Starting this by comparing Nebraska to George Costanza’s “It’s Not You, It’s Me” routine may not be the strongest way to open my thoughts. But it’s darn funny, so enjoy!
Yes, George was a conniving, scheming little man who was shallow and self-centered, but the basic theme is still true when it comes to Nebraska leading the breakup of the Big 12 Conference.
“Texas, it’s not you. It’s me.”
Hard to explain that to angry Longhorns who really don’t want to leave their comfortable bullpen in the Big 12 (unless they find a greener pasture in the Big 10). They would prefer that this discussion be centered around them, them first and only them. Texas has dictated terms of the Big 12 from the beginning, for better or worse, and they would rather be the one to dictate the life or death of the Big 12, not a bunch of “corn shuckers” from Nebraska.
But the bottom line is that Nebraska has a decision to make and that decision will be made in the best interests of the University, not the best interests of Kansas or Kansas State or Iowa State or Texas. It has to be that way. Some may argue that the “seismic shift in college athletics” should weigh heavily on Tom Osborne or Harvey Perlman’s minds. Sure, it’s worth considering. But don’t think for one minute that a Kansas chancellor reaching out to Perlman or a Kansas Senator cornering Ben Nelson in Washington is strictly for the betterment of college athletics as a whole and has nothing to do with preserving a proud basketball tradition.
If any other school in America had the opportunity that Nebraska reportedly has, they would be stupid not to look into it. And likely stupid not to accept it.
What the Big 10 offers is stability. Stability that the Big 12 cannot, and will never be able to deliver. This league was a forced marriage from day one. Four refugees from arguably the most corrupt Division I conference in history looking for a place to land and eight schools from the Big 8 seeking more television exposure. And they were all seeking more money.
It is that same lust for money that drives this entire discussion. The Big 10 already has a cash cow in the Big Ten Network and they think that cow has plenty more milk to offer. Especially if it’s a school like Notre Dame or Nebraska helping to do the squeezing. But it’s also more than money for athletics. It’s money for academics. The Council on Institutional Cooperation is the academic arm of the Big 10 and its influence and ability to draw research dollars is enormous.
Most recent figures say CIC members (all current Big Ten schools plus the University of Chicago) have $6 billion in funded research. They have collected 12 percent of the total, annually awarded federal research dollars, 18 percent of the National Science Foundation monies and nearly 16 percent of the USDA total.
And who is developing a $55 million dollar research facility at UNL’s new Innovation Campus? The U.S. Department of Agriculture. Think that doesn’t resonate with UNL academia.
But back to athletics. You want stability? How does an extra $10 million per year in revenues sound? That’s the estimated haul NU is expected to add by becoming a Big Ten member. That helps pay for a lot of student-athletes to participate in sports beyond just football. That number is also not likely to shrink based on the strength and (here’s that word again) stability of the Big Ten. They are a valuable sports property. A brand name that doesn’t just sit alongside fellow college unions like the SEC or Pac 10, but one that can sit comfortably alongside names like NASCAR, NHL and the PGA Tour.
How does added exposure for your school and its Olympic sports programs sound? The Big Ten is found on ABC, ESPN, CBS (basketball) and Big Ten Network. It’s viewed in Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Minneapolis.
So again Texas fan, why should Nebraska pass up that opportunity? To stay in a league that hopes to benefit from future television contract negotiations? To stay in a league that will not have its own television network and will rather have one school take its millions of eyeballs (and dollars) and keep that to themselves?
What are the reasons for Nebraska to stay? Just to preserve a league that may be destined for future collapse anyway? As a favor to the state of Kansas and to Iowa State? To prevent the formation of mega-conferences that threaten to decimate college football as we know it?
Guess what. College football is going to change anyway. Don’t believe me? Go back 50 years to how things used to be run. Heck, go back 20. It’s a whole new landscape. The days of Bear Bryant calling Bob Devaney to arrange bowl games are long gone. The days of ABC televising one or two games a week have been replaced by multiple channels televising dozens of games each Saturday. Skyboxes? Couldn’t find during the Game of the Century in 1971. Now, you better have several for a mundane matchup between Nebraska and South Dakota.
So, to quote Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe, the airplane of change is leaving the terminal. Is Nebraska going to be on board or wave goodbye from the tarmac?
I will admit that watching Texas disappear from a window seat is a very appealing prospect. But the reason for getting on this flight is not to thumb our nose at Bevo as we fly away.
It’s the promise of what awaits us at our destination.