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5 Years Later, Did Nebraska Make Right Choice Leaving Big 12 for Big Ten?

Justin Ferguson@@JFergusonBRCFB National AnalystJune 11, 2015

LINCOLN, NE - OCTOBER 25: A flag bearer for the Nebraska Cornhuskers waves a flag after the first score during the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Memorial Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Rutgers 42-24. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Eric Francis/Getty Images

Five years ago today, Nebraska left the Big 12 for its new home in the Big Ten and set off a massive chain reaction of conference realignment that has just recently settled.

The Huskers' high-profile decision to switch conferences was the first of many moves that changed the landscape of college football.

The Pac-10 later became the Pac-12, the SEC added two Big 12 programs, the Big 12 managed to stay at 10 teams, the Big East rebranded itself in the name of football and the Big Ten expanded further years later. Some mid-major conferences were totally reconstructed and one even had to stop sponsoring football.

Nebraska's Big Ten announcement in 2010
Nebraska's Big Ten announcement in 2010Nati Harnik/Associated Press

These changes led to bigger and better television deals for conferences and, most importantly, the creation of the College Football Playoff system and the fall of the BCS.

Nebraska's move to the Big Ten obviously had a huge impact on the rest of the country, but what kind of impact has it had on the Huskers themselves? Did they make the right move by leaving the Big 12?

On the fifth anniversary of the Huskers' game-changing announcement, let's look at how successful the switch of conferences has been by looking at three major areas of change to the football program.

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Nebraska's Big Ten signage in 2010
Nebraska's Big Ten signage in 2010Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Stability

When Nebraska went out of the Big 12, it went out with its guns blazing.

According to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com. university chancellor Harvey Perlman said on the day of the announcement that the Big Ten offered Nebraska stability "that the Big 12 cannot offer." 

Nebraska had long grown frustrated with problems with the league office and what it saw as favoritism from the conference toward South division powers Texas and Oklahoma. One of the biggest issues Nebraska had was the location of the Big 12 Championship Game, which was moved to Cowboys Stadium in 2009.

(The 2009 conference title game also featured a controversial ending to what would be a narrow Texas victory over Nebraska.)

At the time Nebraska's Big Ten move was becoming official, Texas and several other Big 12 schools were in discussions with the Pac-10, which ESPN reported was close to becoming the Pac-16 and destroying the Big 12 in the process (h/t Pro Football Talk). A frustrated Nebraska saw the writing on the wall and jumped to the Big Ten, which has not lost any members and added two more schools in Rutgers and Maryland.

And while the Big 12 lost its championship game—one that could come back as early as 2016—after the realignment frenzy, the Big Ten is not in any danger of losing its own. The Big 12 learned the danger of not having a definite conference champion last season, but the Big Ten's title-game winner was selected for the College Football Playoff and then won the whole thing.

Nebraska's former home is still in a state of transition as its current home remains rock solid for the future. Perlman's words from five years ago remain true today.

Nebraska at the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game
Nebraska at the 2012 Big Ten Championship GameLeon Halip/Getty Images

On-Field Success

Thanks to the consistency of the Bo Pelini era in Lincoln, this is an area that hasn't received much change.

On the field, Nebraska has had close to the same amount of success in the Big Ten as it had in the Big 12:

Nebraska in the Big 12 vs. Nebraska in the Big Ten
YearRecordChampionship Game?Strength of ScheduleRecruiting Ranking
20075-7 (2-6)No6125
20089-4 (5-3)No2342
200910-4 (6-2)Yes (L to Texas)1427
201010-4 (6-2)Yes (L to Oklahoma)2716
20119-4 (5-3)No2530
201210-4 (7-1)Yes (L to Wisconsin)2222
20139-4 (5-3)No3836
20149-4 (5-3)No2931
Sagarin.com/247Sports.com

As shown by the records and the Sagarin strength of schedule ratings above, the final years of Big 12 Nebraska and the early years of Big Ten Nebraska look similar on paper.

If Nebraska makes it to the Big Ten Championship Game this upcoming season, the Huskers will be on pace for what they had as a member of the Big 12—six title-game appearances in 15 seasons. That, of course, would be the same ratio for two Big Ten title games in five seasons.

In terms of recruiting, the Huskers have slipped slightly in terms of 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings since joining the Big Ten. Their best class was signed in 2011, the year between the last Big 12 season and the first Big Ten one.

With similar records and almost similar results on the recruiting trail, the Huskers' decision to join the Big Ten hasn't changed much on the field except for the conference foes they play each week.

Nebraska's 2011 Big Ten uniform patch
Nebraska's 2011 Big Ten uniform patchAndy Manis/Associated Press

Financial Gain

When Nebraska jumped to the Big Ten, the move was heralded by many as a good move for the athletic department's financial future. 

That hasn't paid off just yet, as Henry J. Cordes of the Omaha World-Herald reported last year.

In 2013, Nebraska received only $15 million from the Big Ten, which was "substantially lower" than what several schools received that year from the Big 12.

The Big 12's passing of Nebraska in terms of finances might be surprising, but it's also by design.

From the World-Herald's report:

In 2017, when Nebraska will finally be on equal financial footing with the core Big Ten schools, the school's annual revenue from the conference could well swell to between $40 million and $50 million a year.

Such a figure is astounding compared with four years ago, when the Big 12 paid NU $9 million.

The university in 2017 also gains a full ownership share in the Big Ten's TV network, which analysts have valued at more than $1.3 billion. ...

Nebraska agreed to wait six years to gain a full share of Big Ten revenue. It received $14 million the first year, $15 million last year and will receive no more than $16.9 million this year — each figure roughly $10 million short of a full share.

The Big Ten has become a financial powerhouse thanks to its network deal, and the Huskers are set to reap the benefits of that money-making machine down the road.

Nebraska's deal to join the Big Ten wasn't a great one in the short term, but it will become one within the next few years. A share in the neighborhood of $40 million or $50 million is something the Big 12 couldn't come close to offering. While it requires patience, that's a huge advantage for Nebraska in the Big Ten.

 

The Final Verdict

Joining the Big Ten gave Nebraska a mixed bag of results, and opinions among fans are divided on if the move was the right call for the program.

While the Big Ten has offered more strength and stability to the football program, the move hasn't resulted in improvement on the field. Perhaps the change from Pelini to Mike Riley could break the Huskers' infamous four-loss streak and lead to a conference title down the road.

The financial benefits of the change are still a few years out, but they could be huge in shaping the future of the entire program.

And while a move out of the Big 12 signaled the end of the Huskers' classic rivalry with Oklahoma was a major negative after the announcement, the two schools are scheduled to meet again in 2021 and 2022. 

In the meantime, Nebraska is hoping to build on its budding rivalries with Iowa and Wisconsin—two Big Ten teams that now play the Huskers for new rivalry trophies.

Nebraska's decision to move to the Big Ten hasn't hurt the Huskers at all, and the short-term strength and long-term money of the move could be the keys in bringing back the glory days of national title contenders in Lincoln.

With a little more patience, the change might become the best decision the program has ever made.

 

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.

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