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SIDELINE REPORT: Goodbye Big 12, hello Big Ten PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 30 June 2011 22:16

Huskers’ conference switch made official tomorrow

By Josh Sumner

The Wauneta Breeze

 

A 104-year-long affiliation that included 43 conference championships and countless classic match-ups with rivals like Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri ends tomorrow for the Nebraska Cornhusker football team.

Nebraska has been a member of the Big 12 Conference, or one of its prior incarnates since 1907. Tomorrow, at 10 a.m. MT, that will no longer be the case, as the Big Ten Conference officially welcomes the Huskers as its twelfth member.

As exciting as it is for Husker fans to embark on this new conference journey, it’s a tough pill to swallow for many old Big 8 Conference hard liners, like myself. Along with its biggest conference foe, the Sooners, the Cornhuskers have been the face of the Big 12 Conference for over a century.

The Huskers joined what was originally known as the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MVIAA) in 1907, along with charter schools Kansas, Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis and Iowa. In its first year as members, Nebraska split a share of the conference championship with Iowa.

Several realignments and additions shifted the complexion of the conference landscape in the 20 years that followed the formation of the MVIAA. Iowa, who was a joint member of the MVIAA and the Western Conference (the modern day Big Ten Conference) soon left the Missouri Valley, as did early members Drake, Grinnell, Washington University and Oklahoma State (Oklahoma State would later rejoin in 1958). The Sooners appeared on the scene in 1919, preceded by Kansas State in 1913 and Iowa State in 1908.

In 1928, the MVIAA began being referred to by its followers as the “Big Six,” consisting of core members Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The conference unofficially became known as the “Big Seven” in 1948, when Colorado joined, and then finally as The Big 8, when Oklahoma State rejoined in 1958.

Regardless of the number of schools in the conference, or its name, the fact of the matter is the conference was primarily a two-team league in football for nearly 80 years. Two schools — Nebraska and Oklahoma — dominated the rest of the league.

Between 1919 and 1996, Nebraska or Oklahoma won at least a share of the conference title an unprecedented 65 times. The Huskers-Sooners rivalry game determined the conference champion virtually every year after the mid 1960s, and often had implications for who would get to play in the national championship game.

Oklahoma is the only Big 8 school to compile a winning record against the Huskers, going 45-38-3 all-time against Nebraska. In the meantime, Nebraska dominated the rest of its conference foes from the Big 8. Just look at the numbers:

• Colorado — Nebraska leads the all-time series 49-18-2. In 1998, the Huskers beat the Buffs 16-14 without recording an offensive touchdown — the first time that had happened in the modern history of the Huskers.

• Iowa State — Nebraska leads the all-time series 86-17-2, including an impressive 31-6 record since 1973.

• Kansas — Nebraska leads the all-time series 91-23-3, that included a streak from 1969 to 2004 in which the Huskers won 36 straight games. UNL has played KU more than any other school in the history of its football program. In 1986, the Huskers gave the Jayhawks their worst loss ever, 70-0 at Lawrence.

• Kansas State — Nebraska leads the all-time series 78-15-2, including a recent massacre in 2007 when the Wildcats were smoked in Lincoln 73-31 — the most points scored by the Huskers in the series’ history.

• Missouri — Nebraska leads the all-time series 65-36-3. The Huskers didn’t lose a game to the Tigers between 1979 and 2002. In that span, Nebraska gave Missouri some of its most lopsided losses in school history, including a 3-year run from 1989 to 1991 in which the Huskers outscored the Tigers 182-34.

• Oklahoma State — Nebraska leads the all-time series 37-5-1. From 1962 to 1999, the only game Nebraska didn’t win over the Cowboys was a 17-17 tie in 1973. That 36-game non-beaten streak was the longest in its history against a conference opponent.

To say Nebraska was a Big 8 force is an understatement and disservice to Husker legends like Bob Devaney, Tom Osborne, Johnny Rodgers and Tommie Frazier. The Cornhuskers were the Big 8 Conference.

In less than 24 hours, a history of rivalries and academic ties that goes back 121 years will be nothing more than just that — history.

Instead of looking at the Huskers’ schedule and seeing the likes of Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri, it will read Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa. Instead of making the yearly travel plans to Norman, Boulder or Columbia, the Husker faithful will pack their bags for Columbus, Ann Arbor and Iowa City. Say goodbye to Owen Field, and hello to The Horseshoe.

Regardless of what happens down the road, wherever future conference realignment may take our teams, hopefully Midwesterners will always look back and smile when they think about the bonds that were formed between the original Big 8 teams. I know I will.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: To commemorate the Huskers’ move to its new home in the Big Ten, the Big Ten Network will be filled with three days of Nebraska programming. Coverage kicks off at 10 a.m. MT tomorrow (Friday) with “Big Ten Welcomes Nebraska,” an hour-long special which will broadcast from the Big Ten Network’s studios in Chicago. Fans can look forward to exclusive interviews with Husker figures such as Tom Osborne, Bo Pelini and Doc Sadler during the segment.

As the weekend rolls on, the network will air several of Nebraska’s most classic games, including its several Orange Bowl appearances and rivalry games.