It should be said up front these thoughts do come from someone who owns a Big Eight Conference T-shirt. It’s comfortable and worn on occasion while doing yardwork, of which there is more time for on this particular Saturday.
I love that old logo. It brings me back to my youth, and honestly think as much about Saturday afternoon basketball games and Studio 66 Halftime shows with Doug Bell as I do football games of yesteryear whenever I see it. Of course, I also can picture old Big Eight standings in the newspaper, and some of the teams’ 1970s and 80s style mascot logos. Even today, I maintain a curiosity about what Oklahoma is doing on a fall Saturday, or Iowa State, or Kansas State.
That’s also where my nostalgia ends. Even on weeks like this one where the Huskers pushed for an opportunity to play ball and the league said no again. To that, I say push back hard. On the field.
All right, let’s stop at that corner for just a moment. What an affront to our sensibilities, right? Well, not ours. But I guess it bothered the same crew who have the same groupthink takes made for clicks and sound bites. Different opinions from outside our Husker bubble are welcome by me, as are tough critiques for any big boy program. But much of it has seemed to become more for show and a knowing that Nebraska fans are passionate enough they’ll respond with vigor to the same overcooked take that was written a month or two ago.
For a program some pundits say no one cares about anymore, a lot of words sure are spent on it.
Never mind that the supposed villainous behavior by Nebraska is based only on the Huskers wanting to give their student-athletes who have sacrificed a whole bunch for months another game to play. I don’t want to wax poetic about that too much. Losing one week of football isn’t the biggest blow in the world, especially with the perspective that this season’s obstacles and COVID-19 present. But excuse Husker faithful for being defensive about those who ding their team continuously just because they are trying to find ways to play. Nebraska came up with an option for an opponent and asked if it could be done. (By the way, you better have an opponent option and some things in place before you present a legit request in such a short time frame. Otherwise, how do you stand any of making someone sign off on it?) When it didn’t happen, the Huskers moved on without any foot-stomping for those who actually read the statement yesterday.
Nebraska officials said they respected the decision and “are excited to move forward with preparations for the rest of the season.” I wouldn’t call that overly dramatic, or the pursuit of a major public water balloon fight. But everyone has copy to write, and what was given was enough for the words to flow.
Granted, aren’t there far more important matters to possibly get fired up about this season? Like the Big Ten’s unsteady decision-making for the last few months and the lack of flexibility that their revised-revised schedule forfeited? Or, might I say, no contested?
I don’t envy anyone having to make really tough calls during this weird situation. But it’s not exactly been out-front leadership on display at any turn in this process, including any sort of response from Kevin Warren or B1G brass about the situation at Wisconsin that canceled Saturday’s game. You also wonder how much of a say Warren really has in matters. Aside from a tweet from the Big Ten showing the Week 2 matchups, and not including Nebraska-Wisconsin, you’d have thought the game was still on from their end. Some outsiders may not be keen on Nebraska, but the Huskers have been a step ahead with planning, not behind like their conference leadership has been, and I’d argue have a better testing plan in place than about any sporting operation out there.
Bottom line: The Huskers could have played football on Saturday in as safe of a testing situation as any game across the country.
So, naturally, Nebraska fans are PO’d with the Big Ten leadership and I’m sure it’s vice versa – though not from all Big Ten leadership, with Ohio State and Michigan at least reportedly in the Husker corner to play. Now, living here for most of my life, I know very well what conversations this all leads us toward: A good many don’t think Nebraska and the Big Ten fit. Certainly there’s some ammunition to that argument at the moment. I’d sip on my drink while you vented about it, and nod along.
But I’m also of the mind that wherever you play from this point forward, life is never going to seem as quaint as those Big Eight days. It just won’t. I remember well the summer of 2010, and the steam coming out of Husker fans’ ears with the Big 12, and namely Texas. To this day, I believe it was the right move for Nebraska both financially and considering the shifting grounds that were going on with conference realignment back then.
People tend to forget this, but there were folks at K-State and Iowa State worried they’d be left in the cold with no Big 12 at all, and on the outside looking in at power-five conferences. The Huskers put some armor around themselves when they made that move. Now that the Big 12 is still standing pat, it’s easy to have revisionist history and say, ‘Well, that was a mistake.’ Lazily accepted narratives not accurately recalling the situation in 2010 lead to that. When Nebraska and the Big Ten made a bold move together, the Huskers’ old league was on the brink.
So the Huskers are here now. Win here now.
Has it been choppy? Not always in my mind, but yes. Much more so since the recent change in Big Ten leadership if we’re being honest, and maybe this unprecedented situation has just heightened attention that Nebraska athletics and its supporters has always had a bit of an independent spirit attached. Meanwhile, this conference is perhaps more about putting your hand in the huddle and saying “B1G” on 3. I also don’t think it’s quite that simple. Nothing is right now.
Maybe this is a bad read on the situation, but I also believe that there are probably more Big Ten athletic directors, and certainly coaches and athletes, closer to Nebraska’s point of view than some of these headlines let on. It’s just not as easy of a story to grab and put 1,000 words on like building up some Nebraska-Big Ten feud. Plus, those clicks, man. And few without the clout of someone like Ryan Day are going to say out loud what others may be thinking about Big Ten decision-making.
Here’s another thing, and this is where some of you will part ways with me: I don’t get nostalgic actually watching Big 12 football anymore. Haven’t for a while. Nor does it get quite the same attention of the league Nebraska is currently in. The Big Ten, and the way the divisions are set up, offer the right competitive space for Nebraska to try to build itself back up.
And frankly, this is no time to disappear. Want to make the critics cackle more? Disappear. So don’t. Fight back. Not to mention, this is a time where the Huskers actually seem to be building the right look in the trenches to hold up in this big-person league, something they have been severely lacking for years.
Every hot take about Nebraska seems built on the idea the Huskers are going to stay in quicksand. Obviously Scott Frost and his staff think differently. They like their last couple recruiting classes. They are bigger. They might be better. One game against Ohio State didn’t deliver a verdict either way on that. There’s a tough slate in 2020, but the first Saturday of Big Ten football showed anything can happen.
Nebraska’s best response to whatever happened this week need not come in a dramatic quote, but instead being ready to play some ball against Northwestern on Nov. 7 in the shadows of those Big Ten offices. Go put a ‘W’ in your pocket, and then start collecting more. No retort can carry more weight than that.
OK, back to the yard projects.