Nebraska football must follow Oklahoma's lead.  It's Mark Stoops time.

Nebraska football must follow Oklahoma’s lead. It’s Mark Stoops time.

The ‘N’ on the side of the helmet stands for ‘Nobodies’. For anyone under 30, Nebraska football is your bald uncle with the bear belly and the oversized truck that’s been telling you the same stories about its glory days since 1998.

If I’m Cornhuskers athletic director Trev Alberts, I challenge Kentucky coach Mark Stoops to say no. And tell it to my face. I put 10 million dollars a year on the table. As a starting point. Whatever his assistants do in Lexington, I’m doubling it.

I overpay, because Nebraska is to major college football what the Green Bay Packers were to the NFL in 1993. Because I need someone who can change perceptions in no time. Someone who brings the party – and by party, I mean top coaches and rookies – with him from day one.

If Stoops says no, I’m making the same offer to Luke Fickell in Cincinnati. If he says no, the package is forwarded to Kyle Whittingham in Utah. And Matt Campbell at Iowa State after that.

As a brand, Nebraska football can no longer be sold. He needs a proven, bankable face. A proven and bankable figurehead.

Think Urban Meyer without the luggage. Nick Saban unpretentious. A trainer with whom the duck of Aflac wants to make horrible advertisements.

Like CU and the Pac-12, joining the Big Ten was largely a disaster for Big Red, trading the promise of financial security for the anonymity of football.

Why not turn membership in the Big Ten from a weakness to a strength? Albert has a problem. It’s time to throw some money at it. Crazy money. The kind of money Scrooge McDuck is going to swim in. After all, wasn’t that the point?

Alberts fired Scott Frost last Sunday, at the start of Oklahoma’s week. Which is ironic given that Nebraska right now isn’t all that different from what the Sooners were a generation ago, at the end of the John Blake era.

Blake was a stellar player under Barry Switzer as Frost was under Tom Osborne. And like Frost, he was nowhere near meeting the program expectations set by his mentor. Blake went 12-22 (.352) in three seasons as Sooners coach and 7-17 (.277) in the league, earning percentages pretty close to the numbers Frost put up (16-31 overall , .340; 10-26 conference, .277) over four more seasons at Lincoln.

Like the Huskers, the Sooners had tried a few flavors to recapture that 70s/80s mojo, from Gary Gibbs to Howard Schnellenberger to Blake. Oklahoma finally hired Bob Stoops, then Florida’s defensive coordinator, in December 1998. The Sooners won 13-0 in 2000 and haven’t looked back.

Bob’s little brother Mark, 55, has done such a good job in the UK that he is making basketball coach John Calipari nervous. The Wildcats just beat Florida in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1976-77. Young Stoops has won 10 games in a season twice at Lexington — basketball madman, first Lexington — since 2018. The Huskers haven’t reached double digits in wins since 2012.

Like his brother, Mark has Big Ten roots. He’s a guy from Youngstown, Ohio, the son of a coach who played college football in Iowa under Hayden Fry. On paper, he ticks all the boxes: A detail buff who sweats the little things. A trainer who gives his time to the online game and the physical rather than paying lip service. The Wildcats are 12-6 over the past five years in games decided by eight points or less, which would be a nice change of pace.

Mind you, he also has a contract through 2027 that earns him $6.75 million this season and up to $8 million in five years. Relevance doesn’t come cheap.

But wouldn’t it be worth saving the Big Red from being treated like the Big Ten’s ginger stepson? Like CU and Utah, Nebraska married a shotgun in a “hate pact” with Iowa by joining its new league. And despite the annual Black Friday date and a national TV showcase, it never took off the way Buffs-Huskers did. Or even get up close to the epic Nebraska-Oklahoma battles of yesteryear. (Frost never beats Iowa).

The Big Ten has more money and depth than the Big Eight of old. The fans and the Runzas are the only things that make Nebraska football unique. The Big Red edged out the pack under Bob Devaney by being ahead of the curve. Alas, even Rutgers now has Husker Power.


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