Few in Nebraska were down when Bubba Starling of Gardner, Kansas announced on Monday that he would take his talents to the Kansas City Royals and not the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
The decision was neither surprising or one that evoked any sort of ill will from ardent Husker supporters. Instead, it epitomized the way Nebraska football has always functioned, and why it remains one of the most respected programs in all of collegiate sports.
It’s hard to compete with a reported $7.5 million guaranteed payday from the big leagues, but that’s precisely what Nebraska did up until early this week. The allure of playing quarterback for one of college football's most historic programs was powerful but the Royals (and their satchels of cash) did enough to entice the No. 5 overall pick to make his way to the diamond.
And even if, worst-case scenario, this was all just an extended ruse by Starling and his crafty, world-renowned agent Scott Boras to squeeze the Royals for all they have, it was most definitely a gamble the Huskers had to take.
Starling’s talent is undeniable, his high school career was legendary, and under the right tutelage he could have been a particularly spectacular quarterback for a Nebraska team poised to do some big things in the Big Ten in the foreseeable future. (Of course, that could still happen one day.)
With good coaching, solid offensive and defensive pieces and some of the most dedicated fans in all of college football behind him, the freshly minted Royal could have carved out quite a niche for himself. The relationship would have been mutually beneficial, of course, because Starling could have been that long-term, stable passer that would take Nebraska forward for the next four years.
Both sides won and lost something when Starling made his decision, but it was a gamble worth taking for all parties involved. Nebraska took a shot at landing one of the most prized (and in truth, still underrated) young prospects around, and Starling lost out on the opportunity to play football for one of the most recognized collegiate programs around in America’s real pastime.
However, Nebraska was in the running for Starling’s talents and the savvy youngster was able to gain some much-needed leverage over his new team. So in the end, everyone had a decent shot at coming out a winner.
“Everyone associated with our football program at Nebraska wishes Bubba nothing but the best in his future with the Kansas City Royals organization,” Huskers head coach Bo Pelini said in a statement. “I know this decision has been very difficult for Bubba and his family, as it would be for anyone in his position. In the end, Bubba was in a win-win situation regardless of his choice, and we respect the decision he has made. I personally will root for Bubba in every game except when he plays against the Indians!”
Instead of lip service, you get a sense the statement was completely genuine.
Nebraska fans will undoubtedly keep an eye on Starling’s baseball career out of a genuine interest in the kid, but not because of some self-serving desire to watch him fail. As this entire process went on to prove, players come and go, but being a member of the Husker family is something of an institution.