Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dispelling a Myth

Many Husker fans spent the weekend with one eye on the TV or computer to see which former Huskers would end up with which NFL teams. This year, four (Adam Carriker-Rams, Brandon Jackson-Packers, Stewart Bradley-Eagles, Jay Moore-49ers) Huskers were chosen, which was second most in the Big XII behind Tejas' 7 draft picks.

Some fans point to the number of draft picks and use it as more evidence towards the recruiting abilities (or, as they prefer to say, lack of recruiting) of Frank Solich. Just for curiousity sake, I went back and looked at the history of Nebraska's draft picks over the past 20 years.

1987-1991 30
1992-1996 31
1997-2002 35
2003-2007 21

Hmmm...looks like quite a drop in recent years. Perhaps there is something too this? So let's look further...

1987-1991 Offense 13, Defense 17
1992-1996 Offense 15, Defense 16
1997-2002 Offense 15, Defense 19, Kickers 1
2003-2007 Offense 4, Defense 15, Kickers 2

First some clarification: it's tough to compare years in the draft. Up until the middle 90's, the NFL drafted many more players than they do today, and judging from the pick numbers of some former Huskers, the 1987-1991 group had 5 guys who wouldn't have been drafted under the current setup. But what is obvious is that the drop-off was only on the offensive side of the ball. The defense continues to crank out NFL prospects at nearly the same rate as the championship teams from the golden era.

I noticed this trend several years ago as the depth in the offensive line began to drop in the late 90's. In 1994 and 1995, we went 2 deep on the offensive line on the way to steamrolling anybody and everybody in college football. But by 1997, the line was much thinner and the starters were the main contributors to the line. This shows in the NFL draft results as the Huskers have only sent 5 offensive linemen to the NFL since the 1997 National Champions. Compare that with 8 linemen being drafted during the 60-3 run, and it's obvious that the dropoff in offensive line production started well before Frank Solich took over.

Expecting the Huskers to maintain the level of the 60-3 three-time trophy winners is simply unrealistic. But even when you take that into consideration, the dropoff on offense was still noticable. Was it recruiting? Was it coaching? Or was it in strength and conditioning?

Likely all of the above. But wherever it was, it seems to have been concentrated on offense.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

2008 Football Schedule: Hokies & Three Other Turkeys

Nebraska is close to finalizing the 2008 non-conference football schedule, with 4 home games against San Jose State (September 6th), New Mexico State (September 13th), Virginia Tech (September 20th), and Western Michigan (September 27th - tentative pending a signed contract from the Broncos). Virginia Tech's Hokie Bird mascot is derived from a turkey, and it's hard to argue that the other three games aren't turkeys either.

I understand why Nebraska is scheduling eight home games next season; the money is important. But aside from the game against the Hokies, this schedule isn't particularly attractive. Some will argue that in this day and age of the BCS, one challenging non-conference game is plenty. If that's the case, that points out something seriously wrong with the BCS. Perhaps it's time to put "strength of schedule" back into the BCS formula, as teams should be rewarded for playing games like Nebraska-USC or Ohio State-Texas.

The Big XII is still trying to find another network to pick up prime-time football games this fall, and schedules like this don't encourage TV networks to bid to carry games. ABC will quickly jump on Nebraska-Tech next season, but I don't see any network salivating to carry the other games. It's simply uncompelling football - uncompelling for fans, uncompelling for the networks. But Nebraska fans will buy up all the tickets irregardless of who the opponent is.

What would I do? Simple...throw one of those WAC/MAC teams back, and schedule a home-and-home with somebody in the Pac-10, Big-10/11, or SEC, with an away game in 2008. More interesting for fans, more interesting for TV, and better for college football. The Big XII has enough doesn't need one of it's marquee names scheduling cupcakes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

TBS Dumps Big XII Football

Quietly, TBS has discontinued their coverage of college football, leaving FSN as the sole rights-holder to Big XII games on cable. Previously, FSN subleased rights to TBS, with one network taking a Pac-10 game and the other getting a Big XII game each week.

Big deal? In terms of the future of the Big XII, yes it is. Accordng to the San Antonio Express-News, Big XII games could end up being on FSN or possibly the NFL Network ... which is potentially bad news in terms of exposure. FSN games frequently are pre-empted in some markets nationwide for local coverage of baseball, basketball, or hockey. The NFL Network is still struggling to be added to cable systems nationwide, usually being relegated to digital cable. The $8.40 they charge cable companies each year doesn't help either.

Other ideas that have been considered were a Saturday Night Football package on the Fox broadcast network, as well as other cable channels, such as Versus. The Fox package sounds intriguing if it could somehow get pulled off; certainly would be more compelling than "America's Most Wanted" or "Cops".

But short of a Fox nationwide broadcast, the cable options are very unappetizing. TBS is one of the most popular cable channels nationwide, and certainly more than any of the alternatives being discussed. What's worse is that the Big XII is committed to the FSN deal for another 5 years. So while the Big XII will get the money, teams won't get the exposure.

A lot of people would like to point towards ESPN as a solution, but ESPN's schedule is already packed with comittments to carry Big 10/11, SEC, ACC, Big East, and now Pac-10 games.

The Big XII conference seems to have the worst TV deal of any of the major conferences. Notre Dame and the SEC have exclusive deals with NBC and CBS that guarentees them national coverage. The other BCS conferences have deals with ABC and ESPN that give them regional coverage on ABC and nationwide coverage on an ESPN network. The Big XII deal only gives them regional coverage on ABC and coverage to "most of the US" on the FSN regional networks.

Will inferior coverage hurt the Big XII in the future? It's a very real possibility, as the ESPN hype machine may not pay as much attention to Big XII games since they don't have the rights to them. That lesser coverage could impact the decisions of not only recruits, but also the commitment of schools such as Colorado and Tejas, as they might find it lucrative to change conferences in the future in search of better TV deals. Remember, the Big XII was formed as the bigger schools in the Southwest Conference (and likewise the old Big 8) were looking for a better platform to market their programs.

Moving Big XII football games off of TBS to inferior, lesser cable networks such as FSN has the effect of marginalizing the conference and their teams.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Big Red Roundtable: Post-Spring Game Reflections

Well, the gang is reassembling after the Spring Game with some thoughts on where things stand after spring practice with Husker football:

Keller or Ganz. Pick one, then give three reasons.
Sam Keller. Why?
  • While it was against the scrubs, Keller threw for a higher completion percentage than Ganz.
  • In the highlights I saw, Keller looked more comfortable in the pocket than Ganz, though Ganz showed better mobility.
  • Keller has started 8 division 1 games, including once against USC.
  • Keller has only been learning this offense for 6 months; Ganz has been learning it for nearly 3 years. Keller has more room for growth and to increase his comfort level.
The most impressive guy at the Spring Game?
Hmmm. Ndamukong Suh tormented the scrubs all day. Nate Swift made several catches. But my vote goes to Patrick Witt, who completed 5 of 11 passes against the Blackshirts despite the fact that he really should still be in high school. I like this kid's maturity, and it looks he's a player too.

If you were the Athletic Director, what would you do with the proceeds.
Is this really a question? Making some assumptions as to how much money has been raised since he last reported, as well as ticket sales and donations from the new seats, there's probably a balance of $20 million still owed on the North Stadium complex. That's target #1. I've heard that Nebraska paid the NFL Network $15,000 to carry the Spring Game; if that's the case, from what I've heard, it was money well spent as fans love the broadcast, convincing the NFL to rebroadcast it over and over again. My cable company doesn't carry the NFL Network, so I'll have to take their word for it. Bill Callahan in the booth explaining how plays work would have definitely worth the time for any football fan, let alone a Husker fan.

Do 54,000 people show up at Nebraska's Spring Game because there is really nothing else to do in Nebraska or because we're more in love with our Huskers than anyone else is with their team?
Well, that presumption was shot down when Alabama closed the gates after 92,128 showed up for Nick Saban's first spring game. Yes, we love our Huskers...but so do fans in Ohio where 75,301 Buckeye fans showed up. As for "nothing else to do"...I guess it all depends on your perspective.

When you heard Marlon Lucky was injured, your first thought was...
...why the #(&$ was he still in there at that point? If you are trying to acclimate players to playing a full game, you don't let the clock run without stops in the second half of a spring game. If three of your top four running backs are hurting, forcing you to move a safety to I-back, you don't risk your lone healthy back in a scrimmage. If you are trying to decide between two quarterbacks competing for the spring game, you don't evaluate them on how they hand the ball off. In other words, I don't know what the coaching staff was trying to do at that point in the spring game. Thank goodness Lucky's injury wasn't major.

Were you at all concerned by the fairly modest rushing performance overall by the Red team or is that a sign there's some depth on the defensive front seven?
Not really. Lucky did average 5.9 yards a rush, which is a pretty good number. Cody Glenn is nursing his injured foot, and the big question of the spring was the quarterback situation.

Callahan called the receiving corps the strength of the team. Would you tend to agree with that or would you choose another aspect (e.g. linebackers)?
I'd definitely take linebackers. In terms of quantity, the Huskers have been playing a lot of wide receivers, but in the games at the end of the season, they came up MIA. Zac Taylor spent a lot of time looking for them, and ended up taking sacks or throwing the ball away. Menelik Holt and Chris Brooks may add to the depth, but Nebraska needs to raise the performance overall of this group.

I'll definitely take linebacker at this point. Corey McKeon is solid at middle linebacker, and some think that Bo Ruud is the best linebacker in the Big XII. And some Husker fans think that Steve Octavien is the best of the bunch.

So what does the rest of the Roundtable think? This time, CornNation and Jason at Big Red Network were the hosts. MidwestCoastBias will contribute, and watch for contributions from DoubleExtraPoint and new invitees High Plains Drifter, Husker Faithful, and Husker Guy. AJ the HuskerH8er got an invite too; we'll see if he participates.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Husker Peace Treaty

Over the last few weeks, the family feud escalated with dueling golf outings and criticism of both Tom Osborne and Steve Pederson. After 41 months, shouldn't we be past this by now? Certainly folks stuck in the middle are tired of it. So, here's a stab at diplomacy:

Former Players
Yes, the names and faces around the athletic department are different. Things change, times change. All good things must come to an end. That doesn't make things wrong...just different. If you want to build unity between you and your fellow alums, don't wait for the athletic department to do it for you...schedule events yourself. Take the inititive and do it yourself, though do us all a favor and try not to schedule it opposite another "official" event.

Tom Osborne
As the patriarch of the Husker football family, your every move is scrutinzed. At the same time, you probably hold the keys to solving this issue. You spoke last week about loyalty and honesty. That is being put to the test. We know you are loyal to your players and your staff. Now it's time to extend that loyalty to the people who followed in their footsteps.

Bill Callahan
You didn't ask to get mixed up into this. You're the step-father thrown into the middle of it, and it's not what you asked for. But you can play a role in solving this issue by making sure that the people who preceded you, both as players and coaches, are welcome, whether it's inside the offices, at practice, or on the sidelines. Bob Stoops isn't afraid of Barry Switzer; you shouldn't be afraid of Tom Osborne.

Steve Pederson
You tossed the first shot in this whole feud. Whether you were right or wrong really isn't relevant anymore, as what's done is done. But by that same, it's time to dismantle the fortress. Enough is enough. Talk to Tom Shatel. Talk to Kevin Kugler. (In fact, get him back behind the mike on NET's coverage of Husker baseball and volleyball.) Admit you asked Houston Nutt to be head coach; nobody believes your denial. Are you going to take some shots? Certainly. But the longer you keep avoiding them, the longer this thing is going to continue to fester.

Welcome the all of the former players and coaches into the program, not just the ones who agree with you. Let them be on the sidelines; that's the way other programs handle it. Consult with Tom Osborne; Creighton and Iowa Western are doing it.

You are not the program. The program is bigger than any one person, and you are merely the custodian. It does not exist to stroke your ego.

2003 is over. Steve Pederson fans, drop Frank Solich bashing. Steve Pederson haters, let go of the coaching change. Solich, Bo Pelini, Barney Cotton, and Marvin Sanders are not coming back. Rehashing this old decision is like picking an old scab; it may feel good at the time but it's not allowing things to heel.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Offensive Line: Past and Future

Steve Hanaway over at Big Red Network is ecstatic over the four offensive linemen who have verbally committed to the Huskers for 2008. He makes the point that we haven't had enough depth at offensive line in recent years, a trait he ties back to the Solich years but I actually trace back even further. Back in the golden years of 1994 and 1995, we didn't so much have a second string offensive line, but rather a first string and a 1-A string. The starters would plow the road for Lawrence Phillips, Ahman Green, Clinton Childs, and Damon Benning for a while, then line 1-A would come in fresh as the defense started to tire and continue beating them down. Miami couldn't handle the depth, and Florida couldn't either. However, by 1997, that depth was gone and the starters were left to shoulder most of the burden.

Want proof? Look at the NFL draft history of the offensive line over time: 1993: Will Shields; 1994: Lance Lundberg; 1995: Zach Wiegert, Brenden Stai, Rob Zatechka; 1996: Aaron Graham; 1997: Adam Treu, Chris Dishman; 1998: Aaron Taylor; 1999: NONE; 2000: NONE; 2001: Dominic Raiola, Russ Hochstein; 2002: Toniu Fonoti; 2003: NONE; 2004: Josh Sewell; 2005: Richie Incognito; 2006: NONE. Whether it was recruiting, conditioning, coaching, or what, but it's clear that the production of the offensive line started to drop off before Tom Osborne's retirement. (Not that we shouldn't have expected a little drop off from the 60-3 run, but the dropoff on the o-line was a little more than it should have been.)

So, the fact that these top offensive line prospects have committed is going to lead us back to the glory days of the mid nineties? Maybe...maybe not. Or maybe more accurately, probably not. Take the case of former Iowa recruit Blake Larson: Parade All-American, top offensive line prospect coming out of high school.

Played three years for the Hawkeyes. Never started a game, and is now a police officer down in Kansas City. Is he an isolated case? Hardly. Of Rivals Top 100 of 2002, 31 players didn't even finish out their college careers with the school they signed with.

Ok, I've railed before about the fact that these so called recruiting experts are anything but experts. What's the harm? Plenty. A high school coach in Pennsylvania likens it to exploitation of kids. Kirk Ferentz said that it adds "undue and un-normal pressure" on players. Even Houston Nutt admits that "it just seems like it's out of hand. You just have to keep up with the faith that there will be something or some legislation to rein it in."

Some will scoff at the idea that the attention is harmful. You can dismiss the idea of the "fragile psyche" if you want, but with some players, they develop a sense of entitlement. We saw it around here with some members of the class of 2005, such as Leon Jackson and Harrison Beck.

Is it a good deal that Bill Callahan already has 4 verbal commitments from offensive linemen for the 2008 class? Yep; it shows that Callahan and Dennis Wagner are getting their first choices at these positions. But if you're thinking about toasting the 2012 National Championship, better reach for the black coffee instead and sober up first.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sports Take A Pause for the Virginia Tech Tragedy

Today is a day to keep the folks in Blacksburg, Virginia in your thoughts and prayers after today's tragedy...

(Thanks to Corn Nation, Rocky Top Talk, and SB Nation for the image.)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Reflections on a 38-0 Thrashing

Nope...I didn't bother to spend the $8 or the hour-long drive down to Lincoln to catch today's Spring Game, instead choosing to clean out the garage while listening to the radio. Any second thoughts were long gone when Nate Swift scored to make it 28-love in the first quarter. I swore off the spring game two years ago when it became clear that it was becoming more of a PR/recruiting event than a scrimmage.

Darren of Big Red Network talked about the "Return of Competition" this spring, but today, that competition was pretty much non-existent. Granted, Darren was referring to competition between players who were on the Red squad, not necessarily competition between the top units and the reservers. If anything, the gap seems to be widening. Does this mean the talent level at the top of the roster has improved that much?

Probably the best reason to attend the Spring Game would be to avoid listening to "Husker Information Minister" Jim Rose. Rose kept raving about Xavier Rucker, implying that he's the brother of former Husker Mike and Mizzou tight end Martin. Turns out that he's a freshman from Minnesota, not St. Joseph, Missouri...and almost half the size of the 6'5" 275 lb. Panthers defensive end.

Watching a few highlights this evening, it looks like Sam Keller gets the edge at quarterback if you put any weight on today's performance. Ganz showed some nice mobility, but considering how much time the offensive line gave the quarterbacks today, there really wasn't a need to scramble.

I'm still trying to figure out the logic in playing Marlon Lucky late in the fourth quarter of this game. The Journal-Star reports that it's tentatively diagnosed as a sprain, though an MRI tomorrow will tell us more. Nice to see Cody Glenn running again...

True freshman Patrick Witt is probably the best freshman quarterback of the Bill Callahan era; I liked his maturity as a high school junior, and he put up some decent numbers considering that he was running for his life behind the sieves of the reserve o-line.

We're going to need help on kickoffs this fall with the rule change to kick off from the 30 yard line. According to the official stats, Jake Wesch was able to get a few kickoffs inside the ten, but no touchbacks.

Darren and Jason over at Big Red Network sat through the carnage and reported their initial observations. Of the youngsters, they liked DJ Jones, playing both ways on the offensive line, Witt, Rickey Thenarse, and Chris Brooks.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Shades of Super Demorrio: Octavien at Rush End?

In 2003, one of the more intriguing changes Bo Pelini made was to play linebacker Demorrio Williams at defensive end in passing situations. It started almost as an accident, but it became very potent as Williams was able to blow past tackles on his way to the quarterback. So when the Journal Star reported that Kevin Cosgrove is experimenting with Steve Octavien at rush end in similar situations, it brought a smile to my face. Every so often, Cosgrove shows a little creativity. Just wish we'd see a little more of it.

Cody Glenn is back practicing after missing the final three games of last season due to a foot injury. That doesn't mean that he's fact, far from it. The fear seems to be that Glenn may never fully recover from his foot problem, which would be a shame. Last year, I felt he was the best back last spring and the #1 or #2 back most of last season. His injury situation makes Marlon Lucky's improvement even more important as we move into 2007.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the dueling golf outings, though both are probably in danger due to the weather forecast. Local weather forecasts are still calling for rain and cold tomorrow, and even some snow overnight, though it may clear out by the time the spring game kicks off. The chill in relations between the athletic department administration and former players doesn't show any signs of clearing as former players arrive in town for the weekend. Tommie Frazier, Vershan Jackson, Correll Buckhalter, and Carlos Polk talked to KXSP-590's Matt Perrault about the growing divide between former Huskers and the administration in an interview available in a podcast. Frazier's criticism is especially stinging, as he mentions how he doesn't feel welcome and doesn't think supporters are being treated well. Frazier brings an interesting perspective as he was hired by Pederson to help raise funds for the Osborne Complex in 2003.

Frazier also has a few words about the fans who criticize the former players, saying that they simply "don't get it." It's easy to dismiss the former players as simply being offended that they are out of the limelight, but that's way too simplistic. Listening to these players, it's becoming increasingly clear that what means the most to these players is the sense of family that was fostered in the program. Correll Buckhalter and Carlos Polk talked about players doing everything together. That sense of family seems to be gone, and now legends like Tom Osborne aren't welcome around this new program.

Critics of the former players need to keep one thing in mind...the criticism is aimed at the administration, not the current players, and not the current coaches. They still are former Huskers, proud of their teammates and their school. It would do this administration well to straighten this mess out once and for all. Some of the players are commenting that there are no reunion plans for the 1997 National Champions. I'm sure that Steve Pederson has something planned, as he did something for the 1994 and 1995 champions. But by that same token, he needs to involve those former players in the plans. Maybe scheduling it during the football season isn't a good idea, since many of them are involved in other football programs, either playing in the NFL or coaching.

This family feud has gone on long enough.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Can Ganz Beat out Keller?

Well, if last Saturday's scrimmage is any indication, the Nebraska quarterback race is a little closer than most fans would have thought at this point. Joe Ganz directed the first-team offense to scores in three of four drives, including 2 against the Blackshirts, while Sam Keller never was able to score in any of his drives.

Now, this is kind of like predicting an election based on the initial returns or even early polls. Sam Keller is going to have every opportunity to win this job, and will have the rest of the spring and summer to learn the offense. But in the West Coast Offense, it isn't the biggest arm or best athlete that leads to success, it's the smartest player. That's what they said about Joe Montana and it kind of applies to Rich Gannon. Now, while Joe Ganz isn't either of those guys...just remember that the most physically talented guy isn't always the best guy.

Initial reports on Marlon Lucky this spring sound very positive that we will finally see the talent that had recrutniks drooling over him in 2004. Not only has Lucky improved on the field, but his mental attitude seems to be better as well. Certainly a marked improvement from the February incident that landed him in the intensive care unit. We may never know exactly why it happened, and we really don't need to know either. But it's looking like he's back and better than before, and that's a good thing for everybody. DoubleExtraPoint's Jeffie Husker has more over at AOL's FanHouse.

Right now, the only compelling reason to attend this Saturday's spring game is to see Joe Ganz and Sam Keller shred the scrubs. That sounds slightly enticing, until you hear the weather forecasts. The meteorologists at KMTV-channel 3 and KETV-channel 7 in Omaha both are blogging that the weather is going to be dicey at best, with it being cold and blustery, and quite possibly accumulating snow as well. That will really dampen the attendance for Steve Pederson's recruiting show.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sparty Finishes Off College Hockey

4 weeks ago, Michigan State finished off the UNO Mavericks hockey season. Tonight, Sparty finished off the season by capturing the national championship at the Frozen Four. If you're a "glass half full" guy, having your season ended by the national champion isn't exactly a bad thing.

The Frozen Four is rapidly becoming one of the premier NCAA championships, with sellouts nine of the last ten years. Bigger than NCAA volleyball? Definitely. Bigger than the College World Series? Hard to say. The CWS has definitely gotten huge in Omaha, but nationally, I'm not so sure. I've heard reports that Omaha has bid on the 2013 Frozen Four, which would be a MUCH bigger get for Omaha than NCAA basketball regionals. As we learned last month, most of the tickets for next years basketball regional are going to BrieJay fans (okay, more accurately, their scalpers). The Frozen Four brings in hockey fans from across the country, not just fans from the host area. Heck, several dozen UNO fans alone are in St. Louis this weekend for the action...spending money in restaurants and hotels. Bring those thousands of fans to Omaha, and you'll see an event that rivals Berkshire Hathaway weekend for toursim in this area.

Tonight's game featured a 3 goal flurry late in the 3rd period from Sparty. The first goal featured LA Kings prospect Brian Boyle getting confused on a faceoff, allowing Tim Kennedy to breakaway for the goal. Kings fans have been taunting Maverick fans pointing as of late, pointing out that Boyle is a better prospect than Scott Parse. Maybe they're right. All I know is that Parse has 6 points in 6 games with the AHL's Grand Rapids, and probably will be signing with another NHL team in August.

Oh, and how did Sparty score the last 2 goals? Oh, just the game winner scored with just 18.9 seconds left in regulation, followed by an empty-netter with 1.7 to seal the victory. Probably one of the best championship game finishes since Tejas/USC in the 2006 Rose Bowel.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Back to What's Important

This week, the Journal-Star's Steve Sipple talked to linebacker Corey McKeon about leadership and the quarterbacks. He also confirms some of my fears about Sam Keller:
“Joe, he’s a product of the system. He goes through his progressions: ‘He’s not open, you go to him. He’s not open, so go to him (repeats) …’
Sam’s going to attack people. He’s got that experience where he’s looking for Maurice Purify every play. You look over and see Cortney Grixby guarding Maurice Purify, he knows where to put the ball to get a big play.”
Can you see defensive coordinators drooling over this scouting report? Disguise your coverages and watch Keller force the ball into coverage as the safety comes in for support. Remember Josh Bullocks in 2003, who stepped in front of passes time and time again for a key interception? In fairness to Keller, Damon Benning watched practice on Wednesday and said yesterday that the gunslinger reputation Keller has may be a misconception. Let's hope so.

Speaking of McKeon, the pressure is on the linebacker corps to lead the defense with the inexperience up front and Zack Bowman's blown patellar tendon raising questions about depth in the secondary. While defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove is confident Bowman will return this season, the medical research I've seen suggests that this injury may take 9 months to a year to return to full form. This is especially true for a corner, which will depend on this tendon for leaping. After missing last year due to an ACL, would it make sense for Bowman to look towards a possible medical hardship season and try to play in 2008, rather than rush to try and play in 2007? In any event, with Andre Jones having a season of experience and transfer Armando Murillo already learning this spring, Nebraska is much deeper at cornerback this season, even if Bowman stays on the sideline.

Nebraska announced that football tickets are going up over 8% next season. Although it would be easy to take a shot at Pederson over this one, I won't. It's part of a sad trend in college sports as everything escalates in price. For what it's worth, Steve Pederson has tried to buck this trend for the most part, even reducing prices in 2003 when he arrived. (And you thought all I did was badmouth SP!) With money games now fetching $800K a year, one wonders how long it's going to be before college teams start playing tougher non-conference games. The BCS really needs to bring "strength of schedule" back into the BCS equation to penalize teams for loading up on home games against weaker opponents. It might be bad for some schools budgets, but it's good for the game. Steve over at Big Red Network suggests that games like New Mexico State are kind of a necessary evil, not exactly enticing to fans, but coveted by just about every big college program.

Speaking of Big Red Network, they have some interesting takes on Osborne's retirement 10 years ago and the Husker Family Feud that I commented on previously. It's a great conversation item to speculate on what would have happened if Osborne had stayed on for a while longer. My take is that I'm not sure it would have made as much of a difference in 1998 or 1999; heck, many folks thought in 1999 that Nebraska was the best team in the country. And if Osborne would have waited to retire, would Bill Byrne still have allowed Osborne to name his successor? If he hadn't, the entire schism we now are experiencing would have occured years before. Some people wonder "what could have been" if the rumors that Byrne wanted to hire Mack Brown in 1997 were true. My take: based on how Texas fared in Brown's early years (regularly outcoached in big games, benching Major Applewhite for Chrissy Simms, etc.) and the divisiveness that was sure to ensue after a change of this sort, Brown would have been fired at Nebraska before he would have had a chance to recruit a Vince Young.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

BrieJay Resurrection: Wooooo! Pig Sooie!

Hard not to post once again about Creighton after the bizarre turn of events, with Dana Altman suddenly resigning from Arkansas to return to Creighton. Many folks point to the bizarre, almost surreal "Wooooo! Pig Sooie!" chant that Broyles sprung on Altman as the turning point, but it that might be a little simplistic.

Anyway, most of the bandwagon BrieJay fans are suffering a little whiplash as they attempt to jump back on the Creighton bandwagon. Many of them are having to eat their words of disgust towards Altman, as they trashed their at-that-time-former coach. In that respect, they match Steve Pederson supporters in their extremist, polarizing philosophy that can be best summarized by the phrase "You're either with us, or against us."

Will this have any long-term effect on Altman or Creighton? Hard to say. Rumors of job offers should diminish almost entirely now. But listening to Altman's press conference today, it really sounds like this episode has changed Altman. Perhaps it was only exhaustion. It makes me wonder whether it will change Altman as a coach. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Frank Broyles, who was already taking a lot of heat for his coaching search before this episode, is calling in reinforcements. Kind of reminds me of another coaching search 3 years ago, except that this time the plane from Nebraska didn't leave Fayetteville's tarmac empty. Broyles even taunted Steve Pederson's search at the time, suggesting that he would hire a replacement in a few days.

Now that Broyles has worked through his "A" list (and likely his "B" list as well) of candidates, who is next up? Will Doc Sadler get a call next? Or has Broyles had enough of candidates from Nebraska?

Monday, April 02, 2007

BrieJays In Mourning

Today's announcement that Dana Altman was leaving Creighton for Arkansas certainly surprised me... I figured that Altman was going to stick around the Hilltop for a while.

It will be interesting to see how the bandwagon BrieJay fans will adjust to this. Many already are taking shots at Altman... which makes almost as much sense as Husker fans taking shots at Tom Osborne for honoring a friend, who last summer tried to resurrect Osborne's campaign for governor.

True Bluejay fans will recover much more quickly than the bandwagon fans...if they survived the Rick Johnson era, they can survive this. In the meantime, what will the bandwagonners do? Apparantly they are stuck with their CU tickets for next season, as renewals for next season were due this past weekend.

Speaking of tickets, Husker football tickets are going up $4 a game next season. Is it the increasing guarentees that need to be paid to teams? ($800,000 for New Mexico State in 2008?) To some degree, yes. But there's also the need to pay for the stadium improvements as well.

Bill Callahan and Tim Cassiday take issue with the perception that Bill Callahan is stubborn, pointing to the number of other coaches that they talk to. Maybe...maybe not. Certainly the play-calling can get stubborn at times. One guy that Callahan and his staff should try to talk to is Tom really could do wonders to start healing the deep wounds in Husker nation.

And speaking of former Husker basketball coaches...looks like Barry Collier will need to hire a new basketball coach at Butler, now that Todd Lickliter is going to be named head coach at Iowa. Will he rehire himself?