What are you doing on Oct. 20? It’s an important 10-year anniversary in Nebraska, so you’ve gotta have something planned.
That day marks the last time a Nebraska game wasn’t televised. The 4-3 Huskers, losers of two straight, hosted 5-2 Texas A&M and because there was no TV the game started at a perfectly reasonable 1:05 p.m.
Maybe it was a good time not to have the cameras there. The Huskers were 1-2 in Big 12 play, beating Iowa State in the conference opener (also not televised) but then losing to Missouri and Oklahoma State by a combined score of 86-20.
Oh, and athletic director Steve Peterson had been fired that week. Bill Callahan would be fired six weeks later and his coaching counterpart in that game, Dennis Franchione, was on his way out, too.
A few weeks before the Nebraska game the secret newsletter story broke. A San Antonio Express reporter presented Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne with a copy of a newsletter Franchione had been selling directly to boosters for $1,200 a year. The newsletters reportedly included inside information on injuries and player evaluation, which is the sort of thing nobody brings to a reporter’s attention if things are going well, but when they’re not? Well, that might be the sort of thing that can force a guy’s hand and it seemingly did at A&M. After the Aggies beat Texas on Nov. 23 to finish the regular season 7-4, Franchione resigned at his postgame press conference.
Callahan, who also coached on Nov. 23 and lost to Colorado, had to wait until the next morning to learn his fate. He was out, too.
Given all of that context — two middling teams, two embattled coaches — it probably isn’t a surprise that there was no telecast that day. The Big 12 had five games on Oct. 20 and four available TV slots. The Huskers and Aggies drew the short straw.
If you weren’t at the stadium, you missed Nebraska getting shut out in the second half. The Huskers managed 405 total yards but just 14 points against a defense coordinated by Gary Darnell. Yeah, that guy. Running back Marlon Lucky had 13 receptions for 125 yards, so that was interesting, I guess.
Since then, every Nebraska game has been televised by some network. It took pay-per-views to get there. The Huskers had five PPV games in 2008 alone. The 300th sellout in 2009 was a PPV. Three of Taylor Martinez’s first four games at quarterback were also PPVs, which is perhaps part of the reason his Thursday-night romp (15 carries, 241 yards) through Manhattan, Kansas, in week five felt like lighting a fuse nationally. The nation had hardly seen Martinez at that point.
The move to the Big Ten ended all of that and it’s all long enough ago that it’s hard to remember an era when you had to think about how (and if) you were going to watch Nebraska football.
But it was only 10 years ago. And should you want to commemorate the occasion, maybe throw a no-TV party and get some friends together and listen to that 2007 A&M game. The Huskers’ 2017 schedule sets up well for that.
Nebraska doesn’t play that week. The Huskers won’t be on TV that weekend either.
The Grab Bag
- Busy day at Huskers practice yesterday. Here’s your practice report plus updates on the backfield, the offensive line and wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey.
- According to one sportsbook, UCLA’s Jim Mora is the odds-on favorite to be the first college football coach fired in 2017. Mark Dantonio and Lovie Smith make the list from the Big Ten.
- Oklahoma has dismissed true freshman quarterback Chris Robison, a 4-star recruit in the 2017 class who enrolled early.
- Rutgers unveiled a sharp-looking alternate for its game against Maryland at Yankee Stadium this November.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.