraska called Texas' bluff and went to the Big Ten. Texas folded, remaining in the Big 12 even after Missouri and Texas A&M departed to the SEC, presiding over a newly constituted ten-team Big 12.
But the animosity remains, fueled in part by Nebraska’s chafing at how Texas handled its business during their time as conference-mates. In part, of course, Nebraska fans' dislike of Texas also comes from Texas frequently breaking Nebraska's heart on the field.
It was Texas that denied Nebraska a three-peat in 1996 with an upset win in the Big 12 championship. It was Texas who got an extra second in 2009 to kick a game-winning field goal and win another Big 12 championship over Nebraska. Since 1996, Nebraska is 1-9 against Texas, with the Longhorns winning seven of those games by a touchdown or less.
So, yes, part of Nebraskan's antipathy towards burnt orange comes from (put charitably) a cultural difference. But part of it comes from a long history of frustrating failure on the football field.
The source of the animosity, though, doesn't really matter. The fact remains that even if everything else made sense, Nebraska fans simply would not accept the former Longhorn head coach to take over as Head Husker in Lincoln.
Or, you could always use the Twitter machine to follow @patrickrunge
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