Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nebraska heading the way of the Gophers?

I came across this very interesting piece this morning on Big Red Network, a Nebraska Cornhuskers football blog (or as they actually refer to it, a "media site."

The piece speaks specifically about Gopher football futility of the past several decades and how the Gopher football program is, in essence, the type of program that Husker fans absolutely fear they might turn into if Bo Pelini doesn't turn things around quickly in Lincoln...

"Look no further than Minnesota, a program that lays claim to six national championships between 1934 and 1960. Murray Warmath was the last head coach to lead a Gopher team to team to a national championship or even a Rose Bowl. Minnesota hasn’t finished higher than third in the Big Ten in the last 40 years, they haven’t won more than six Big Ten games since 1973, and have only four winning conference records in the thirty-four seasons since. They’ve been surpassed by virtually every program in the Big Ten since that time except for Indiana.

The Minnesota program today bears no resemblance to its dominant past. The team doesn’t capture the imagination of the state or anywhere else. How did that happen? The short answer is they stopped winning."

How does that feel Gopher fans? We are officially the example that Husker fans, fans of one of the most successful football programs over the past 40+ years, point to us the living example of what they fear becoming.

I have known some Husker fans over the years, and this guy is right, they tend toward being dang pompous. I've always assumed that this has a lot to do with the fact that there probably isn't much else to follow, as far as sports, in Nebraska. But Nebraska fans aren't any worse than Ohio State or Michigan fans, and (at least the one's that I have known) are nowhere near as bad as Badger or Hawkeye fans are when they are having ONE good season.

But I think that what has happened with the Huskers in the last couple of years speaks more to college football as a whole, than it does to "the Big Red Nation" in particular.

My theory is that college football is beginning to go the way of college basketball. Starting about with the turn of the decade you started to see smaller schools, from the so-called mid-major conferences, compete more regularly with some of the powerhouses in college basketball. While these teams haven't been stealing championships from the big schools, they have made a serious dent in the tournament at times (George Mason, anyone?).

My belief is that this happened because more and more players started entering the NBA earlier, and playing only one or two, if that, seasons in college. Because of this playing college basketball was no longer seen as a 4 year commitment, and suddenly going to a school where you get immediate playing time, so you can get to the NBA in one or two years, is of the utmost importance. Some of these kids saw the choice as being that they could go to Duke, and ride the pine for two years, then play for a year and go to the NBA... or they could go to a smaller school, play immediately, make a big impact quickly, and go to the NBA much faster.

In a culture where fast money and instant gratification is the norm, the choice is easy.

Now look, Duke, UNC and the big boys still probably get the best recruits in the nation, but suddenly the aren't having such an easy time landing the second tier recruits, cause those kids are going, maybe, to the George Mason's of the world.

College football is, I believe, starting to see this trend as well. Like Duke and UNC in basketball, USC, OSU, Florida, LSU, etc, will still likely get the top of the top recruits. But you are starting to see now, illustrated clearly by this year's Gopher recruiting class, that immediate playing time, in some cases, in winning recruits over.

This is good news for Gopher fans... perhaps it will continue to be not-so-good news for some other traditional powerhouses.


Anonymous said...

It's nice to see you posting commentary on this blog again. Sure, it's the offseason, but I'm getting hungry for some golden gopher football! Kudos.

bnahusker said...

Nice post. bigrednation is my favorite Husker site because they avoid the "Your team sucks" mentality, and quickly delete unseemly postings. It seems you have a class page going too.

Go Big Red

Go Golden Gophers


bnahusker said...

Special Note to anonymous poster...

We believe that there is no "Off Season" in Husker Nation.

Take Care.