The newest team in the Big Ten football conference, Nebraska, was welcomed with open arms at Big Ten Media Days, where several coaches said they have already seen a positive impact because of the new addition.
Wisconsin’s head coach Bret Bielema, whose team opens conference play against the Cornhuskers, said he has already noticed Nebraska’s direct influence on recruiting.
“When (Big Ten Commissioner) Jim Delany made the decision to bring Nebraska into our league, bring that name and program, I’ve noticed it overall,” Bielema said. “I’ve noticed it in recruiting.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents or recruits sitting in my office talking about the Big Ten Network and the exposure that it brings, to bring Nebraska in, and for us to be a part of the Leaders Division for the first time in college football history…”
Penn State’s head coach Joe Paterno said that while he was at one point an outspoken advocate for adding an eastern team to the conference, he feels “extremely good” about the Cornhuskers’ selection. They will bring an added toughness to the conference, he said at Big Ten Media Days, which took place last Thursday and Friday in Chicago.
“When we got Nebraska, that was a real coup. It’s going to make the league tougher,” Paterno said. “The tougher the other guy is, the better you get, if you’re a competitor.”
For Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, the move is a positive not just for individual teams but for the conference as a whole.
“With Nebraska coming into the conference, I think it gives us, the conference as a whole, strengthens our brand,” Dantonio said.
Kirk Ferentz, the head coach at Iowa, was especially excited about the possibility of a new rivalry due to Iowa and Nebraska’s shared border.
“It’s certainly, I think, something that is going to be something very much of interest for the fans,” Ferentz said. “I remember coming to Iowa in 1981, there were probably more Nebraska fans than Iowa fans. Hopefully that’s changed a little bit, but time will tell.”
In hopes of spurring the rivalry, the Cornhuskers and the Hawkeyes announced at Media Days that they will play in the conference’s newest trophy game, the Heroes Game.
The game, which will be played on the last Friday in November this year, will honor one hero from Iowa and one from Nebraska.
Despite other coaches’ enthusiasm, no coach was more excited than the Cornhuskers’ coach, Bo Pelini, who said he thinks Nebraska is a good fit for the Big Ten.
“I think if you look at the tradition, academic integrity, all the things that I believe our program at the University of Nebraska stands for, I think we fit right in with this conference,” Pelini said. “Tremendous football, tremendous athletics, a tremendous commitment to academics, and doing things the right way. That’s what this conference is all about.”
Pelini said facing all new opponents will require more time and preparation from his team in order to be a strong competitor.
“We basically had 11 new opponents on our schedule which creates a little bit of a challenge for our football team and our kids,” Pelini said.
Still, he said he has no plans to drastically alter his style of play.
“We’re going to do what we do and we’re going to do it well,” he said. “We’re not really going to adapt what we do to the conference. We’re going to hopefully make the conference adapt to what we do.”
OSU will face the Cornhuskers this season in Lincoln, Neb., on Oct. 8.