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.

16 thoughts on “The Life of the World to Come”

  1. Now if only Navy would quit lowering standards (both physical and academic) in order to compete with the Big Boys and move to 1-AA FBS, this would be a fantastic college off-season.

    Still, there should be more interesting business moving forward. Who knows where this leads for other schools in the next few weeks? Congrats to Nebraska for the benefits of the Big 10 it will soon accrue and the new rivalries it will create.

  2. I’d think the best cadets would also be the best atheletes. Military life doesn’t exactly have a rep for being a sedentary life-style
    . . .

  3. Football is heavily specialized — quarterbacks have my height and body shape, linemen are huge, receivers must be able to spring — unless you specifically go after these guys, you can get great generalists, but football (like industry) relies on the principle of division of labor.

  4. Aah. So when filling out a team, they usually find themselves short a few body types after going through the regularly recruited cadets?

  5. That’s my assumption, yeah.

    Plus you have players who doubtless are afraid of breaking bones, or having other injuries that would permanently degrade their flexibility. One of the advantages of the Cornhusker walk-on program is that you have a whole slate of guys who would love to tell the story of an in-game injury for the rest of their lives — makes the players much more brave.

  6. I wonder: If the Academies tried recruiting the needed players from the ranks of the enlisted, what would the results be, player- and cadet-wise?

    On a different subject, if you’re also a baseball fan, you might want to check out one of your new home’s teams. The Tacoma Raniers played in Colorado Springs last night and beat their opponents 7-0.

  7. There used to be semi-pro teams from the Enlisted Ranks. The teams would play the other services and I think industrial teams. It was part of “Special Services”. This might have been service-wide or just from major bases.

    I had an Uncle that was an All-State Linebacker and Wrestler in High-School. He had a Football Scholarship to a Catholic university. The football program ended (so did his scholarship) after two years so he followed my Dad into the Marines. After a year of training and a year in Korea (1952) he played Football for the Marines for the rest of his enlistment in a “Special Services” unit.

  8. Michael/Dan,

    There are certain body types the Navy cannot (in particular, perhaps the AF too?) enlist because of the nature of shipboard/sub life. David Robinson, the NBA Hall of Famer and former Midshipmen, barely made the cut because he was too tall. The o-linemen are simply too “heavy” for service, given the nature of weight gain typical of o-linemen (even among all but the most highly motivated athletes) in off-peak times… they would simply be unfit for service 12 months of the year, especially once their football careers are over.


    We still have “semi-pro” athletic teams in the services that compete against each other, other countries’ teams, and the teams of bases and commands. As far as the enlisted go, we could probably field a hell of a 1-AA/FBS subdivision team given the body and skill types we have in the services. However, the Academy is meant to accept the best of our high school students for intelligence and leadership qualities, not athletic ability. Those with exceptional football/b-ball skills won’t do much in the fleet if they don’t have all the other qualities our other students have. Sadly, the Navy in particular (my home service and my pride) has been promoting athletics over academics and quality of personnel. This is a foolish waste of valuable resources and of potential, when you have a well-qualified prospective Academy entrant passed over for a guy who can throw the football and not much else.

  9. Eddie, I’m inclined to agree with you, overall. My notion was more of a potential compromise should the “Gotta win the Army/Navy Game!” types prove unbeatable politically– the idea being that someone who’s successfully entered into a Navy career has a baseline of intelligence and discipline that a high-school athlete doesn’t necessarily have.

    Service-imposed size restrictions are an issue I hadn’t thought of. Only solutions I can think of are a) recruiting non-compliant cadets with the condition that they’re restricted to shore duty afterward or b) hope a means of compensating for shorter players can be found that’ll mollify the “Gotta win . . .” crowd.

  10. What are the upper limits to a Conference size? I’m wondering because the article mentioned traditional rivalries as a factor in composition, but didn’t mention:
    Bringing the other Service Academies into the Big-Whatever with the AFA, or
    Colorado State joining CU in its new conference.

    Or is it a matter of those schools getting a better deal from the conferences they’re already in, rivalries aside?

  11. Before Texas et al. announced they would stay in the Big 12, there was talk of a 16-team Pac-10… Four 16-team conferences would allow the BCS to have every serious team, and to have a de facto playoff system while keeping the tradition and TV contracts of the Bowl system.

    But Texas would rather be a dictator, so we are left with his half-functional system with mostly-traditional conferences for the time being.

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