They're special, Jim, so be kind. In fact, a red carpet of some kind wouldn't be considered over the top.
They are the Big Red. The only Big Red that matters. Nebraska. A program that forged its reputation playing walk-ons from the state's cornfields. It was recruiting New Jersey before Rutgers had a clue. At one time, its coaches used to know California better than The Governator.
It is a national program with incredibly deep local roots so be gentle, Jim, because Nebraska football isn't a "brand" or "inventory" as you like to call the games you sell to networks. Nebraska football isn't just something to fill air time on the Big Ten Network. It is a culture. It is brawn. It is Outlands, Heismans.
It is the Great Plains version of Michigan -- with its pride still intact.
Now it's all yours, Jim. Don't mess it up. Don't make Nebraska football into ... Purdue, something lost in the haze of a 16-team conference. I'm talking to you, Jim Delany. This is on you, the Big Ten commissioner. You didn't just invite a school or a team or a program. You invited a state, its people, its past, its future, its ethic.
You invited 45 percent of Notre Dame Stadium. That's the percentage of red that showed up in the Irish's football shrine when the teams met in 2000. You invited one half of the Game of the Century. You invited those thousands of balloons that are released into the Lincoln sky after the home team's first touchdown. You invited Devaney, Osborne, Gill, Rozier, Alberts, Wistrom and Suh.
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You invited the Corn Belt to the Rust Belt. Will the fit be more comfortable than Nebraska's long-distance relationship with Texas? We'll see. Nebraska AD/legend Tom Osborne didn't want to leave the Big 12. He really didn't. Nebraska would have been fine staying in the conference if Texas hadn't taken over the league in everything from academics to finances.
Once Texas issued that "ultimatum" last week, it was over. Nebraska knew it couldn't go back to a league where one of the members was issuing deadlines.
It is sad because the Huskers have played members of the old Big Eight for a century. It usually beat the hell out of Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State but that's beside the point. Back then, they were all partners who genuinely liked each other. Now a school like Kansas suddenly finds itself reduced to second-class citizen status. At least KU has basketball to perhaps save it. Where is Kansas State going to end up?
Where is Kansas City going to end up? If the dominoes topple as projected, the ancestral home of the Big Eight/Big 12 is diminished. The city hosted multiple Big Eight/Big 12 tournaments and those leagues' championship games. The city built the Sprint Center just so the Big 12 wouldn't move the basketball tournament. Now what does it do? Nebraska's in the Big Ten, Missouri might be headed there. Iowa State will end up in the Mountain West, if it's lucky.
It's all collateral damage and it's only the beginning. The way it looks, Jim, this isn't going to be expansion, it's going to be waterboarding for the affected fans. Nebraska today, Notre Dame tomorrow, Syracuse on Monday. It's all so torturous and tawdry.
Nebraska is not a domino to be tipped over, Jim, it is a tradition. Before there was Tim Tebow, there was Tommie Frazier. Florida State and Miami showed Osborne and Huskers how to win during a series of beatdowns in the 1980s and 1990s. Osborne calmly took the knowledge, retooled and ended his coaching career with a flourish -- winning three out of four national championships.
Will it happen in the Big Ten? That's a key question. With 14 or 16 teams, there is the danger that Nebraska will become Purdue, a middling program with a diminished pedigree. Nebraska is at a tenuous point in its history. Football is strong, but not back -- not all the way. How will that comeback be affected by a Big Ten schedule?
|Nebraska's history is filled with legendary players such as quarterback Tommy Frazier. (US Presswire)|
Now it is changing everything. Without Nebraska football, the state would be a slightly warmer South Dakota. With Nebraska football, the Big Ten has inherited a jewel that had better not be damaged.
These are humble, proud people who have created their own "brand." That goofy overalled mascot who roams the sidelines might be a stereotype but so is Osborne. He is a solid rock of a man who, for better or worse, has gotten to Nebraska to this point. It might be the high point of the school's history. Nebraska certainly is going to make money and make history, but it's also going to lose part of itself.
So when you officially admit Nebraska into the Big Ten, Jim, avert your eye from the bottom line for a second. The Huskers' decision didn't come lightly. Osborne probably told you at some point that Nebraska liked the Big 12 -- it loved the Big Eight even more. This Big Ten is going to take some getting used to.
All those great Oklahoma games? Relegated to the media guide for good unless the Sooners agree to a non-conference matchup.
All those Orange Bowls? Thank God for DVDs.
All those dollars? Nebraska just couldn't say no.
We ask just one thing, Jim. Treat them right. Roll out the red carpet for the Big Red. They're special.