Like the couple in an unhappy marriage that finally calls it quits and separates, the Big XII split from Nebraska & Colorado after an awkward year-long waiting period. Nebraska is officially in the increasingly inappropriately named Big Ten, and Colorado is off to greener pastures in the new-look Pac 12. And like a scorned lover, the Big XII has slimmed down to a svelte ten members, grabbed a new hairpiece off the shelf and gone hunting for any sweet young thing that can soothe its battered ego (hello FOX Sports!)
While this move has been coming for over a year, it’s still strange to see the banner of the Big XII website only list ten members. And for IowaState, losing Nebraska and Colorado is slightly bittersweet. While IowaState has found solid footing in a strong conference, with more money & TV exposure on the way in 2012; it is losing universities that have been conference mates for over 60 years.
As the last member to join the old Big Eight Conference, Colorado has never had much of a rivalry with ISU, and had been angling to join the Pac 10 for a number of years. Their football team recruits a good number of their players from California, and this move will deepen that recruiting base. But due to fiscal mismanagement over the years, Colorado’s athletic department is deep in the red, with CU initially planning on leaving the Big XII in 2012 because they couldn’t afford the buyout clause. So with this move, Colorado has sunk themselves further in debt & expanded their travel budget for a similar payout to what they would be receiving in the new Big XII.
Meanwhile, Nebraska seems to fit perfectly in with the Big Ten (except for that whole AAU thing). Besides being a good geographic match, NU leans heavily on its tradition & seems reluctant to change, like the crotchety old man next door who insists things were better in the 50's before "the you know who's" took over.
Nebraska also prides itself on having the best fans in the nation. This is debatable. What isn't debatable is the type of niceness Nebraska exudes is the passive-aggressive, Midwest-nice that sets teeth on edge. This is the type of nice that congratulates the opponent for a "good try" after a 45-7 beating in football. A niceness that is born from years of dominant football teams being the only game in Nebraska, conditioning fans to expect undefeated seasons every year. It's also developed some remarkably thin-skinned fans. It's easy to be nice to your opponents while walking all over them, it's losing that shows true character.
In that way, Iowa State has been the anti-Nebraska. Iowa State could never point to national championships or Heisman trophy winners in its history. But the years of suffering through losing seasons and blowout losses engendered a toughness to the fanbase. Iowa State fans relish every win and shake off the losses. There's no arrogance to the fanbase, just an enjoyment of the teams and the university they support.
So yeah, enjoy the new conferences Colorado & Nebraska. Hopefully Iowa State can schedule a few home & home series in the future, for old times sake.