Nebraska couldn’t exactly say no to Iowa or to the Big Ten.
But the idea of declaring a rival before Big Ten play ever begins is unnatural to everyone affiliated with Husker football.
Will Nebraska and Iowa produce intense football games? Yes. Will they dislike each other? Probably. But mark my words: Unless Iowa is winning nine or 10 games a year, Nebraska will barely notice the Hawkeyes.
Is that a snobbish way to see the new world? Perhaps. But it’s true.
Nebraska will always care most about the Big Ten program atop the standings, not the one closest to its campus. So if Michigan or Ohio State or Wisconsin is winning Big Ten titles, that’s the program Nebraskans will consider a “rival.”
In other words, it probably won’t be Iowa. (My bet is Michigan, because of the divisional alignment).
Tom Osborne knows it. That’s why he constantly talks about rivalries “developing” through time.
Why did Nebraska care so much about Oklahoma? Because OU won a ton of conference championships. Why did Texas stir such hatred in Husker hearts? Because Nebraska couldn’t beat Texas.
Kansas was a few miles down the road and the Jayhawks and Huskers had been meeting since the 1800s didn’t mean a darn thing. Did Nebraska care about Kansas? Nope.
Every year, Wisconsin celebrates a win over Minnesota as if it’s the Big Ten championship. Can you imagine Nebraska fans celebrating any win over a mediocre foe? Nope.
So Iowa better keep winning. Otherwise, Nebraska is going to care about this new Heroes trophy about as much as they cared about the Missouri bell.
* * *
Had dinner last night with members of the Nebraska media contingent, hosted by the Big Ten Network. My table included Dave Revsine, BTN studio host.
I’m a newcomer to the BTN, so I’m still learning about the league’s programming. But he told me about an Emmy-nominated show called “The Journey,” a 30-minute show tailored each week to a Big Ten player or team. Camera crews had access to locker rooms before and after games, and followed players a little bit outside the gym, too.
Sounded pretty cool.
Someday I’d like to see the league go one step further. Find a football program willing to open its doors during fall camp. Give us a “Hard Knocks”-style show (perhaps a bit more tame).
Would a college football head coach ever give up control and sign off on it? That’s the hard part.
* * *
There are plenty of great takes around the Web this summer about paying athletes. While I think something more must be done — an Olympic-style model would be the best idea — SI columnist extraordinaire Joe Posnanski makes some interesting points saying it’s a bad idea. Read it and tell me what you think.