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July 29, 2011CHICAGO - As Nebraska's Athletic Department officials were leaving the Hyatt Regency in the McCormick Place on Friday, you couldn't help but notice the big smile everyone had.
It was clear after spending the last two days in Chicago for the Big Ten Media Days why Athletic Director Tom Osborne and Chancellor Harvey Perlman made the decision to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten.
For months I've heard Osborne refer to the Big Ten as a better cultural fit for Nebraskans and the last two days in Chicago was really the first time I understood what that meant.
Nebraska just felt like they belonged in the Big Ten on Friday. In fact, Perlman even made this exact same comment himself during the kickoff luncheon through his Twitter account.
"Big Ten kickoff lunch. Feel like we belong. Everyone excited about Huskers being here. Go Huskers," Perlman tweeted.
Perlman even cracked a rare joke on his Twitter account during the luncheon about something Penn State head coach Joe Paterno said about Bo Pelini.
"Paterno says happy Nebraska in. Big Ten gets another Italian coach that talks English like him," Perlman joked.
Heck, even Pelini enjoyed his time with the media. Pelini sat down at his morning round table session for two hours and cordially answered questions about anything you wanted to ask him
I sat with Pelini for most of his two hour session on Friday. Here are just a few of the highlights and some other nuggets I picked up on my way out of Chicago.
A lot was made of Pelini's November sideline rampage at quarterback Taylor Martinez during the Huskers loss at Texas A&M.
At the end of the day, Pelini said what happened that night was blown out of proportion and his relationship with Martinez has never been better.
"It's really not that big of a deal," Pelini said. "The media took that and made it a lot bigger deal than it was. I'll say this, I've yelled at plenty of guys like that before and you see it every week on TV. You see different coaches get after guys or whatever. It's not anything personal. There's a tremendous trust. You can yell at a guy and discipline somebody for something you disagree with and there's a trust between you and the player and it happens and it's over with.
"Unfortunately the media chose to talk about it and continue to talk about it and its crazy. I discipline guys like that a lot. If a guy needs a talking to, our players know they are going to get a talking to. That's why there's discipline in our program and our kids are doing the right things. We live in this politically correct society where you can't raise your voice at somebody well, I disagree with that."
A new rule this year in college football will penalize players for taunting in a different way than ever before.
If a team is penalized for taunting, it's now considered a spot foul which could ultimately take points off the scoreboard if a player celebrates or taunts during a touchdown play.
When asked if that could affect NU's players throwing up the cross bones after a big defensive play, Pelini didn't think the rule would hurt Nebraska in that area.
"Now if you sit out there five minutes by yourself and make a big to-do about it, then yeah I'm sure they're going to throw a flag," Pelini said. "I think they are more looking more for taunting going into the end zone to go away."
After playing in the Big 12 Championship game three times in the last five years Husker fans are becoming pretty accustomed to sitting in an NFL stadium on the first Saturday night in December.
NU fans have become so accustomed, that a member of the Indiana Sports Corp told me Husker fans have already purchased 20 to 25 luxury suites inside Lucas Oil Stadium for the inaugural Big Ten Championship game in December.
The suites run anywhere from $4,000 to $16,000 apiece. Each represented team in the title game will get an allotment of 15,000 seats, while around 18,000 seats will be made available to the general public starting Saturday at 9 am through Ticket Master.
The member of the ISC said he reiterated to the Husker fans that bought the luxury suites to make sure they knew they had to pay the money no matter if Nebraska makes it or not, and he said they were well aware.
Pelini didn't rule out the possibility of any of Nebraska's true freshmen running backs from seeing time this season.
It's pretty clear that Braylon Heard, Aaron Green and Ameer Abdullah have all caught the attention of NU's strength and conditioning staff this summer.
"Those guys have had a good summer," Pelini said. "Coach Dobson is kind of raving about what they bring. I think all three of them are talented, they all are a little bit different, but they are all pretty explosive guys. I would anticipate and I'm hoping they would have an impact, but a lot of that is up to them and how quickly they can learn it and what maturity they bring to the table.
"What they do is provide us some tremendous quick strike ability and they will be a tremendous compliment to Rex (Burkhead). People have asked me if I plan on redshirting them, and I'm not planning on redshirting any of them until they show me they need redshirted or they want to. I think they are all very talented and they could help us."
When Pelini was a true freshman at Ohio State he broke his jaw in a goal line play where he got tangled up with former NFL wide receiver Chris Carter.
The injury was so bad that Pelini had his jaw wired shut for seven to eight weeks. My guess is there are a lot of referees in the Big 12 this past season that wouldn't have minded Pelini coaching with his jaw wired shut.
"It was a horrible injury," Pelini said. "I was wired shut. It was like putting braces on again. I had a lot of milk shakes. You couldn't eat solid food."
Pelini briefly weighed in on his thoughts about the potential of the Longhorn Network airing games featuring potential Texas high school recruits.
Pelini told me he doesn't see the NCAA allowing them or any other network tied to a college team being allowed to air games featuring high school recruits.
"Do I think they should? No, I don't think that's a good idea," Pelini said. "I'd be surprised if they are allowed to do that when it's all said and done. It could open up a big can if that happens."
There's been a lot of talk about Pelini's decision to move fan day from the traditional Saturday morning time slot to Friday afternoon.
Pelini told me the decision was actually made more by the players because they didn't want fan day on the same day as the opening practice on Saturday.
Pelini said he's only received a few complaints from fans about the move.
"The people that want to be there are going to be there regardless," Pelini said.
For those wondering if quarterback recruit Bubba Starling will be held back any when fall camp opens in August, Pelini answered that question pretty straight forward on Friday.
Starling has the potential to earn $6 to & $8 million from the Kansas City Royals by Aug. 15, but Pelini said the plan is to put him through everything when camp opens on Saturday despite what advice any of his agents or advisors might suggest.
"His advisors aren't running our football team," Pelini said.
Sean Callahan can be reached at email@example.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha during the football season. He can also be seen on KETV Channel 7 TV in Omaha during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.
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