Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Nebraska rivalries will take time to build
By Adam Rittenberg
It's nice to feel wanted, and Nebraska has been feeling the love since being admitted to the Big Ten earlier this month.
Officials and fans representing teams like Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Minnesota and even Michigan have expressed interest in potential rivalries with Nebraska.
Bret Bielema looked into scheduling an end-of-year series with Nebraska just hours after Nebraska joined the Big Ten.
Wisconsin has been the most aggressive, at least publicly, as head coach Bret Bielema contacted the Big Ten office about scheduling an end-of-year series with Nebraska just hours after the Huskers were voted into the league. Bielema told me a few days later: "With Coach [Tom] Osborne's and Coach [Barry] Alvarez's history, maybe we can start a little trophy game. Call it the Alvaborn Cup or something like that. We don't have a season-ending finale game, so maybe we can start a tradition here."
Alvarez, the Wisconsin athletic director, sees the potential, too. Wisconsin could use a regular rival on the final Saturday of the season, now that the Minnesota game has been moved earlier.
But as a former Nebraska player, Alvarez also understands that rivalries don't happen with the snap of a finger or a phone call. Matchups like Nebraska-Oklahoma and Nebraska-Colorado took time to build, and the same will hold true in the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers haven't played a regular-season game against a Big Ten team since 2003 (Penn State).
"I don’t think you just say, ‘We’re going to be rivals,’" Alvarez said. "That grows. That’s your fans and the teams and the coaches, they establish a rivalry. You don’t just mark it on your calendar that we have a rivalry. [Wisconsin and Nebraska] haven't played since 1974."
Minnesota and Nebraska have met 51 times, most recently in 1990.
"[A rivalry] makes sense because of the geography, because we’ve played them more than anybody else, so there seems to be some good history," Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi said. "That will happen over time."
Again, the ingredients for great rivalries with Nebraska are there in the Big Ten. But it's important to allow these things to simmer for a while.