Time for a tough-love message.
I've been a life-long Nebraska Cornhuskers fan so this hurts me, too. And I'm not just talking about football here. Case in point: I actually watched the women's bowling team win the collegiate championship on ESPN a few years back. Actually, it may have been on ESPNU or ESPN7 or ESPNGetaLife.
For the past five years I've had to watch the Huskers from afar—North Carolina to be more specific (Speaking of which, I can't wait to stop paying the extra $30 per game to watch the football team next year. Hooray for the Big Ten Network!).
Anyway, being planted in the heart of ACC country has given me a different perspective on Nebraska in terms of the state, its teams and its fans. Flying my Husker flag at my house and displaying Nebraska paraphernalia in the office always invites a response from the Tar Heels, Blue Devils, Wolfpack and other college fans that surround me.
There are, of course the traditional comments:
Hey, I heard the "N" on the helmets stands for "knowledge." HAHAHAHAHAHAHA (sigh)
Wow, talk about football powers! What ever happened to you guys? (Uh, the team won 30 games the last three years, you know.)
Nebraska football fans are the best. They travel everywhere, they're friendly and courteous, and they know more about football than most NFL coaches. (Ok, that last part may be a stretch but the stuff about traveling and friendliness are definitely said over and over.)
I can take the jokes. They're usually good natured. And I love pointing out that Nebraska leads all NCAA universities in Academic All-Americans when someone pulls out the classic helmet joke.
But there is a comment that has popped up lately in many different forms that has really bothered me. Basically it's this:
So you're a Cornhusker, huh? Man, you guys are whiners.
I guess what bothers me the most about this is, well, I can't disagree. Maybe it's the vocal minority of Husker fans, but the fact is perception is reality.
Where does this come from? I'm pretty sure we all know this started when Nebraska bolted for the Big 10 back in June.
Frankly, that was a very well-played political move by university leaders that caught the Big 12 flat-footed after commissioner Dan Beebe's toothless demand for the Cornhuskers to make a decision NOW at the conference meetings in Kansas City.
Subsequently, all the slack-jawed sports columnists left to cater to Bevo in the newly re-organized Big Texas—uh, I mean Big 12 Conference—labeled Nebraska as whiners and quitters because they couldn't beat Texas.
I think that's the absolute truth. Nebraska lost every major battle off the field in the formation of the conference—from academic qualifiers to conference championship game formation to league office location.
While Nebraska fought the Texas influence over the past 15 years, the rest of their former Big Eight brethren fell in line behind the Burnt Orange.
To that I say "Bravo, Bevo." Any university that can consolidate and control the power of at least 10 of its neighbors should go for it. Nebraska kind of did that themselves towards the end of the Big Eight era.
Fine. The decision had been made. The marriage was over. Let the jilted spouse spew venom at the lover who was leaving for a better relationship.
Nebraska knew it was in for a tough time in its last season in the conference. But the way the Husker coaches, fans and media handled themselves did them no favors in the eyes of the vast majority of impartial college fans in the rest of the nation.
The Cornhusker's athletic marketing department launching "Get the Red Out" with the subsequently removed "Beat Texas" tagline. Nebraska has never called out a specific team like that. It would have helped if the Huskers actually did beat Texas. At home. When Texas already had two losses. And everyone predicted a two-touchdown victory. And Texas eventually went on to a bowl-ineligible season for the first time since 1768.
The ongoing referee conspiracy. Nebraska was fourth in the nation in yards penalized this year.
This was surely the result of some well-planned spiteful activity between the jilted Big 12 conference administrators and officiating crews. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that the brothers Pelini treat referees like pigeons treat statues during games.
It's all because Nebraska was moving on to another conference.
But hey, lookee here. Nebraska ranked ninth in penalty yards in 2009. Ohh, and 19th in 2008. This is out of 120 FBS teams. Could the conference have foreseen the inevitable split nearly three years ago and made the move to unfairly penalize Nebraska early?
Would you actually give Dan Beebe that much credit for foresight?
Maybe—and I realize this is a stretch—maybe the coaches need to instill a little more discipline in the penalty part of the game. Just sayin'.
Mount Pelini's frequent sideline eruptions throughout the year, culminating in a complete meltdown at Texas A&M. Coach Bo's frothy-mouthed, finger-jabbing, referee-chasing performance was first rate entertainment during an otherwise forgettable game.
And let's throw in brother Carl's camera-grabbing "incident" on the field after the game for good measure. What a lousy night—on national television.
Follow that up with University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman's public admonishment of the coach the following day and you have what makes for first-rate soap opera drama.
The worst bowl match up in the history of all bowl games of all time. Just as I predicted (I didn't), Nebraska is heading right back to the Holiday Bowl after being "jilted" by the Insight Bowl. What's wrong with the Holiday Bowl? Been there, done that.
At least it's not a rematch with Arizona.
But wait, it's worse! It's a rematch with a Washington Huskies team that won its last three games to get to .500 and become bowl-eligible. It really doesn't matter what happens in this game. Nebraska could win by 96 points and fans will shrug their shoulders.
Or the Huskers could actually lose to the team they beat on the road 56-21 back in September and it won't matter. Because no one will be watching.
Why did the Insight Bowl choose Missouri over Nebraska? Because of The Evil Big 12! No way was Beebe going to allow the Insight Bowl to put together a Big 10 showcase between Iowa and Nebraska under the Big 12's bowl agreement.
Well, Husker fans, that may be true—and it makes great business sense.
After the Big 12 Championship Game the Huskers were, essentially, a team without a conference—and the Insight Bowl is aligned with the Big 12. The Big 12 wasn't going to lobby for Nebraska—the conference was already getting their exit fee of $9+ million. And the Big 10 was in no position to lobby for the Huskers.
What did you like least about Husker football this year?
There was no way Nebraska could control its bowl destination.
Oh, wait. The Huskers could have actually taken that 17-0 lead they had against Oklahoma and made it stand up. Instead, OC Shawn Watson (who is a candidate for every head coaching job in every division on every college campus) decided to put the game in the hands of his injured freshman QB, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Well played, sir.
And finally, for kicks, the volleyball confrontation. Speaking of Nebraska versus Washington, how about that nifty exchange between Nebraska head volleyball coach John Cook and Washington head coach Jim McLaughlin?
After a hard fought match in the NCAA championships in which the Huskies upset a powerful Nebraska squad, with the match ending on a controversial call, Cook reportedly told McLaughlin during the post-game handshake: "The ball was out. Nice match."
Of course, the exchange turned physical and vulgar. But what would you do? Didn't you want to punch that kid that blamed losses on anything but their own performance after you beat him?
Whew! Tough love—I told you.
C'mon Husker fans! I know the vast majority have moved on and are looking forward to greener pastures. You've always stayed classy and taken your lumps along with the victories.
And if this article makes you mad—better look in the mirror.