Alright football fans. Brace yourself.
This next statement might sting.
The University of Nebraska and its football team do not need you. They never have needed you.
It’s been the other way all along.
Nebraska fans fell in love with Husker football because it was a mirror for the people of the state. Residents of this state are gritty and determined folks overlooked and underestimated.
We’re blue collar people. And this is definitely fly over country.
Our Nebraska football team reflected our tough and hard working identity. The Huskers ran that odd ball option offense that was hard for teams to prepare for and we were so good at it. But, at the end of the day, Nebraska out worked opponents. The Huskers were thought of as a second-half squad back in those days.
And when the program had some of its best moments in the 1990s, it did so in a manner that advertised one central theme. Nebraska worked hard to beat talented teams when those talented teams didn’t work hard.
It was fun to watch Nebraska roll up 600 yards of rushing offense by simply knocking down everyone within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
That started to change early in the 2000s. Nebraska’s lines struggled. The wins didn’t come as easy.
Coaching changes complicated the issues. And the Huskers slid.
Nebraska suffered from a loss of continuity and a loss of identity. A move to the Big 10 changed the teams that were played by the Cornhuskers. It also disrupted recruiting.
It’s been tough.
When looking at Nebraska’s football team, people no longer believe it to be a direct reflection of the way we live.
Spread offenses with tricky this and tricky that. Finesse over power. And a defense that bends, but doesn’t break.
A reflection of Nebraska, not really.
The fans who fell in love with the football program stuck with it through all of the troubles. And today, they stand hopeful that Nebraska native Scott Frost has the coaching skills to change the narrative and to introduce a new generation of fans to the success that was taken for granted for 40 plus years.
That is the hope, but it hasn’t been evidenced yet. Nebraska is struggling. And a third 4-8 season is possible.
The Husker team is a young squad with some talented players. Even the most trained pundits find it hard to know when a team like Nebraska’s will break through and begin to play at a higher level. Some such teams never do.
The moment might come against Wisconsin. It could have come against Minnesota, Indiana or Purdue, but it didn’t.
Makes you want to cast your eyes down and shake your head.
A bye week stands between Nebraska and Wisconsin. There’s time to think about it when no one really wants to think about it.
Nebraska fans want to believe that this will get better. And when Wisconsin gets to Memorial Stadium, if history is any indicator, the Badgers will find it full of Nebraska fans.
Giving up is hard. Sometimes it’s almost impossible. That’s probably directly tied to the years of devotion and the love for the program—the family memories and personal identities wrapped up in red.
These are delicate times.
And so, remember this when interacting with your fellow Husker fans. Don’t address them by saying that it will be better if they’re just patient.
Nebraska fans believed Frank Solich would turn it around. We were told to be patient. And the university fired him.
Same for Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini and Mike Riley. Each time, fans were told to be patient. And that this will get better.
It never did.
The same messages are not going to be well received at current.
People at the top of the power pyramid at Nebraska will make the decisions, just as they have in the past. Boosters and administrators own the power. And the fans have almost no say.
Nebraska will make the decision. They don’t need any help.
Believe in Frost if you want to or don’t believe. But if you think that matters, well, you’re wrong.
This writer didn’t want to see Solich fired. It didn’t matter. I was mildly shocked by the Pelini move. Oh well.
Callahan and Riley weren’t favorites and they were shown the door, but the Huskers could have retained either. Who would have stopped them?
And, now, there’s Frost. Is he a good man? He certainly seems to be and his heart seems to be in the right place. Will he succeed at Nebraska? No one knows for sure. And will the university stick with him? Maybe and maybe not.
Success in 2020 or in any year that follows? Unknown. What is known is that the Huskers have three more games left.
Two wins are needed to secure a bonus game—the bowl game.
And, after that, the wait starts. January through August. And we start again.
Some will count the days because they need Nebraska football in their lives. Some won’t.
Come early September, the new season will start either way. Nebraska doesn’t need anybody’s permission to begin a new season.
It will still matter to the loyal fans who have looked forward to football seasons for generations.
The quality of the football experience drew those fans in and built those loyal ties.
But the quality hasn’t been good for a long time. High school seniors this year are unfamiliar with a Husker football product having played in a big time bowl game, like the Orange Bowl, the Sugar, Fiesta or Rose.
Losing isn’t fun and it doesn’t build the bonds that keep fans coming back.
Maybe there will be a day in the not too distant future where apathy reigns and football is no big deal anymore. If you love Husker football, you hope not.
But the university will roll on. There will be enough money to keep it going.
Nebraska doesn’t need you.