So much for thinking that once the spring game is over there is only recruiting to talk about. I mean sure there has been the rumors of expansion for the past couple years but after much ado about nothing it always seemed to be more bark than bite. I don’t think anyone really could have anticipated how the past couple weeks of speculation on a variety of teams coming in turned into the bold actions which have sent the college football landscape into a frenzy of reorganization of teams between conferences and a realignment of tradition and talent that has already made for some jaw dropping moves with more to come on the horizon for sure.
It wasn’t too long ago that I read an article with a quote from someone which said “it all comes down to what the Big Ten does”. At first blush I truly did not believe that statement carried the weight it did until this week. Yes, I knew that the Big Ten was top dog among revenues, and that the Big Ten Network has been a cash cow and with a Big Ten that can have a conference championship game only means more money to split up. Even though I also know that there were alleged academic factors related to meeting a certain standard and being a strong research institution this really came down to the money. More teams made sense than others, and opinions on who and how many should be added were much spread out with the a sprinkling of those who wanted no changes mixed in. Pretty much everyone agreed that if someone must be added that Notre Dame made the most sense from a geography standpoint and because with the Irish being an independent it would not involve poaching another conference. That was not to be with ND standing firm in liking their independent status too much – which I can understand to a degree – having to face a Big Ten conference schedule with tOSU, Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin instead of TSUN, Sparty and Purdue only would not be good at first. The other schools being tossed around were Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers, Missouri, Texas and Nebraska. It was hard to even know what to believe as different “sources” seemed to be playing a different angle each day. It was even getting cloak and dagger with some of Dr. Gee’s emails being made public which alluded to swift movements. The drama finally ended last week with the formal announcement that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhuskers would become the twelve member of the Big Ten conference. What this means to the conference is big enough, what this ends up meaning for the rest of the teams of the Big 12, SEC, Pac 10 remains to be seen.
Overall I see the addition of Nebraska as a good one. Strong tradition, good school and makes decent sense from a geography standpoint (face it Texas would have been retarded). I do feel for the old school Big 12 people out there in that it is hard to ignore that now the chance that more teams bolt and the conference disappears is highly likely – which sucks for them. I know that it would be hard for me to watch the Big Ten die through attrition – which makes me extremely grateful that as a Buckeye fan I know that will NEVER happen. The formal announcement came Friday and it found it very interesting that Nebraska chancellor Perlman and AD Tom Osborne said that the move was also agreed upon because other Big 12 teams that were pulling for them to stay were also having discussions with other conferences to leave. This is strange because I always viewed the Big 12 as a good conference, it seems like they would all be more in favor of keeping it intact and preserving the existing rivalries and traditions. I guess in the end the opportunity to clear more green was more appealing. Not to say that Nebraska doesn’t also match the Big Ten from a cultural standpoint and with historic and present day physical football so the move does make sense in more ways than one. The Huskers will begin conference play starting next season (2011-2012) so it won’t be long until we start seeing the scarlet and cream taking on the scarlet and gray. It will be fun considering the Huskers and Buckeyes have only met twice on the field and that was in 1955 and 1956 (both Buckeye wins). Also – how awesome will it be to have a Big Ten conference championship in somewhere like Ford Field or Lucas Oil Stadium?
Now the only thing is if the Big Ten is done. The rumors are still out there that more teams may be added. I certainly hope and highly doubt that any more get added this season. But who knows. How crazy would it be for ND to wise up and sign on and add Pitt too? And at what point do we have to consider not calling it the Big Ten anymore?
As for what happens now time will tell. Nebraska was not the only move either. Earlier in the week Boise State started off the action with their move from the WAC to the Mountain West. Honestly – it is about time they moved. That program wants some respect and opportunities and the best way to get that is by moving to a better overall conference. But who knows what is in store for the Pac 10 and SEC. Colorado has already been invited to the Pac 10, and there has been much talk about the Pac 10 also playing clean up with the rest of the Big 12 with adding Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. Likewise the SEC has been rumored to want to keep up with the Joneses and covets Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M. I can see the exodus to the Pac 10 making sense more so than the Horns, Sooners and Aggies all three going to the SEC. I could see the boys down south getting Texas A&M so that Arkansas can have a rival in the west but the style of play that is favored by Oklahoma and Texas matches up better with the west coast teams.
The whole thing is pretty much crazy but the one really amazing positive thing that could come out of this is that by merging these teams into another conference then it will limit the BCS mess that we currently have. If there can be seven conferences – Big Ten, SEC, Pac 10, Big East, ACC, Mountain West, WAC and have one at large spot that would make a nice setup for an eight team playoff over three weeks to determine the National Champion.
Regardless of what happens from here on out – I welcome Nebraska to the Big Ten and ready myself for what has been anything but the slow time of the year for college sports.