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TIME OUT with Joe Flanagan

Nebraska, Big 10

Are you ready? The University of Nebraska is officially a member of the Big 10 Conference. Well, as of Friday, anyway.
The time is here. It’s reality. Say it out loud. Nebraska, Big 10 Conference.
Maybe it’s just been me, but Nebraska’s move to the Big 10 has seemed like something of an abstraction this past year.
Yes, the deal was done, the vote tallied, the announcement trumpeted across the college athletic landscape. It was an NCAA bombshell at this time last summer. The entire country was buzzing with the news and Husker fans were generally gleeful.
However, after the initial hoopla, we still had a full calendar of competition remaining in the Big 12. Conference realignment certainly wasn’t forgotten, but it took a back seat to business at hand.
We suffered through another excruciating gridiron loss to the Burnt Orange, watched the late Husker offensive collapse deflate a season of promise, endured another “who cares?” basketball campaign and more baseball woes, costing a head coach his employment.
Not exactly a farewell victory tour.
Oh, the volleyball team had another strong season and the softball girls put together an outstanding effort this spring. The track & field program continued to represent Nebraska well and the Husker wrestlers … well, I don’t know how the wrestlers did, to be quite honest.
All in all, however, after failing to win a final Big 12 football championship, it all seemed rather anticlimactic. There were seasons to play, games to watch, athletes to cheer, but always the distraction of anticipation for what lay ahead.
Even that anticipation was hard to get a firm grasp on. The Big 10. Wow. New challenges, new rivals, new opportunities. But …
It never completely sank in. It was reality, but the vision was hazy, like trying to peer too far down an endless country road.
About a week ago, the Omaha World-Herald began running features on Big 10 institutions and their athletic programs, a primer leading up to Friday. One day Michigan, the next Ohio State. Then Iowa.
Monday came the announcement that Nebraska would be hosting it’s first conference championship event – indoor track & field – next February.
That’s when I got the goosebumps. Yes, Nebraska really is in the Big 10 Conference! The Big House. The Horseshoe. Penn State’s whiteout. Dotting the I at Ohio State halftime. The Little Brown Jug. Bo. Woody.

The Big 10 might not be the best college athletic conference in the country, but there’s little doubt it holds the most tradition. And no conference receives media attention and accolades like the Big 10.
I know many of us have laughed about a conference that couldn’t even count correctly when it added Penn State in 1990. And now there will be 12.
There can be no laughing about this opportunity though. It’s real. Nebraska is not only joining the Big 10, but being welcomed and embraced with open arms.
Now, a chance to play in the venerable Rose Bowl. The opportunity to visit some of the nation’s most storied football and basketball venues. An annual Thanksgiving rivalry with Iowa that already seems more intriguing than the match-up with Colorado in years past. Heck, Kirk Herbstreit on our side for once!
While those of us a certain age will probably always think of the old Big 8 as “home,” this has the right feel too. Nebraska, Big 10.
We’ll never forget the Big 12 entirely, but there won’t be the cherished memories of the Big 8 Conference that we’re proud to drag out and relive time and again, like a well-worn scrapbook.
Animosities are not the same as rivalries.
I  do believe, years from now, we’ll proudly display a new scrapbook, bursting at the seams with memories of excitement and exploits in our “new home”, complete with fresh rivalries and respect.
Nebraska, Big 10.

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