The Life of the World to Come

The Big 12 Conference (which was the Big 8 Conference before we let Texas in, and before that the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association) is dying. Colorado has already left, and the Texans will leave within days, but the fatal blow was our own: Nebraska has petitioned, and been accepted, for membership in the Big Ten Conference.

This is a big day. This is a sad day, as we have a long history playing against local teams such as Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas, and Missouri. We do not know what will happen to these Big 12 orphans. It is heartbreaking to read headlines like, “Is this the worst day in Kansas City sports history?”

A history of the last century of conference switches is available online, though this particular one relies on behind-the-scene moves by Rupert Murdoch, Missouri, and the Texans. Murdoch, in his effort to fight ESPN, has used his “Fox Sports Network” to create a series of affiliated regional networks. The most successful of these is the Big 10 Network, which brings Cable TV money to college sports. In part because of the Big 10 Network, the yearly pay-out in the Big 10 is about $20 million, instead of around $10 million for teams in the Big 12. (For their part, the Texas are arrogant jerks, and Missouri is in purgatory for ironically sparking this destruction by attempting to join the Big 10 itself.)

Academically, the big news is that Nebraska is also slated to join the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the academic arm of the Big Ten. Here are the press release’s bullet points:

  • Big Ten universities attract 12 percent of all federal research funding annually. They grant 14.5 percent of all doctoral degrees conferred in the U.S. each year and 25 percent of all agricultural doctorates each year.
  • UNL would be considered for membership in the prestigious Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago. The CIC leverages faculty, funding, facilities, investments and ideas to help the collective whole compete and succeed. Among its core projects are library collections and access; technology collaborations to build capacity at reduced costs; leveraging purchasing and licensing through economies of scale; leadership and development programs for faculty and staff; course-sharing mechanisms by which students may take courses at other consortium institutions; and study-abroad collaborations.
  • The Big Ten is the only NCAA Division I conference whose members all belong to the Association of American Universities, as does Nebraska.
  • Of UNL’s 10 peer institutions (by which it compares itself), five are Big Ten members (University of Illinois, University of Iowa, University of Minnesota, Ohio State University and Purdue University).
  • The ability to recruit faculty would be enhanced. UNL already competes with Big Ten and other institutions to attract high-quality faculty; UNL would be able to offer access to CIC and other opportunities afforded by Big Ten affiliation. Similarly, new Ph.D.s and other graduates from Nebraska would find their opportunities widened through Big Ten collaborations.
  • Research collaborations with faculty at other institutions, already important and under way, would increase.
  • UNL’s alignment with the Big Ten will open doors to new investors, entrepreneurs and others interested in expanding regional and national markets through opportunities presented by Nebraska Innovation Campus, Perlman said.

Goodbye Big 12. Hello Big Ten.