College football and professional wrestling have a bizarre amount of things in common. Yes, that includes Nebraska football. Both cause huge venues to sell out, there are plenty of gimmicks (See: Harbaugh, Jim) and the people at the top make up a bunch of arbitrary rules.
Perhaps the most common ground of all, if you can’t entertain (or crack the depth chart) after a certain period of time, you’re probably going to be wished well on your future endeavors.
This practice isn’t unheard of in football on any level. It’s as much a part of the game as helmets and shoulder pads.
Of course, in today’s college football, ushering players out the door isn’t so cut and dried. These aren’t one-year contracts that can be nullified when it’s convenient.
In 2014, the Big Ten decided to approve four-year scholarships. What that means is as long as a student-athlete gets good grades and is seen as a solid addition to the athletic department and the community, he or she is good to go until they get a degree.
Nebraska football finds itself in a spot that it hasn’t been in for a good long while.
During his appearance on the Husker Sports Network this past Thursday, head coach Mike Riley had some very interesting things to say. The most notable was that Nebraska currently has nine commits (seven are publicly known) and may secure a tenth within 24 hours.
Considering the type of athlete Nebraska’s been bringing in lately, that’s good news. Really good news.
There’s just one problem.
Due to scholarship numbers, as it stands, this class looks to be very small. Riley specifically mentioned a hard number of 15 commitments.
Some fans might shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, that’s unfortunate. Quality over quantity, after all.”
I disagree. When a program picks up momentum-building commitments like the Huskers have over the past week, it’s time to ask some tough questions. Well, it comes down to one tough question, really.
At what point does a player become a detriment to the program?
Now, before I go any further, I want to make something perfectly clear: I have absolutely no qualms with any Nebraska football players. My job is to cover their college football careers and be as objective as I can while doing so.
As far as I know, all scholarship and walk-on football players love every member of their families, their friends, take their vitamins, say their prayers and until it’s confirmed otherwise, that’s what I’m going with.
With all that said, if you’re a football player that’s been around for a while and you see other guys pass you by — younger guys in some cases — at what point do you ask yourself if things just aren’t going to work out the way you hoped?
I will say this: Riley is a very fair man. He does want what’s best for his guys, of that I have no doubt.
However, to take Nebraska football where everyone involved wants it to go, I dare say he may have to break a few hearts.
It’s not easy to say and it’s even harder to actually do, but if there’s anyone who I would entrust to make sure any member of the current roster ended up in another good situation, it’d be Riley.
As family-friendly as he is, though, let’s not forget that ultimately, he’s being paid to win championships.
That means sacrifices.
We’ve already seen Riley make some when it comes to his staff. Let us not forget Bruce Read and Mark Banker’s removals, both long-time friends.
We may see him make some more very difficult decisions when it comes to the roster for the betterment of everyone involved and it wouldn’t be a shock to see that happen sooner than later for the sake of the 2018 recruiting class.