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Big Redaissance

There is a problem in being reborn....

“To be born again,” sang Gibreal Farishta tumbling from the heavens, “first you have to die.” - Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

Welcome to Nebraska Week!


Things have not been good on the gridiron lately. Nonetheless, wind-blown denizens of the Great Plains believe that a real turn-around is happening at Nebraska. There are hints of a rebirth, a Big Redaissance, if you will. Nebraska has brought Scott Frost and Fred Hoiberg back to their native land to bring new life into the football and men’s basketball programs. Both are in their forties, both have achieved great things at previous stops, and both bring the promise of years - possibly even decades - of success to Lincoln. I do not claim to know much about Nebraska Basketball, but I do know the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team is due.

I am sure that many B1G fans would say that, on the whole, Nebraska football does not have much to complain about. Sure, Riley did not get the job done, but he beat Michigan State once. Pelini was hilariously volatile, but he won nine games every year. Nebraska is a small state in a “talent desert,” what should we expect? Well, we expect a lot. Let me provide some history as a guide.

Devaney/Osborne Era, 1962-1997

I broke out the 1999 Nebraska Media Guide to get some perspective on where Husker fans found themselves at the end of the last century. (Yes, I have decades-old media guides that I carry with me from move to move. Who doesn’t?) Instead of a deep dive into the careers of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne, let me provide a bullet point hagiography:

  • Winning Records: Every team from 1962 had had a winning record. The 2002 team went 7-7. The 2004 team went 5-6.
  • Sellout Streak: Every home game game has been sold out since November 3, 1962. Nebraska lost to Missouri that day, but every home game ticket has been purchased since. This streak is ongoing, and stands at 368 games.
  • Draft Streak: Nebraska had had a player selected in every NFL draft since 1963. This streak ended with the most recent draft - out the window after fifty-six years.
  • Nine-Win Seasons: Nebraska had won at least nine games in each season since 1969. This streak ended in 2002.
  • Bowl Streak: Nebraska had gone bowling every season from 1969 on. This streak ended in 2004.
  • National Championships: Five. Devaney won two (1970 - split, 1971), Osborne won three (1994, 1995, 1997 - split).
  • Conference Championships: Devaney won or shared eight Big 8 conference championships in 11 years. Osborne won or shared 12 Big 8 championships in 23 years, and one Big 12 championship in two years.
  • Major Awards: Devaney had one Heisman, two Outlands, and a Lombardi. Osborne had one Heisman, six Outlands, three Lombardis, a Butkus, and a Unitas Golden Arm (Frazier).
  • Consensus All-Americans: Devaney had 11 players (some multiple) over 11 years that were consensus all-Americans. Osborne had 25 players (some multiple) over 25 years.

You get the idea. Nebraska was truly a program at the pinnacle when Tom Osborne retired and Frank Solich took over for the 1998 season.

Things changed.

A Brief Litany of Failure

How far has Nebraska fallen from its glory days?

  • Back-to-back EIGHT-LOSS SEASONS.
  • Nebraska has had FIVE LOSING SEASONS IN THE LAST 15 years.
  • Nebraska has SURRENDERED 50 OR MORE POINTS 16 TIMES this century.
  • Nebraska has LOST BY 20 OR MORE POINTS 32 TIMES this century.
  • Nebraska HAS NOT LOST FEWER THAN FOUR GAMES SINCE 2003 (the coach got fired for those three losses).
  • On a positive note, Nebraska has advanced to four conference championship games this century (three Big 12, one B1G), but have managed to lose all four. This nugget encapsulates Nebraska’s greatest team accomplishment this millennium. One spectacular loss occurred when a second was put back on the clock (Texas), then there was the time the Wisconsin Badgers’ offense was riddled with concussions from hitting their heads on the goal posts /Wisconsin scored again/. Goddammit.

They say that it is always darkest before the dawn. Well...hopefully? Because where I am sitting in lovely downtown Lincoln, things have been pretty dark. In fact one might say they could become....

The High Altitude View

Neb Won/Loss 1962-2018

Years Coach Wins Losses Ties Percentage
Years Coach Wins Losses Ties Percentage
1962-1972 Devaney 101 20 2 0.829
1973-1997 Osborne 255 49 3 0.839
1962-1997 356 69 5 0.834
1998-2003 Solich 58 19 0 0.753
2004-2007 Callahan 27 22 0 0.551
2008-2014 (includes 2003 Alamo) Pelini 67 27 0 0.713
2014 Cotton 0 1 0 0
2015-2017 Riley 19 19 0 0.5
2018 Frost 4 8 0 0.333
1998-2018 175 96 0 0.646
1962-2018 531 165 5 0.761

I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying. - Andy, The Shawshank Redemption

Nebraska did a lot of living between 1962 and 1997. It seems we have been busy doing a lot of dying ever since. How did the Big Red embark on its Stygian voyage? Slowly, at first, and then, of course, suddenly. Over the course of the next couple of days, we’ll take a look at how Nebraska’s football program has eroded over the last two decades.

We are going to mine Nebraska failure. Why is this exercise necessary, particularly when helpful Iowans walk among us? You do not know who you are unless you know where you have been. Nebraska was once great, and the fall has been pronounced. The task before the Cornhuskers - winning the B1G - is significant, but somehow achievable in the near future. Looking back at what has gone wrong might provide evidence of how things might be made right.

Check in Tuesday for a bullet point description of the declension narrative. Check in Wednesday for an overview of the personalities involved. Check in Thursday when I go all Pollyanna on your asses and describe how NEBRASKA IS BAKK!

Keep hope alive. GBR.


Who will most enjoy the Nebraska declension narrative?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Nebraska Fans - Self-Awareness
    (43 votes)
  • 3%
    Iowa Fans - Concern for Their Neighbors
    (6 votes)
  • 59%
    Iowa Fans - Shit-Eating Glee
    (103 votes)
  • 12%
    Pete Mote Polytechnic Fans - MOAR S&C
    (21 votes)
173 votes total Vote Now