Hard to believe it was a little over a year ago that this happened:
The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) announced unanimous approval today for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) to join the Big Ten Conference effective July 1, 2011, with competition to begin in all sports for the 2011-12 academic year. UNL will also seek admission into the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), which can occur on or before July 1, 2011. - Big Ten
July 1, 2011 is here, and so is Nebraska. A year after what was then the most entertaining off-season in college football history (only recently outdone by the disaster at Ohio State this off-season), Nebraska is officially a member of the Big Ten.
For me, as a fan of the old Big Ten, this is going to take some getting used to. It's not because I'm not thrilled about the Nebraska Cornhuskers joining the conference (because I am), it's because so much that made the Big Ten unique will be changing. I'll miss the subliminal "11" hidden in the logo. I'll miss the fact that THE GAME was truly the last game of the Big Ten season. I'll (kinda) miss the goofy tie breaking system that created such a headache for Wisconsin year-in-year-out. I'll miss the old standing charts, all eleven in a row with Indiana always bringing up the rear. I'll miss those miserable November matchups with Purdue... actually... no... I won't miss those even a little bit. I'll miss being the outlier among the conferences. The one bound by tradition. The conference that gave everyone the finger and said "screw you, we don't need a championship game." (To be fair, the PAC-10 was like that too, but since they're on the West coast no one of consequence really cared). Today everything is different.
It was what I grew up with, and what I knew so well. Whether it was good or bad for the Conference to change doesn't really matter to me. Whether expansion had or hadn't happened, the Big Ten would still be here. Playing all the major sports and capturing the hearts and minds of America's young people. It's just how we roll. But expansion happened. And things have changed. But as I look at it now, something familiar to me has changed forever. And that something won't be the same ever again. So to that extent, it makes me a little sad.
But the sadness is fleeting. A twelve team super-conference is forever. As much as I love to cling to tradition whenever it's convenient for an argument or to piss off someone, the reality of the situation is that the Big Ten's conference expansion is awesome. Nebraska. Yes, that Nebraska, will be playing in Ann Arbor every two years. Iowa and Nebraska get to go at it regularly. The balance of conference power has decidedly shifted toward the middle west with this addition, and it's going to be a hell of a season in 2011 to watch.
Interestingly, there will be no re-branding. This is the Big Ten goddammit. Math does not apply to us. We will put a not-so-subtle "1" in our new logo and leave it at that. You will understand that we are #1 because it is right there in front of you. We are no longer 10, 11 or 12. We are 1. We have a cable network too, and we will use that network to reinforce this point until it is so drilled into your head that you'll be able to recognize our Logo before you can recognize your mother.
As an aside, I very vividly remember getting the news about Nebraska joining the Big Ten because, at the time I had just completed what was originally a very funny, very complete rundown of the Big Ten's potential expansion candidates for Maple Street Press' 2010 "We Are Penn State" football annual. It was great. All kinds of relevant jokes, digs at Dan Beebe, speculation about the final and most logical candidates (of which, Nebraska was one), all in about 3500 words and a month and half of writing and tinkering.
Then the bomb dropped. Nebraska was officially in the Big Ten. A week before my goddamn article was supposed to go to press. So, with the help of my esteemed editor, we attempted to re-write and re-form the article in the span of about 24 hours. As a result, the final product was no where near as funny or as timely as it could've been. Thanks a lot Nebraska. You screwed me without so much as buying me a drink. But then again, you're athletic director screwed us all over when he announced that he was retiring as Nebraska's football coach in order to gain sympathy votes for one last shot at a national title. It made Urban Meyer look classy. So that's two times, you bastards. And the Alamo Bowl in '05..... GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It's funny to think the Nebraska is now not just a conference mate, but a divisional rival when less than a year ago they were a floundering national power attempting to right themselves from a miserable hire that set the program back five years. Actually, Nebraska can probably say that about Michigan right now too. Touche.
We get to see the herds of Nebraska fans pack into Kinnick, Michigan Stadium, the 'Shoe, and Ryan Field. The funny thing will be to see if any Northwestern fans can get seats to their own home game. We'll see the spike in revenues as the cable networks and broadcasters start hyping up these new rivalries among traditional superpowers. We'll see the Cornhuskers compete in every sport the Big Ten offers, and they'll probably walk away with a crown or two (their baseball team is really friggin good).
Here they are. The Blackshirts. The Red Menace. They're our new bunk mates. Our new math. So we might as well get used to them.