Not since the newly minted Los Angeles Raiders won Super Bowl XV 30 years ago has a league felt quite as chilly toward a potential champion as the Big 12 does this year toward Big Ten-bound Nebraska, and even then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle saw fit to show up long enough to hand the trophy to his rival, Raiders owner Al Davis. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe, on the other hand, couldn't even make it as far as Lincoln today to congratulate the Cornhuskers on sealing their second straight North Division title with a 45-17 win over the conference's other outgoing member, Colorado.
In part, maybe, the snub had just a little something to do with the 'Huskers' pending departure next year, which very nearly destroyed the conference last summer. Mainly, though, it was because Beebe and his aides in Big 12 offices were flooded with "very, very vile, vulgar, disgusting messages" from irate Nebraska fans who sensed conspiracy in the lopsided penalty total in the 'Huskers' 9-6 loss at Texas A&M last week:
Big 12 Conference administrators did not send any representatives to Friday's Nebraska-Colorado football game in Lincoln because the league feared for their safety, commissioner Dan Beebe confirmed to the Journal Star on Friday night.
Nebraska fans flooded the Big 12 office with negative e-mails and voice messages this week, some of which Beebe said were threatening. Those messages will be turned over to authorities, he said.
Beebe himself received more than 2,000 e-mails from Nebraska fans after Saturday's game at Texas A&M, when fans and coaches were upset with the officiating in Nebraska's 9-6 loss.
"…we had to take this stuff seriously until we figure out what's going on," Beebe said. "It took us a long time – of course, it's a holiday week – to sort through all of those and figure out which ones were threatening, and we're going to turn them over to the authorities and contact the people who left the messages, if we can figure out who they are."
Among the not-so-well-wishers, according to Beebe, was a message suggesting he "should be packing a gun," another threatening to hit him on the head with a bottle and stab him in the street and at least one targeting his daughter's Facebook page. Another came in from someone impersonating an officer who called to say Beebe's daughter was "unresponsive" and had to be taken to the hospital. Shockingly, an NFL security consultant sized up the situation and recommended Beebe steer clear.
That was just as well with Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne, who swore off comment after the game. He's more concerned with accepting the big trophy from his nemesis after next week's Big 12 Championship Game in Dallas, anyway. But if Nebraska actually wins it, and departs for the Big Ten with the final championship game trophy for the foreseeable future under its arm, it's safe to say that coronation is going to be among the most awkward ever committed to film. And if by some one-in-a-million chance there is an anti-Nebraska conspiracy out of the conference office, they're going to feel the full brunt of it to keep that moment from happening.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.