CEDAR RAPIDS — When Nebraska jumped into the Big Ten last summer, NU athletics director Tom Osborne said it would take time for an Iowa-Nebraska rivalry to take root.
Just because the schools share a border doesn’t guarantee a football rivalry.
“As far as rivalry, it seems like a lot of people are saying this will be a rivalry, this is natural and so on,” Osborne said Monday before he spoke the Eastern Iowa Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at the Cedar Rapids Marriott. “But rivalries usually occur when you don’t declare them rivalries. They occur over time.
“There has to be a certain level of excellence on both sides. I suspect eventually, it will be a rivalry.”
It probably won’t take much time for Hawkeyes-Huskers to heat up, but, no, as it stands now, it’s not a rivalry.
This fall’s game — Nov. 25 at Memorial Stadium, the day after Thanksgiving — will be the first meeting between the two schools since a 42-13 Nebraska victory at Lincoln in 2000. Iowa and Nebraska have met just six times since 1946 and just twice since 1982.
Why the gaps?
“I don’t know,” Osborne said. “We were always willing to play them. I don’t know. . . . It seemed like a natural thing to do. Now, we’ll have a steady dose of it. We’ll overcome the gaps.”
Basically, both sides have to be serious football programs for a rivalry to be interesting. Nebraska had a rivalry with Oklahoma, with a 38-45-3 record and nearly 30 Big Eight and Big 12 titles decided. Since 1996, the Huskers have had a season-ending game with Colorado. That was more game than rivalry, with the Huskers owning a 49-18-2 record.
“Colorado decided to declare us a rival and I never did quite understand it,” Osborne said. “We didn’t feel it was a rivalry. They did.”
Iowa and Nebraska will end the 2011-12 seasons, but it’s not written in stone beyond.
“I think it certainly may [continue as a season finale],” Osborne said. “Again, that depends on the Big Ten to be willing to schedule it as such. We don’t control that schedule, obviously, because we’re playing Ohio State and we’re playing Wisconsin. We’re playing every tough team we can possibly play.”
The Huskers’ first Big Ten game will be a 7 p.m. kick at Wisconsin. Game two, Ohio State in Lincoln. The Badgers and Buckeyes are Nebraska’s protected rivals from the Leaders Division. The Huskers face Legends Division foes Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Minnesota and Iowa.
“It was the toughest draw we could have, let’s put it that way,” Osborne said. “We’ll be challenged, but we’re looking forward to it. It’ll be interesting.”
A sect of fans have already called the Nebraska-Iowa game “Farmageddon,” even though Iowa State and Kansas State have already used it. And, the Big Ten being the Big Ten, there are calls for a trophy.
“I get all these letters,” Osborne said. “People stay up all night and write these long letters about why this ought to be named this and to have this big corncob as a trophy or whatever. I really haven’t thought about those things very much. But I’m sure something will develop over time.”
Osborne rewarded coach Bo Pelini with a raise last week, making the former Ohio State free safety and Youngstown, Ohio, native one of the highest-paid Big Ten coaches at $2.775 million.
“There’s not necessarily a correalation between the income of the coach and the quality of the team,” Osborne said. “You’d like to believe there was, but it’s not always one-to-one. But we believe Bo has done a good job and we think we’ll have a good team [in 2011].”
By moving to the Big Ten, Osborne said NU will spend $800,000 to $1 million more in travel this season. He believes the move to the northerly Big Ten will help even the field for Nebraska’s warm-weather sports.