“The King is dead! Long live the King!”
As a lifelong Husker fan exiled to SEC country, I’ve noticed very little buzz around here regarding NUs impending move to the Big 10 and the subsequent death of the Big 12. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since, around here, when you talk about other than SEC football, you might as well be talking about high school JV football. But for anyone wondering when the SEC is going to make a move, don’t hold your breath. The SEC has no interest in expanding for 3 reasons:
Now, back to the home front. While the TV talking head go on about how this is about college football TV money, it’s academics, I believe, that’s really motivating this move. Hear me out on this......
While Tom Osborne will be the one remembered for bringing NU into the Big 10, the real architect behind this is Harvey Pearlman. Keep in mind, Harvey won a huge political fight to build his Technology Park on the site of the old State Fairgrounds last year. Even though the State Fair was a financial black hole that needed to go, this still rubbed a lot of Nebraska traditionalists the wrong way. Now, Harvey has to come through with big time research grant money and show his Tech Park was worth plowing under the Fairgrounds. If he doesn’t, he has political hell to pay with the Legislature and big time agricultural interests. What better way to get access to some of that R&D money than to join the Big 10, which together shares some $600 million in technology research grants. The Big 12 has no where near that kind of collective clout in the R&D world. UT may be willing to share some football TV money, but no way were they let Nebraska in on the R&D cash flow. If Harvey wanted his technology park to fly, he needed the Big 10. Now, Harvey has a voice in the same academic circles as Northwestern and Michigan. This is a huge step up for the University of Nebraska, not just the Athletic Department.
Harvey wanted this more than Tom Osborne did. If this was about NU getting a bigger piece of the football TV pot, NU, Texas, and everyone else would have worked something out as Beebe went out to negotiate the new TV deals. But add the academic part to this, and no one in the Big 12 can measure up to what the Big 10 offers academically.
I truly believe Tom Osborne is heartbroken over this. Say what you want about the “TO vs. Texas” stories, but I really believe Tom wanted the Big 12, as well as the old Big 8 schools to thrive in a Big 12 world. He wanted this to work. In a lot of respects, they did. Baylor and KSU hoops are back on the national scene. Big 12 women’s sports are at unprecedented levels. Oklahoma State and KU football are at levels not seen in decades. Now, instead of being one of the power players in the Big 12, he’s the new guy on the Big 10 block. The same goes for Texas. Texas was one of the power players in the Big 12, but they needed Nebraska as much as NU needed Texas. Does anyone in Austin think they’re going to be king of the hill in the PAC-10 against USC and Oregon? Think again. Life is going to change dramatically in Austin and not for the better.
However, aside from the obvious financial boom, this solves a couple of other problems for Tom:
§ Bo Pelini isn’t going anywhere. Say what you want about Bo possibly wanting to succeed Jim Tressel at OSU, but Big 10 schools don’t traditionally poach each other’s coaches.
§ No more “haves and have nots” in the revenue sharing game. Give the Big 10 credit; they look out for each other. All schools in the Big 10 get equal share. If there’s one mistake the Big 12 made, is not having equal revenue sharing. Conferences that stick together and financially take care of all members of the conferences will survive financially (Take note here Texas and the SEC!!!!).
§ The heat is dialed down, for now, on the baseball and men’s basketball programs. Mike Anderson should get some relief competing against Iowa and Minnesota instead of Texas and A&M. Same goes for Doc Sadler. Texas, KU, and KSU are replaced with home and home with Iowa and Northwestern. True, Doc now gets Michigan State and Wisconsin (hey, I didn’t say this was perfect for Doc…), but he should also get some access to prime basketball recruiting grounds in Chicago and Indiana.
Then there’s Turner Gill. I’m sure Tom is simply tearing himself up thinking he just hosed his prodigy to a career in 2nd rate football. Turner had a chance to shine in the BCS spotlight, but now it’s gone, replaced with a life in the Mountain West or, god forbid, Conference USA. Same goes for KU and KSU hoops. Tom may have been a football coach, but he loves all sports. KU basketball was just as valuable to the Big 12 as NU, OU, and UT football were, both financially and traditionally. If the Big 10 decides to go to 14 or 16 teams, you can be TO and Harvey will be pulling for KU to join.
Personally, I’m looking forward to this, although it will be harder to make a road trip to places like Columbus and Ann Arbor than Waco or College Station to see NU, but this is the best move for everyone who wears the Scarlet and Cream.