Also inevitable: Nebraska officials and fans would gripe about it.
The most prominent airing of recent grievances took the form of a Twitter poll posted Wednesday night by the account of Nebraska’s official radio network. The poll, which was deleted after hours of online existence, asked “if the roles were reversed and the #Huskers had 6 players and 6 staff members sitting out with positive tests, would the game be played Saturday?”
The question suggested the Big Ten has it out for Nebraska and was allowing Wisconsin, a member of the conference’s old guard, to duck out of Saturday’s matchup even though Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez admitted Wednesday that the Badgers’ positive-test rate did not meet Big Ten metrics for cancellation. (The conference requires teams to pause football activities for seven days if 5 percent of its player tests come back positive and more than 7.5 percent of essential personnel test positive, based on seven-day averages.)
Instead, Alvarez and Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank decided themselves to cancel the game, without consulting anyone in the Big Ten. Alvarez said Wednesday that he “had the prerogative to make the decision.”
The Nebraska radio network’s poll was extremely on brand for the Cornhuskers and their supporters, who have been nurturing a persecution complex for months now.
They griped in August, when the Big Ten initially announced it was postponing its football season. Coach Scott Frost said the program was “prepared to look for other options” if the Big Ten wasn’t going to be playing, and eight Cornhuskers players filed a lawsuit against the conference over its decision to postpone.
They griped one month later, when the Big Ten reversed course and decided to play and Nebraska had to open the season against conference powerhouses Ohio State and Wisconsin. Athletic Director Bill Moos told the Omaha World-Herald that he didn’t “want to come across as the champion complainer” while also saying: “Nebraska is playing five AP preseason top 25 teams. Ohio State’s playing two.” He continued, referring to the Buckeyes’ athletic director: “I’m sure my friend Gene Smith is smiling today. His friend Bill Moos is not. I’ve got a good football team with a great football coach that deserves a break here or there to start getting back on track to being a contender in the Big Ten West.”
And now they’re griping that a game had to be canceled because of a raging pandemic, with the insinuation that the Badgers are ducking the Cornhuskers (a team that lost its opener by five touchdowns).
On Thursday, Moos and Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green acknowledged in a joint statement that Nebraska attempted to make up for Saturday’s lost game by scheduling a nonconference contest, saying, “We owed it to our student-athletes to explore any possible option to play a game this week.”
“Ultimately, the Big Ten Conference did not approve our request, and we respect their decision,” Moos and Green said in the statement.
Reports surfaced earlier in the day that a potential opponent was Chattanooga of the Football Championship Subdivision, with a reported offer to pay the Mocs up to $250,000 plus travel expenses for a game at Memorial Stadium. Chattanooga Athletic Director Mark Wharton told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports: “We were in talks. We went through many levels of approval with the Big Ten. We lost on the final approval.”
Did Nebraska fans gripe about this? You betcha.
Nebraska received more than $50 million in revenue payments from the Big Ten in fiscal year 2018. It’s not going anywhere.