A disclaimer for this post: I have always had a lot of respect for Nebraska's football team. Sure I like to make fun of how insane, pale, narrowly-focused, pale, and pale their fanbase is, but it is hard not to respect the program and the culture around it.
This move by Nebraska to join the Big Ten has left me with a sour taste in my mouth, and I think I have finally figured out why. Yes, I understand the idea of wanting stability and the Big XII is not exactly stable right now (and over the summer when the Big Ten move was made it was looked at as a sinking ship). But the part that doesn't make sense to me is that the Nebraska fans and administration seem to be so effing happy about the move. You are Nebraska, you aren't supposed to worry about conference stability, and really there was/is no need to worry anyway. Once conference realignment shook out Nebraska would have been fine (at least you have to believe you would be because hey... you are freaking Nebraska right?). Is big, bad Nebraska really that excited about conference stability? Surely not. Maybe the issue is, you aren't Nebraska anymore... maybe that is why a change was needed.
And this is the part where you would think I would launch into saying that Nebraska is leaving because they can't beat Texas... not so. The reason Nebraska is leaving the Big XII (in my
drunken expert opinion), is because of Oklahoma State. Okay... well not specifically Oklahoma State, but programs like Oklahoma State... the middle and lower tier programs in the Big XII and especially the ones from the Big 8.
What I mean is, Nebraska is still accepting the fact that they aren't the Nebraska of old anymore, and that no one is Nebraska anymore (winning 85% of your games over a 4 decade span just aint happening ever again). Sure Nebraska can still have good stretches of seasons, win some conference titles here and there, and be competitive, but that is a big shift for the fanbase and the school to think of themselves as that kind of a program. So in order to fully come to terms with this new program identity, there needs to be an acceptable justification... one that isn't "We just aren't that Nebraska anymore". And losing to Oklahoma State, Iowa State, etc, and going .500 in a conference they used to dominate is a constant reminder that Nebraska isn't Nebraska anymore.
Enter a new conference.
Now, as a member of the Big Ten, if Nebraska goes 6-6 they can say "Well, that's what happens in the stout Big Ten". If Nebraska loses to Michigan State or Northwestern or Purdue, it is "Welcome to the Big Ten where there are no easy wins". Nebraska isn't leaving the Big 12 because they can't beat Texas, they are leaving because it is alright to lose to Wisconsin. There is no history there. There is not as direct of a way to compare a win or loss to Wisconsin to Nebraska performances of old. The Big Ten offers a built-in excuse to not be Nebraska anymore.
Whether you agree or disagree with my theory, the one question you definitely have is "Why the hell do I care?". Here is why.... I care because I feel like Oklahoma State is being robbed a little. For 50 years Oklahoma State fans have looked up at Nebraska and Oklahoma (and Texas for 15 years), in the conference standings and dreamed of catching them. At the beginning of every season we would find a ton of reasons that this was the year we take down the two giants, then when it didn't happen we would regroup and wait for the day when it would happen. Now that Oklahoma State has finally built a program that can threaten to content on the level of the giants (thanks to scholarship limits, T Boone, and various other reasons), Nebraska just packs up and leaves.
This is supposed to be the time when we exercise the demons of 0-36-1 from 1962 - 1999, and continue the trend of 3-1 from 2002 - present... and we don't get to do that. And maybe that is a weird way to view this, but as an Oklahoma State fan, who can somehow find a way to make everything about Oklahoma State, it feels like we are getting close to one of our program goals, only to have the finish line removed. I wanted the chance to see Oklahoma State compete with, and maybe actually beat, Nebraska for the next 30 years... to experience the swing of the series momentum to the other side... but for a variety of reasons (one of which I believe is because they can't handle the series swinging the other way) they have decided to end it instead.
ps. Yes, I get that my complaint is more about conference re-alignment in general than it is about Nebraska, but since Nebraska is the first "landmark" program to leave, and I believe is doing it partially for reasons I don't particularly like, they get to be the ones I complain about. I'm sure that someone in 1959 was probably bitching in the same way about Oklahoma State ruining the dynamic of the Big 7, but it doesn't mean can't come up with a lame pseudo-psychological theory as to why they are leaving.