This will probably get me a couple of death threats, but Dan Beebe was right in not going to Lincoln, Neb. on Friday.
In a story that may have been buried because of the big football weekend, the Big 12 commissioner said that he feared for his safety and that of other conference employees had they traveled to Nebraska to present the Big 12 North Division trophy. The commissioner is traditionally on hand, but not always, to present a trophy for division titles.
"I've been involved in major institutions and had some major feedback," said Beebe, a former NCAA enforcement officer, "Obviously, I've suspended players and coaches, fined coaches but I've never had the volume and degree of vile nasty messages. It's not just me, it's several on our staff. It's the most disgusting things that people would ever say to anybody."
Beebe estimated that 2,000 messages made it to the Big 12 office in the week leading up to Nebraska's 45-17 win Friday over Colorado. He was so concerned about some of the threats that Beebe said he didn't think it was proper to send even Ed Stewart, a former Nebraska player, who works in the Big 12 office.
"It's really pretty shameful," Beebe told CBSSports.com in an interview over the weekend. "My wife and my family weren't too thrilled with me going up there. I reviewed it with folks that I've dealt with in security before. They said, 'Hey, this is not something you want to mess with until we figure it out more.' I didn't want to do anything to take away from the great accomplishment of the Nebraska players. It's not their fault."
Beebe was in Stillwater, Okla. Saturday night for the South Division showdown between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
The commissioner said some of the negative messages, which he termed "disparaging", were directed to his daughter's Facebook page. She is a college student.
I hope Nebraska doesn't have to be told, again, this is beyond reprehensible. The negative reaction from Nebraska toward the Big 12 seemed to intensify after linebacker Eric Martin was suspended following a helmet-to-helmet hit on an Oklahoma State player in late October. Beebe stressed that he believes the messages came from only a fraction of Husker Nation. There now seems to be a lunatic fringe out there who actually believe that the Big 12 has conspired against Nebraska in its last year in the conference before going to the Big Ten. When I linked to a Beebe story on Friday and posted on my Twitter account saying that it, "made my stomach turn," some of the reactions surprised me.
At that point, I began to understand what Beebe was feeling.
We can only hope this is a very small group of delusional radicals. Beebe balanced the tradition of handing out a piece of hardware against the possibility of being harmed by one of these crackpots. I know what I'd do. He said some Nebraskans have called to apologize for the crazoids but that they're "about a one-to-200 proportion."
Nebraska fans, some of the best in the country, are now earning a dark and sinister rep, fair or not. This is two weeks in a row they have made Big 12, and national, news. A lot of us criticized Bo Pelini after his outbursts in the Texas A&M. Pelini was sincere, apologized and moved on. He didn't let the episodes ruin a sterling coaching career.
But what has happened last week indicates a chronic problem. Let's hope that Nebraska doesn't leave the Big 12 with some sort of stain. You can already foresee an awkward moment next Saturday if Nebraska wins the final Big 12 trophy. Imagine Beebe presenting the trophy to Pelini with boos cascading down from the Cowboys Stadium stands.
"I don't have any reservations about giving them the trophy," Beebe told me. "If their kids win it, they deserve it. By that time we'll sort out if there are any kind of maniacs that we have to be aware of."
Nebraska doesn’t deserve this. It is going to a conference that is noble and full of class. To this point, its program has been noble and full of class.
Beebe was asked if all this has altered his opinion of Nebraska.
"I haven't had anything but great experiences with Nebraska fans and people of Nebraska," he said. "I also know this represents a very, very small portion of a fan base that's classy."
Let's hope that while it takes those Big Ten millions in the future, Nebraska also contributes to its new conference's tradition, in the right way.
Those who don't agree with me know how to reach me. And that scares me.