It's not every day that the Big Ten adds a member. In fact, it has been 20 years since the Nittany Lions from Penn State jumped in with us. Poor Penn State received the cold shoulder at first, as their membership took a few years to fully take effect. Nebraska seems to have been welcomed from day one, and even with it a new acceptance for Penn State.
Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue, and Wisconsin (along with the University of Chicago) were the charter members back in 1896. Our own President, James H. Smart (who deserves his own Profile In Badassery at some point) was the driving force behind the formation of the conference:
A meeting of seven Midwest university presidents on January 11, 1895, at the Palmer House in Chicago to discuss the regulation and control of intercollegiate athletics was the first development of what would become one of organized sports' most successful undertakings.
Those seven men, behind the leadership of James H. Smart, president of Purdue University, established the principles for which the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives, now known as the Big Ten Conference, would be founded.
At that meeting, a blueprint for the control and administration of college athletics under the direction of appointed faculty representatives was outlined. The presidents' first-known action "restricted eligibility for athletics to bonafide, full-time students who were not delinquent in their studies."
This helped limit some problems of the times, especially the participation of professional athletes and "non-students" in regular sporting events. That important legislation, along with other legislation that would follow in the coming years, served as the primary building block for amateur intercollegiate athletics.
Indiana and Iowa would join in 1899. Ohio State came in by 1912 (in the middle of a nine year stretch where Michigan was out). Michgian State gave us ten members again in 1950, four years after the university of Chicago left as an athletic member. Penn State would join 41 years later, with Nebraska completing the membership today.
The Cornhuskers join the oldest collegiate athletic conference in the United States. As we all know, the Big Ten is steeped in tradition, both athletic and academic. The conference is home to 251 NCAA National Champions, and that number does not include football (of which there is no official NCAA Division I-A champion). All but two of those schools (Purdue with three and Northwestern with six) have won at least 19 National Championships. As an introduction to our new conference brothers, let's learn about their tradition and see what they add to the conference:
This is often a source of bragging rights for fans within the conference. We love to throw Neil Armstrong out there and remind IU fans that they produced Jim Jones. Each school has multiple alumni that are known by everyone for their accomplishments. While none of these guys have walked on the moon or landed a commercial airliner in a freezing river Nebraska is no different:
John J. Pershing - Pershing was the general in charge of the American Expeditionary Force during World War I. As a result, he has held the highest rank ever held in the history of the Army. He even won a Pulitzer Prize for his memoirs. This dude was a serious badass with whom you did not mess with.
Johnny Carson - Yes, THE Johnny Carson as the 30-year host of the Tonight Show. He graduated in 1949.
Warren Buffett - Billionaire and someone for Indiana's Mark Cuban to talk trash with in the billionaire's club.
Rulon Gardner - The man who defeated the undefeated heavyweight for the gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. He also survived getting shot in the abdomen with an arrow during show and tell while in elementary school (which is a school that builds character!), survived falling into a frozen river and being stranded for 18 hours while snowmobiling (losing only a toe), and survived crashing a light plane into a lake, swimming two hours in 44 degree water, and spending the night without shelter. Clearly, the dude is such a badass that he cannot die.
Football - Clearly, this is why we brought them into the conference. With three Heisman Trophy winners and five National Championships they will fit right in with the Big Ten. They are one of eight teams with 800 wins in college football, and three of the others (Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State) are now with them in the conference. They have sold out every home game for almost 50 years.
Women's Volleyball - The Cornhuskers have won three National Championships and they were the last team not named Penn State to win the title back in 2006. Considering that our own volleyball program is reaching these heights the addition of the Cornhuskers will only better prepare us for the NCAA Tournament.
Men's Basketball - They aren't as bad as Northwestern, but the Cornhuskers are 0-for-the NCAA Tournament. They did not receive a bid for the first time until 1986. In six appearances they are 0-6 all-time. Still, Northwestern looks up to them in basketball like an 8th grade boy looks up to a freshman who has felt a boob.
Baseball - With the addition of Nebraska we no longer have to look back to the early 80's for the last time a Big Ten team made the College World Series. The Cornhuskers played in the 2001, 2002, and 2005 CWS nearby in Omaha.
Men's Gymnastics - Nebraska has won eight NCAA titles in men's gymnastics.
Bowling - I didn't even know Bowling was an NCAA sport, but Nebraska has won three of their titles, most recently in 2009.
Tunnel Walk - Allow me to simply post a video, as this is one of the Final Four of traditions in the new NCAA 2012 game:
Nicknames - I think the Blackshirts is an awesome nickname for their defense. In the past they have also been called the Bugeaters and Rattlesnake Boys. That's about as cool as the Railsplitters, Pumpkin Shuckers, and Cornfield Sailors for us.
In all sports Nebraska is far and away the leader for Academic All-Americans with 277. Notre Dame is a distant second with 216. Unfortunately, they have been kicked out of the Association of American Universities, of which every other school in the conference is a member.
History with Purdue:
Let's get to the most important thing: How have they faired against Purdue when they have faced our mighty Boilermakers?
Football - They may be a nationally recognized program, but against schools from the state of Indiana they are a dismal 16-17-4. They are 8-7-1 against Notre Dame all-time and 1-0 against Ball State, but we own a 1-0 series lead with them. The lone game was a 28-0 win for Purdue on September 27, 1958 in Ross-Ade Stadium. Purdue finished 6-1-2 that year while Nebraska was 3-7.
Surprisingly, Indiana is 9-7-3 against them. The Indiana Hoosiers. In Football. Own a winning record. Against one of the all-time best teams in the history of the sport. Yes, my mind is blown too.
Men's Basketball - Purdue leads this series 6-2 before we only play once (at least) in this coming season. We last played December 11, 1979 when I was two months old, winning 78-56 in Mackey Arena. Nebraska last won December 5, 1964 96-85 in Lincoln. Their only win in West Lafayette was a 65-62 triumph on December 17, 1956, so they have never won in Mackey Arena. Of course, this does keep our winning record against every Big Ten foe intact.
So these are our new conference brothers. It doesn't feel quite real yet since they are not on our football schedule for two more years (unless we miraculously reach the Big Ten Championship game) and we only play them once each season in basketball. I am still proud to add their tradition to the conference and I am much happier with them here instead of Notre Dame.