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At a Lincoln press conference Friday evening -- well launched by Harvey Perlman's declaration that it was a great day for the University of Nebraska, not to mention Lincoln and the state of Nebraska -- a reporter asked the Big Ten Commissioner how long he's had his eye on Nebraska.
"Twenty-one years," Jim Delany said, admitting that his fondness for the Huskers went back even further than his time as an administrator in the nation's oldest conference -- all the way back to a call he received from Penn State the same year (1991) he joined the Big Ten.
Delany said he remembered Johnny Rodgers from the Huskers' 1970 and '71 national championship teams, and he couldn't help but recall vividly how Tommie Frazier and his 13-0 Nebraska team ran past Miami in the Orange Bowl, depriving a 12-0 Penn State team the chance to win a national championship ... a Penn State team that he'd enabled to become the Big Ten's 11th member.
Twenty years later, Nebraska officially became the Big Ten's 12th member.
According to Delany, Penn State and Nebraska match up culturally, competitively and academically.
Fortunately, the opportunity to get Nebraska was well worth the two-decade wait, and Delany seemed to find a certain irony in the Big 12's ultimatum to Perlman, NU's chancellor, and to Tom Osborne, the school's athletic director.
Big 12 Meetings Accelerated the Process
The Big 12 meetings in Kansas City expedited the timeline and accelerated the process "to get Nebraska and be where we are today," Delany said, adding that Big Ten presidents voted unanimously to make Nebraska "whole financially" and move the Huskers into the enviable position to begin competition in the new league in 2011.
Asked about other potential candidates for future Big Ten expansion, Delany declined to name any school to protect confidentiality. He said right now, he's more interested in going back to talk to his league presidents, athletic directors and then will "take a deep breath."
"A conference is like a family - like a small company," Delany said.
If a mistake was made fully integrating Penn State into the conference in 1990, Delany said it was not spending enough time in Happy Valley. "We could have done better in Pennsylvania with alumni and media markets," he said.
The Big Ten's approach will likely be different for Nebraska. "There will be a lot of emphasis on early integration," he said, adding that Nebraska sports will be brought onto the Big Ten Network as soon and as much as possible.
The challenge to select Nebraska sooner than either the conference or the school imagined was not an overly difficult task. When Delany met with Perlman and Osborne to discuss vision, goals and values, the chemistry was instant and the philosophical mindset was almost identical. "We were ready to move more quickly and make sure this integration would work successfully," Delany said.
Huskers Have Played 42 Big Ten Games Since 1962
Osborne said since 1962, Nebraska has played Big Ten schools 42 times, including 14 games against Minnesota. Nebraska's athletic director said he would "be interested" in scheduling future "non-conference" games with current Big 12 Conference teams, including Kansas, Kansas State and "occasionally Oklahoma or Texas or whoever." He confessed they might not share his interest in such scheduling and admitted this season will not be easy.
Re-emphasizing that Nebraska's decision to join the Big Ten was not rooted in any form of animosity, Osborne said that over the past week, he's called Kansas State Athletic Director Bill Snyder, Kansas Football Coach Turner Gill, Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione, Texas Athletic Director Deloss Dodds and Texas' Coach Mack Brown.
Bo Pelini and other Nebraska head coaches joined Delany, Perlman and Osborne at the press conference, and the Huskers' third-year head football coach drew a laugh from reporters when he told them: "I'm not an emotional guy."
Pelini, an Academic All-Big Ten safety at Ohio State, called the Big Ten "a great conference with a great reputation, academically and athletically."
Pelini and his fellow assistants were among Nebraska coaches who showed a 100-percent commitment to the Big Ten when Osborne polled all coaches from all sports twice before deciding to submit an application to join the Big Ten.
Osborne said he did not try to sway any coach into leaning one way or the other. In fact, the first time he asked for a show of hands, he told them that if they didn't want to make the move, he would stop the process right then and there.
Big Ten Culture All for One, One for All
Delany talked about a similar kind of solidarity in the Big Ten culture, saying that over two decades, he can count on one hand the times there was not a heavy consensus. "I don't even remember when there was a 6-5 vote," he said.
The Big Ten is different than the Big 12. Everyone gets the same revenue share. And everyone is treated equally and with the utmost respect.
Just like all good families and all good companies.
The engagement process may have been quicker than the Big Ten wanted, but Tom Osborne is right when he said the decision was made with the next 75 to 100 years in mind.
In other words, this is a relationship built on solid ground.
And a marriage that should last forever.
Voices from Across the Nation
As an Ohio State person and Big Ten fan, I just wanted to say how happy I am to see the Cornhuskers joining this conference. Your football traditions and prestige (in all sports and academics) will be such a great boost to this conference and will make for some exciting games next fall. Clark Wellman, St. Louis, Missouri
As a Michigan alum and huge Big Ten fan, I think it's great to have Nebraska join the league. I can't wait for those great match-ups and to see those Nebraska programs on the Big Ten Network. Welcome and best wishes, Rob Klein, Gainesville, Virginia
The idea of bringing together all the Husker fans and recognizing the players and coaches that produced Nebraska's first national championship is just great. I was born and raised in Nebraska and have lived in Wisconsin for some years, but I do my best to get back to Lincoln for football games when I can. It has been a great time bragging up the original "Big Red" in a part of the country that wants to lay claim to that title. Hope to see more games now that the Huskers will be in the Big Ten Conference. Go Huskers!!!!!! Kathy Bartlett, Waunakee, Wisconsin
The recent decision for Nebraska to join the Big Ten is one that will go down in history. The Big 12 was nothing more than an oversized Texas shootout giving the other member schools no credit for their contributions. I lived in Nebraska as a youngster and was introduced to the Huskers through my parents and other family members. I have been a Husker since I was knee-high in the corn fields and will always be one. Give Perlman and Osborne applause for having enough talent to see in to the future instead of just what's in front of them. This decision was made because of their love and devotion to the University of Nebraska, and the day we joined the Big Ten will live in our hearts and minds for many years to come. What a great fit for the University and its athletes. Nebraska is a Big Ten member, and that's where it belongs. Mike Moseman, Santa Clarita, California
Good story regarding the move. I recall going to Iowa City in the early '90s for the Husker-Hawkeye game. Listening to the radio after the game, the Big Ten Commissioner fielded questions back then about NU joining the conference. His comments were limited, but I do remember him talking about academic standards being a major priority. This new relationship appears to say those standards have been met. Living in Florida, I welcome the opportunity to visit new venues though my heart is still in Memorial Stadium! Jon Lougee, Lake Clarke Shores, Florida
Welcome to the Big Ten, Nebraska!!! As a former OSU student manager who worked with Bo Pelini when he was a Buckeye, I could not be more excited that Nebraska will be joining us. This is a great moment in the Big Ten and college football. I look forward to a road trip to Lincoln and the coming years of great football. Rick Truman, Carrollton, Ohio
Welcome to the Big Ten family from an OSU fan that is looking forward to the new format within the league. Ervin Dalton, Monroe, Ohio
Welcome, Huskers. Wow, what a great addition. We're lucky to get you. Can't wait to go to the Purdue vs. Nebraska football game, even though you'll probably kick our tails! We'll get you come b-ball season, though. Rob Harshbarger, Memphis, Tennessee, Purdue Class of '83
For me, this day is the culmination of a dream that I've had for 30-plus years - as a grad of Ohio State (1970) and having worked and lived in Columbus for over 18 years during the Woody Hayes era and then moving to Kearney (Neb.) for the next 13 years and experiencing Tom Osborne and the Big Red. I've had the experience of a lifetime attending all the games of both teams during that timeframe. When I first came to Nebraska, I told my friends that all I needed was to let my crimson and scarlet fade, and I would be in the proper gear for Big Red. I've tried to explain to fans of both schools about the tradition and pre-game activities of both programs, saying you have to be there to feel it and believe it. It gets no better than that (dotting the "i" in Ohio and watching the Tunnel Walk in Nebraska). Now, with the good Lord willing, I will get to experience my alumni - OSU - and my true love - NU - at each other's venue. For my family and my children (both NU grads), life can be no better. For this fan, June 11 is my new Fourth of July. Bill Hendrickson, Kearney, Nebraska
As a resident of Indiana and avid supporter of Indiana University/Big Ten sports, I have been observing the realignment news and analysis. Obviously, there are valid reasons for an individual institution and a conference to evaluate where they are and make changes to better serve the athletes and the institutions. Years from now we will have the perspective to measure the correctness of the realignment decisions. However, the quality of a University's academics, athletics, and student/alumni base is documented in rankings and records. And just as apparent is the "character" of a school, the collective integrity, honesty, and commitment to excellence. The Big Ten could not have a found a better member, and is better today because of Nebraska. Thank you, and I look forward to enjoying the competition . . . welcome. Steve Terry, Bloomington, Indiana
As a Nebraskan living in Ohio, I think it is great that the Huskers are coming to the Big Ten. We get limited access to Nebraska games and little to no media about them in the 21 years I have lived here. That will all change now. Can't wait for the first game! Go Big Red!! Steve Steffensen, Columbus, Ohio
Welcome to the Big Ten - a perfect fit. I can't wait for big matchups with Wisconsin, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan in football and with Indiana, Purdue and Ohio State in basketball. I always liked Nebraska and think Nebraska will like having much more exposure. I can see a Big Ten football championship game at Colts Stadium. Nebraska fans will enjoy downtown Indy where everything is close by - hotels, restaurants, the NCAA Headquarters and other great venues within walking distance. What I'm really waiting on is Nebraska playing Ohio State. Jerry Delta, Anderson, Indiana
I would be lying if I didn't say that I was disappointed to see the death of a conference that started a long time ago between Nebraska and Kansas. It would seem that with the finger-pointing that surely will take place, Nebraska athletics is in a great situation. The dysfunction in the Big 12 can be traced to its inception, and it wouldn't be fair to blame a couple of schools. The blame game is not what Nebraska is about, and I am excited to see the future and yet disappointed at the same time about the past. I am extremely thankful for Harvey and Tom. Our University and Athletic Department are surely in the right hands at this point. Let's just see how our athletes do in this equal opportunity league. I think they will be just fine, just like the fans, myself included. Chris Duryea, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
I am an ex-Nebraska resident now living in Texas, and I am sure happy with your decision to move to the Big Ten where the minimum annual incentive is to play in the Rose Bowl - a bowl game Texas loved more than any other. John Graeve, Beford, Texas
I am just a fan here in Missouri. I started following the Husker football team back in 1970-71 when I was 11 or 12 years old. Back then you could only get a few games from over-the-air TV, but I watched the Huskers whenever I could. Now, I'm going on 51 years young, and have always stuck with Nebraska because I believe it is the greatest team in all of college football. I look forward to Nebraska going to the Big Ten. I am sure I will be just as excited when they do the Tunnel Walk as I have been. I truly am a lifelong Husker fan. Thanks. Mark Smith, Moberly, Missouri
This "marriage" with the Big Ten is wonderful! This deal, in my opinion, should have been made at the end of the Big 8. Academically, this is a no brainer. And since all student-athletes are there to get a quality education, this conference is a boon for Nebraska. From a sports point of view, what could be better? To join a solid conference that accepts what Nebraska has to offer instead of appeasing us and trying to change who we are. The Big 12 has much to offer; it just did not "feel" right from the beginning. There was always something missing. Most times, you couldn't put your finger on it. Now, we have this coming school year left in the Big 12. I say we go out with a bang and show them what they are going to be missing! And then on to a bigger, better, more rewarding future with the Big Ten! Heeeeeere's Nebraska! Chad David, Albion, Nebraska
I think this was a no brainer. I'm actually over excited about our new home in the Big Ten - stability at last. I will miss a lot of things. But the memories will always be with us. Since the '50s, it's been a heck of a road to watch, listen and travel. The Big Ten will be fun, and I'm hoping it will keep our coaching staffs together for a while. How exciting would that be? Good luck Husker Nation. Make us proud! Mike Combs, Nebraska Class of 1950
For all the naysayers on Nebraska's move to the Big Ten, simply understand that the Big 12 was going to be history anyhow. Several teams had talked about making a move for quite some time. Athletic Director Tom Osborne and Chancellor Harvey Perlman had the courage to go ahead and make a decision that would speed up the inevitable. The super conferences were coming (largely because of a lack of a D-I playoff format for a National Championship), and I, for one, am more than happy to be a part of the Big Ten. Wow, new venues to go to....Madison, Iowa City, St. Paul. And so it begins! Tom Gunlicks, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
The University of Nebraska truly hit a homerun by going into the Big Ten. You have the addition of a school that is a powerhouse in several sports and also an academic powerhouse. It's a great move for Nebraska from a financial standpoint, too. Everybody wins in this move. It's a perfect fit. Dave Torkelson, Council Bluffs, Iowa
I would like to thank Coach Osborne for working with Chancellor Perlman to move the Big Ten project forward! Although I live in Texas, I think this will do so much for the University. Personally I don't see a down side. I have enjoyed being able to attend many of the games in this area but look forward to the Alumni in the Big Ten area now being able to attend games close to them. Knowing the press in this area, we may actually get less negative information once we are out of "their" conference. It will be difficult to leave Iowa State and the Kansas schools behind but maybe someday they can be a part of a new super conference, if it heads that direction. I know Coach Osborne and Chancellor Perlman put a great deal of research and thought into this and appreciate how they have made a tough yet excellent decision for our future. Their service to the University has been beyond commendable, and I just want to thank them for all they've done to strengthen "my" University! Shelley Schwarz, Frisco, Texas
Everytime I walk into my house I see this beautiful wall hanging of the 1997 National Champions Michigan Wolverines. But wait, I see an asterisk that says co-champions. Ever since that day, I've always wanted Big Red to come to the Big House and have "That Game" to prove once all for all, the mighty Wolverines are superior. I guess my wait is soon over. Welcome to the Big Ten! John McElligatt, Brighton Michigan