06.18.2010 / Nebraska leaving the Big 12 was for the right reasons. Blog posting by Mike Babcock, Huskers Illustrated Magazine.
Whether you are excited by the prospect of competing against Ohio State and Michigan and annual contests with Iowa or disappointed by the prospect of leaving longtime rivals such as Oklahoma and Kansas, a conference partner from the beginning, know that the decision Nebraska made to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten was made for the right reasons. The move will benefit Nebraska academically as well athletically. And it will benefit financially, of course, in both academics and athletics.
"Money alone was not a sufficient reason to make the move."
Money alone was not a sufficient reason to make the move, however. Nebraska’s experience in the Big 12 provided evidence of that. The Big 12 was a marriage of convenience, with television revenue its basis. The addition of four Texas schools, which were leaving a Southwest Conference in disarray, increased the expanded Big Eight’s television reach dramatically.
The new conference had little or no shared culture, however. Six of the Big Eight schools had been together since 1921: Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma. They were the Big Six beginning in 1928. Colorado was added in 1948 and Oklahoma State in 1960. Colorado and Oklahoma State were integrated into the conference. The Texas schools, in contrast, remained separate, based on geography, and took two schools with them. The conference office soon moved from Kansas City to Dallas, symbolic of a shift south.
The Big Ten also will align in divisions, probably based on geography, in order to have a financially lucrative football championship game. But the shared culture of the schools will remain. “Fit is very important,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said during a news conference in Lincoln to announce that Nebraska had applied for admission and had been unanimously accepted.
The Big Ten did its homework, as did Nebraska. “I was impressed by the fact he (Delany) said, ‘You know, we’ve seen so many conferences just kind of get smashed together without any preparatory work, any idea of how you’re going to merge these cultures or these philosophies,’ ” Cornhusker Athletic Director Tom Osborne said.
“And he said, ‘This is a big deal, and the reason some of these (conferences) don’t work so well is because that forethought and that preparation didn’t occur.’ ”
Sometimes conferences, or associations of any sort, don’t work because “you assume everybody understands each other and you assume the culture’s common, and all of a sudden you get thrust together and you realize it really isn’t the way you thought,” said Osborne.
That’s what happened with the Big 12, and though it will continue to function with 10 schools when Nebraska and Colorado are gone, the lack of shared culture remains apparent.
Culture was a significant factor in Nebraska’s decision to join the Big Ten. “I just think it’s a comfortable fit,” Osborne said, echoing Delany. “It doesn’t mean that we’re going to agree 100 percent all the time, but I do think that there’s a lot of similarity, an emphasis on work ethic, a lot of people are fairly blue-collar, pretty good values throughout the Midwest, so I think that’s going to help.”
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