All Hokie, All the Time. Period.

Conference Realignment Board


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A lot of different contributing factors, in my opinion.

One of the ways that Nebraska was successful as a program was by being different than the other top programs of each era in terms of offensive scheme. For one thing, at least in terms of offensive players, they could sometimes recruit from a different pool of players, plus they were difficult to prepare for since what they were doing wasn't seen regularly. When the wishbone and option football was common, Nebraska ran power I and passed the ball more than their competitors (pro style QB's like Dave Humm and Vince Ferragamo). When the wishbone started to fade out and other offenses began to embrace pro style and passing, Nebraska modified their system to incorporate option football and made running the ball their primary emphasis. Starting with the hiring of Bill Callahan, Nebraska has tried to run the same types of offenses as everybody else and recruit from the same pool of players as everybody else. Unfortunately, Nebraska is not always the easiest place to recruit to because of the lack of proximity to heavy recruiting areas.

Another difference is the strength and conditioning program. Tom Osborne and Boyd Epley were ahead of their time with regard to strength and conditioning, which gave Nebraska a distinct advantage over many opponents for a long time. Now everybody has a strength and conditioning program and many use the techniques that Epley popularized at Nebraska, so that former advantage is mostly non-existent today despite impressive strength and conditioning facilities (which are also no longer nearly as far apart from similar facilities at other schools).

Another difference, which is tied greatly to coaching hires and on field success, is the fabled walk-on program. For many years, Nebraska ran a very different walk-on program than any other school I'm familiar with. Essentially unlimited walk-ons were allowed, which routinely resulted in 150 man football rosters (even well after the years of scholarship limitations). This allowed for additional practice stations and more practice reps, which allowed for more development of roster depth. In addition, Nebraska was able to develop many of those walk-ons into contributors for a number of reasons: 1) They treated walk-ons like the scholarship players, rather than as second class citizens. They developed a reputation for that and for giving walk-ons the same playing time opportunities as scholarship players had, which made it a more attractive idea for under-recruited athletes to walk on at Nebraska, even from out-of-state (I.M. Hipp is a favorite example...South Carolina kid who enrolled and walked on without any preliminary contact with the coaches, then went on to earn a scholarship later and become the all-time leading rusher at the time); 2) They didn't have to compete for much of the local talent in Nebraska. There was no other D1 football program in the state, most kids in the state grew up in love with Nebraska football and wanting to play there, and so many of the schools in the state were too small for potential recruits to even be scouted outside the state (such as the 8 man football programs in the state, which produced a number of walk-ons who went on to be quality starters) before the internet and scouting services and due to the perception that there wasn't any point in trying with those kids. Very low in-state tuition helped out quite a bit with making it doable for those kids, who often didn't have scholarship offers elsewhere or the offers were not compelling enough to leave the home state football program.

When Bill Callahan was hired, he felt that the number of players on Nebraska's roster was completely unmanageable and restructured Nebraska's walk-on program to have a more traditional approach with limitations on the numbers and more of a "preferred walk on" focus. With the lack of conference championships in recent years and more exposure to schools nationally now than there was even 20 years ago, there is less of the ingrained attachment to the program among kids in the state of Nebraska today (it's not gone, but just not the same). There are also more out-of-state scholarship opportunities and, coupled with the reduction in walk-ons that Nebraska will allow, more kids are likely to accept opportunities for scholarships elsewhere.

Another thing that hurt Nebraska was the Big XII conference rules on partial qualifiers (students who meet one of the SAT/ACT and GPA requirements, but not both). Such athletes were allowed to enroll, but were ineligible to participate as freshmen. If they were able to meet eligibility standards by the end of their freshman year, they would have three years of eligibility. If, at the end of 4 years (the automatic ineligible year and 3 years of potential eligibility after), they were at least 75% of the way towards a degree, they were granted a 4th year of eligibility. Nebraska recruited a lot of partial qualifiers, preferring them to JuCo players, which Nebraska rarely took. The thinking was twofold: 1) The opportunity to have 4 years of a guy in the program was better than the opportunity to have 2 years; 2) The partial qualifier route was better for the student athletes as well since they could get on campus, become acclimated right away, and have access to the academic support necessary to make sure they could succeed if they were willing to put in the work. Tom Osborne used to site statistics about the success rates of PQs vs. JuCos.

When the Big XII was formed, the conference voted to limit each school to 1 partial qualifier per year, while there were no limits on JuCo athletes. Kansas and Texas both have great JuCo systems and many of the other schools that would make up the Big XII relied much more heavily on JuCo athletes. For those schools who didn't, they were sick of Nebraska's winning and recognized how successfully Nebraska had utilized partial qualifiers, so they were willing to go along on that vote. That Big XII conference vote took away what had been a program advantage for Nebraska.

There's more too, but those are some key factors. If Nebraska is going to get back to competing for conference championships regularly, the next coaching hire is critical. Their window is running out as the Nebraska name loses some of its football mystique with each year of struggles and each year of separation from their former dominance. I think they need to take a lesson from Tom Osborne and hire a coach who will operate differently from the norm and look to restore the walk on program to what it was, at least as much as possible, and deal with the additional management responsibilities. I also don't think that Nebraska can get away with running a pro style or spread offense. I think they need to run something different, even if it's a system that is considered antiquated or a system not currently being widely utilized, that will allow them to recruit differently at least on one side of the ball.

(In response to this post by Millpoint)

Posted: 11/14/2017 at 3:59PM


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Current Thread:
Nebraska -- Millpoint 11/11/2017 10:16PM
  They are enjoying the Big Ten money. -- HOO86 11/14/2017 4:00PM
  Buried in the Big Ten West -- TerryD 11/14/2017 12:21PM
  40 years of dominance must have caught up to them -- Calamitous 11/12/2017 06:35AM
  Recruiting recruiting recruiting. -- Tailgate Guru 11/11/2017 11:52PM
  Sounds familiar. -- crabcake77 11/13/2017 12:25PM

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