What an incredible wild week this has been in the world of college football. I’ve been chomping at the bit to write my Wednesday blog. And this is by far the juiciest topic I think I’ve ever written about.
The Big Ten conference announced yesterday that they were canceling fall sports for 2020. The main takeaway is that Big Ten football is done. Out of the 14 schools in the conference, most agree with the decision. Some were upset, but are playing along.
And then there is Nebraska.
My team. I grew up in Rhode Island, my Mom grew up in Nebraska, she taught me at a young age to love “Big Red.” And despite the grade school taunts of, “you like a team named after corn.” I stayed true to my allegiance. I moved out to the midwest for college and have stayed there since. Heck, I was late to my own wedding reception so that we could watch the end of a Nebraska game.
I was too young to remember the glory years of the nineties. So as punishment for my parents not having unprotected sex sooner, I have been relegated to watching the hollow shell of what use to be Nebraska football these last twenty years.
I suppose all of this is just a long winded way of me saying, I have been tapped into what’s been happening with Nebraska these last couple of days and the battle lines that they themselves and the Big Ten have drawn about playing football in 2020. I feel as qualified as anyone here at Couch Guy Sports to talk about it.
Scott Frost’s Monday Press Conference
The Big Ten released the new, conference only football schedule last Wednesday, with the new Husker season set to start September 5th at Rutgers. Nebraska as well as just about every other Big Ten school, began fall camp on Friday, things seemed all systems go.
Then on Saturday the MAC canceled their football season. It was the first domino to truly fall in Division 1 college football. Once that happened, there were rumors that other conferences would follow suit, mainly the Big Ten. And rumors came out that twelve of the fourteen schools presidents, on a conference call agreed to cancel the football season. The only two opposed, Iowa and Nebraska.
Frost was already set to do a Zoom, media press conference on Monday like many other Big Ten coaches. Prepared to talk about the first couple of practices and getting ready for an unprecedented season.
But with the rumors swirling around that the Big Ten had the football season on the chopping block, many coaches and schools canceled said scheduled press conferences.
Not Frost, not Nebraska.
Instead Scott Frost had possibly, in my opinion, his finest hour as head coach for NU. He was bold, he was succinct, he knew what he wanted to say and he said it. And what’s more, he spoke from the heart of every Nebraska fan. Frost understands this fan base, the tradition and the culture. And he displayed that perfectly on Monday.
In January of 1998 Scott Frost lobbied to help Nebraska win a national championship. Today he's lobbying to try to save a college football season. Will other coaches come out like Frost today?
— Sean Callahan (@Sean_Callahan) August 10, 2020
He came right out and said that he hopes Nebraska can play a Big Ten schedule and that he and the university, including athletic director, Bill Moos, are prepared to play no matter what and will seek every opportunity to play in 2020.
"Our University is committed to playing no matter what, no matter what that looks like and how that looks. We want to play no matter who it is or where it is."#Huskers HC Scott Frost on opponents for 2020. pic.twitter.com/kTPN9znv0v
— Husker Sports (@HuskerSports) August 10, 2020
Saying that this was a bold statement doesn’t feel like I’m giving the man justice here. He basically suggested open anarchy between the Big Ten and Nebraska is things trended the way that they went.
He also brought up some good points speaking to the economic issues that will arise if football is not played.
Scott Frost says #Nebraska estimates $80-120 million hit if there's no football season. "The biggest factor is if we don't play football, we're not going to be able to pay for anything here until we start making money again."
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) August 10, 2020
I said this before on my podcast, Verbally Committed. The financial downturn for many of these college towns, if football is not played could be catastrophic.
Think of the difference between some college towns, compared to professional cities like Boston and Foxboro.
Boston is doing fine on it’s own. It doesn’t need help from the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins. If those teams suddenly disappeared, Boston would keep on chugging along, it can sustain itself.
But Foxboro, a relatively sleepy, blue collar New England town for eight weekends a year, booms economically. There are some locally owned shops that survive because the Patriots play there 8-10 days a year. Foxboro is basically a college town that relies on it’s college football team to survive economically. (Sorry if this analogy doesn’t make a ton of sense, I am not an economics expert).
A fall without Nebraska football brings with it a sobering economic reality for the athletic department and city of Lincoln. Perspective on just how costly today's decision is from the Big Ten.https://t.co/dYc3WlEEU8
— Evan Bland (@EvanBlandOWH) August 11, 2020
Transitioning from the financial side of things, Frost also argued how he believes players are safer with their teams than to cancel the season, and treat them like normal students. I would have to agree with him on that point. You could very easily make a bubble for athletes to stay with their teams.
What Frost said however in his press conference was echoed by Husker fans everywhere. And by his own peers within the Big Ten. Top coaching names like Ryan Day, James Franklin and Jim Harbaugh followed Frost’s charge against the Big Ten.
Swinging as hard as we possibly can right now for these players!! This isn’t over! #FIGHT
— Ryan Day (@ryandaytime) August 10, 2020
I love our players & believe it is my responsibility to help them chase their dreams, both collectively & individually. I am willing to fight WITH them & for our program!#WeAre
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) August 10, 2020
Statement from Jim Harbaugh. pic.twitter.com/CftMW7d5lC
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 10, 2020
This had the feelings of the Continental Congress, with George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Hancock and Thomas Jefferson all telling Great Britain where they could stick it.
The Big Ten Strikes Back
Despite the pleas from Frost and other big name coaches within the Big Ten, the conference still voted to postpone the fall season, with the hopes of playing in spring. Let me just get this part out of the way, that is not happening. There will be no spring football season, Big Ten football is done, until the fall of 2021.
After this decision, just about every school in the conference laid down their weapons and kissed the ring with public statements of unity to their beloved conference.
— Michigan Football (@UMichFootball) August 11, 2020
This is an extraordinarily disappointing day for everyone involved with Hawkeye Football: pic.twitter.com/FyWIHPLXbu
— Hawkeye Football (@HawkeyeFootball) August 11, 2020
Everyone had the usual, we are disappointed but understand and will work with the Big Ten to come to a compromise.
Everyone that is, except for, you guessed it, Nebraska.
Nebraska releases their statement in response to the Big Ten postponing the college football season this fall. pic.twitter.com/to0x6G42pH
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) August 11, 2020
A strong statement from the University of Nebraska. This tells you that it’s not just Frost who is dead set on playing this year, but also AD Bill Moos and University Chancellor, Ronnie Green. Everyone who gets a paycheck from the university unites on this front.
While Nebraska did all of this talking, the Big Ten sat back and did not say much.
In fact, during his interview on the Big Ten Network, new conference commissioner, Kevin Warren, said basically nothing at all about Nebraska’s willingness to search for other opponents this year.
Very good work by Dave Revsine. Hot seat to be in if you're Warren. Still, that's a lot of word salad there. https://t.co/P7TNQyYj2N
— Brian Christopherson (@Husker247BC) August 11, 2020
Kevin Warren clearly knows the, “five D’s of Dodgeball; dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge” when asked this question. He took every angle he could around whether or not Nebraska could defy the Big Ten’s decision and simply play somewhere else this season.
However he gave a much more direct answer, in a very pro-Big Ten interview with Yahoo Sports.
Can Nebraska play football this fall? “Not and be a member of the Big Ten Conference,” Commissioner Kevin Warren told @YahooSports. Column on a wild 72 hours of rogue pipe dreams, Big Ten politicking and the death of unanimous conference voting. https://t.co/ArUa6foy1L
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) August 12, 2020
The answer is a big, fat, NO. Nebraska cannot be a member of the Big Ten and play elsewhere this season.
The battle lines are drawn for each side. Nebraska wants to play, and has said it will do everything within it’s power to play this year. The Big Ten responded by saying that if Nebraska plays, it’s out of the conference and on it’s own to do so.
Well for those people who say Nebraska is not relevant, they are pretty damn quiet today about it. Nebraska is basically dominating the college football headlines with their open rebellion with the Big Ten.
Not everyone is in agreement with Nebraska’s stance. Especially some prominent ESPN personalities who are Big Ten alums.
— PTI (@PTI) August 11, 2020
Mike Wilbon is a Northwestern alum, who basically just told Nebraska, if you don’t like the decision then get out and the rest of the conference will gladly slam the door shut behind you.
And just this morning Desmond Howard, a Michigan man, had some strong words for Nebraska.
— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) August 12, 2020
Desmond Howard, who is already not on Nebraska fans Christmas card list, is shooting off from the hip saying that the Big Ten should be looking for ways to kick Nebraska out because they want to play. Whenever, College Gameday visits Lincoln again, if Howard is still there, I don’t expect to ever hear him speak over the chorus of boo’s that will drown him out.
Two proud Big Ten alums, sticking up for their conference. Even the guy running the graphics on the show put up the bubble saying “The Big Ten played 115 seasons before Nebraska became a member of it (2011).”
If Nebraska doesn't find an alternative way to play football this fall, it will be the first time since 1889.
Huskers have played through the 1918 Spanish Flu, two world wars, and depression. They even played rival Oklahoma one day after JFK's assassination in 1963.
— Pat Smith (@patsmithradio) August 12, 2020
But just to remind you Big Ten apologists, Nebraska has been doing just fine since 1889. We have weathered through many a storm.
This is basically all of the blue blood programs of the Big Ten telling the new guy to sit down and shut up, you have not earned a place at the table yet.
However the seat at the table might not be as glamorous as one would think. These talking heads seem to be fixated on punishing Nebraska while letting more traditional Big Ten programs off the hook for more heinous acts.
This is well said.
What was Wilbon & @DesmondHoward's stance w/ Penn State?
What a joke. https://t.co/Vdhkv0a1aK
— Nate Clouse (@NateClouse) August 12, 2020
The Big Ten has had a myriad of issues over the last decade, from Penn State’s cover up, to Ohio State’s and now Iowa’s alleged racial issues. So for people to get all bent out of shape for Nebraska standing it’s ground and wanting to play football seems a little ridiculous.
Let’s go behind allied lines for a moment. I won’t share too many tweets, because most of them are the same. But most of Nebraska’s media has been on board with Frost’s comments and the university’s stance on the issue.
And if you want a true gauge on where the state and fanbase stands on the issue look no further than Tom Shatel’s column that dropped last night.
Both Nebraska and the Big Ten came into this marriage thinking they were doing the other one a favor.
— World-Herald Big Red (@OWHbigred) August 12, 2020
Frost had some strong words for the Big Ten. Now Shatel has some strong words for Husker Nation.
Nebraska has never truly fit into the Big Ten. They have never truly found their identity. And while it seemed as though Nebraska was running to the Big Ten a decade ago, it was more that they were running from the Big 12 and the monopoly the University of Texas was trying to build.
That hatred should really be directed at Texas…..Texas tried to ruin the big12.
— Miles (@gmiles80) August 11, 2020
Sure Big Ten stability is nice, but it’s not like Nebraska’s relevancy or brand hinges on it’s partnership with the Big Ten.
With statements like this you can see where Nebraska is fine with being the independent rebel child. We have been there before with the Big 12, and we are here again with the Big Ten. We are not Northwestern, Purdue or Indiana our legacy does not depend on the conference.
Big Ten schools have historically looked at conference peers as partners.
Nebraska has historically looked at conference peers as rivals.
One philosophy fosters loyalty. One produces independence. You’ve seen it clearly the past 24 hours.
— Dirk Chatelain (@dirkchatelain) August 11, 2020
What Comes Next, You’ve (Maybe) Been Freed, Do You Know How Hard it is to Lead? You’re On Your Own. Awesome. Wow.
So what does come next for Nebraska and the Big Ten? I’m afraid there aren’t a ton of immediate fireworks.
When all of this dropped, the first immediate thought that came to many people’s minds was to put Nebraska back in the Big 12 for a season.
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) August 10, 2020
As fun as that would be, I don’t believe that will be happening. The Big 12 released their schedule today, perhaps to get ahead of that possible rumor, and from what I’ve seen, I don’t see Nebraska scheduled against anyone.
Perhaps an independent schedule? It would be doable, but that would be taking a huge leap. And if Kevin Warren sticks to his word, that means Nebraska is done with the Big Ten for good, and is now on its own with no conference to speak of.
Not only that, but the Big Ten, legally speaking would have Nebraska in a bit of a financial bind.
— Joe Quinn (@JoeQuinnShow) August 12, 2020
Now TV money isn’t everything to Nebraska. Bill Moos has stated, that it takes the ticket sales from roughly two home games to fund every other non-money making sport at Nebraska. But it is still quite a large chunk of change the Huskers would be giving up.
What is a big development is that as I write this, Ryan Day the head coach at Ohio State, came out and said basically the same exact thing as Frost and Nebraska did a couple of days ago.
Ryan Day on playing this fall somehow: "Gene [Smith] and I talked at length about this. We’re still exploring all those options. This thing is moving and changing. We are looking at everything." Has had no communication with Big Ten about what's possible.
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) August 12, 2020
And this is a potential monumental ally for Nebraska. As I mentioned, to the rest of the Big Ten, Nebraska is nothing, they are viewed right now as the whiny new kid. But now all of a sudden if the main power of the conference, the team that sits at the head of the table speaks out, that has everyone’s attention.
The conversation just shifted. A lot. A lot a lot.
If Nebraska has Ohio State as an ally in looking for options? Nebraska has the league giant on its side. https://t.co/EmoCKdZaHl
— Sam McKewon (@swmckewonOWH) August 12, 2020
I wonder what Michael Wilbon and Desmond Howard will have to say about this? Surely the punishment must be the same for mighty Ohio State! The Big Ten has to be looking for ways to kick them out of the league.
My prediction however is that Nebraska loses the 2020 season. There is too much stacked against them right now. The Big Ten seemingly, at the moment, refuses to budge on letting teams find their own options to play, and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for Nebraska to join another conference or make it’s own schedule up with all of this uncertainty.
But I would not be shocked if Tom Shatel was right about this being the beginning of the end between Nebraska and the Big Ten, shots have been fired by both sides that perhaps may have caused irreparable damage.
I love my Nebraska Cornhuskers, I would run through a brick wall for Scott Frost, and I am proud of the stance they are taking. They have held back zero punches when it comes to the fact that they want to play football.
And for some of you that might seem crazy in this pandemic infested world. But please understand this. People in this state care deeply for their Husker football. You can go ahead and joke that it’s just a fly over state full of corn and nothing else. And that’s why this fanbase is so passionate. We need our football. Whether it’s good or more recently bad. And that is something you just don’t understand unless you live here.
For those of you saying it’s irresponsible to play with everything going on. Please understand that your world, and new normal during Coronavirus is different from that of the rural midwest. Is it fair that you have to quarantine at home and wear masks everywhere while the opposite happens out here? No, but that’s just how it is. And even with the laissez-faire approach to the pandemic, Nebraska still has decent numbers.
Today I am proud to be a Husker fan. Rebellious and standing up for what we believe in and fighting for that.
We “Big Red” fans will always do as the fight song says “All stick together, in all kinds of weather for dear old Nebraska U.”
Because, there is no place like Nebraska.