Thursday, September 03, 2015

Not Riled Up About Nebraska Football in 2015

Tonight, the college football season kicks off the 2015 season, and on Saturday, Nebraska faces BYU in the season opener.  Exciting, yes?

Of course.  College football is a good thing.  But I have something to confess:  I'm not all that excited about Nebraska football this season.

Curious, most definitely.  But excited? It depends on how you define "excited":  if it's just the pageantry and the action, then yes, I'm still excited.  But in terms of chasing championships and winning football, then no.  No, I'm not.

I know I'm in the minority here; I think Nebraska took a wrong turn last December. It wasn't so much the decision to fire Bo Pelini, though I freely admit that I thought he should stay.  It's more that I'm not sure that Mike Riley is the guy who can take Nebraska any further.  And it's pointless to argue why at this point:  Riley is the coach, and is going to be the coach for the next 3-4 years at least, as long as he keeps Nebraska going to bowl games.  And even longer than that, if he proves me wrong and brings home some hardware.

This is more about 2015, and what we'll see on the field.  And from my vantage point, I see a team full of questions.  How will Tommy Armstrong adapt to a new philosophy?  How will Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf adapt to players with a different skill set?  I don't forsee Riley and Langsdorf adopting a Bill Callahan square peg/round hole philosophy, but can Nebraska find offensive success somewhere in the middle?

Even without the change in scheme, how does Nebraska improve offensively without Ameer Abdullah and several members of the offensive line?  Terrell Newby has had spot opportunities to play in the past, but squandered them as a freshman by failing to hang onto the ball.  Now he appears to be the man, but only by default.  De'Mornay Pierson-El could have been that difference maker on offense, but his broken foot still has weeks to heal.

Defensively, you hear good things about how Trent Bray has solidified the linebacking corps in practice, but now it's game week.  And the reality is that Nebraska might be starting two linebackers on Saturday that have never played linebacker in a college game.  But for all the good things you hear about the linebackers, you hear concerns about the secondary.

The schedule is tricky, in my opinion.  There are no games that Nebraska can't win, but there are a bunch of games that the Huskers will need to play really well in.  BYU is not your typical season opener; they embarrassed Texas last year and could have made some noise if it weren't for Taysom Hill's injury.  They say he's 100%, and if that's the case, he's going to be tough to defend...especially when breaking in a new scheme defensively.  BYU stops the run really well, and that would seem to be Nebraska's bread and butter going into the season.

Miami isn't exactly a cakewalk either.  I'm very concerned about our conditioning; the game is in the afternoon in South Florida, and Riley elected to hold practices in the evenings to avoid Nebraska's August heat.  And we also know that Wisconsin and Minnesota are very loseable games...with Michigan State coming to Lincoln in November.

So yes, I'm predicting a 7-5 season...and frankly, no Husker fan would be excited if that happens.  That being said, there are a bunch of reasons that make 7-5 more of a worst case scenario. Maybe Riley is that gem that was only held back by being in Corvallis most of his career. (Didn't stop Dennis Erickson from winning big at Oregon State, but I digress.)  10-2 or 11-1 is entirely possible.

I don't see a large amount of downside below 7-5 though. Iowa seems to have too many problems, while Northwestern is still figuring out what they are going to do.  Illinois just wants to survive 2015.  Frankly, the only other school that I see that could upset Nebraska is Purdue.  Yes, Purdue.  Not likely at all, mind you...but I think Purdue has a better chance (in West Lafayette) than Iowa and Northwestern have at winning in Lincoln this season.

So no, this is not a Bill Callahan train wreck that's coming.  It's just that I see that "four loss" string coming to an end, and in a negative fashion.  The good news is that if I'm wrong, we'll know about it really, really soon.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Revolving Door of Husker PA Announcers Reflects Badly on Nebraska

The story of Patrick Combs, the former Nebraska football public address announcer, was weird enough.  That quickly led to a search for a new announcer to serve at Memorial Stadium this fall.  (CN's Pat Janssen tried out for the job, but Nebraska was looking for someone local, who wouldn't have any travel issues to complicate the game day planning.)  Monday, it was announced that Jon Schuetz, the former sports anchor at KETV-Channel 7 in Omaha, would take over.  Seemed like a good choice, and it got quite a bit of publicity.

He lasted one day.

One day?  One Day.

Seems that someone found an old Facebook post by Schuetz criticizing Harvey Perlman; it was nine months old, posted in the aftermath of the Bo Pelini dismissal.

EXCLUSIVE: Unsportsmanlike Conduct and 1620 the Zone have come upon the alleged Facebook post that Jon Schuetz put out...
Posted by Unsportsmanlike Conduct on Tuesday, September 1, 2015

And the administration in Lincoln decided that couldn't be tolerated. Schuetz apologized and removed the post, but it was too late.  Schuetz was out, and the University scrambled.  For this season, Lane Grindle of the Husker Sports Network will move up to the press box from the sidelines to handle the PA.  It makes sense that NU would stay in-house on such short notice. No fear of having another Schuetz situation developing there, though it does complicate the radio broadcast setup for the IMG Network.  (I originally feared that NU would tap Jim Rose, who's now with the athletic department as a fund-raiser.)

The whole situation is awfully silly, with the University looking foolish on multiple fronts:
First, not vetting Schuetz's Facebook page in the first place. Schuetz's post was public, so it was easy to find. And it was found, after they announced he was hired. Do this in the first place, before the announcement, and NU moves on to the next candidate.
Second, having a thin skin.  What Schuetz said was nothing different than many Husker fans have said at one time or another.  I dare say "most".  Schuetz also said it long before pursuing the job, when he was a private citizen and not associated with the University.  It's not insubordinate.  Furthermore, Harvey Perlman has already announced his retirement.  (Jim Tressel is not replacing him, though.)

Here's the thing: if Schuetz quietly takes down the Facebook post but remains as PA announcer, this doesn't get near the attention that firing a guy after a day does. Maybe someone sends it out afterwards, but then, it's on Schuetz, who could then issue a quick apology and it would be over and done with.

Instead, it becomes a national story and another circus. Which it didn't need to be.

On Monday, Mike Riley talked about being at the center of attention in the state of Nebraska. In Riley's situation, it's all positive at this point.  (He undefeated in Lincoln, after all...)

But this points out the flip side of the situation...when stories about PA announcers get this much attention, well, it points out the down side of the intense focus on anything associated with Nebraska football.  And when Bo Pelini says "that's what wrong with that place," you have to acknowledge that he has a point.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Arenas and Stadiums Don't Meet Expectations

I've been one of "those guys" who is typically skeptical about the need for building new arenas and stadiums in this area.  The CenturyLink Center?  Great decision, at least with the arena, which has hosted events that Omaha would never otherwise be able to host:  NCAA tournaments, Olympic swimming trials and big-name concerts.  (The convention center is another matter entirely, and the part that drags down the profitability.)  TD Ameritrade Park? Good decision, when you combine the NCAA's willingness to sign on for an unprecedented 25 year contract for the College World Series with what the Henry Doorly Zoo is able to do with the additional space.

Bad decisions? Look no further than the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, which has been reduced to a role as a staging site for concert tours looking for empty arenas that they can use for a few weeks to practice in.  Werner Park, affectionately known as the "Trailer Park" on the outskirts of the metro area, which still has failed to produce any of the commercial development that county officials were promised - yet still racks up ever increasing bills for mistakes made during the planning stage, such as lack of parking and a lemon of a scoreboard.  Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena, where the city is trying to strong-arm the NU athletic department into allowing beer sales during Nebraska basketball games to balance the books.

And now add Ralston Arena to the "bad decision" column.  Hemorrhaging cash ever since it opened, the city is now facing the need to hike property taxes 34% to balance the city's budget, in order to cover the revenue shortfall from the arena.  Mistake?  Hard to argue that it's not.

Of course, all of these venues were built with glowing positive expectations...but now reality has set in for Council Bluffs, Sarpy County and now Ralston.  Next up:  UNO with their new Baxter Arena.  One of the driving factors behind the decision was that it costs "too much" for UNO to play hockey games at the CenturyLink Center.  I submit that it's cheaper to rent an arena for 21 nights a year than to own and maintain an arena 365 days a year.

Who's right?  We'll see.  UNO certainly employed many experts who analyzed the proposal and justified it economically.  But here's the kicker: so did Council Bluffs, Sarpy County and Ralston.

Bottom line to me is that you don't build stadiums and arenas to make money, you build them because it makes your community better.  That happened with the CenturyLink Center.  When you consider the NCAA's commitment to the city and zoo expansion, that happened with TD Ameritrade Park.  The rest?  Not so much.  (No, I don't buy the argument that the Omaha Royals would have left the area entirely - not when Walter Scott and Warren Buffett still owned 50% of the team.)

Are there some good reasons for UNO to build an arena? Yes.  Getting games closer to campus is a good thing.  Having practice ice adjacent to the arena is hugely important.  Not having to schedule UNO hockey games around other events is a good thing as well.  All are good.  But will UNO be financially better off with this arena?  They say absolutely, but past history suggests that "they" are dead wrong.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Can Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain Reverse the Attendance Slide at the Trailer Park?

After plateauing in 2012 as the "new ballpark smell" wore off at former Omaha Royals' new ballpark out in Sarpy County, attendance began to drop the last two seasons. Not a huge surprise; any new venue always sees a spike in attendance as people rush to see the new facility. The trick is to capitalize on it while you can and expand your customer base.  As I asked in 2010:

I fully expect Royals attendance to increase in 2011, but that's not the question.  It's where Royals attendance will be in 2015, once the "new ballpark smell" has worn off.

Well, we kind of know the answer now.  Average attendance prior to this homestand was 5,335 fans a night.  That's below the 2008 average of 5,375 a night. That's two years before the "final season at Rosenblatt" and the ensuing interest in "one last season of nostalgia" mind you.  Prior to building the new park, Royals attendance was increasing every it's going in the opposite direction.

Or at least it was until it was announced that the Kansas City Royals were assigning former Nebraska baseball legends Alex Gordon and Joba Chamberlain to Omaha. It never hurts ticket sales around Omaha when you can offer a chance to see a couple of former Husker legends, so I'd be shocked if the final average attendance doesn't top the 2009 average when the season is over. But let's put the credit where it's due: Husker Power.

Mind you, I doubt that the ownership of the Omaha Storm Chasers is all that concerned about it. They've got a sweetheart deal in Sarpy County with the ability to charge more for tickets and parking, so even if attendance is down, the revenue is up.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Does Nebraska Have Much Depth at Tight End?

One of the more interesting positions to watch at Nebraska on offense this fall will be the tight end. There isn't any debate over the fact that tight ends haven't been involved much in Nebraska's passing game the last two season.  The argument is why:  what was the cause and what was the effect?

The common wisdom is that Tim Beck didn't want to use tight ends in the passing game, and that this was the cause.  I argue that was the effect of the situation, not the cause.  It's not a popular opinion, as the comment section shows.  The primary evidence was Ty Peteranetz's 2013 interview with Beck:
CN: Would you say tight ends and fullbacks are becoming obsolete in college football?
TB: Absolutely.  The game's become more athletic.  It's almost basketball on grass.  I think when you- back in the day- if when you think of it, all the way around: concussions.  There are fewer practices. The NFL only has so many days in full pads. It's almost like, "No hitting with the head, no this, no that", no late hit, throw the guy out, protecting the players.
All these things that are developing, don't get me wrong, they're good things, but it shows the game is making a change to becoming less physical.  They're trying to get it to be less physical by the rules and the regulations, again, for safety because guys are bigger, stronger, faster.
So it's turned in to more basketball on grass, and as schematics, if you have four legitimate wide receivers lined up, you have to cover ‘em, so you wanna have no help?  Play what we call Cover Zero and there's nobody helping?
Note that the question was whether tight ends were "becoming obsolete" - not that they "are obsolete". Why is this important?  Well, let's first observe that Beck was talking about college football in general, not his preference.  Let's also point out something that CornNation's Jon Johnston observed:  Nebraska had 11 tight ends on the roster last season.  Which raises the question:  If Tim Beck really believed that tight ends weren't useful, why did he have eleven of them on the roster?

If your answer is that Beck is an idiot, let me remind you that Beck was hired by Urban Meyer as Ohio State's co-offensive coordinator.  So try again.

So why didn't Beck throw the ball at tight ends the last two years?  My answer is very simple after watching Nebraska's tight ends the last few years:  the tight ends on Nebraska's rosters are better blockers than pass catchers.  It's something I've mentioned a few times in my weekly post-game report cards, but apparently now it's controversial:

Bigger still would have been getting production out of the tight ends; I didn't expect that we'd miss Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed as much as we have. - UCLA 2013 Report Card

Freshman tight end Cethan Carter finally got untracked with a couple of nice catches. - South Dakota State 2013 Report Card
Last season, Carter was hurt much of the season, which also played into his lack of involvement in the passing game. Even so, I've watched him drop way too many catchable balls during his time in Lincoln, especially in 2013. So it's crystal clear to me:  Beck tried to get the ball to Nebraska's tight ends, but over time, targeted other, more reliable receivers.  Why?  Because completed passes are better than incomplete passes.  The lack of passes to tight ends was a natural result of the ability of the tight ends, not a conspiracy, as some allege.

Still don't buy my argument?  OK, let's look at 2012's statistics for tight ends:

  • Kyler Reed: 24 catches, 357 yards
  • Ben Cotton: 18 catches, 239 yards
  • Jake Long: 6 catches, 55 yards

That's 48 catches by tight ends.  In a Tim Beck offense.  For comparison purposes, Mike Riley's tight ends at Oregon State caught 55 passes last season.  Pretty comparable in my book.  But then Reed and Cotton graduated, and Long was injured quite a bit in 2013.  And while Nebraska had a good quantity of tight ends on the roster (and still does), they weren't terribly useful in the passing game.  The sudden dropoff in tight end production has a very simple explanation: talent.  And it's something that people aren't considering in their rush to blow raspberries at the previous staff.

It'll be interesting to see how Mike Riley uses Nebraska's tight ends this season.  I stand by my statement in the spring game report card at CornNation.
But Mike Riley is going to learn what Tim Beck already figured out: while you can make a quarterback throw the ball to a tight end, you can't make him catch the ball. FWIW, Sam Cotton did have a nice catch. But this fall, it looks like it'll be up to Matt Snyder if a tight end is going to contribute in the passing game.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Few Thoughts about Jordan Stevenson and Nebraska's I-Back Situation

When word leaked out on Friday that Jordan Stevenson wasn't able to enroll at Wisconsin, I had a feeling that Nebraska was going to try to pounce on an opportunity to sign a touted running back prospect. For one thing, it appears that attrition has brought Nebraska under 85 scholarship players, so there is room for him.  The bigger issue is this:  I'm not sold on any of Nebraska's I-backs at this time.

The previous staff saw something in Terrell Newby that they weren't able to bring out.  As a freshman, he really, really, really struggled with ball security, and while he was better as a sophomore, he wasn't terribly dynamic running the ball.  I didn't see that much from Newby in the spring either - though to be honest, I didn't see ANYTHING promising on offense.  It's definitely a work in progress.

Imani Cross is solid in short yardage situations, but he never was able to make much of a case for more playing time.  Mike Riley and Danny Langsdorf apparently don't see it either; they've moved Newby ahead of him on the depth chart, it appears.  Adam Taylor looks to me like the best of the bunch, but I'm not sure anybody sees him as a potential star.  In fact, most people seem to think that Nebraska is going to use an I-back by committee approach.  That's something I read as "Nebraska doesn't really have a top-notch I-back right now."

And that's a problem when you've got a roster that's geared towards running the ball.  Nebraska may have the receivers to throw the ball more (unless there is more roster attrition), but I'm not convinced that Nebraska has the quarterback for it.  It's one of the reasons I told Mike'l Severe on the World-Herald's "The Bottom Line" show that I'm predicting the Huskers to go 7-5 this season.  I thought at that time that Nebraska's next great I-back was still in high school.  Well, maybe he just graduated and he's still looking for a place to go.  I'm skeptical that it'll be Nebraska, because his mom clearly wants him to go elsewhere.  And when Mom can't be sold on Nebraska, that makes Nebraska an unlikely destination for a kid.

Another concern I have is whether Riley and company promised (or at least insinuated) that they weren't going to bring in any other running backs this fall while recruiting Devine Ozigbo. His response this weekend on Twitter says it all.
Apparently someone quickly talked to him, because he apparently made peace with the situation on Monday.
Still, you have to wonder about the Nebraska I-back situation - regardless of whether Stevenson ever shows up in Lincoln again.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Call Me Still "Skeptical" About The Royals Move to Sarpy County

Sunday's World-Herald featured an interesting column by Tom Shatel about the Sarpy County ballpark and how it was the best decision for the AAA baseball team.  He may very well be correct, from the baseball owner perspective.  Most people who talk to me about the team also talk very favorably about the ballpark and their experiences out there.

So does that prove I was wrong about my opposition to the ballpark?  Hardly.  I get the concept that this works better for the ownership; remember, that's what the Royals were asking for ten years ago.  It's what's best for the community as a whole that drives my concern.

And frankly, I remain convinced that, in the grand scheme of things, one baseball stadium in the metro area would be better than two.  Sadly, TD Ameritrade Park is likely closed down until next spring. That's a shame, because as we see during the College World Series (and to a lesser extent when Nebraska is playing baseball there), the environment in North Downtown is prime for more development. Out southwest? Still nothing. Plans for "Pennant Place" continue to sit - and nothing seems to happen out there from a commercial perspective.  As Papillion grows, housing developments get closer and closer.   Eventually there will be commercial development there, but it'll be because of the houses - not the ballpark.

Shatel does point out that many people have thumbed their noses at the Sarpy County ballpark, proving that I wasn't the only one who thought it was a mistake.  And I do see signs that even folks in Sarpy County have second thoughts about all of the money that was sunk into the ballpark - especially when the County has to foot the bill to build more parking and replace a faulty scoreboard.

In the end, I think it comes down to whether or not you believe that the Royals would have stayed in the area if it weren't for the Sarpy County deal. I still believe that they would have stayed - albeit with some different managing partners.  I don't believe that the Gary Green/Alan Stein/Martie Cordaro organization would have stayed, but I believe the AAA franchise would have, because prior to the construction of the new ballpark, they were only half-owners of the franchise.  Warren Buffet and Walter Scott owned the other half, and repeatedly said that their investment was intended to keep the franchise in Omaha.  And frankly, I don't see how they would have approved any sort of move.

It's not "cheering for failure"...just observing that it would have been cooler to maximize the use of one stadium for the benefit of the community rather than investing in two stadiums with less of a reward.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Only THREE Tickets Remain Unsold For UNO Hockey

I've long felt that UNO is building their new arena too small, and now I have my proof.  It's the second day of July, and the first game is still three and a half months to go.

And there are only THREE tickets left.  They aren't together, either. Each of the three tickets is an isolated single ticket in a different corner.  So let's just call it what it really is:  sold out.

How many more tickets could a Frozen Four hockey program sell?  We'll never know...but we do know that it's more than what UNO built.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Is the College World Series Too Long?

It seems that in the post-Rosenblatt era of the College World Series, there's always something to complain about. First it was parking, despite the fact that there was much more parking available downtown closer to the stadium  (and at a cheaper price).  Then it was the lack of home runs; even though the drop in home runs was season-long, people blamed the ballpark. This year, thanks to the introduction of the flat seamed baseball in the college game, home runs were up all season and thus, up at the College World Series.

Now, the criticism is that the College World Series is too long.  I'm not sure that it is, but they do have a point.  It's 12 days from start to finish, with Vanderbilt and Virginia spending two full weeks in the Big O.  So I kind of see the point, but it's nothing new, folks.

It's been this way since 2003.  Pavin Smith, Virginia's hero in the title game, was probably still playing T-ball then.

Well, maybe not... ESPN did push to add an extra rest day before the best-of-three series in 2008, but that only added one day to the mix...and that was done to ensure that the final series didn't start on Sunday.  Why?

Because ESPN wants Sunday left free for their prime-time Major League game. It's like everything else in sports: scheduling games is at the mercy of the networks.  That's why we have Nebraska football games starting at 8:15 pm and 11 am in Lincoln.  Playoff games in all sports starting on weekday afternoons on the west coast while the local fans are still at work.  It sucks for fans who spend the money to attend the games, but the fan stopped being the priority a long time ago.

That being said, there is a simple solution to the issue with the length of the College World Series, and it's one that hasn't been proposed by anybody:

Let's go back to the traditional format used from 1950 until 1987:  a true eight-team double elimination tournament.  Enough of this silly "Bracket One" and "Bracket Two" stuff; the fact that we haven't named these brackets is proof positive that we don't really care about it.  So let's ditch it.

The immediate advantage of doing away with the brackets is that we start seeing a variety of matchups in the losers bracket.  This year, Virginia and Vanderbilt essentially played two best-of-three series after the opening round matchups:  Virginia played Florida three times in a row, and Vanderbilt played TCU three times in a row.  That doesn't happen in a true double elimination tournament because TCU and Florida would have switched sides of the bracket coming out of the elimination games.

Another change:  put the elimination games into a doubleheader to tighten up the scheduling.  Harder on pitchers?  Maybe.  But it takes a day off the CWS and tightens things up for the fans.

ESPN might not like it, and coaches who want to try to throw their ace three times in the CWS might not either.  But it's something to think about.

And then we can turn to the real problem at the College World Series.  Why does a Zesto burger and hot fudge shake cost $15 downtown?  I solved that problem myself by driving out to the Zesto's out at 108th & Military, where it was half that price.  It's still the same outstanding Zesto burger, though this time, I think they skimped a bit of the hot fudge a bit.  Still was pretty good.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

How Does Omaha #KerrieOn?

(Disclaimer: Not sports related.)

Twenty years ago, I was working at Mutual of Omaha when Omaha police officer Jimmy Wilson, Jr. was shot and killed. The funeral procession came up Farnam Street, so I joined hundreds of my co-workers that day to pay our respects to Wilson and his family that day. It was the least we could do, and it was incredibly moving. To this day, I remember his grief-stricken father waving and repeatedly saying "thank you" to the community.  (In all honesty, it was us that should have been saying "thank you." We merely lost some of our lunch hour; he lost his son.)

Now, I work at Union Pacific, and once again, I joined my co-workers in another sad tribute for another Omaha police officer who was killed while on-duty: Officer Kerrie Orozco. I suspect that nearly everyone gathered along Douglas Street in downtown Omaha, or Broadway in Council Bluffs had never heard of Kerrie Orzco one week ago.

We'll never forget her now. Her selfless volunteering with inner-city youth sports programs makes her a wonderful role model. And the story of her plans to bring her prematurely born daughter home from the hospital the next day didn't just break our hearts, it shattered them into a gazillion pieces.
No doubt in my mind that her family will carry on. The outpouring of support from this community will ensure that the family's financial needs should be taken care of. What can't be replaced, however, is her. In ten or fifteen years, she'll watch the videos from the past week and get a better idea who her mother was.  A mother that she never knew.

Some people will point to the outpouring of support and wear it with pride as to how great our community is. And it is great.

But this is also the community that was described last year as the "most dangerous city in America to be black." Maybe the numbers were interpreted wrong and maybe Omaha isn't the "most dangerous"...but it doesn't change the fact that Omaha has a problem. And it's a problem that I quite honestly don't understand.  And I'm not going to pretend that I understand either.

I'm torn on this.  I frankly don't know what to think about the problem. I certainly want to #SupportBlue. But I'm also not going to ignore State Senator Ernie Chambers when he said that "my ISIS is the police." Quite a few blowhards tried to make political hay at the time on it, but subsequent incidents in Charleston and Baltimore where police officers were charged with murder make it clear that Chambers' perspective has some validity. It's not an either-or problem; it's a community problem.

It doesn't really matter who's right or wrong. We're losing too many people.  Pointing fingers isn't going to help.  Last week, a little baby lost her mother, a mother who was doing everything in her power to make a difference.  How does Omaha #KerrieOn without her?

That's the question that needs an answer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

With No More Husker Coverage, Time to Remove KFAB from the Car Stereo

I admit it. I'm a bit of a dinosaur who still mostly listens to AM and FM radio in the car. Our cars do have satellite radio, but they pretty much don't work while driving downtown. (So why would I spend $10 a month for it?) I'm not interested in wasting bandwidth by streaming internet radio either.  Besides, I don't want to cause a wreck by messing around with my phone while I'm driving.

And since I usually prefer listening about the sports I like (Huskers, Mavs and Cubs), I'm frequently listening to AM radio on the way to and from work. Thank goodness for Gary Sharp and Damon Benning's outstanding morning show on KOZN-1620 AM. More and more, I find myself listening to Nick Handley and Joe Quinn on KXSP-590 AM more and more, as opposed to 1620's afternoon train wreck of a show in the post-Kevin Kugler/Mike'l Severe era. It used to be that I'd listen to KFAB for traffic reports and an occasional Husker update, but that's no longer the case.

With the radio rights for Husker athletics moving to KXSP next season, KFAB is now out of the business of covering Husker sports. And with that move, there isn't any reason to tune into the hate talk that KFAB now embraces. Between Jim Rose and Chris Baker, the misinformation coming out of Dundee is truly astounding. So this weekend, I reprogrammed my car radio and removed KFAB from the presets, now that Husker baseball season is over.

So long KFAB. Somewhere in heaven, Lyell Bremser is shedding a tear.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

UNO Hockey Approaches Sellout with Only 160 Tickets Available

After just over three weeks of public sales, UNO only has 160 tickets remaining for hockey at the new arena. Depending on which side of the argument you lie on, it's good news.  People who love the idea of UNO having their own arena point out that it's an endorsement of the plan.  People against moving to the smaller arena can point out the fact that UNO could have sold more tickets, if the arena had been sized appropriately.  (#oohAhhSmallerThanLastYearsCrowd)

There's no turning the clock back on what I've called "the mistake"; it's nearing completion, right or wrong.  It doesn't even look like expansion was even considered when the building was designed, based on the drawings and images I've seen thus far.  So Maverick fans are going to live with a 7500 seat arena. Will that mean more people show up for an exhibition game during the holidays, because that might be the only chance people have to get in?  Maybe.  The bigger impact is going to be dampening the crowds that show up in January and February, which historically tend to be bigger (and quite a bit so) than the arena's capacity. That'll fuel a secondary ticket market, which will be good for season ticket holders who can't make it to every game.  It'll also enable North Dakota fans to continue to bring a thousand fans down I-29 to Omaha in February.  (What, you thought that building a smaller arena would keep the green hordes out?  Bahhaha...)

If you need three tickets, you are in luck because their are 19 sets of three tickets still available.  There are only two sets of four tickets still available, and just eight pairs.  There are still several groups of 5-10 tickets that could be split up into pairs or other groupings.  It'll be interesting to see how much longer most of the remaining tickets last; I suspect that by September, there will only be a handful of single tickets available - which would be a virtual sellout in my mind.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fundraiser for Sheila Leahy, Wife of UNO Color Commentator Terry Leahy

One of the most important members of the UNO hockey community didn't get to experience all of the excitement of UNO's historic run to the NCAA Frozen Four.  Days after St. Cloud State knocked UNO out of the NCHC playoffs, Sheila Leahy, the wife of radio color commentator Terry Leahy, was diagnosed with cancer. And the news is sad and grim.  UNO associate athletic director Mike Kemp sent the following message to ticket holders on Tuesday:

On March 16, Sheila Leahy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Single Cell Carcinoma. This is not curable and the doctors are currently working to keep her comfortable. Sheila is the wife of long-time UNO Hockey color commentator, Terry Leahy. For Maverick fans, Terry has been the man explaining the hockey games for us since the first Maverick Hockey game on October 17, 1997. We have relied on his insight and knowledge of the game for years. 
Now Terry and his family are looking to us for support. To that end, the committee is holding a Fundraiser for Sheila at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1502 South 48th St., this Friday, May 15, from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. Terry’s broadcast schedule at the radio station has been significantly reduced, and the medical bills are piling up. Support from friends is critical at this time. At Friday’s event, there will be food, a silent auction, entertainment and dancing. Please make an effort to bring family and friends to Holy Cross to support this family which has been such a visible part of Maverick Athletics for so many years. If you can’t attend the event, you can still support the family by donating to the “Go Fund Me” site that the committee has established for the Leahy Family. Just go to to make your donation. Whatever you can donate will be appreciated. But most of all, keep Sheila, Terry and their family in your prayers. Thank you for your moral, emotional and financial support.
Sad, sad story. Please join me in making a contribution to the Leahy family in their time of need.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Nebraska Got Off Easy With Bo Pelini's Buyout

Prominent coaches make a lot of money. I mean, a LOT of money. And certainly too much money, when you compare it to teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters. That's not the coaches fault, for the most part. Like corporate CEO's and entertainers, coaches get what the market demands. Football makes too much money for coaches to not share in the spoils.

So when Bo Pelini signed his $3 million contract, it's what the market for a coach with Pelini's resume would bear. There's a strong case to be made that Pelini was underpaid, compared to, say, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. And when Nebraska decided to part ways with Pelini, Nebraska was still obligated to pay Pelini under the terms of his contract. There was no clause in Pelini's contract that would allow for the payout to be reduced for his ensuing comments to his players, and even if there were terms like that, that clause might be difficult to enforce for comments made in private.  (And really, would Nebraska like to keep reopening that whole can of worms through additional legal maneuvers?  No.)

Pelini has since signed a new contract with Youngstown State that pays Pelini the same salary that Eric Wolford made last year coaching the Penguins. Some people scoff that Pelini is taking a 93% pay cut, but they miss the point.  Pretty much no matter what job Bo Pelini took, barring a top-ten job nationally, Pelini was going to make the same amount for the next five years, which is what Nebraska's buyout clause specified. Anything Pelini makes will offset the NU buyout, so if Pelini would have pursued the South Carolina defensive coordinator job, as was rumored, NU would still likely owe Pelini around $1 million a year.

Many people scoffed when Pelini took the Youngstown State job, but they conveniently ignore that the move wasn't about money. The money was going to be the same no matter where he ended up.  It became a question of where he wants to be for the next five years, and for Bo Pelini, heading home to Youngstown, Ohio, made the most sense for him.  Primarily because it's what makes the most sense for his wife and children.

And let's be honest, by accepting the salary that Youngstown State paid their last coach, Pelini let Nebraska off easy. He easily could have signed a contract that paid him $50,000 a year or less. It wouldn't have mattered to him; Nebraska would have made up the difference. But it would have freed up resources at Youngstown for other purposes: paying assistants, improving facilities, etc. And if Pelini was really feeling vindictive, it would have increased the pain to Nebraska.

But he didn't. He took it easy on Nebraska and himself. Just signed a simple deal with Youngstown and moved on.

Don't like it?  Well, either tilt at the windmill of the excessive salaries that corporate CEO's and entertainers make in our market economy (you're going to lose on that battle), or keep belaboring how awful Bo Pelini is (if that's somehow going to make anything better).  Or better yet, just move along.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Nebraska Football Has Der Veiner Schlinger; UNO Hockey Announces the Taco Cannon

The Fairbury "Veiner Schlinger" has long been a tradition at Nebraska football games. I'm not sure I want to eat a hot dog that's been blasted out of an air cannon, but it's never stopped me from trying to catch one when they've managed to get it somewhere near where I'm sitting.  (Which they almost never do, BTW...)

So I'm wondering how THIS is going to work?
I'm seeing lettuce and salsa flying...  OK, Voodoo Taco... let's see a demonstration of this on YouTube!