Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Husker Hoops at the Qwest Center?

Today's Lincoln Journal-Star reports that the Huskers are considering playing Miami in a "neutral site" basketball game in the 2008-09 season. Specifically, at the Qwest Center Omaha...which just happens to be the home court of Creighton.

Which has some (by no means all) BlueJay fans fit to be tied. KXSP-AM's Matt Perrault threw a temper tantrum on-air worthy of my 3 year old niece this afternoon when this story broke (and thus destroyed any claim that he could make that he wasn't a Bluejay homer in the process.) Perrault and the immature faction of the Creighton fanbase that are protesting this idea seem to be claiming that Creighton has some sort of ownership of the Qwest Center.

Problem with that logic is that Creighton is simply a tenant of the Qwest Center...not the owner. They aren't even managing the arena, like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln manages and maintains the Bob Devaney Sports Center. So unless Creighton has an exclusive deal for basketball with MECA (who manages the Qwest Center for the City of Omaha), MECA is certainly within their rights to rent the arena for a Husker game if they so choose.

UNO Maverick fans probably aren't going to provide a lot of sympathy. This single game is unlikely to keep Creighton from playing a game at the Qwest Center, which is more than can be said about MECA's treatment of the Mavs when scheduling hockey games. In fact, for the second year in a row, UNO is being bumped to the Civic Auditorium for their regular season finale against a big-name opponent (last season Michigoon, this season Ohio State). Two years ago, UNO moved a series to the Auditorium to free up the Qwest Center so that Creighton could host a game in the "BracketBuster." And it's not like MECA is making a cut-rate deal to bring in a competiting team on a regular basis either.

Back before the first shovel of dirt was turned at 10th & Capitol, Nebraska's then athletic director talked about being interested in hosting games at the Qwest Center. And it's not like there isn't a precedent for this type of game; the Saavis Center is not only the home for the Saint Louis University Billikens, but also the "Braggin' Rights" game between Missouri and Illinois and the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. Nebraska played volleyball matches at the Qwest Center last year as well.

With the current state of the Husker hoops, I have to wonder why some Creighton fans are getting worked up over this. It is two years down the line, and at this point, I would be surprised if Barry Collier was still the head coach for this game. Perhaps it's some deep uncertainty about how long Dana Altman will stay at Creighton and how long the Huskers will be down. Contrary to what KXSP's Perrault thinks, Nebraska certainly could outbid Creighton for Altman's services, though it's extremely doubtful that Altman would be interested anyway; he's turned down bigger and better job offers. But the influx of coaching talent to the Big XII lately (Self, McDermott, Anderson, Huggins, Capel, Drew, and Gillespie) is going to force Steve Pederson's hand soon.


Adam said...

Perrault is acting like a douche bag about the whole thing. It's just one game, 60 miles down the road, where they can fulfill their half of the contract (a neutral site game) the only other location that would work is the Kearney Event Center, and that ain't gonna happen...unless, of course, you propose playing at the Pershing...that places makes the old Ak look like the Q...

torear said...

The best analogy I could draw to this for UNO fans would be if the Knights wished to move a date into the Qwest Center. The Knights are a team that "competes" (granted, not on the ice, but in the marketplace, yes) with UNO and could be considered a sort of rival. From MECA's point of view, the Knights--like Nebraska basketball--are a competiting organization with one of their primary tenants and, also like NU, haven't demostrated in their attendance numbers that a one time event would generate enough revenue to risk continued bad blood with one of their contractual partners. Scheduling conflicts are one thing, but making deals with a direct competitor is another.

I would also disagree that Creighton has not had issues with MECA. Even though we've averaged over 15,000 on the prime weeknights of Fridays and Saturdays, those dates are largely unavailable and that's not something that can be negotiated much. Also, asking us to schedule a nationally televised game at 11:00 PM was quite the mandate and it was no sure thing that would have worked out as well as it did. This doesn't even begin to address incidents such as the physical assault of some Creighton students by Qwest Center ushers after the Wichita State game this season.

For Nebraska (who does have other neutral site options- such as the Civic in Omaha or the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines), it's a gimmick to try and resurrent some mocidum of interest in the Omaha area, but it's high risk too. A potential lack of attendance (especially considering the inability to draw in Lincoln) and a loss on the court of a successful rival is just further embarassment in the largest market in this state.

Husker Mike said...

I never said that Creighton doesn't have issues with the MECA, just that they haven't had as many as UNO has had. You complain about playing the "Bracket Buster" at 11 pm. That time was dictated by ESPN as much as the Qwest Center; MECA said you could play at 8 pm.

And don't forget that UNO originally was going to play Michigan that evening at the Qwest Center anyway.

As for the complaints about the "Qwestapo", both sets of fans (Mavs and Jays) can certainly agree about that.

Adam said...

Mike got to it before I could. Don't blame the 11pm game on MECA, blame ESPN. Besides, the game sold out.

Nebraska playing in Des Moines would be like Creighton playing in Topeka.