Unwanted and Unrealistic: Nebraska Won't Go to the Big Ten

Josh KleinCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2009

Remember the last time Nebraska played Iowa?

The picture is a hint.

At the beginning of this decade, Nebraska shared a home-and-home with the Iowa Hawkeyes, which ended in a 42-13 beat-down by Nebraska.

For the last nine years Nebraska has had little to no contact with any Big Ten school save for another home-and-home against Penn State in the early part of the decade.

Now though, Big Ten officials might be seeking to make this a yearly occurrence.

Yes, the Big Ten has finally decided to catch up with the rest of football and add a 12th team to the mix of the 11 that already reside in the conference.

Adding a 12th team would boost revenue, increase the possibility for a better television contract, and help jump-start the Big Ten Network. For all intents and purposes, it's a fiscally and pragmatically smart move for the Big Ten conference.

They tried to expand once before as well, asking Notre Dame to join in the late '90s, but Notre Dame, with its NBC contract, saw no benefit to joining the Big Ten and turned them down, leaving the conference at an odd 11 members.

Faced now with a decision to make, Big Ten officials announced early this week that they are going to look into expanding the conference into two divisions of six teams each, which would mean adding a team.

With the Big Ten's notoriety already down a couple notches in the last few years, it would be irresponsible for the talking heads to bring in a team that would be joining its first BCS conference unless they have a proven record of success.

But with teams like Houston, East Carolina, TCU, and Utah being the only ones really in the picture, location becomes an issue. The relatively Eastern-based conference could not add a team as far south as TCU and Houston or as far west as Utah.

East Carolina is probably not deemed worthy enough both academically and successfully to be a viable addition.

That leaves only schools in the Big Ten region that are already a part of a BCS conference.

The most notable schools being talked about: Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, and Nebraska.

That's right, Nebraska.

While teams like Pitt and Rutgers seem to be natural fits in the Big Ten, they do not carry the tradition or the media market that Nebraska does, making some believe that Nebraska is on the top of the list.

Some say that if Nebraska were to join the Big Ten, a natural rivalry would already be in place with a border war with the Iowa Hawkeyes. That game would take the place of the Nebraska-Colorado game at the end of the year near Thanksgiving.

Nebraska would bring credibility to the division opposite of Michigan and Ohio State and would instantly build a tradition-rich power conference in the Midwest that could compete with the Big 12.

The problem? It's not going to happen.

Nebraska has been a part of the Big 12 since it was the Big Six and then the Big Eight and has had unmitigated success at each level, winning or sharing at least 43 conference titles.

After a few years in the mediocrity that was the Big 12 North, Nebraska is now poised to retake position of the North division year in and year out, mainly battling the likes of Missouri for the divisional crown.

A near victory over Texas in the Big 12 championship game this year proved that Nebraska is on its way back with smothering defense to Big 12 dominance, and with the addition of Turner Gill at Kansas, it will only take the Jayhawks a few years to rise back to the threat they once were.

Over the next few years, the Big 12 may be the most balanced and lethal conference in the United States of America, and as far as revenue goes, Nebraska is the largest of the Big 12 North schools and is one of the only North opponents that can compete with the likes of Oklahoma and Texas on a yearly basis.

If Nebraska went to the Big Ten, they would most likely be setting the program back a few paces on the national level. 

While the Huskers could most likely compete with the likes of Ohio State and Penn State, the Big Ten has a severely damaged reputation as far as elite programs go, and Nebraska would not help that perception.

The last time a Big Ten team competed in the national championship game, they were embarrassed by a two-loss SEC team 38-24. The year before that, Ohio State got throttled by an underrated Florida team 41-14.

In the era of the BCS, since 2003, the Big Ten has lost both of its national title appearances by a combined score of 79-38 and has won only one, coming in 2002 with an overtime victory against Miami 31-24.

In BCS history, only the ACC has a worse record in BCS bowl games. The ACC is 2-9, while the Big Ten is 8-11 and has recently lost its winning reputation by going a combined 1-6 in bowl games last bowl season.

The national respect meter has hit rock bottom with the Big Ten even though the ACC is technically the worse conference as far as the BCS goes.

So therein lie the reasons Nebraska won't move to the Big Ten.

Reasons to Change Conferences

1. Not in need of money

One of the main reasons to switch to a different conference would be financially based—if you thought you couldn't compete with the better funded programs in your conference or that you aren't getting a fair shake, or even if you think it might better your financial standing as a football program (i.e. Miami and Boston College going to the ACC). Nebraska doesn't face any of those issues.

2. Respectability

Nebraska just beat Oklahoma for the first time since 2001 and plans to do the same to Texas next year. If they switch conferences now, they will have to start at square one. Since Nebraska would most likely be in a division without Michigan or Ohio State, the schedule might shape up as fairly weak, so it would garner some criticism.

As it stands, Nebraska will have to play Texas, an up-and-coming Texas A&M team, and Oklahoma State next season. Wins there would garner more respect than wins over Northwestern, Minnesota, and Indiana.

3. Tradition

While the Big Ten is a tradition-rich conference, Nebraska's tradition in the Big 12 (dating back to the Big Six) could override any push to switch conferences. Nebraska's tradition with teams like Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado would take serious hits, and that's something that nobody in the Big 12 wants to see.

Long story short, Nebraska won't move to the Big Ten because it would benefit no one but the Big Ten—and last I checked, Tom Osborne wasn't too concerned with how the Big Ten was doing.

Nebraska would stand to benefit nothing and would be taking on considerable risk in entering into a Big Ten contract, both athletically and financially.

In other words, it just wouldn't be a smart move for the Nebraska athletic department to make the switch, no matter how you slice it.

A team that makes more sense is Missouri, which is trying to establish itself in the North but has taken a step back this season, or Rutgers, which matches up rather well educationally and athletically.

In the end, this is bad timing for the Big Ten. 

Rutgers most likely won't want to let go of rivalries against West Virginia, Pitt, and Louisville, and Missouri will most likely want to stake claim to the Big 12 North once and for all, which will feed into the ever-growing rivalry between them and Nebraska.

The Big Ten will have a tough time convincing anyone but Syracuse to join their conference in the next few years. With a new head coach and new direction, Syracuse may make the most sense, at least in football. If the basketball team was forced to make the switch as well, that would be a whole different story.

Notre Dame is the obvious choice, but with their basketball link to the Big East and their NBC contract, don't look for the Irish to be moving away from independence any time soon.

Big Ten, you can have whomever you can get. Just don't fool yourselves—it won't be Nebraska.


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