I have not crossed so far into these “seasoned” years that I don’t remember a time when traditions in college football meant something.Â I grew up in the Big 8, where every single conference member’s home field was no more than a day’s drive (at the national mandatory speed limit of 55 mph) from one another and most times, you caught the game on AM radio.Â Football was king and everything else – school, farming, life; revolved around it.Â Saturdays Memorial Stadium at the Lincoln campus turned into the 2nd largest population center in Nebraska.Â As the days became shorter, the skies taking on a dull, steel grey as winter neared, we moved past the appetizers on the schedule and into the meat of the conference schedule.Â We had our rivalries, but some just transcended everything else.Â For us in Nebraska, it was the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry.Â Nothing else mattered – bowl games and mythical national championships were secondary.Â The passage from fall to winter was marked by the clash of Scarlet and Cream of the Huskers against the Crimson and Cream of the Sooners — either in Lincoln or in Norman.Â Winter’s long, bitter passage in the Plains states could be partially alleviated with the warmth of knowing that the Sooners (or Huskers) had to endure a year of waiting to redeem their loss…Â And of all the games in the storied rivalry, none, and I mean none, matched the Game of the Century, in Norman between the 1971 edition of the Huskers and Sooners.
Alas, with lust for TV revenue in their eyes and the incorporation of half of the former Southwestern Conference in 1994 (competition began in 1996), the traditions of the Bog 8, and our most important and storied rivalry began to fade.Â With official news on the morrow, it appears the stake has been well and truly driven home as Nebraska appears to be setting sail for the Big 10 conference, while Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the schools in the Texas division head for the Pac 10 (KU, KSU, ISU — where?), all in the pursuit of more TV exposure and revenue.
Michigan, Iowa, MSU, OSU and Penn State and others await, and there’s rivalry enough I supposeÂ there.
Hello Big 10, so long Big 12 (8)…
Still, it just won’t be the same…
In the land of the pickup truck and cream gravy for breakfast, down where the wind can blow through the walls of a diner and into the grieving lyrics of a country song on a jukeboxâ€”down there in dirt-kicking Big Eight territoryâ€”they played a football game on Thanksgiving Day that was mainly for the quarterbacks on the field and for self-styled gridiron intellectuals everywhere. The spectacle itself was for everybody, of course, for all of those who had been waiting weeks for Nebraska to meet Oklahoma, or for all the guys with their big stomachs and bigger Stetsons, and for all the luscious coeds who danced through the afternoons drinking daiquiris out of paper cups. But the game of chess that was played with bodies, that was strictly for the cerebral types who will keep playing it into the ages and wondering whether it was the greatest collegiate football battle ever. Under the agonizing conditions that existed, it well may have been. (Dan Jenkins, Sports Illustrated, 1971)