Monday, March 05, 2007

Big Red Roundtable: What About The "Other" Husker Sports?

In this second edition of the "Big Red Roundtable", many Husker bloggers give their opinions on the "other" Husker sports. (What, there's something else besides Husker football?) Thanks again to CornNation for hosting this round. (Hmm...we're going to have to find a better tablecloth though...)

What's your interest in the 'other' Nebraska sports those beyond Husker football?
Historically, my second favorite sports was Husker men's basketball. Growing up as a kid, I'd turn on my old Soundesign AM/FM radio to hear Kent Pavelka describe the exploits of Jack Moore and Andre Smith and the like, especially that night when Pavelka had to excitedly whisper the call as the Huskers upset #1 Missouri in a eerily silent Hearns Center. In the '90's, I even went to several games; always fun to watch the Huskers beat Kansas down in Lincoln. About the time Danny Nee imploded the program, my alma mater UNO started their hockey program, and I had less time to follow Husker hoops. And as Omaha's media interest has shifted to Creighton, it's become more and more difficult to watch as the games just aren't televised in Omaha anymore. That's a huge problem.

In recent years, I've jumped on the bandwagon a little for Husker baseball and volleyball. I don't follow them in depth like others do. Everybody loves a winner.

In which sport besides football would you like Nebraska to succeed most and why?
I'd have to say basketball. Yes, the College World Series is in Omaha and is a great event, but it really doesn't have the interest on a national level. With talk about making Omaha a permanent (or at least regular) host of the volleyball championship, you can say the same thing for it as well.

But until college football institutes a playoff system, March Madness is the most popular championship playoff in this country. (The Super Bowl is still a bigger single game.) Nebraska needs to become a regular participant in it. Dana Altman has taken Creighton from playing in front of a couple thousand fans in the old Civic Auditorium to now selling out a 17,500 seat arena on the strength of a few NCAA berths (a couple of wins several years ago didn't hurt either). I look at the people who have jumped on the bandwagon for the Jays in recent years and just wonder how huge Husker basketball could become. The potential is there.

Some Husker fans have the attitude that former athletic director Bill Byrne focused too much on 'other' sports which hurt the success of the football team. Do you agree with that statement?
I can see where people get that idea, but I think it's a little simplistic. Bill Byrne does get credit for helping get Haymarket Park built for Husker baseball, and that did take a lot of resources to get done. Meanwhile, at that same time, nearly everybody else in college football (except for the Huskers) were plowing funds into football facilities. Sure Byrne built the skyboxes and renovated much of the stadium, which kind of counts as football improvements, although 99% of the investment was for the fans, not the program itself.

It would have been nice to take the funds from the skyboxes and use them on improved facilities for the players and coaches, but deferred maintenance of Memorial Stadium was taking it's toll. Remember section 14 crashing to the ground shortly after the spring game about 10 years ago? What if that happened on game day? The fact is that Byrne had no choice but to put that money into the stadium.

Should Byrne have pushed harder for Boyd Epley's strength complex? Definitely.

And as a follow up to the previous question, do you think that the 'other sports' detract from or compliment Husker football?
For the most part, they compliment. Tom Osborne used a Husker basketball game to help sell a kid from Florida named Tommie Frazier to come here. Perhaps under Bill Byrne, it siphoned some funds away that could have been used for the football program, but Husker football is the 80-ton gorilla in terms of interest around here. No other sport can even make a noticeable dent in the interest level of football, no matter what they accomplish. (Even if basketball were to get really, really good, football would still be king, and it would probably free up even more funds in the department for football, since football really funds most everything in Husker sports today.)

What do the other members of the roundtable have to offer? Look for the responses from CornNation, DoubleExtraPoint, and Big Red Network. And AJ the HuskerH8er gives his rebuttal as well.


AJ said...


Husker Mike said...

Dude... check your e-mail more often. :-)

Pepperloin said...

Husker Football is a franchise in and of itself. For those of us who didn't go to school there but grew up there, it's an entity that exists separate from the University. Nebraskans are free to root for teams outside the border for any other sport. I would rather spend my energy following the Cubs than Husker baseball, for example.