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2010 Jun 11

NU BIG TEN: Ten Tough Realities of the Big Ten


By HuskerLocker

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Now that Nebraska’s made the leap to the Big Ten, we examine, off of sheer snap judgment, ten tough realities about the Cornhuskers’ new home. Because, let’s face it - it’s not all rosy, even if there is a run for the Roses.

*The immediate fallout: What was to be a breakout season for Nebraska football in 2010 still can be - but it’s not going to be easy. It’ll be awful darn hard, in fact, at Manhattan and Ames, where Iowa State fans have typically been pleasant. Not this year. Head coach Bo Pelini never minds a tough road game - in fact, he seems to enjoy them more than ho-hum home games - but he’ll have to keep his senior-laden team focused on the field. Not the politics. As for Doc Sadler and Nebraska basketball - as if he needed more problems, right?

*The travel: Wagons east! No longer will Western Nebraska have a “home game” in Boulder every other year, and NU’s terrific alumni bases in Colorado, Texas and Kansas will no longer be able to turn games in Boulder, Waco and Lawrence blood red. While Nebraska fans in Big Ten country just got the Christmas present of, well, their Husker life - Indiana and Illinois better hold on to their hats - fans in Nebraska will have to make longer, tougher road trips, often through the giant traffic jam that is Chicago.

*A loss of the culture that was: Nebraska left behind partners that lasted our parents’ entire lives. How that must hurt a guy like Tom Osborne. The Big 12 was too dysfunctional to truly last - and Texas just seemed…out of control…in these last months - but there will be times when Husker nation yearns for just a simple, three-hour trip to Lawrence for a football road game. The door has closed. NU isn’t ever play those teams again, most likely. We doubt those teams will ever want to play NU. A stunning divorce.

*New kid on the block: You’re not hearing much yet. But you will. Nebraska is going to have to earn its credibility in every arena of the Big Ten. And it’ll be easier on the football than some other places. While none of schools possess the kind of political greed Texas did, some of them have a different kind of arrogance that NU fans may find frustrating at first. And the league is, shall we say, more liberal.

*The gathering storm: No going back now. The major conferences have put their cards on the table, and it’s going to be ultra-competitive - fueled by millions and millions of dollars - from this point forward. Nebraska fans hoping for a quaint notion of the “old days” will not find them. It’s no time to be wistful. From here on, college athletics is serious business, and while NU isn’t solely to blame - or even hardly to blame - it bears some of the responsibility.

*A football reputation to fix: Ohio State has held up its end of the bargain, and Iowa, generally, meets or exceeds expectations. The rest of the league has some explaining to do. That’s part of why Nebraska’s here - to lend its name and five national championships to a league that’s won just two national titles since 1970 (If you don’t count Penn State’s crowns in 1982 and 1986, which were won outside the Big Ten). The Huskers used to make relentless fun of this league. Now, it has to be part of the solution.

*The student-athlete experience: Nebraska’s football team will play on the weekend - the Big Ten doesn’t exactly “do” Thursday night - fly on chartered, private planes and miss a minimum of class. It’s not going to be so easy for the volleyball team. Or the softball team. Longer hours. More homework on the bus. More missed class. Less time with friends.

*Baseball struggles: This could be a strength for Nebraska, which will walk into the Big Ten a with stronger recent history than any other team in the league. NU no longer will have to compete with teams like Texas and Baylor, which practice outside for months before the Huskers can. However, it could be harder for Nebraska to recruit to what’s considered a fairly awful baseball league. And playing a three-game series in Michigan in late March in front of 130 fans? Not exactly big-time.

*One tough basketball league: Physically and proverbially. During the last decade, Michigan State has been every bit the power Kansas is in the Big 12. Defense isn’t a specialty - it’s the norm. It’s a bigger, rougher league than the Big 12. And teams don’t typically rely on junior college players. Sadler will have to adjust his recruiting philosophy - again - as he acclimates to a league with which he’d had very little contact.

*Pam Ward: Maybe you don’t know her. You will. She’s the ESPN announcer who often calls the early Saturday Big Ten game. She’s, well, pretty darn awful - and no, it’s not because she’s a woman. It’s because she’s about four seconds behind every play, and typically inaccurate when she finally catches up. The queen of delayed touchdown calls and seemingly confused comments during downtime. Well, there’s always an early-morning drinking game to devise around her work. Not that we’re suggesting that.

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