Commish compares Huskers to Packers

OMAHA, Neb. -- Jim Delany calls the Nebraska Cornhuskers the Green Bay Packers of the Big Ten.

The Big Ten commissioner said Wednesday that the Big Ten's attraction to Nebraska went beyond geography and a shared culture with member schools.

"It's really about the games," Delany said. "We're not the NFL, but the NFL has a very small-market team, Green Bay, and their games are national games, and everything they do is followed. The Nebraska brand has developed in such a way as other names like Oklahoma, Texas, Southern Cal. It's one of those programs."

Though Nebraska accepted its invitation to the Big Ten last June, the school's appeal to the conference was called into question last week when the prestigious Association of American Universities dropped Nebraska from its membership.

The AAU is made up of about five dozen of the top research universities in the nation. Each of the current Big Ten schools is a member. Nebraska joined the association in 1909 and became the first school to be dropped. Nebraska fell short on a number of criteria related to its prowess as a research institution and was voted out.

Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said he believed his school's AAU membership was among the factors involved in landing an invitation from the Big Ten, which has a strong reputation for academics.

Delany, however, said Nebraska's AAU membership status would have had no bearing on the Big Ten's desire to make the Huskers the league's 12th member when they formally join July 1.

Delany noted that the Big Ten discussed membership with Notre Dame in the 1990s, and Notre Dame isn't an AAU member.

Delany said he couldn't be more pleased with how Nebraska has begun to move into the Big Ten.

"We knew it would be good, but we couldn't imagine that the receptivity in our region and here in Nebraska would have been at such a high level," he said. "I haven't heard a negative thing from fans, coaches, administrators, presidents, everybody."

Delany address several other issues:

He congratulated the Pac-10 for negotiating a 12-year deal with ESPN and Fox that's the richest in college sports, at $3 billion. The new deal, announced Wednesday, will generate about $250 million a year for the Pac-10. The Big Ten earns $220 million in TV revenue.

Like the Big Ten, the Pac-10 also plans to start its own TV network.

The Big Ten has five more years on its contract with ABC/ESPN, Delany said. He said the Pac-10 contract and others negotiated by other conferences indicates the growing popularity of college football.

"We have an unbelievable game," he said. "It's not that 10-7 game you saw 25 years ago. We have 13 or 14 weekends that are pretty neat, pretty compelling."

Delany said he doubts Omaha's 18,000-seat Qwest Center will be added to the rotation for the Big Ten men's basketball tournament. He said the Big Ten wants to build a strong tradition for the tournament in Chicago and Indianapolis and that moving the event around would not help with that.

However, Delany said 24,000-seat TD Ameritrade Park, across the street from the Qwest Center, could host the Big Ten baseball tournament. The event is now held in Columbus, Ohio. TD Ameritrade Park is the new home for the College World Series.

"This is the Mecca for college baseball," he said. "I could see us being here someday."