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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
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June 17, 2010
The Texas Longhorns’ startling decision to stay in the Big 12 conference apparently resulted from two cash-related facts.
Pac 10 officials reportedly turned down the “extra sweeteners” cash demands which the Longhorns demanded as a reward for leading four Big 12 teams into the Pac 10.
Texas then agreed to stay in the Big 12 under terms that would allow the school to have its own television network and increase its television broadcast take to more than $20 million a year from the current level of about $12 million.
Good news for the nine other schools which still have a conference home. And especially good news for Texas, whose performance leaves it substantially better off financially and an even more dominant force in the conference.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, on the other hand, winds up with both a better deal financially than it had in the Big 12 and an opportunity for academic improvement through assured long-term membership in the most respected conference in the United States.
Nebraskans should be pleased that their old friends in the Big 12—five of them schools with which the Cornhuskers have had friendly rivalry on the football field for more than 80 years—still have a conference home, even though the conference appears pretty clearly to be increasingly dominated by Texas.
A good case could be made that after overplaying its bargaining hand and being turned away by the Pac 10, Texas really had little or no choice except to stick with the Big 12.
Texas alone might have appeal to the Southeastern Conference, but political leaders in Texas had made it clear that the Longhorns would have to include Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Baylor in any conference membership deal. So Texas stays in the Big 12 in what might be described as fitting the old saying about making a virtue out of necessity.
Very quickly after the story of the Big 12’s salvation broke in the news, this description of the conference began to circulate: “Bevo and the nine dwarfs,” Bevo being the name of the Longhorn mascot of the Texas football team.
More in a later column about the Texas Longhorns’ success in turning necessity into a major financial coup.
Let’s turn now to some of the questions remaining after the good-news announcement that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will become a member of the Big 10 conference effective July 1, 2011.
What exactly is the Big 10 football television network? How does it operate? Does it deliver nationwide coverage?
UNL Athletic Director Tom Osborne has said that being a part of the network will help in recruiting because parents like to see their sons play on television. Parents “will be able to see almost every game they play,” Osborne said.
That could be interpreted as implying that the Big 10 network will very frequently be the only place that a Big 10 game can be viewed on television. But look at a specific example of Big Ten network coverage:
Last year, only two Iowa Hawkeyes’ football games were carried on the Big 10 television network. These were relatively low-interest games against Northern Iowa and Michigan State. All the other Hawkeye games were carried on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or the Fox Sports Network. (The Hawkeyes had an 11-2 season.)
In all the massive news coverage, I have seen no explanation of how the Big 10 Network works and whether it will make more televised Husker games available without any pay-for-view charges.
Last year, three of the Huskers’ traditional triumphs over early-season patsies were carried on the Fox pay-for-view channel. A fourth game was carried on Versus, part of the special NFL channel. The remaining 10 games were carried on free-of-charge television networks.
More questions: When will the conference decide whether to split into divisions? What teams would likely be Cornhusker division-mates? Will there be a league championship playoff game between division winners?
As to how much farther Huskers fans—and athletic teams—would have to travel to some Big 10 campuses as compared to Big 12 campuses for Husker road games: The World-Herald presented an attractive map, leaving it to the reader to figure out the pluses and minuses, which this reader did:
To nine of the 11 other Big 10 campuses, the travel distance would be grater than from Lincoln to six of the Big 12 campuses.
Three of the trips to Husker Big 12 road games—Kansas State 136 miles from Lincoln, KU 192 miles from Lincoln and Iowa State 223 miles from Lincoln—are shorter than the shortest trip to a Big 10 campus—to Iowa City 302 highway miles from Lincoln.
Amidst all the official rejoicing in Nebraska’s regard to UNL’s leaving the Big 12 for membership in the prestigious Big 10, UNL Athletic Director Tom Osborne did the best job, I thought, of expressing regret over breaking relationships which go back so many years—in some cases, he noted, over 100 years.
The best example: The Huskers first played Kansas (a 12-0 loss) in 1892 and, after a two-year break, resumed the rivalry in 1906 for a run that continues to this day.
From the start, one of the problems posed for writers—from headlines to editorials—was to avoid use of “University of Nebraska” and “NU.” It should have been “University of Nebraska-Lincoln” and “UNL.” One press account got it wrong eight times.
Appropriately, one of the multitude of news stories recalled the important role which Bob Devaney played in the rebuilding of the Cornhusker football tradition, which had fallen on hard times during World War II and the 16 following years.
In his first year at UNL in 1962, Devaney took basically the same players from a team which the preceding year had won three games and coached them to a 9-2 season, including a 25-13 win over Michigan at Ann Arbor in the season’s second game.
Devaney became truly a legendary coach, coaching the Huskers to six Big 8 Conference championships, one tie for the championship and two national championships, in 1970 and 1971.
And, very importantly, Bob Devaney saw to it that his offensive coordinator, Tom Osborne, became his successor. Osborne, of course, became another Nebraska legend, coaching the Huskers to nine conference championships, four co-championships and three national championships.
Nationally, the academics aspect of Big Ten membership gets little if any attention. A subhead to a front page story in USA Today, for example, read: “Scramble for TV money may spell end of Big 12.” The story carried over to an inside page under this headline: “Football money drives shifts in college sports.”
A remark by UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman suggested that the only way to assure long-term membership in a conference is “assign the media rights to your athletic contests to the conference for the long term.”
Correcting an error and an omission:
A news story/commentary suggested that when Big 8 Nebraska scored 84 points against Big 10 Minnesota (it was in 1983 and Nebraska won 84-13), the Huskers went on to win the national championship. Wrong. The “Scoring Explosion” Huskers (starring Mike Rozier, Irving Fryar and Turner Gill) lost, 31-30, to Miami in the Orange Bowl and finished second behind Miami in the Associated Press National Championship poll.
The omission: A newspaper visit to all present Big 10 conference schools gave proper attention to Nile Kinnick, Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback of the famed 1939 Iowa “Ironmen” team. Kinnick died on a training flight as a Navy pilot.
But not mentioned was the fact that Kinnick was an Omahan and attended Benson High. The Hawkeye football stadium is named for him. The Omaha Northwest High School stadium is also named for Kinnick.
The focus on Big 10 traditions and history included reference to Hayden Fry as a legendary coach who took Iowa to the Rose Bowl three times as Big 10 as conference champions in the 1981-1990 era.In 1980, another coaching legend, Nebraska’s Tom Osborne and his Cornhuskers had beaten Hayden Fry and his Hawkeyes 57-0. The Hawkeyes won 10-7 in 1981. The Hawkeye-Husker, Fry-Osborne rivalry ended after Nebraska beat Iowa 42-7 in 1982.
* * *
Two different perspectives on getting a family job done:
The wife of a very good f riend of mine—the wife is also a very good friend—said she would take charge of moving the family possessions to a new residence and would be so thoroughly engaged in that task that “Don’t even call to ask me how it’s going.”
By way of contrast, I offer this conversation between Marian and me when she asked about some household chore or other. My response: “Don’t worry. I’ll get around to it.”
Marian’s response: “That’s what you said last week.”
* * *
Next week, back to more typical subjects, but spiced with a few more football comments. After all, that topic is of even greater interest (yes, I believe that’s possible) to Nebraskans these days.
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