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Nebraska leaving rivalries behind with conference

Monday, August 30, 2010 | 8:06 p.m. CDT; updated 7:31 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 1, 2010

LINCOLN, Neb. — The Nebraska Cornhuskers shouldn't expect a fond farewell from fans when they go on the road this fall.

Century-old relationships will end when Nebraska leaves the Big 12 for the Big Ten in 2011, meaning this season's visits to places like Kansas State and Iowa State could be it.

Folks in those old Big Eight haunts already are planning raucous sendoffs.

The message from Iowa State fan Adam Gray: "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Kansas State fan Tyler Fike said, "There is some resentment, but I don't think it will come to riots."

That's good to know, but Nebraska coach Bo Pelini wasn't expecting problems anyway.

"You go through the conference, and the fans and institutions in the Big 12 are highly respected," he said. "Very classy programs, very classy fans."

That said, the Huskers should expect to see plenty of rather chilly signs, T-shirts and chants.

Some fans feel as if the Huskers are scoundrels for abandoning longtime conference partners for greener — meaning richer — pastures. Others understand why Nebraska jumped at the chance to increase its revenue, broaden its exposure and enjoy the stability of the tradition-rich Big Ten.

"I'm sure if K-State were in a situation like Nebraska, we would jump on it, too," said Brad Gober, a Kansas State senior majoring in secondary education.

Nebraska dominated series against the likes of Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas, yet fans of those schools say they'll miss getting to see one of the nation's top programs in their backyards every other season.

"You look at the records, and you would be a fool if you're a Jayhawk fan not to be delighted to get rid of them because we've won only about one out of every six games," said David Lawrence, a KU offensive lineman in the late 1970s who now is a radio commentator on the Jayhawk network. "But it's like losing a friend."

The final installment of the venerable Kansas-Nebraska series will be Nov. 13 in Lincoln. It will mark the 105th straight year the teams have met.

The Huskers also play at home against Missouri, a continuous series since 1922; Colorado, 1948; and Texas, a team they've met only 13 times but a bitter rival of late.

Nebraska's first Big 12 road game is Oct. 7 at Kansas State, a team the Huskers have played 94 times since 1911 and every year since 1923.

Gober said K-Staters were agitated for a few days in June after Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne announced the school's intent to go to the Big Ten and the future of the Big 12 was in limbo.

Before the Big 12 found a way to stay together, without Nebraska and Pac 10-bound Colorado, there was speculation that K-State, Iowa State and even basketball juggernaut Kansas would be without a BCS conference affiliation.

"It was looking like we were going to be hung out to dry," Gober said. "At first there were a lot of people really, really angry at Tom Osborne. Nebraska was pretty close to destroying the Big 12."

Nebraska goes to Oklahoma State on Oct. 23. The Huskers and Cowboys don't have as lengthy a history, though they met every year from 1960-95. Their annual games ended when the Big 12 assigned them to separate divisions.

Iowa State, which has played the Huskers 104 times since 1896 and every year since 1926, is lying in wait Nov. 6.

It's always a special occasion when the Huskers visit Ames, and it's an even bigger deal this year, said Chris Williams, who runs the website Cyclonefanatic.com.

"Iowa State has had it out for Nebraska for decades," Williams said. "The realignment thing comes up and, right or wrong, Nebraska gets painted as the bad guy, and a lot of fans are upset about that. It's always hot when Nebraska comes to Ames. It's going to be a lot worse this year."

Williams said he expects ISU fans to come up with some creative ways to bid adieu to the Huskers.

"Nebraska fans don't realize what Iowa State fans were going through in June," Williams said. "They were talking about wiping Iowa State off the planet as far as big-time BCS college athletics go. A lot of people think Nebraska and Tom Osborne are the villain here."

Nebraska might catch a break Nov. 20 at Texas A&M. Kyle Field can't get much louder than it always is, and the Huskers and Aggies have only played 13 times.

No matter where the Huskers travel the next nine months, regardless of the sport, they can be sure that hecklers will not let them forget where they've been and where they're going.

"People see it as a last shot to beat Nebraska," said Gray, the Iowa State fan. "Whenever you have a chance to beat Nebraska going out, it's something the fans are going to want."

 


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