Wriiten by best sportswriter in Nebraska, Sam McKewon:
A league that spurns and mocks Nebraska now will fracture soon enough
By Samuel McKewon, Nebraska StatePaper.com
December 02, 2010
“There is the moral of all human tales;'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.First freedom and then Glory - when that fails,Wealth, vice, corruption - barbarism at last.”-Lord Byron
“Go ahead and sell me out and I'll lay your s*** bare.”-Adele, "Rolling In the Deep"
In his five-piece series entitled “The Course of Empire,” painter Thomas Cole brilliantly evoked the arc of world civilizations as of 1833: The Savage State, a wilderness still untamed; a Pastoral stage that emphasized harmony with nature and simplicity; the Consummation of Empire, which depicted a world government at the height of its powers; Destruction, in which chaos and revolution reaches a fever pitch in pure distress; and Desolation, the ruins that remain after the rubble stops smoldering. Cole saw the cycle as inexorable - he quoted Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgramage" to drive his point home.
It's a basic-but-brilliant guide to how great structures – of bricks, of principles, of people – are built by the ingrained human desire for more, and toppled by the excess of protean ambition that alights on whatever fallen fancy happens to catch man's eye in the moment. For David it was Bathsheba, for Julius Caesar a Rubicon, for Marie Antoinette a necklace, and for the Best and Brightest, a cockeyed fascination with occupying a small nation in Southeast Asia.
For the Big 12 Conference – certainly no empire of Caesar, but packed with its share of Marie Antoinettes – that object of desire appears obvious: An eye toward placating Texas, at all costs. But that is a recent phenomenon, brought to bear only under pressure. Beneath the surface idolatry of league officials is an embedded one that I think has dogged the Big 12 for years: A yearning for legitimacy in a ESPN-run universe that pinches the Midwest on all sides. The Big Ten has more TV sets and revered academic institutions. The Big East has proximity. The ACC has basketball. The Pac-10 has irrelevancy, a hidden, useful virtue. The SEC draws the fascination of those who like their football with a side platter rank corruption, Confederate flags, belles and buttermilk (the drink and otherwise).
What the old Southwest Conference and Big Eight each enjoyed for decades – a homogeneity in values and people, a toughness forged by landscape – fit Steinbeck more than Sportscenter. When the Big 12 formed, it was done by men with an eye to Madison Avenue. To creating a product, a package.
As the league begins to fall apart – beginning what I predict is a five-year descent into Destruction that could alter the course of several academic institutions for years – pay close attention to the school that Big 12 officials and certain media members attack: The one where the journey meant more than the destination. Where football culture preaches More Than Winning. Where, although its citizens – including the current head coach - sometimes screw up, they nevertheless return, almost prodigally, to this central idea: Come together and do it right, and it will work. Nebraska.
In the last four months, critics mocked the program, Bo Pelini, Tom Osborne, the players, the traditions, the history and, most of all, the Husker fans. Most of those taunts and critiques reeked of intellectual dishonesty - worse than ignorance, because it speaks to a willful manipulation of the facts for cheap points. Shots across the bow of NU are inevitably jabs thrown at the fan base because, as the city-slicks in Kansas City and Dallas would say of this state, there's nothing else to do here. Critics took umbrage with Husker fans who travel well, are friendly and take some element of contentment in both qualities. A variety of columns this week – I won't do them justice – were so derivative and reflexive in their teeth-bearing nature that they seemed to convulse from a league-wide knee-jerk delivered out of home office by commissioner Dan Beebe.
Writers juxtaposed Nebraska as it “used to be” with what it's “become,” as if there weren't always stories of doofs and daredevils in every fan base. Radio jocks have slammed NU's move to the Big Ten as a betrayal more than a defection – which it is, borne out of necessity, to avoid the collapse that's to come. Usually foresight is a good thing. But when Nebraska was only one of two schools with any sense of duty to its citizenry – Colorado cleverly maneuvered its way to the new-albeit-shoddy Pac-12 – of course it seemed like arrogance. Especially to the school that specializes in it – Missouri.
You can bet the mark will be on Nebraska's back for several years as it struggles with a laughably hard schedule in the Big Ten. The media is gifted at peddling recycled headlines until a new one comes along. But don't kid yourself: By the time NU is finally settling into the Big Ten's unique culture and values – it won't be an easy transition – you'll see the orphans of the Big 12 – that is, every school left from the Big 12 North, plus Baylor and Texas Tech in the South - scrambling for a foothold in some far-flung, disconnected-to-the-Midwest league. Mizzou might get on in the Big Ten. The others won't.
Why? Because Texas – who I pity more than blame, for what I think is to come for that giant university - has its eye on consummation. It seeks to be a brand unto itself – a Notre Dame, a Harvard – and it wants to use college football's equivalent of petrodollars – TV money – to get there. UT will hang around the Big 12 only long enough to build its own Bevo Network, supplement it with some exclusive deal with the Mouse House and set out into the savage wilderness on its own. It has the money and the vainglorious audacity to try. Ample evidence exists that it's done nothing for Notre Dame, really, other than reinvigorate its critics. But UT is set on creating its own empire, not operating in a decaying one.
Oh, you doubt it? Consider that Texas nearly courted disaster by dragging the Big 12 South – and CU – with it to a Pac-16. It had to be dragged back from the brink by ESPN - which didn't want Fox Sports to gain too much of a foothold in college sports - and Texas A&M, which fancied, if only a little bit, the SEC. The Longhorns are restless. They've fallen in love with themselves and their seeming popularity. They definitively want to leave those North schools behind. Just wait until Texas plays two road games in the pastoral north every year. See how long that lasts for Burnt Orange fans who want to see the world, not just the Little Apple.
In its quest for independence, UT would turn its back on a basic staple of Lone Star wisdom: Stay loyal to your in-state brothers. Texas football – from Class 2A high school games in the desert to the Cowboys in JerryWorld – has a unique identity. The Longhorns would risk breaking with tradition – but I think they'll take the chance.
I have been less critical of Dan Beebe - and his few cronies/toadies - throughout this process for this reason: He's Lee Harvey Oswald, the man with the title of assassin without the trigger to pull. He likes action verbs and colorful nouns; he would have made for a perfectly mediocre sportswriter. As a leader, he's destined to become Ray Handley. Knowing the deep-seated insecurities of Nebraska fans, he'll remain a villain in our folklore, but he's otherwise a footnote. The answer to a trivia question.
There's a difference between concerted, manipulative leadership designed to pervert justice for Nebraska, and the feckless, reactionary kind that Beebe uses. He's not going to set the price on any TV contracts; he'll just be there to announce the number. The “white paper” he sent last spring to Big 12 schools – in an attempt to woo them to stay – was a congenial, back-patting effort at best.
Hell, even after the Big 12 lost two schools, nothing stopped it from pursuing two more. BYU would have listened. TCU, too. What gave? Money, obviously. ESPN wasn't going to throw any more in the pot for 12 teams if the Big 12 reinflated to its moniker. Instead, the league will tout a laughable, murderous round-robin slate that annually robs every school but one – read: Oklahoma or Texas, most years – from any kind useful achievement whatsoever. In Pac-10, Oregon's had the conference crown sewed up for weeks.
In essence, the Big 12 traded in a system that greased the wheels for success for a template that, in theory, will pay off with more TV petrodollars. But what about the gate receipts? Booster donations? When Kansas State or Iowa State pulls its bedraggled carcass into the final game with a 2-9 record, what excitement does that inspire? How many seasons of futility can a program survive? Nothing succeeds – especially in the cash department – like success. Folks – that's why the bowl system still exists. A playoff would rob dozens of programs of the illusion of a postseason bowl. The new Big 12 (10) robs every North team (except perhaps Missouri) of that opportunity – the illusion – of winning a division title.
Remember how ISU, KU, Mizzou and KSU fell into disarray for a quarter-century in the Big Eight while Nebraska and Oklahoma ruled the roost? It's going to happen again. For five years, anyway.
And then what? Texas has the time, the contacts and the audacity to walk. Oklahoma finds a soft place to land, but loses all sense of its connectivity to the Midwest. The orphans go to live at whatever home will take them.
It could have been so different. But years of ingrained jealousy for Nebraska's football program - and disregard for NU's improving academic performance – left the Huskers' neighbors marching to a Texas beat. They still do. And their journalists, lacking any kind of long-term vision, preferring to indulge in solipsistic rants, march right along. A Philistine like Beebe ambles by, soft-peddling threats like “maniacs,” and of course it sells. It fits the mood of the day.
When these institutions face toil and trouble in the next decade – and, by proxy, their writers must again assess the damage - they'll look to Texas, pleading like the man in the painting to a statue that cut off its head to spite its soul. The clouds will swirl and roll in, and crowds will run out to the balconies again to see the show. And there will be a kind of blood that cuts no one visibly but hurts a lot of lives, leaving more uncertain of the future.
In that moment, Nebraska fans will have their true vindication. But I suspect, by then, it'll be bittersweet. The remorse of a divorce that could have been prevented – if not for human nature.
We all know the football team had their annual banquet tonight. Here are the team award winners:
Earlier in the evening, Denard Robinson was presented with the Bo Schembechler Award, given to the team's most valuable player. Other award winners included:
• Dr. Arthur D. Robinson Scholarship Award (top senior scholar): Zac Ciullo.
• Hugh R. Rader Memorial Award (top offensive lineman): David Molk and Stephen Schilling.
• Roger Zatkoff Award (top linebacker): Jonas Mouton.
• Robert P. Ufer Bequest (enthusiasm): Mark Moundros.
• Richard Katcher Award (top defensive lineman): Mike Martin
Denard even got a little choked up accepting his Bo Schembechler Award...
Love that kid.
Also, I know we still have one more game to play, but I wish all the best to the departing seniors. They've endured a lot over their college careers. I wish them all the best.
Here is the link (see the bottom of the page):
[Ed-M: Well, f.
In case you went to bed last night thinking that Michigan will be playing in a bowl game, a competent CEO-type athletic director is in charge of the program, and a 5-star-ish recruit perfect for our offensive system will be enrolling in January, you seem to have been 2/3rds correct.
Regarding Dee Hart, I talked to someone close to him and it looks like the rumors may have legs. Not sure specifics yet.
The news inspired a 500-response thread and at least one user getting caved. As an attempt to restore sanity, and because I trust Tom, I am bumping Tom's diary on the subject (and on other RB options Michigan is in good shape with) to the front page.
At the moment, this seems to be rumor, but believeable. It becomes fact when Dee Hart says it is; until then we have a source close to Dee who says it's fact. For those of you who remember getting burned by Will Campbell only for a "just joking" thing after, this doesn't feel like that.
If you stick a gun to my head and say "okay Misopogon, you tell me why Hart decommitted right this second or I'll blow your brains all over your precious internet," I would say that Dee wants to get his college football career underway at the beginning of January, and Michigan wants to make a decision on who will be his head coach after that. This opinion is entirely conjecture, conflicts with a previous statement made by Hart, and should be taken as no more than that. Expect something more informative and concrete from Brian or Tim later today. Here's Tom: [/Misopogon]
TomVH: Dee Hart Alternatives
Hopefully everyone's calmed down from the Demetrius Hart news. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, I did talk to someone close to him and it looks like he will be decommitting. He's shut down contact, so I wasn't able to get a hold of him or his family. They don't like to disappoint people, so I'm not sure how much contact they'll have. The Michigan coaches will be making a visit out to try to do damage control with Dee. We'll see what ultimately happens with it, things can change.
Moving on from that, Justice Hayes is committed, Michigan is hoping Thomas Rawls makes grades, and there's two more options out there. Tre Mason (5'10", 190 lbs, 4 Star) and Devondrick Nealy (5'10", 175 lbs, 3 Star). Michigan is in great position with Nealy, and we most likely lead.
Mason is one to watch, and I talked to him tonight. He was interested and intrigued with the news of Demetrius Hart. I asked him about Michigan, and he had this to say.
I like Michigan, but Coach Dews has been talking to me about defense lately, and I do not want to play defense. I like Auburn a lot too, but if Michigan wanted me back as a running back then they'd have a good shot at me. I'm looking at depth charts and everything, so we'll see.
You have to think that Michigan had been talking defense with Tre because they had Demetrius Hart and Justice Hayes committed. They didn't have room for a third running back of the same kind. If Demetrius does in fact decommit then I would assume Michigan would tell Tre that they want him on offense again. Just something to keep an eye on if everything goes down as it seems like it will.
Posted this a couple of days ago. This is just a reminder to our fractured family that MGoblog has a college bowl pool league on ESPN.
Go to espn.com
Under fantasy, click Bowl Mania
League name is mgoblog
Password is Denarded
Once the bowl season starts, the roster is locked.
Good luck! Who will be MGoblog bowl champion?
The following is a "documented transcript" of a recorded conversation between Rich Rodriguez and David Brandon: As an MGoBlogger who believes in the importance of other random mgobloggers having access to the truth, I'm publishing this conversation's transcript:
RR: Hey David, you said you wanted to see me?
David Brandon: Yes, yes come on in, have a seat… are you hungry?
RR: I think I’m alright, Rita’s making her famous Nacho dip tonight for an appetizer, and you know how she gets if she finds out I’ve already eaten…
DB: Yea yea, I know... why get Domino's when you have Nacho Dip at home, i get it.
RR: Yeah, I mean I’m more of a Pizza House kinda guy but your point stands…
RR: That was a joke, tough crowd! Is it me or is it getting hot in here?
DB : Ah, good one Rich! You had me there for a minute!
RR: Anyway, you wanted to see me?
DB: Yes, I had a question for you, and I need you to answer honestly.
RR: You know me David, I’m a straight shooter. Say, would you turn the AC on or something, I’m boiling over here.
DB: Well… my question for you is, do you think I look like Chris Fowler?
RR: Well, not really, but if you did, I’d say like a more established, successful version. Nothing against Chris Fowler, he’s nice and all, but if there’s any resemblance, I’d say he looks like you, not the other way around.
DB: Good point! Thanks Rich, I knew you’d give it to me straight.
RR: Anytime. Seriously, it’s hot in here… I’m sweating like a sinner in church over here… are these seats heated?
DB: Haha, so you’re feeling like your seat is hot, ‘eh?! Get it?
DB: It’s a joke! Yes, I’ll turn down the heat on your seat...new amenity I installed. Listen, I know what I’ve told the media, but really I’m just having fun with them. Particularly, those clowns over at MGoBlog. Have you ever been on that site?
RR: Me? Nah, David you know I don’t listen to any of those bloggers... all that stuff is poison, but it can’t hurt you if you don’t swallow it.
DB: Agreed, but if you’re ever on it… my handle is profitgoblue.
RR: Handle? Listen, I know you’re going to do what’s best for the program, and I respect your decision, no matter what it is. Just know, that from day one, I've tried my best to become a Michigan Man, and I want to be here for the long haul, and win championships here at Michigan.
DB: Well, thank you Rich. Come over here though, and check this site out, seriously.
RR: Ah, alright.
DB: How about this thread “Could DB have possibly done worse here…” Let me click on that one… WHAT? Captain Obvious doesn’t trust me? He DISLIKES me? Ahhh… let’s skip this one… let’s go to one that’s about you…
RR: I really don’t think we should concern ourselves…
DB: Ah, c’mon, it’ll be fun! How about this one?
RR, DB: Boobies!!!
DB: Who is that?!
RR: I think that’s the girl who sings that California Girls song. My daughter loves her!
DB: I love her too but geez, they remake every song nowadays...
RR: Hey David, I’ve got to head out now before I’m in the dog house… are we all set here?
DB: Yes, but before you go, just know one thing… The job is yours, and that hasn’t changed at all in my mind at any point this season. Just promise me one thing… promise me you’ll help me by putting an end to this chatter. Quite frankly, it’s tiring.
RR: Next year…? I’m only focused on our next bowl game… but believe me, you will not regret this. You're going to be a big part of something special. Have a good night Dave.
DB: Night Coach.
I initially loved the DB hire. He seemed very smart, past success in the business world, former player, said all the right things, etc. Then, when push came to shove, he chased after money instead of maintaining tradition WRT B10 divisions. The day he tried to start pushing UM OSU before the last game of the year was the last day I ever trusted him. He very nearly diminished the importance of the most important game on the schedule and tried to make it palatable to the fanbase. Luckily, we rejected this dose of horseshit.
With his handling of the coaching situation, he has gone from someone I distrust to someone I intensely dislike. Seriously, could he have done any worse here? The choices are clear - hire Harbaugh or retain RR. If he wants H, he should already be coaching here. The backup plan is easy to construct - contact H and see if he's interested. If the answer is yes, then get him in here so he can damage control recruiting instead of acting like our performance in the bowl means a goddamn thing for RR's job security (hint: it shouldn't hold much sway). If H isn't interested, then DB should be frantically conducting a private search for a replacement if he feels RR must go for whatever reason. The moment the replacement is found, make the switch.
If he wants to retain RR (FWIW, my extreme preference), then he is seriously being a goddamn moron. He has unwittingly placed a huge amount of importance on a middling bowl game. Here are the scenarios:
- We lose the bowl game and RR is retained - DB looks weak and people are wondering why in the hell we waited for a data point that apparently didn't matter that much. Fanbase further fractured.
- We win and RR is retained - everything looks consistent, but the team just got weaker due to difficulty recruiting. RR must scramble to fill out the class with a lot of 2nd and 3rd choices. This makes it even harder to win the following year and leaves hypothetical replacement coach with less talent to work with if it comes to that following the 2011 year.
- We win and RR is fired - DB almost can't do this; it would tear the fanbase right in half. You can't give the implicit message of "coach for your job" then fire after a win.
- We lose and RR is fired - looks consistent but gives H less time to put a class together. I don't give a shit what's going on at his current school, if we want him he will pick up and leave immediately, bowl game or not. I give 0 regard to H's "tough situation."
The bottom line is that recruiting is the lifeblood of this program and DB apparently does not realize this. Uncertainty absolutely, positively kills recruiting. The kind of kids we want have a ton of choices in schools and no particular affinity for UM - why would they risk it? We are very close with a number of very critical recruits and they have pretty much no reason to pull the trigger on M at the moment. Meanwhile, Signing Day draws near and other schools' spots are filling up. I'm not freaking out about the Dee decommit - it sucks bad but I learned awhile ago not to place a ton of value in a committment. Our offense will be fine but make no mistake - our RB position just received a downgrade.
Are more decommits on the horizon? Probably. These are the most visible signs of the failures in DB's strategy here. However, I think the true impact will be felt in a way we can't directly quantify - lost committments from recruits that have been or would have been interested in M but for the shadow of the grim reaper that hangs over our program.
First, I like Rich Rodriguez and I want him to succeed. I think next year is the tell-all year on whether he will succeed, and I would love for him and his players to have that chance.
But I do have an interesting story to relate on a very VIP in Michigan football history, who happened to have dinner at a local establishment in the last couple days, and happened to be waited on by a very good friend of mine who enjoyed bantering with this man and his companions for the better part of three hours.
This is no bullshit. And I am being very vague for the reason that I don't want to bust my buddy, or the establishment where he works.
My buddy is a kinda Michigan fan, more just a local sports fan, and he was very cognizant and impressed by the fact that he was waiting on said VIP.
The shocka quote, among many my friend heard from the jovial men that evening: "I always said, You don't win with one player and you don't lose with one player, but what they've done with that young man...."
My friend came away with a very strong, favorable impression of this man, who he said was friendly, engaging, and down to earth. As well as his friends. He said upon approaching the table at one point the name "Harbaugh" was being tossed around, but they quieted down when he came up.
Okay, that's it. I debated posting this story here for many reasons, primary of which it is hearsay and I do not want to put my bud or "VIP" under the gun. Ultimately I decided to report in this sophomoric cryptic way because I think many mgoblog readers might read the tea leaves and have some idea of what is going on here.
My conclusion: I would still like RR to stay. But I doubt that he will.
Well, Rich got ripped a new one a few weeks ago by some who objected to his suggestion that the negativity in our fanbase was hurting us on the recruiting trail. Well, I certainly wouldn't think it has helped us here... Bye Dee, would have loved to see you share a backfield with Denard.
Any objections? Neg away...