I must have missed the ceremony. And I never did get the secret handshake.
But somewhere, sometime last week at Big Ten media days, Nebraska officially joined the Big Ten.
The strange looks are gone. Nobody asked, “Are you lost?” In fact, some guy from Rutgers asked me for information. He wanted to know about the commotion in one corner of the room.
“That's the line to kiss Urban Meyer's ring,” I said.
There's no longer any commotion or curiosity about Nebraska, and that's when you know you belong. The Huskers are just another pennant on the wall, just another hot dog in a Big Ten press box.
How do you know you've joined a league? When you don't need a name tag or a road map. Is the transition over?
“I think so,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said. “I think when we've pretty much gone through and played everybody, we've been in the stadiums now. You know, you feel like you're in the conference when you're not in the first time for this, first time for that. That wears on you after a while.”
Technically, the Huskers haven't played an Indiana team yet, either Purdue or IU. Then again, NU hasn't played at Rutgers or Maryland yet, either. If the Big Ten keeps expanding, this might take awhile.
Pelini's point is well-taken. The Huskers have been around the block in their division. They're no longer the new kids on the block.
But what does it mean to be a Big Ten school? The answer to that, like the Big Ten itself, is fluid.
1. The Big Ten is a perfect fit for Nebraska, geographically and philosophically. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's speech at media days about the welfare of the student-athlete is a page out of the Nebraska handbook. The Big Ten is about agriculture, stocking caps, pie and gravy. Nebraskans speak that language, too.
For whatever NU does in this league, that's your baseline. It's a good place to start.
2. This isn't the Big Ten that Harvey Perlman signed me up for.
|BIG RED TODAY ON FACEBOOK|
|Join the conversation on the Big Red Today Facebook page.|
Three years ago, this move looked like a hoot. Games with Michigan and Ohio State. A white-hot rivalry with Iowa.
But the collateral damage of realignment was divisional scheduling glitches. After this season, the Huskers won't play Michigan in the regular season until at least 2018. No Ohio State until 2016.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes are in the dumper. The Iowa series has been a dud so far. Some Hawks have squawked about the Black Friday date. A Big Ten official admitted in Chicago that the Iowa-Nebraska series could be moved off Black Friday beginning in 2018.
Until Kirk Ferentz can jump-start his program, this might as well be Nebraska-Purdue.
3. In the Big Ten West, which takes shape after this season, the annual rivals/big games look like Wisconsin and Northwestern.
Badgers and Huskers is a natural, and some folks have always thought that was the better Black Friday game. Wisconsin isn't Oklahoma or Michigan in pedigree. But the Badgers have dropped the hammer on Big Red twice in two years and enjoyed doing it. Let these two go at it every year for a few years and we might have something good.
I know most of you don't think about Northwestern, but Pat Fitzgerald's program has already proven it will be a formidable foe, not to mention a thorn in the side of Nebraska. Coach Fitz can coach 'em up, he's recruiting well and the other NU is spending money on football.
The Cats aren't going away. They'll challenge for division titles. Whether Husker fans admit it or not, they will circle Northwestern on future schedules.
And that should be just fine. The thing about the Badgers and Wildcats: they both run the spread. Pelini has a history of stuffing the spread. The Big Ten has a wide array of offensive styles, but if the two major opponents in the Big Ten West are spread teams, that bodes well for Nebraska.
4. The Big Ten doesn't have sex appeal. The Big Ten doesn't seem to care about its football reputation nationally. It's comfortable in its thick, old leather.
Wouldn't it be something if Big Ten football coaches spoke with the ambition of its basketball coaches?
Wouldn't it be great to be in a conference that dreams B1G?
I think that could change. The four-team playoff in 2014 — and the change to eight teams whenever that happens — will make a national title seem more accessible to more schools.
It was also good to hear Fitzgerald and Pelini take swipes at the SEC at media days. A little life, please. Pelini, with his SEC résumé, can do that. Nebraska, with its five national titles, can do that.
But first, Pelini and the Huskers need to get their own house in shape.
And that's really the bottom line about Nebraska's experience in the Big Ten. Winning.
If the Big Red win and win and win some more, it won't matter to fans if they're watching Rutgers or Illinois or Michigan. Remember those old Big Eight schedules?
This will be a good place for Nebraska. The Big Ten has everything that NU needs to win: national TV exposure, access to good football players and a division, beginning in 2014, that should allow the Huskers to compete for championships.
This isn't the Big Ten that Nebraska joined in 2010. In some ways, it's a new Big Ten, and Nebraska is in on the ground floor. The Big Red's experience will be as good as they want to make it.
The secret handshake? Apparently you get it at the Rose Bowl.