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Nebraska to Join the Big Ten: Alea Iacta Est

Submitted by on June 9, 201015 Comments Julius Caesar returned from his Gallic conquests, and arrived at the Rubicon, he had a choice to make.  Crassus had died, and Pompey had taken over Rome, dissolving the triumvirate, and forbidding Caesar from maintaining his position in absentia. To cross that river with his sole legion meant to ignite a civil war, to create a new Rome where Caesar could be emperor. Caesar knew what he had to do.  He had to regain his power. Alea iacta est, he said. The die is cast. He had passed the point of no return.

I imagine a similar dialogue took place this afternoon in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Faced with the conundrum of staying in a shaky Big XII or crossing over to the Big Ten, Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Athletic Director Tom Osborne did what they had to do. Knowing full well that Texas, and their merry band in the Big XII south were ready to bolt at the slightest provocation, that once the Pac-10 expanded to 16 teams that the SEC and Big Ten were sure to follow, that college football and college sports would never be the same, Perlman and Osborne presumably took a deep breath.  Alea iacta est, I imagine they said. The die is cast.

In this fast-moving, information-laden world, everyone surely knows by now that earlier today, it was reported, by just about every reputable outlet, that Nebraska would join the Big Ten.  The formal announcement from the board of regents is expected Friday.  Though I’m just a few hours late, this might as well be yesterday’s news.  It’s also become apparent that this move is just the first, that Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado are about to desert the rapidly imploding Big XII and head west, to the greener pastures of the Pac-10.  After months of speculation, well, this is it.  And this is the start.   Now, the rest of the dominos start to fall.  What will happen to Missouri, to Kansas, to Kansas State?  Will the SEC or the Big Ten or the ACC blink first?  Will Notre Dame be forced to give up their status, as college football’s lone relevant independent team?  Soon enough, we’ll find out.

In Nebraska, the Big Ten moves in a direction few saw coming.  Though Missouri had embraced a potential invitation from college football’s oldest conference, they have been left out in the cold on expansion’s first day.  And though so many expected the Big Ten’s decision to come down to academics, demographics, and expanding the Big Ten Network’s footprint, Jim Delany has gone in the exact opposite direction, adding a school with ample tradition, with an instantly recognizable and familiar name–and a cash cow considered one of the most valuable programs in college sports–but without much of a built-in audience.

The state of Nebraska has a population of less than 2 million people, making it roughly as large as the Detroit or Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan areas.  Though a member of the Association of American Universities since 1909, and thus a major research institution, the University of Nebraska ranks 96th in the US News & World Report’s listing of the nation’s best colleges, placing it on an equal level as Alabama, and Stony Brook, and just ahead of Florida State.  And despite its cushy spot in the weakest division in college football, amongst competition they were expected to squash on a yearly basis, Nebraska has merely good, having won the Big XII North just twice since 1999.  And in basketball, they’re one of just three power-conference schools to have never won an NCAA men’s tournament game (Northwestern and South Florida are the others).

But now, for better or for worse, they are a member of the Big Ten.  It will not be hard to develop a hatred of the Cornhuskers amongst Nittany Lions fans, since Tom Osborne helped to cheat Penn State out of a title in 1994, though that one’s as much on the AP voters as anything. And for Nebraska, it ensures that they’ll have a home after the dust settles, and one that comes with a built in revenue stream in excess of $22 million dollars.

As for me, well, I’m still waiting in anticipation to see where all the pieces fall.  When Texas and its cabal announce their move west, and the Big XII formally disbands, it will become official, that we are all witnesses to the reformation of college football as we know it.  The Rose Bowl, come 2012, may well be a matchup between Texas and Nebraska, or Notre Dame, or Rutgers.  I can’t wait to find out.

This is no longer our father’s Big Ten, and soon enough, nor will it be his Pac-10, his SEC, or his ACC.  In a few months’ time, we’ll know exactly what the future brings, but for now, it’ll just be more idle speculation.

But thanks to Nebraska, the die has been cast. Alea iacta est.  College football has passed the point of no return.

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  • M Burbach

    It will not be hard to develop a hatred of the Cornhuskers amongst Nittany Lions fans, since Tom Osborne helped to cheat Penn State out of a title in 1994.

    Really, how about 1982? Hate to bring up some old dirt here, but Joe Pa got a title when the referees robbed Nebraska of a shot at the national title in 1982 with the wide field call. No person with a TV thought that catch was made in bounds.

    As for Nebraska football's under performance in the Big 12 north, are you not aware of Tom Osborne's retirement in 1997 (3 national titles in 5 last five years as coach) and subsequent implosion of the football program under Bill Callahan? The last several years prior to the rebirth of the program under Bo Pelini are hardly representative of Nebraska football since the 1960's. Don't write off Nebraska too soon. I admit to have drunk the Nebraska Kool-aid (heck, it was invented in Hastings, NE), but I have no doubt that the plodding patsies in the Big 10 are about to regret letting the Big Red into the club.

  • Seth

    I think as far as football goes they are from the start in the lead group with Ohio State, Iowa, and Penn State(and Michigan) who will at some point get their shit together again.

  • Mdobgyn0421

    Caveat emptor. Don't be so excited about what the Big 10 has bought, they may be giving away more than just 22million a year when Nebraska returns to football prominence and makes a yearly pilgrimage to Pasadena.

  • corn

    Three Big XII North titles since 1999…2006 outright, 2008 tied with Missouri, 2009 outright

  • Medeabrass

    Man, I was hoping we (Texas A&M) were going north. The speculation has been fun though.

  • psudevon

    I really hope you guys are too. I honestly can't say you're not, at this point, but it doesn't seem likely. I'd sure rather match up with you and Texas than Missouri and Rutgers. Plus, any excuse I have to get down to Austin would be awesome.

  • 2020vision

    “No person with a TV thought that catch was made in bounds.”

    Except for people with both a TV AND eyes. They could clearly see the catch was inbounds.

  • psudevon

    I wasn't yet born, but I've seen video of the play. Dude was a foot out of bounds. But the bigger travesty occurred in 1994.

  • Charlie

    Anyone still uncertain about the demise of the Big 12. Check out Colorado's official athletics page.…

    RIP Big 12 1996-2010

  • HuskerinMD

    Why the assumption that Nebraska comes “without much of a built-in audience”. Ask Notre Dame or Virginia Tech, NU has more of a national following than most major college programs (at least a much higher percentage of in-state and out-of-state residents). There may only be 1.8 million folks living in the state, but the diaspora is large and, unlike many other state programs, they are nearly all rabid Husker fans. I guarantee you will have large crowds of NU fans at all away games.

  • psudevon

    That's really just in reference to the TV sets they add to the conference. The conference makes about 88 cents for every subscriber to the Big Ten Network, so you look at it this way: Texas would've brought in the entire state, and 25 million new subscribers. Rutgers would've delivered at least part of New York and all of New Jersey, which creates 15 million plus new subscribers. Nebraska may have a strong and dedicated fanbase, but it doesn't have much of a TV audience to speak of; Omaha is the 76th largest market in the country.

  • Miroj1

    And it begins…. I love it!

  • Miroj1

    You have to think “National” when it comes to the Husker's fan base. National.

  • Miroj1

    And it begins…. I love it!

  • Miroj1

    You have to think “National” when it comes to the Husker's fan base. National.