Husker Football: Independence Day Comes Early to Nebraska

Matt Zvolanek@MattZvolanekCorrespondent IIJuly 1, 2011

Break out those firecrackers and throw some steaks on the grill.  Nebraska fans have reason to celebrate Independence Day early this year.  After years in a conference that never really clicked, Nebraska is, as of July 1st, a member of the Big Ten. 

It's true that the Big XII did offer some exciting moments for Husker fans, but it also caused a lot of heartache and grief.  It's time to move on, fellow Husker fans.  It's time to move from a land of Longhorns, Tigers and Bears and set our compass northward.  But before the Huskers move on for good, let's take a look back one last time at the unhappy marriage between Nebraska and the Big XII. 

The year was 1996 and Nebraska was just coming off back-to-back National Titles and its fourth overall.  The Southwest Conference had disbanded and the Big 8 welcomed the likes of Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech into its union. 

From the start, Husker fans were skeptical.  The division between the North and South meant one of the greatest rivalries in college football, perhaps all sports, Nebraska-Oklahoma would happen only two out of four years.  The Longhorns beating the Huskers in the inaugural Big XII Championship didn't help matters.  Yes, the marriage that was the Big XII was already starting to crumble—perhaps, and it might not be a stretch to say, it was doomed from the start. 

There's all the bad memories that will haunt Huskers fans for years to come.  The many comebacks by Texas, the shellacking by Texas Tech, the loss of winning streaks against teams that hadn't beaten the Huskers in 25 or more years.  There was the hiring of Steve Pederson and he-who-shall-not-be-named (Bill Callahan).  Not all of this was the Big XII's fault, mind you, but bad memories persist still the same.

Then came the last year of the partnership of the Huskers and the Big XII: 2010.  Filled with turmoil and controversy, the Huskers persevered.  Though there were accusations of corrupt referees, key injuries and a second-half meltdown in the Big XII Championship game, there were some good moments, too.  Not just in 2010, but throughout all the years the Huskers spent in the Big XII.

All relationships, even bad ones, have those moments—those moments that can stick with you the rest of your life.  Those are the good moments.  Even through all the suffering endured by the Husker faithful, the Big Red loyal can surely remember some, if not all, of them. 

There's Nebraska's 1997 season, in which Tom Osborne won his 250th game over hated rival Oklahoma and then won its fifth National Title.  There's "The Catch" made by Matt Davidson which kept that season alive.  There's the Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass which helped the Huskers overcome the Sooners and was a key play in the Heisman Trophy campaign Eric Crouch was putting together. 

Who can forget the return of Bo Pelini to Nebraska?  How about that 57-yarder Alex Henery booted and forever had a special place in Husker fans hearts afterwards?  Then there's Suh and his sweep of pretty much every defensive award out there and his creaming of Colt McCoy in the '09 Championship game. 

Yes, it's true we won't miss the Big XII all that much, if at all.  We head up north into the uncharted waters of the Big Ten where Badgers, Boilermakers and Buckeyes await.  We leave without looking back and with our heads up high.  We are free. 

Finally, free from Texas and their shenanigans.  So, crack open that cold brew and raise a toast.  We did it.  We are now members of the illustrious Big Ten Conference.  And how did we do it? Because we are Nebraska.  And in Bo we trust.  Here's to many wonderful years in the Big Ten.