116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
This Black Friday football thing between Iowa and Nebraska has never really caught on, has it?
In fact, Nebraska itself has never taken off in the Big Ten. Will it ever stop being a foot wipe for the rest of the league? Of course. Sooner or later, the ball will bounce its way a couple times. Or the school will hire a coach who assembles a solid program.
But while the Huskers got a slab of the cash cow known as the Big Ten, what did the conference get in return?
The prestige of the Nebraska football program? That was already fading glory when the Huskers jumped into its lifeboat, seeking to flee the Big 12 in general and the University of Texas in particular.
Nebraska was good in football when it joined the Big Ten, but its days as a national powerhouse were done, and it hadn’t even won a Big 12 title since 1999.
However, Huskers football still had some aura about it. The Big Ten snapped it up to give it 12 schools and allow it to split in two divisions and have a league-championship game.
The Huskers were 22-10 in the Big Ten over their first four years, and won three of their first four games against Iowa as league brothers. But they lost 70-31 to Wisconsin in the 2012 Big Ten title game, and haven’t been back since.
When Wisconsin rushed for 539 yards against the Huskers in Indianapolis 10 years ago, we should have had an inkling that the old Nebraska was never coming back.
In fact, the Huskers have kept going backward. If they lose at Iowa Friday, they’ll have their second-straight 3-9 season. They will have fallen for the eighth-straight time to the Hawkeyes.
What is Nebraska bringing to the Big Ten’s table? It certainly doesn’t have a TV footprint, unless Wahoo and Ogallala have had recent growth spurts. The school has great volleyball, but so does Waikiki Beach. Which doesn’t have a prominent football team, either.
Since adding the Huskers, the Big Ten annexed Maryland, Rutgers, UCLA and USC. All those moves were met with questions, but there are people on top of people in New Jersey-New York and Baltimore-Washington, and people on top of people on top of people in southern California.
The Huskers’ Black Friday football appearance used to get big TV ratings, thanks to Nebraska being a marquee name and the opponent being Oklahoma for many years. Now, no one at a Bed Bath & Beyond in Santa Fe or Santa Ana Friday will say “I must get my Christmas shopping done quickly so I can get home and watch Big Red play football.”
The plight of Nebraska football has been comical to many Iowans, but come on. Wouldn’t this game be a lot more fun if both teams were meeting for a division title when they clashed?
You know, have the nation look at Iowa-Nebraska as something other than the Big Ten’s version of Arkansas-Missouri.
Friday’s game is big, big, big for Iowa, but the opponents are bumblers playing out the string. Yet again, that makes this just another Friday game as Michigan-Ohio State on Saturday draws nearer.
The fact Nebraska is about to become the only Power Five team without a bowl appearance since 2016 is borderline stunning, and not just for the fact Kansas has left the Huskers behind with its six wins this season.
Teams schedule themselves bowls. Maryland is 3-5 in the Big Ten and going to a bowl, thanks to playing Buffalo, Charlotte and SMU. The latter is 6-5 and bowl-eligible because it played Lamar.
Oklahoma will go to a bowl, though it’s 3-5 in the Big 12. That’s because it played UTEP and Kent State. Oh, and Nebraska.
The Huskers, however, can’t even rig the system. They paid Georgia Southern $1.423 million to come to Lincoln and didn’t even get a win out it. Before that game, Nebraska went all the way to Ireland to lose to Northwestern, something no one has done in the Wildcats’ last 16 games on American soil.
Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner in 2010, said he had his eye on grabbing Nebraska for 21 years before he acted. He shouldn’t have been so impulsive.
Delany said he wanted to only add new members that were “home runs.” Maybe he should have gone for touchdowns instead. His successor, Kevin Warren, landed USC and UCLA. They play football.
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