Eleven questions about conference expansion, or why Nebraska should be politicking to join the Big Ten (Eleven):
1. What approach should the University of Nebraska take toward Big Ten expansion?
Get on the phone. Make it known that NU is not only available, it would be willing to become a Big Ten member tomorrow, if not sooner. This is not the time to sit on the porch and watch the world of college sports go by. This is the time for action.
Nebraska is a brand name, a major player, a top five leader in college football revenue. It's time to throw some weight around.
2. Why would Nebraska want to join the Big Ten?
Two reasons. Revenue. Security. Big Ten members already are raking in $22 million each per year, thanks in large part to the Big Ten Network. Grow the network and grow the earning potential. That's about $15 million more than what NU gets from the Big 12. Think of what you can do with $15 more million per year.
Then there's long-term security. Does anyone really trust that the Big 12 will stay together or be something that NU would want to be part of? How does Nebraska vs. TCU/New Mexico/Colorado State grab you?
3. Why would the Big Ten want Nebraska?
The national profile to boost Big Ten network numbers, plain and simple. CBSsports.com reported that the Big Ten Network is getting a subscription fee of 70 cents per subscriber within the eight-state Big Ten region; outside the region it's 10 cents per subscriber. If the Big Ten can increase the market outside its region, the subscription price would soon follow. NU may not have the TV sets in Nebraska, but they have the TV sets around the country, from Maine to Florida to California. NU also brings sizzle. Rutgers and Mizzou don't.
4. Will Chancellor Harvey Perlman and Athletic Director Tom Osborne be proactive on this or sit on the porch?
Last week, I asked Perlman if NU had contacted the Big Ten or any conference about joining. His response: “I'm not going to comment on that.'' You can take that two ways: Perlman has contacted the Big Ten or he's trying to throw up a smoke screen. My take: He's let the Big Ten know that the Big Red can be had.
Perlman added, “When you look at the possibility of Missouri or Colorado or the Texas schools leaving one day, Nebraska would be vulnerable. We have to be proactive in this and take care of our position. And we are.''
5. Would Osborne be too loyal to the old Big Eight schools to abandon them?
Don't assume that Osborne is sleeping on this and don't assume that he's Big 12 loyal. The former coach never liked the idea of the Big Eight/Southwest Conference shotgun marriage and all of his predictions about the power shift to Texas have come to fruition. While he's in the A.D. chair, it's Osborne's job to set up Husker football for the future. A move to the Big Ten does that. If he could send a seismic shift through Austin, Texas, on his way out the door, that's called a bonus.
6. Wouldn't Husker fans miss their old rivalries in the Big 12? Isn't NU a better fit in the Big 12?
Nebraska is a better fit in the Big Eight. As much as some of us old war horses want to revive the old days, they aren't coming back. Nebraskans aren't passionate about the Big 12. They resent Texas. Replace MU and CU with TCU and BYU and you become less like the Big Eight and more like the SWC or WAC. Yuck.
7. Is Texas going to leave?
The tea-sips already run the league. Why leave? Well, if NU bolted, the Big 12 takes a big hit. You don't replace NU. It's hard to see the Texas ego hanging with KU, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Co. Texas might listen then if the SEC called. Who knows? Texas is the ultimate independent contractor. They're talking about starting a Longhorn sports channel (why there won't be a Big 12 network). If Texas can go make more than $20 million in an expanded SEC and still pull in its revenue by being Texas, well, that's greed. What's your point?
If you're Nebraska, you could stay in the Big 12 and assume that Texas would stay, too. But nobody knows what Texas will do and nobody trusts them. Don't make plans based on Texas.
8. Couldn't the Big 12 survive if MU and CU left?
Survive? Yes. Be as good? No. There's nobody available in college football land who would improve the Big 12 revenue pie. Nobody. The Big 12 is vulnerable that way. It's too young to have any traditions or loyalties. It's being held together by glue and Popsicle sticks. A more equal revenue-sharing plan isn't going to keep MU or CU in the league; they're gone if the phone rings. That just chases Texas away. It's a catch-22 for the Big 12, which desperately needs Texas to stay.
You know, you hear a lot about the schools who might leave the Big 12. Why don't you ever hear reasons why schools want to stay?
9. Doesn't the Big Ten make it harder to play for the national championship?
This isn't about championships or non-revenue sports, etc. It's about positioning your school — and football program — in the absolute optimum place to make money and thrive. Nebraska would more than hold its own in the Big Ten. All those years Ohio State played for the BCS title? It was because the Buckeyes cruised through the Big Ten.
10. Would Nebraska have a hard time creating new rivals and fan interest in the Big Ten?
Are you kidding? Nebraska-Iowa every year? Nebraskans love tradition and the Big Ten is all about traditions. We'd have to come up with some kind of bucket or ax to play for with the Hawkeyes. The corn cob trophy?
11. What's going to happen and when?
Perlman expects expansion, in some form, later this summer. How much? Who knows? The world right now is speculation. But if you're Nebraska, and you're sitting out here in the plains in a league that could be blown away by a Big Ten tornado, you have two choices: go hide in the cellar and hope that nothing happens or move to a stronger house.
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