Just when you think the Big 12 vs. Nebraska conversation is finally out, somebody pulls Husker fans right back in.
The story-du-jour is a commentary entitled “Eulogizing the Cornhuskers” from the staff of Fox Sports Southwest. It attempts to put NU’s movement to the Big Ten solely on the shoulders Tom Osborne, apparently vengeful and egomanical, who loathed the Big 12 so much that he sought an exit from it at first light.
To wit (or lack thereof): “One administrator said that in meetings early in Osborne’s AD tenure there were occasions when other ADs would look at each other as if to say, “is he serious?” Even so, Osborne was seen simply as just that — a peer, one equal voice among 12. Peers who had to see him as a partnering administrator working towards a common good of a conference, not as a coach of 255 football victories who may treat administrative issues like personal wins and losses. Some of those peers now say Osborne was the latter, not the former. His voice did not have Moses-like reverence like it probably does in most circles in Lincoln, Nebraska or even among coaching peers. And if Osborne was an unhappy camper, the base camp in Lincoln where his word did carry significant weight was soon to follow. Add those elements together, including that unburied hatchet, and it’s a microwave recipe for Nebraska’s relationship with its Big 12 siblings to deteriorate.”
Later, FSSouthwest – the whole staff? One guy? A chorus of beetles? – heads to the Big 12 spring meetings to extract this odd sequence from Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne:
It was worth asking the question to Byrne, Osborne’s boss for three years: What do you make of Nebraska’s decision to leave the Big 12?
Byrne: “Nebraska did what was right for Nebraska. I understand why they did what they did.”
Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe has said that Nebraska’s departure makes the new Big 12 alignment more united. What in 1994 was a marriage of convenience between 12 schools, is now a marriage of commitment between 10.
Again to Byrne: It seems like a lot of blame is being heaped on Tom Osborne for all this with Nebraska’s move. Is that fair?
Byrne, pausing, then smiling: “Nebraska did what was right for Nebraska.”
In a word: Huh?
Is Byrne implicating Osborne? Is he declining comment? Disagreeing with the author(s)? Being dramatic because he can be that way on occasion?
I recall Byrne standing with Osborne on a variety of issues during the formation of the Big 12. I also recall Texas A&M flirting heavily with the SEC last June before return to the downsized Big 12 – much to the chagrin of some Aggie boosters.
Perhaps the most bizarre notion in the story involves Colorado expressing regret for “jumping the gun” to the Pac-12. So CU wants back into the Big 12 where none of its alums live and it routinely got waxed in every sport but skiing?
But let’s say the story weren’t written like a weird Wikipedia entry as edited by a Texas fan. Let’s say Osborne was precisely as the article states.
Nebraska still wasn’t wrong to leave, and Osborne still wasn’t wrong to have misgivings about a league whose rules are even more one-sided than they used to be. For a school like NU, betting on the Big 12 would have been like a restaurant owner selling his stake to the mob.
In five years’ time, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Missouri may have some pretty good TV money flowing in. But they won’t have any football hardware to show it. No nifty divisional trophies. Certainly no Big 12 trophies. How do you sell that as progress to boosters? Hey, we’re running at 110% and still only finishing 7-5, but renew those season tickets!