It has been a rocky 2010 for the Big 12. Nebraska and Missouri have lobbied to become members of the Big Ten, and Colorado is ready to snuggle up with the Pacific 10. Commissioner Dan Beebe has suggested that he will draw a line in the sand, wanting to know who's in and who's out when league meetings begin Tuesday in Kansas City.
Division among league members has never been greater, and Beebe might best be served trying to be a uniter instead of a divider.
Money aside, the out-of-league flirtations of Missouri and Colorado are likely wrapped in fear. What would become of the Big 12 if Texas and Nebraska were to leave?
In Nebraska's case, its motivation to flee is more the result of a deep distrust of Texas. It started in 1996 with the formation of the Big 12.
Nebraska was king of college football back then, in the midst of a remarkable run that had Tom Osborne's Cornhuskers staking claims to national titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997. With victory came power and Nebraska, the marquee member of the Big 8, called the shots. That was until Texas got a seat at the new Big 12 table.
Texas led a parade of former Southwest Conference members Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor into the Big 12, and the Longhorns and Cornhuskers haggled over the direction of the new league.
A veteran writer recently shared background of this strained relationship:
"There were several disagreements between Nebraska and Texas at the time. The most contentious was over academic qualifications. Texas said no to Proposition 48 recruits (those who didn't meet minimum requirements, since amended), and Nebraska wanted them on an exception basis. Three who started Nebraska's romp over Florida for the '95 national championship were Prop. 48. But in fairness to Texas, the league voted 11-1 to not allow Prop. 48s. Still, Nebraska cried foul because Texas had junior college kids on its roster, and you could get to Texas as a Prop. 48, if you started in JC.
"Both coaches at the time, Tom Osborne and John Mackovic, opposed the Big 12 championship game, but when the presidents voted for it, Mackovic came on board and ruffled Osborne's feathers when he said coaches should let presidents do their jobs.
"Texas wanted Southwest Conference commissioner Steve Hatchell as the new Big 12 commissioner and wanted the office in Dallas. Nebraska wanted Kansas A.D. Bob Frederick and the office in Kansas City. Texas prevailed on both counts.
"There was also disagreement on how the conference came together. The old Big Eighters believed they were throwing the Texas schools a lifeline. Texas and Texas A&M had other conference options and framed the Big 12 as a new start for everybody. Remember, at the time Nebraska was the college football kingpin. It was in the midst of one of the most dominant eras ever and figured it had clout. Texas proved the Huskers wrong."
To this day, Texas continues to get its way. The site of future Big 12 title games is the latest example. According to Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman, a member of the Big 12 board of directors, the board has authorized Beebe to begin negotiations with Cowboys Stadium on a three-year extension that would keep the game in Arlington, Texas, through 2013.Osborne wants the game rotated annually, "but I don’t think many people are listening to my thoughts on it," he told Steven M. Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star.
Texas officials have stated that the Longhorns are in the Big 12 for the long haul, but Osborne and Cornhusker fans don't believe it. Texas does what's good for Texas. That's the view from Lincoln.
Now that his football program is returning to national prominence, Osborne would like nothing better than to add to his legacy. He can do it by leading Nebraska into the Big Ten and leaving Texas behind.