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Winner in conference shuffle is one that gets Texas

Nebraska gives the Big Ten a conference championship football game on the first weekend of December, thus eliminating its last excuse -- too much down time between games -- when it again embarrasses itself on the BCS stage.

The extra game brings extra revenue along with a choice prime-time television slot. But adding the Cornhusker state -- and its 1.8-million citizens -- increases the footprint of the Big Ten Network the same as a bunion jutting off the big toe.

Inviting Nebraska is only a good move if it's a first step toward a bigger, bolder, more nationally based realignment that places the Big Ten at the forefront of the burgeoning super-conference landscape of the 2010s. But if Nebraska is the last move for the foreseeable future, then all the Big Ten accomplished through six months of bluster is catching up to the 1990s and the birth of the conference championship game.

The Cornhuskers are not the "home run" Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany desired in expansion. They're a single caught at second trying to stretch it into a double.

The bottom line of this story hasn't changed since Delany first entertained the possibility of expansion in December.

The winner in this mad scramble remains the conference that gets Texas. Notre Dame offers a very profitable consolation prize. They remain the only major collegiate brands in play with the broad national appeal necessary to maximize the profitability of the conference's television deals.

They're the only home runs out there.

Nebraska is a nice fit, meshing more seamlessly academically, athletically and culturally with the Big Ten than the ever-shrinking Big 12.

It was liberation day for the Cornhuskers. Their Board of Regents unanimously approved the school's formal application for admission into the Big Ten on Friday.

The Big 12 is on life support because of the internal acrimony wrought from its birth 14 years ago. The original Big Eight schools, including Nebraska, never forgave the architects of this merger for the heavily Texas-centric skewing of revenues and resources.

"One school leaving a conference does not break up a conference," Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne told the regents in the publicly open meeting. "Two schools leaving a conference does not break up a conference. Six schools leaving a conference breaks up a conference. We have not had a hidden agenda ."

Osborne basically gave Texas his personal interpretation of the "hook 'em 'Horns" hand wave.

The impending demise of the Big 12 should provide an important lesson to the Big Ten and Pacific-10 in their rush to become the first 16-team super conference: Make sure all parties are comfortable with any compromises before the expanded league opens for business.

The Big 12 didn't do that and now it's bleeding to death because of all the internal backstabbing.

Nebraska feels great, finally freed from Texas' clutches. I envision parades through the prairie with corn husks falling like ticker tape. Nebraska found its soft landing in the Big Ten. But what matters most for the conference is "what happens next."

Nebraska leaving its Big Eight roots was huge news Friday, but the bigger news was that Texas' regents will vote Tuesday on the Longhorns' athletic future. What will it be? The Big 12? Pac-10? Big Ten? SEC?

We should know the real winner from all this madness after that meeting.

© 2010, Detroit Free Press. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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