There’s a terrific book by Barbara Tuchman entitled “The Guns of August,” a beautifully crafted piece on World War I that is, at its core, an essay on how the utter miscalculations of tactical planning dictated years of needless conflict.
I mention this not as a comparison to college football but as an example of what happens when emotion overtakes reason. Tuchman explains that the militaries of both alliances were so in tune to every movement the other made, each became obsessed with one-upping the other and couldn’t turn it off.
So they kept fighting.
Later this week, the fate of college football as we know it likely rests with Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman. His decision is essentially this: Commit to the Big 12 and college football barely changes course, or leave the Big 12 and begin a shift in conference affiliation so profound, so permanent, that the storied sport will never be the same.
I spoke last week with Nebraska athletic director and Huskers coaching legend Tom Osborne about the rebirth of the program under Bo Pelini, and why the Huskers were so good for so long under Osborne’s watch. His response: continuity—with the coaching staff, the strength and conditioning staff, and with players embracing the philosophy set forth by the staff.
“Sometimes too much change,” Osborne said, “can affect a program more than you know.”