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Shatel: This new Big Ten is a predator — with its eyes on Notre Dame

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You may not have noticed, with all the early fireworks on June 30.

Nebraska just joined a new conference.

It’s a league that spans 2,780 miles and four time zones.

It’s a conference that expects to stage football games on three or four different networks, may grow to 20 members and pay each one $100 million annually in media rights.

It figures to be one of the two big dogs in major college football, dominating money and playoff spots.

In fact, it may be more like one of the two National Football League conferences.

I’m calling it The National Conference.

The Big Ten, as we knew it, is fading away.

The transformation into something new, something quite different, was evident on Thursday night.

The Big Ten Network provided excellence coverage of the news of the day: USC and UCLA signing up.

All of the hosts gushed at what the two L.A. schools would bring to the table, how they would make the league a true national conference and how this ripped off the roof of potential for the Big Ten.

Not even a moment of silence for the devastation done to a long-time ally, the Pac-12.

Or the permanent damage to the iconic Rose Bowl game — once the Holy Grail of Big Ten football.

In one incredible day, the Big Ten trampled over both — and in many ways its own heritage.

It made this observer pause. I’ve long said that while the Southeastern Conference wanted to be No. 1, the Big Ten wanted to be the Big Ten. Lost in its fight songs and rivalry trophies and Rose Bowl allegiance.

The Big Ten was different from the other conferences and reveled in that with more than a touch of arrogance.

Man, was I wrong.

This new Big Ten — The National — is a ruthless predator, with visions of power, and all (dollar) signs say it's only getting started.

It may grow to 20 schools, including more on the west coast or even in the south. And, of course, the biggest catch: Notre Dame.

The National won’t be the conference of big shoulders and three yards and a cloud of dust. It won’t be about Ohio State vs. Michigan.

And it won’t be about winning the conference football title so much as getting one of multiple playoff bids, probably five or six once the playoff moves to 12 — or 16 — teams.

Suddenly, there’s more on this plate than what they serve at Lou Malnati’s in Chicago.

What’s next? The Big Ten has made its chess move. Now it will wait to see the SEC’s counter.

If the SEC makes a play for Clemson, Miami, Florida State and North Carolina, well, that would be 20.

The Big Ten could also make that play, but better to let someone else break up the ACC. And force Notre Dame’s hand.

If the Big Ten’s $100 million carrot doesn’t do it.

Yes, Notre Dame has a contract with NBC. That pays $15 million. And NBC is negotiating with the Big Ten.

But the Golden Dome is in danger of falling far behind in the revenue game — and with access to the College Football Playoff.

ND may be running out of reasons to turn down the Big Ten. In a world with two super leagues, independence might mean irrelevance.

The Irish are the only Big Ten target now. But it wouldn’t be hard to see Stanford (perhaps as an ND lure), Washington and Oregon coming aboard later.

Wow. Think about the power in that boardroom.

Now imagine the conference being carved into three divisions — West, Midwest, East — like an NFL conference. Hey, commissioner Kevin Warren came from the NFL, right?

Warren caught flack during the COVID-19 fall of 2020 for lack of action and direction. And rightfully so.

But Warren’s Big Ten now is making big, bold moves.

If you’re Nebraska, you like it. You were never part of the club that focused on trophies of pigs, spittoons and axes. You didn’t really get the Rose Bowl.

This conference will allow Nebraska to be in a place where it can recruit nationally and push the pedal to go as high as it wants to go.

The flip side to this new league is that it’s going to force Nebraska football to get off its duff.

That's a good thing.

Forget the Big Ten West. What’s going to happen when you add USC, Notre Dame, Washington and Oregon to the mix?

The emphasis in this new group will be making the playoffs. Not everyone can do it every year.

But at Nebraska, the expectation will be to get your share of turns.

If this plays out as expected, NU will be among the top 40 or so most powerful college football schools in the country.

Nebraska fans will expect the Huskers to start acting like it.

This season, many of those fans are just hoping to make a bowl game. Come 2024, that won’t cut it.

To much is given, much is expected. The reported $100 million annual take will allow athletic director Trev Alberts to always be in the game for the best coaches (and as many as the rules will allow) and facilities and mode of travel, etc.

But everyone else in the new Big Ten — and the SEC — will be operating with the same capital.

And we haven’t even gotten to Name, Image and Likeness.

Nebraska woke up in a brave, new world the other day. There’s a lot to like. Even more work to be done.


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USC and UCLA are officially set to join the Big Ten beginning with the 2024-25 season, marking perhaps the largest seismic and historic shift yet amid the ever-changing landscape of college athletics.

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