Huskers should be ready for a rude farewell

08/28/2010 12:00 AM

08/28/2010 12:03 AM

LINCOLN, Neb. —Before there was Matt Ryan at quarterback and ACC competition for Boston College football, there was Paul Peterson and a lame-duck tour of the Big East.

It wasn't fun.

"I remember the signs, the 'ACC' chants," Peterson said. "Maybe it was jealousy or some animosity because they wanted to be in the league as well."

Nebraska could be in for the same treatment as it wraps up its Big 12 existence this season. Hey, maybe hatin' on the Huskers could be a rallying point for the rest of a conference that never seems to get along.

The Cornhuskers are signed, sealed and delivered to the Big Ten starting with the 2011-12 school year, and players have been asked what to expect in four conference road games.

"We know people will be out to get us," wide receiver Niles Paul said. "But we've seen hostile crowds before."

This figures to be different. Around the conference, Nebraska's departure to the Big Ten — more than Colorado's decision to leave for the Pac-10 for 2012 — was seen as a turncoat move.

The Cornhuskers have disputed the characterization, claiming it sought a more stable conference structure.

Either way, Nebraska's status as a lame-duck conference member is the first in a BCS automatic-qualifier league since Boston College's uncomfortable finish in the Big East.

A quick recap: In 2003, the ACC leaned toward inviting Miami, Fla.; Boston College; and Syracuse. Virginia politicos intervened and Syracuse's spot was given to Virginia Tech. So, Miami, Virginia Tech and BC were in.

Not so fast. For reasons never fully explained, the Eagles' invitation was held up for four months, which was enough of a delay to force Boston College to the ACC starting in 2005-06 instead of 2004-05.

Thus, the Eagles would endure two years of icy stares, including one as a lone wolf.

"It made it a difficult year for everybody, us and the Big East," Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo said.

In that final year, DeFilippo did not attend Big East meetings. When his team traveled, he sometimes was greeted warmly in football press boxes and basketball press rooms. Sometimes not.

"You found out who your friends were," DeFilippo said. "Some were very gracious. Other times, I never saw the other AD, or we just missed each other. That kind of thing."

DeFilippo could tolerate personal slights. What bothered him was what he saw from the stands at road games.

"People throwing money at us, the chants as our teams took the field, it was tough at times," DeFilippo said.

The funny thing was, players got a kick out of it.

"You'd see things and hear some things that were kind of funny, but you have to remember our coach was a military guy, all business," Peterson said. "We never lost focus."

The Eagles' coach, Tom O'Brien, now at North Carolina State, knew how to lock in. He went to Navy and served nine years in the Marines. BC was focused, all right — it tied for the conference championship, grabbing a piece of its only Big East trophy.

"And we were mad that we had to share it," said Peterson, now the quarterbacks coach at Southern Utah.

Nebraska's Bo Pelini said last week he thinks his Huskers will respond similarly.

"The players and staff won't be the ones caught up in any of that," he said. "But I like that (BC) won the championship that year. Maybe that's an omen."

Gratifying as it was to win part of a Big East football title in the final season, DeFilippo believed Boston College was better served by being competitive out the chute in the ACC. Ryan succeeded Peterson at quarterback and guided the Eagles to bowl seasons in his first two years and the first of consecutive division championships in 2007.

Also, in Boston College's first year playing ACC basketball, the Eagles advanced to the final of the league tournament before falling to Duke. The non-Dookies were cheering for BC.

Nebraska doesn't know what lies ahead at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Texas A&M. DeFilippo and Peterson remember getting some of the roughest treatment at Pittsburgh and West Virginia. The Eagles lost at Pitt but won at Morgantown.

"Sports bring out real emotions; everybody in sports understands that," DeFilippo said. "But what I hope fans will remember when they go to Nebraska games is these decisions are made by presidents and athletic directors, not coaches and players."

But it's tough to boo, chant or throw money at a president or AD. The Huskers should buckle up for a rough departure from the Big 12.

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