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Friday, June 11, 2010
Smart choice, but contradiction for Huskers

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and athletic director Tom Osborne stood before the university's board of regents, and if there was a shred of doubt among the board, there couldn't have been when the two men finished.

They confidently laid out a compelling case for the program they love so much to shift its affiliation to the Big Ten, and anyone who voted against the motion might not have made it out of the meeting room alive.

 Harvey Perlman and Tom Osborne
After Perlman and Osborne made the case for Nebraska applying to join the Big Ten, the board of regents approved the move on a 12-0 vote.
But twelve sure-voiced "yes" votes later, Nebraska's board of regents unanimously approved submitting an application to the Big Ten.

Osborne got out in front of the criticisms, knocking them out one-by-one like he did 25 straight opponents in 1994 and 1995 on the way to back-to-back national titles.

Financial risk? Nebraska is submitting its application with the assurance that the university not receive any less money from the Big Ten than they would from the Big 12, and allowing the conference to ease them into full financial membership.

People who want to paint the Huskers as disloyal?

"Schools that were urging us to stay had talked to as many as three conferences," Osborne said. "At that point you begin to wonder where you’re going to get yourself if you make a commitment."

Concerns over increased --and more difficult -- student athlete travel?

"We may have to fly a little more, the connections will be a little bit better," Osborne said. "We will not spend any more time on the road -- maybe less."

You're just mad about the conference's shift to the South, Tom!

"You don’t make a decision of this size based on where you’re going to play the Big 12 championship game," Osborne said. "That’s not even an issue."

So what happens when Nebraska's recruiting trail in Texas stops being beaten?

Osborne admits they may lose a few recruits in Texas, but they won't stop recruiting the state, and have now gained access to states like Ohio. And with more national broadcasts -- even in nonrevenue sports -- on the Big Ten Network, they may be able to recruit the oft-mentioned Sun Belt more than some people realize.

You won't hear an argument from me against the Huskers leaving. Not that I want to see them go, but Osborne and Perlman both made the case that Nebraska is better aligned with the Big Ten academically, culturally and even in climate. He twice took a poll of coaches and administrators to gauge their feelings on a move to the Big Ten, and like the board of regents, they unanimously supported the move.

It was a smart choice. But Nebraska, don't try to shill the idea that you didn't break up this conference. That instead, Texas, Missouri or Colorado is to blame. The big fault in Perlman and Osborne's presentation to the board is its obvious self-contradiction.

Perlman confirmed that schools were given an ultimatum at last week's Big 12 meetings. Texas said if Missouri left, it would stay and not leave for the Pac-10. The same for Colorado.

"They could not commit if both left," Perlman said.

But if Nebraska stayed, Texas made it clear they would, too.

Then, minutes after Perlman chastised Missouri for its wandering eye, saying that school officials' statements did not demonstrate a clear commitment to the Big 12, Osborne passed the onus for the Big 12's looming end off to Texas.

"One school leaving does not break up a conference. Two schools leaving does not break up a conference," he said. "Six schools leaving breaks up a conference."

So, to be clear, Texas says they'll stay if you stay. Then you leave. I'm not saying it's a bad decision, but if we're placing blame for decimating the conference, point to Lincoln.

They may not be the grenade, but Osborne knew by leaving, he was pulling the pin. He emphasized that all discussions in Kansas City were "professional and civil," emphasized his respect for leaders like Texas' DeLoss Dodds and hoped they felt the same way about him.

Well, they might, but you're not helping when you give them no choice but to stay in the Big 12 and lose money or leave and make more.

So, please, Nebraska. Spare us your deflection of blame. You made the decision (an easy one) that was right for your university. That's your right. I applaud that. I would have made the same decision.

But if the Big 12 ultimately ceases to exist, it's your fault.