Huskers the buzz of Big Ten with a year to go
CHICAGO (AP) - Not too long after Nebraska joined the Big Ten, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema approached the league with a request: How about a Badgers-Huskers game to finish the season?
“It was something I felt strongly about,” Bielema said. “And I thought it would be neat. So that’s all there is to it.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said fans around his state would constantly ask about playing their Big Red neighbors.
“I think that will probably take care of itself now,” he said.
Nebraska won’t play football in the Big Ten until next season, but the Huskers already have the full attention of the Big Ten, from its coaches to its fans. By adding one of the most storied programs, the Big Ten will have 12 teams and enticing possibilities that go with it.
What about those six-team divisions? Delany hopes to hash that out in the next 30-45 days. Competitive balance and rivalries will be considered along with geography, with a nine-game league schedule possibly coming in a few years.
Further expansion remains a possibility even though that’s on the back burner for now, and Delany reiterated he doesn’t see Notre Dame joining if the Big Ten decides to grow again. He also said again that the league’s name will remain the same, even with 12 teams.
But the big theme around the conference this week was change. Specifically, expansion. And to a large degree, Nebraska.
“I think it will be a real good addition, really good people, they run a good program and obviously it’s going to be a very competitive team,” said Penn State coach Joe Paterno, whose history against Nebraska dates back to when he was a Nittany Lions assistant coach.
Nebraska brings five national titles in football, three Heisman trophies and a loyal fan base to a conference that was looking for more exposure for its TV network.
The Huskers are leaving behind conference affiliations with Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kansas State that date to the 1920s, and it has football rivalries with the Tigers and Jayhawks that are more than a century old.
There are long-standing traditions, rivalries, that might be wiped out, yet there are also tantalizing possibilities in the new conference.
How does Nebraska-Ohio State sound? What about Penn State? Or Michigan?
The Huskers have long histories with Minnesota and Iowa even though they last played the Gophers in 1990 and Hawkeyes in 2000.