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Nebraska joins Big Ten as college conference tremors continue

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany speaks in Lincoln, Neb., at a press conference officially announcing that Nebraska has applied for membership in the Big Ten, which brings the league’s membership to 12.

Associated Press

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany speaks in Lincoln, Neb., at a press conference officially announcing that Nebraska has applied for membership in the Big Ten, which brings the league’s membership to 12.

LINCOLN, Neb. — So long, Big 12. Nebraska's membership in the Big Ten is official.

The Big Ten's board of presidents and chancellors unanimously welcomed Nebraska to the club Friday, just a few hours after the school formally disclosed its interest. The move takes effect July 1, 2011.

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said the Big Ten offers stability "that the Big 12 simply cannot offer."

Nebraska is the Big Ten's first addition since 1990, when Penn State joined, and it comes just six months after the soon-to-be 12-team league announced that it was looking at expansion.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said he presumed there would be a football title game beginning in 2011, when Nebraska joins, one year earlier than expected. He also said the conference would "pause" from further expansion over the next 12 to 18 months. He declined to comment on whether Notre Dame or any other school was on the league's radar.

Nebraska was the big move Friday but another piece of realignment fell into place as Boise State bolted the Western Athletic Conference for the Mountain West.

Nebraska's departure is potentially crippling to the Big 12 — a day after Colorado left for the Pac-10 — and the biggest move yet in an offseason overhaul that will leave college sports looking much different by this time next year.

"We've had a couple disappointing days with the departure of two valued members," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said during a teleconference. Beebe vowed to work to keep the 10 remaining members together but acknowledged that other Big 12 schools are mulling their options.

Perlman said he believed Nebraska is much more "aligned" with the Big Ten than the Big 12 in academics, culture and athletics.

The university issued a statement that said for more than 20 years, Nebraska has compared itself to a list of 10 peer institutions established by the regents. Five of the 10 are Big Ten members; four are former Big Eight schools that joined Nebraska in the Big 12 in 1996.

"The University of Nebraska would have new opportunities with membership in the Big Ten — and I believe the Big Ten would be a stronger conference as well," university president J.B. Milliken said.

Nebraska's move comes at the end of a crazy week in college athletics.

On Thursday, fellow Big 12 member Colorado announced it was leaving for the Pac-10. Texas and other schools in the Big 12 South — Perlman told the regents that the Pac-10 had been in touch with many schools in that division — could be the next to leave. Texas regents scheduled a meeting for Tuesday to discuss the Longhorns' future in the Big 12.

To generations of Nebraska fans, going to the Big Ten would have been unthinkable. The school's athletic tradition is built on more than a century of football games against the likes of Oklahoma and Missouri, dating to the days the team was known as the Bugeaters.

The Huskers, in fact, have been conference partners with Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kansas State since 1928; with Colorado since 1948 and with Oklahoma State since 1960.

Now the Huskers are taking their five national titles in football, three Heisman Trophies and enthusiastic fans east. They will look to start new traditions, like a border rivalry with Iowa and regular trips to Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.

Fatter paychecks will be coming to Nebraska, eventually. Nebraska received about $10 million from the Big 12 in 2009, half the $20 million received by Big Ten members (thanks largely to bigger TV contracts and the in-house Big Ten Network).

The Big Ten told Perlman that no current member would receive a reduced share of revenue from the conference because of the addition of a new member. However, Perlman said Nebraska has been assured it would not receive less than it did in the Big 12.

"This is not a financial windfall," athletic director and former longtime Cornhuskers football coach Tim Osborne said.

As for Boise State, the two-time Fiesta Bowl winner sought a better launching pad, or at least an easier path, into more lucrative bowl games.

Boise State will be the Mountain West's 10th member effective July 1, 2011.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News and the Austin American-Statesman reported that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will join the Pac-10 once formal offers are made but Texas A&M officials remain on the fence between joining the Pac-10 or trying to join the SEC.

The American-Statesman reported that Texas A&M has a 72-hour timetable to decide whether to accept the Pac-10's offer and that formal offers could be made over the weekend.

The Texas board of regents has called a meeting for Tuesday, and a formal announcement is expected that day. Regents at Texas Tech also are scheduled to meet Tuesday.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said he is still working to convince the remaining 10 members to stay put.

"We've had a lot of positive feedback about the desire of those institutions to (stay) together," Beebe said. "… I'm going all the way to the final whistle. I'm playing it out as hard and fast as I can."

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said rapid changes are forcing the school to consider other options.

"We're still working through the issues," Loftin said. "We're also waiting to see what happens with other schools. We were very happy to stay in the Big 12, the way it was. It's changing now, and we need to figure out what that means.

"The Big 12 is not what it was, and we have to think about its future, and ours."

And at Missouri, relegated to a sideline seat for the first wave of the shakeup, officials said they remain committed to the Big 12.

"We have obligations to our Big 12 Conference, first and foremost," Missouri system president Gary Forsee said. But he added that conference realignment is "a nine-inning game" — and it's still the first inning.

fast facts

Scenarios

Conference expansion and realignment continues to be a fluid situation. Here are some of the scenarios floating about:

Texas leads Big 12 exodus to Pac-10: Many think it likely that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and possibly Texas A&M join the Pac-10, creating a 16-team conference. The Pac-10 would be the dominant league west of the Mississippi River and likely form its own cable network.

Texas stays as Big 12 anchor: Many are still working to hold the Big 12 together, despite the defections of Colorado and Nebraska. It's basically up to Texas. If the Longhorns stay, they can probably hold the remaining 10 members in place at least for a while.

Texas A&M joins SEC: Former Alabama coach and current A&M regent Gene Stallings reportedly is pushing hard for this, even if it means a split from Texas. That would have serious political ramifications in the Lone Star state. The SEC would like to have Texas, too but reports are the Longhorns aren't interested. This one raises another question — if not Texas, who would come with Texas A&M?

Texas, Texas A&M to Big Ten: This report came out of a Kansas City TV station this week, but few give it credence. On its own, Texas might be interested because of the athletic and academic fit, but politically, Texas probably needs to make sure Texas Tech and A&M have spots. The Big Ten has little interest in Tech.

Big 12 leftovers to Big East: If the Big 12 disintegrates, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State could be out in the cold. But some believe the Big East is angling to strengthen itself by scooping those schools up and forming a 20-team basketball league with at least 12 in football. The geography would be challenging, but it would be an appealing set of TV markets and adding Kansas basketball to the existing Big East powers would be interesting.

Big Ten — What's next?: It's unclear whether the league will stop with Nebraska. Many believe the conference still has interest in Rutgers, Maryland and possibly Georgia Tech. And of course Notre Dame is a match in the eyes of everyone except the Irish.

Nebraska joins Big Ten as college conference tremors continue 06/11/10 [Last modified: Saturday, June 12, 2010 1:04am]

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