In just over two months, the eleven schools in the Big Ten will welcome a new member to the family. Carrying its heavy football tradition and strong academic standing, the University of Nebraska enters the conference apprehensive, but eager for a new challenge.
So what does this move mean for the Big Ten and, more importantly, what does it mean for Wisconsin?
Max Olson, sports editor at the Nebraska Daily, the university's student newspaper, explained what the transition means for the teams, the fans and the state of Nebraska.
He admits that many Nebraskans never really imagined their school leaving for the Big Ten initially, but have since taken to the idea.
""I myself was always pretty skeptical about it because there was so much unsubstantiated speculation about it going on. I don't think Nebraskans really took it seriously until maybe a week before the decision went down.""
Initially, Olson said, the move to the Big Ten was a strategic one for the Huskers. The Big 12 was falling apart, and Nebraskans felt like the Big Ten was their best option to save themselves.
""But the more that this has gone on, that the transition has begun and people have had a lot of time to think about it, I think people here are really excited about it.""
Although Olson said losing current rivalries in the Big 12, especially Oklahoma, will be tough for Nebraska, the fans are looking forward to new opportunities ahead.
""They're excited about the new challenge. They're excited about the new rivalries and the different style of football and the opportunity to get to start over a little bit.""
In football, the Cornhuskers have claimed 46 conference championships and five national titles—including three in the 1990s—with their most recent coming in 1997. The team, which plays at Memorial Stadium, is also one of only seven college teams to achieve 800 total wins and has sold out every home game in Lincoln since 1962.
""Nebraska is one of those places, which is, I'm sure, very similar to a lot Big Ten places, where they live and breathe college football. They live and breathe Husker football, and that's all they care about,"" Olson said. ""And so, college football is what really drove this move in the first place, and that's what people are going to be talking about this whole year.""
Outside of football, however, Nebraska brings a mixed bag to the table in other sports. When winter rolls around in the Big Ten, fans leave the turf for the hardwood. For the Huskers, basketball has never been a big deal for fans, nor has the program ever really given fans a reason to consider it important.
The Cornhusker basketball team has appeared in just six NCAA tournaments, never winning a game in the big dance. Olson said he's hopeful the move to the Big Ten will change this culture in Nebraska.
""I think people have a perception that they play slower, more defensive basketball in the Big Ten, and that's what Nebraska does—not entirely successfully I might add. So people have this perception that the program will have a chance to be more competitive and turn things around a little bit more. That remains to be seen.""
What Nebraskans really pride themselves on outside of football, however, is the school's volleyball program. The Huskers volleyball team has appeared in every NCAA tournament since 1982 and has brought home three national titles, including most recently in 2006.
""Volleyball is really, probably, in terms of success and appreciation, is probably number two here right now,"" Olson said. ""And so people are really excited right now about playing [four-time defending national champion] Penn State a lot and taking on a different group of teams now.""
Additionally, Olson sees success in the Big Ten for the Husker's baseball, wrestling and track programs.
And while, the school's teams will certainly bring a lot to the conference, will the fans follow?
""Nebraska fans are fairly considered among the best in traveling,"" Olson said. ""I think the first year people are going to travel really well, but it's going to be expensive—it's going to be quite a change for Nebraska and definitely one of the biggest sacrifices they make in changing conferences.""
Land of Lincoln
When asked what current Big Ten fans can expect when traveling to Nebraska, Olson described Lincoln as a ""pretty nice"" place.
""It's not like one of those places where the university is all that's going on there, but it's somewhat close to that. I wouldn't call it a big town by any means, but it's definitely not one of these tiny ones, like Happy Valley [Penn State] where it's the only thing going on there.""
Lincoln, the state capital of Nebraska, is a city of approximately 258,000 residents—about 25,000 larger than Madison. The campus itself, located about six blocks away from the Nebraska Capitol building, is home to 24,000 students.
Like UW, the University of Nebraska is a land grant institution, renowned for it's research and home to two student unions.
The trip from Madison to Lincoln is just under 500 miles by car.
On Oct. 1, Nebraska will begin a new chapter in its already lengthy history when the Huskers visit Camp Randall to face the Badgers in the team's first Big Ten match. Olson said fans, himself among them. are excited to start a new life in the conference.
""I'm excited to be in the stadium that day and really see that unfold because that's really going to be a huge thing in Husker history,"" Olson said.