Monday, May 15, 2006

Howard Hawks on Huskers & (UNO) Hockey

Tom Shatel had an interesting interview in yesterday's paper with Nebraska regent and booster Howard Hawks. The conversation naturally spun to the state of Husker athletics and boosters, and Hawks touched on the Solich situation; a situation that today still bitterly divides Steve Pederson's "Husker Nation".
Q. Was it asked before Frank Solich was fired? How did you feel about that?

HH. "No. That was a little messy, probably too messy. If I had had my druthers, that would have come out as a retirement. What some forget is that Frank fired coaches the year before."

It's interesting that nearly 30 months after it happened, this is an issue that simply won't go away. At this point, it likely never will. For folks who feel the firing was wrong, most of them have moved on. I consider myself part of that group; the firing will never be justified in my eyes, but it's done, and it's not going to be reversed at this point. I try not to dwell on it anymore, and have rejected several ideas for blog entries because dwelling on it doesn't help anything. This issue is a dead horse.

On the other side of the division are another group of fans who continue to dwell on the firing. Maybe dwell isn't the right word; perhaps "revel" is a better term. In their eyes, Bill Callahan and Steve Pederson can do no wrong, and Frank Solich is evil incarnate. They claim to be the "true fans", yet they go to extreme lengths to rehash the old debates. Any criticism of the current regime is dismissed, and any good news is cause for storming 72nd & Dodge in their eyes.

Messy, indeed. As Hawks says, "if you are really committed to the institution, that way of thinking is too narrow."

Also of interest is the final question:

Q. What's your plan for future athletic donations? Anything you would like to see done?

HH. "We need to get better athletic facilities for UNO. Softball, baseball, hockey. We need to do something with the Chili Greens' land. I'd also like to see more youth facilities around the city."

There have been discussions about UNO building a practice hockey rink south of the Ak-Sar-Ben campus, and even grander ideas about a new UNO arena for hockey, basketball, and volleyball. While the Qwest Center is a grand facility for Mav hockey, it's also much bigger than is necessary for UNO. Plus, sharing the facility with Creighton and other events in Omaha has caused UNO scheduling problems; take UNO's games with Michigoon in February. The games were moved from the Qwest Center to the Civic Auditorium due to the state wrestling tournament. Many Mav fans would like to see UNO build a 7,000-10,000 seat state-of-the-art arena of their own as a home for UNO's indoor sports.

Adding weight to this idea is the questionable future of the North Central Conference. Over the last few years, members have been lost to Division 1 and others are considering it for the future. If other NCC members make the jump, UNO will be forced to ask the same question; either upgrade to full D-1 or downgrade to a lesser D-2 conference with restrictions on the sports. If UNO wants to move to Division 1, UNO will need to seriously upgrade facilities like the Sapp Fieldhouse. A new UNO arena could provide UNO hockey with all the amenities that the Qwest Center brings while restoring the atmosphere that some feel was lost in the move from the auditorium. This certainly bears watching to see how it develops.

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