CHICAGO – Athletic director Tom Osborne insisted Nebraska wasn't seeking riches or ducking competition when it decided to bolt the Big 12 for the Big Ten.
He said the move was about stability.
The Big Ten had it and the Big 12 lacked it, so the Cornhuskers are switching conferences. They'll start play in the Big Ten next year, one of college football's traditional powers joining a tradition-rich league that was trying to maintaining its footing in a shaky landscape.
"There was a lot of uncertainty in the Big 12," Osborne said Monday at Big Ten media day. "We felt this was a stable league, that it was going to be here for a long time."
Switching, he said, was "a fairly easy decision for us."
He insisted money wasn't the big draw, saying Nebraska "won't see any tremendous financial reward for some time." Anger toward the Big 12 had nothing to do with it, either, nor did the competition. He said Nebraska simply saw a league on solid footing when it surveyed the Big Ten, with goals "that matched up pretty well."
He also mentioned the Big Ten Network, which has turned into a boon for the conference after a shaky start.
To generations of fans, the idea of Nebraska taking its five national championships in football to another conference would have seemed unthinkable.
Football rivalries with Missouri and Kansas that date back more than a century, when the team was known as the Bugeaters, are in jeopardy, and long-standing conference partnerships are coming to an end.
Nebraska has been aligned with Iowa State, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kansas State since 1928; with Colorado since 1948; and with Oklahoma State since 1960.
Now, Nebraska is forming new alliances by joining a conference that sparked all this shuffling when it announced in December that it was looking into expansion.
Adding the Cornhuskers gives the Big Ten a 12th team and the ability to hold a championship game in football that commissioner Jim Delany expects to start next season. Teams will have to be divided into two divisions, with competitive balance and rivalries along with geography determining the alignment.
Ironically, Osborne opposed a championship game as Nebraska's coach when the Big 12 started playing one in 1996. Now, he's OK with it.
"Since that time, more conferences have gone to that playoff game except the Big Ten and Pac-10 so it's a more common occurrence today," Osborne said. "As an athletic director, you can see some reason financially to do this."
When he was coaching, Osborne had major concerns. He thought it could trip a team like the Cornhuskers that was contending for the national title.
"I believe the Southeast Conference was maybe the only conference that had a playoff game," he said. "So naturally, we were hoping to at some point win a national championship. As a coach, you realize that if you have to play that extra game, you're playing somebody that probably has a 50-50 chance to win it. ... It diminishes your chances to win a national championship. I was somewhat concerned about that."
He was also concerned that most of the teams that got to the national championship game "would not have to pass that hurdle."
Now, a new set of obstacles awaits Nebraska.
Osborne see a potential rivalry with Iowa and has a long history with Minnesota, which Nebraska has played 51 times. Penn State could be an interesting pairing, too.
They met from 1979-83 when Osborne was the coach, and Joe Paterno told the media on Monday that he was looking forward to seeing him. He got his chance later in the day, and the two posed for pictures with Delany at the podium.
"Some people wanted people that were really old in the same picture," Osborne said.