So long, Big 12. Nebraska's membership in the Big Ten Conference is official.
The Big Ten's board of presidents and chancellors unanimously welcomed Nebraska to the club on Friday afternoon, a little more than an hour after the school announced it had applied for membership. The move takes effect July 1, 2011.
Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said the Big Ten offers stability "that the Big 12 simply cannot offer."
Nebraska is the Big Ten's first addition since 1990, when Penn State became the 11th member, and it comes just six months after the league announced that it was looking at expansion.
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said he presumed there would be a Big Ten championship football game beginning in 2011. He also said the conference would "pause" from further expansion over the next 12 to 18 months. He declined to comment on whether Notre Dame or any other school was on the league's radar.
Delany, wearing a red-and-white tie and a 'N' lapel pin, said he anticipates a wonderful marriage between Nebraska and the Big Ten.
"This beautiful girl, quite honestly, wasn't going to be there forever," Delany said, referring to the Huskers. "They were faced with some tough decisions. We had done enough personal interaction with them that we felt this would be a great fit. We encouraged Nebraska to go down that road."
Nebraska leaves behind a Big 12 that had already lost Colorado to the Pac-10 this week. Perlman also said the Pac-10 had been in touch with many schools in the Big 12 South, suggesting Texas, Oklahoma and others could be the next to leave.
"We were worried about stability in the conference," athletic director Tom Osborne said, "and as a result we thought this was by far the best thing we could do."
Nebraska's move to the Big Ten is the biggest yet in an offseason overhaul that will leave college sports looking much different by this time next year.
"We've had a couple disappointing days with the departure of two valued members," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said during a teleconference. Beebe vowed to work to keep the 10 remaining members together but acknowledged that other Big 12 schools are mulling their options.
Perlman said he believed Nebraska is much more "aligned" with the Big Ten than the Big 12 when it comes to academics, culture and athletics. And he said Nebraska shouldn't be considered the "bad guy" in the Big 12.
"One school leaving a conference does not destroy a conference," Perlman said. "Nebraska did not start this discussion. After the Big Ten announced it planned to consider expansion, we saw reports that Missouri would want to go to the Big Ten, including a statement by their governor, a member of board of curators and chancellor — comments that weren't clearly supportive of the Big 12."
Perlman said the Big 12 had given Nebraska a Monday ultimatum to decide what to do. Perlman said Beebe requested that Nebraska publicly commit to staying put until at least 2016, but the chancellor said he couldn't do that because no other Big 12 school would do the same.
The biggest deal-breaker, Perlman said, was that Texas would not agree to promise to assign its broadcast rights to the Big 12 rather than explore starting its own TV network.
To generations of Nebraska fans, going to the Big Ten at one time would have been unthinkable. The school's athletic tradition is built on more than a century of football games against the likes of Missouri and Kansas, dating to the days the team was known as the Bugeaters.
The Huskers, in fact, have been conference partners with Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kansas State since 1928; with Colorado since 1948 and with Oklahoma State since 1960.
Now the Huskers are on the verge of taking their five national titles in football, three Heisman trophies and enthusiastic fans east. They will look to start building new traditions, like a border rivalry with the Iowa Hawkeyes and regular trips to Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
At Iowa State, a Big 12 school rarely mentioned in realignment discussions, officials sent an open letter to boosters expressing disappointment in the moves by Colorado and Nebraska.
"But as all of the discussions about conference realignment illustrate, the future of college athletics appears to be less about academics and competitive success and more about money, as measured by television viewership and the associated revenues," the letter said.
Fatter paychecks will be coming to Nebraska, eventually. Nebraska received about $10 million from the Big 12 in 2009, half the $20 million received by Big Ten members (thanks largely to bigger television contracts and the in-house Big Ten Network).
The Big Ten told Perlman that no current member would receive a reduced share of revenue from the conference because of the addition of a new member. Perlman said Nebraska has been assured it would not receive less than it did in the Big 12, however, if it joins the Big Ten.
"This is not a financial windfall," Osborne said.
Delany has said he wanted to add only members that would be considered "home runs." The Huskers' football team struggled in the early and mid 2000s but have returned to national prominence the past two seasons under coach Bo Pelini, an Ohio State alumnus.
As for the Big 12, it never was a comfortable fit for the Huskers.
When the league formed, Nebraska football was at its pinnacle, having won three national titles between 1994-97 and winning 60 of 63 games before Osborne retired as coach.
That success didn't translate to juice when it came to influencing league policies.
Nebraska and the old Big Eight members, all of whom went to the Big 12, believed they were helping out Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor when the old Southwest Conference collapsed.
The perception in Nebraska was that the Big 12's balance of power was held by the South Division, particularly Texas.
Nebraska from day one was against a championship game in football, for fear it could trip up a team bidding for a national title. But even issues ranging from academic admission standards to location of the league office (Dallas) chafed Nebraska.
When the league last week picked Cowboys Stadium to host the next three conference championship football games — after hosting the 2009 and 2010 games — Osborne complained that continual treks south are unfair to fans of the North representative.
"This is not about any type of vindictiveness," Osborne said. "You don't make a decision of this size based on where you're going to play Big 12 championship games."