Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Comings and Goings and Developments

Bill Callahan filled the open spot in the Husker coaching staff by hiring one of his former players at Wisconsin, Joe Rudolph, as tight ends coach. Rudolph doesn't have a lot of experience in coaching, so it looks like Callahan is basing this hire on their 5 years together at Wisconsin and with the Philadelphia Eagles. DoubleExtraPoint has a little more commentary on Rudolph.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reports that expected starter Mike Huff will miss spring practice after surgery on his Achilles' tendon, putting his status for the fall in question. Another starter, senior Chris Patrick, appears to be exiting the football program, with both Patrick and Callahan declining to say anything.

The Omaha city council yesterday voted to spend $70,000 to determine how viable the Omaha Civic Auditorium is in the long term. Currently the Music Hall sees sporatic activity and the arena is home to the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights (for this season anyway) and the Omaha Beef. This looks to be the first step towards justifying the construction of a new mid-town coliseum near Ak-Sar-Ben for UNO hockey and basketball. This one bears watching as UNO ponders the future of it's athletic programs. And as the Capitol Avenue corridor in downtown Omaha continues to be redeveloped, the land the Auditorium currently occupies will soon become much more valuable for future economic growth for the city of Omaha.

Speaking of UNO, Bowling Green is heading into town for the first round of the CCHA playoffs. While Bowling Green struggled for the first 4 months of the season, they've played better as of late, winning games at both Michigoon and Michigan State in the last few weeks. In any event, playoff hockey can bring out the best in a team, making playoff hockey one of the most exciting sporting events you can find. If that isn't enough of a reason, it's the Omaha swan song for UNO's career scoring leader, Scott Parse. UNO is firing up the Hobey Baker hype machine for Parse, who will attempt to break the 200 point barrier this weekend.

No word as to whether or not Bowling Green is bringing any duct tape or Sharpies with them this trip. Not sure what that means? AJ gets a little more graphic and explicit in his explanation....

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Cult of Steve Pederson?

I've frequently referred to Steve Pederson suppporters as "kool-aid drinkers" as a light-hearted slam. However, several stories have come out in recent weeks that start making the satire very much real. First, there was the Doak Ostergard departure. Many people have chosen to "blame the victim" here and delve into innuendo (not to mention minimizing Ostergard's contributions to the program) when they admit they have no familiarity with the situation to defend the actions. While Bill Callahan does have the right to decide who is involved with the Husker football program (and I'm not going to criticize him for making the decision), a 20+ year dedicated employee of the program deserves better treatment. I think the responses from Ben Kingston (fullback, 1995-99) and Jeremy Slechta (defensive lineman, 1998-2001) speak to that.

Then, there is today's column from the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel. The World-Herald does not publish this column online, so I'll summarize. Shatel went to Lincoln to the Husker Media Relations department, and found the doors to the Osborne complex locked with nobody at the guard desk. When the guard finally returned, he interrogated Shatel to determine his business and then escorted the columnist to the Media Relations department where the sports information director is then asked to vouch for Shatel's identity. Shatel is amazed that it's so difficult to get access to the program, calling it the "Secret Society of Steve Pederson". So Shatel does a little comparative research, and successfully makes it to the offices of UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman's and Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman.

So Husker athletics now needs more security than the Governor? Well, the official response is that it's because there are "female athletes in the building", despite the fact that females are well represented across the entire campus, not to mention the State Capitol building. Shatel checked with other athletic departments, and he couldn't find another program with similar restrictions.

Some fans will ask... what's the big deal? In the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal by itself. But look at the trend: Shatel today, cheerleaders on Sunday, Ostergard last week. And that's just this month. When you look at the big picture, the explanations start becoming excuses. And the long running chain of excuses start to wear thin after a while. One of these days, a kool-aid drinker is going to try to change the subject by saying "What a lovely dress you have on, Mrs. Cleaver!"

On KOZN radio today, Kevin Kugler and Mike'l Severe asked Shatel if these continued PR debacles will eventually be Pederson's downfall. Shatel responded that while it is likely to be tied to Bill Callahan's eventually result, at some point, the status of fund-raising will need to be approached. A later caller pointed out a promotional magazine mailing to boosters from last December from Nebraska's "Touchdown Club" which opened with an article titled "Keeping the Faith" calling for all critics to admit they, not Pederson, were wrong:
"So if you haven't done so already, it's time to send Steve Pederson a thank you note and let him know that you can see now that he was right all along. Thank him for keeping the faith."
Uh, no. But thanks for more evidence that the #1 problem facing Husker athletics is one man's ego. Why on earth is a call to stroke Pederson's ego the first thing you see when you open this magazine? And why is the Touchdown Club spending money (presumably donated funds at that) to publish and distribute this call?

At first, "kool-aid drinkers" was satire. But as this goes on, it's starting to actually resemble a cult. And you know how cults sometimes go out...

Update 10/7/2007: Time to Pull the Plug on Steve Pederson

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nookie & Cheerleaders (and a Tigger Too)

UNO's hockey team is returning home from it's annual trek to Alaska with it's first ever sweep in the Great White North. Outside it was -30, but other than part of the 1st period Friday night and the tail end of the 3rd period last night, UNO dominated all weekend. Nanooks coach Tavis MacMillen paid the Mavs quite a compliment last night:
“I’ve said from the start of the year that’s the best skating team in our league. They have the best set of forwards, 1 through 12. Give them time and space, they can make plays, and they did it early and often tonight.”

Up next for the Mavs is the CCHA playoffs. The first round opponent is the same as last year: Bowling Green. The Mavs swept the boys of Duct Tape twice already this season... they'll need to make that a half-dozen victories.

If casual fans need a reason other than "playoff hockey" to head to the Qwest Center this weekend, here's another: Scott Parse. Parse, currently #3 in the nation in scoring, is 3 points away from 200 career points. These will be his last games in Omaha for one of the greatest players to wear an Omaha sweater. Last week, I commented that Parse's play in the final minutes of the Friday game against Ohio State reminded me of the way Parse took command last January. Since then, UNO has won three straight. They can't take the BeeGee's for granted this weekend.

Speaking of sweeps, the Husker men's basketball team completed a season sweep of Missouri in overtime yesterday to move to 16-11, erasing some of the bad taste of last week's demolition at Kansas and breakdown against Baylor. Some people might feel that talking postseason is out of line for a team like Nebraska...but remember, it's called "March Madness" for a reason. You never know what can happen, and Nebraska certainly is in a position to have their season continue beyond the Big XII tournament. And it's certainly setting the expectation level where it needs to be.

Today's Omaha World-Herald had yet another example of how not to treat people, courtesy of the Husker athletic department. The Huskers have decided to eliminate reimbursments for meals and books to cheerleaders, as well as reduce the number of cheerleaders and reinstituting Bill Byrne's ban on stunts. Let's break this down into two seperate arguments. First of all, what is the appropriate level of support from the athletic department for cheerleaders. Nebraska says this is still more than most schools, and that may very well be the case. I'm not going to argue that point at all. In fact, I've even read some comments that some people don't think that there should be any financial support to cheerleaders. I don't agree with that either, but I can see the point.

My main criticism is that the cheerleaders weren't told of this in person, but rather found out when they noticed some things were missing from the announcement of tryouts on the Huskers web site. Elimination of over $2000 a year for each member of the squad would be a big deal to any student... and not being upfront with the members of the squad is yet another gaffe for the Huskers. There certainly are probably valid business reasons to cut the funding for the cheerleaders, and probably the biggest is the lack of progress in funding the stadium improvement project. We saw it in how Barry Collier was left to starve without a contract extension or buyout of his existing contract.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Preparing for the Blizzard

A few thoughts as we await the arrival of a blizzard tomorrow night:

Much of HuskerNation is abuzz over former Husker offensive lineman David Kolowski's book "Diary of a Husker", who played during Frank Solich's first five years as head coach. Not sure what to make of this book, which I first heard about over a year ago and wondered what happened with it. It seems that Kolowski was unable to find a publisher and is self-publishing it himself for now. The Omaha World-Herald describes the book as"Kolowski's evolution from wide-eyed freshman to disgruntled upperclassman." It apparantly provides plenty of dirt about the team - players smoking pot, drinking on the team bus after a pasting at Kansas State, and plenty of criticism of Solich.

So what does this book mean? Hard to say. Players being unhappy about not playing isn't particularly noteworthy. Unhappy players complaining and criticizing the coaches isn't exactly new either. Is there any value to it? Perhaps. I might see about checking out of the library at some point down the line, just to judge for myself. But deep down, I'm not sure rehashing the firing of Frank Solich does any good in 2007. We need to move past it.

Longtime Husker football trainer Doak Ostergard was dismissed last week by Bill Callahan, and Ostergard isn't sure why. In fact, Ostergard feels he helped bring Callahan to Lincoln. On one hand, Callahan has the right to choose his staff. On the other hand, you hate to see yet another contributor to the program depart, especially so unhappily. It's a sad trend... Jordan Congdon, Shane Siegel, Andy Birkel, Joe Dailey, Jack Stark...

As I post this, UNO is leading Alaska-Fairbanks 4-3 in the 3rd period in the Great White North where it is currently -29 degrees. UNO's Scott Parse is getting more consideration again this season for the Hobey Baker award. After all, he's 3rd in the nation in scoring this season. Sad to think that next weekend will be his last games in Omaha wearing a Mavs sweater.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

UNO Game Winner against Ohio State

CBS has posted Bryan Marshall's game winner from Saturday night on YouTube...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dear Abby: How important are the Huskers?

The famed gossip columnist Dear Abby has learned a lot about Husker fans over the last month or so. Back on January 6th, she published a letter from a new bride who's father skipped the reception to catch a college football game. At the time, Abby thought it was just her father showing disapproval of the marriage.

Of course, she never took into consideration the devotion of Husker fans. And thus, has devoted an entire column to the responses to that letter. Of course, you'll see similar responses from folks in Texas, Oklahoma, and other states where football is akin to a state religion.

I can speak firsthand to this situation. When my wife-to-be and I were planning our wedding, we were faced with a dilemma. Do we wait until after football season or not? We chose a bye week instead, as we knew what would happen. My parents even told me that if I needed to schedule it on a game day, they would understand. Our decision was clear... we weren't going to schedule it on a Husker game day because (a) we wouldn't want to skip the game either and (b) it would be a huge distraction for most folks. Another couple we know had set their wedding for the last Saturday in August after carefully checking the football schedules, only to have the Huskers schedule one of those "Pigskin Classic" extra games after the deposits were down and the date was already set.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Slow Starting Weekend

If you thought the first half of "Big Monday" between Nebraska and Kansas was bad...the second half of the rematch in Lawrence was even worse. Altitude decided to show a hunting show instead of the game, so I was limited to catching bits of the radio coverage, and Nebraska was competitive early on. But Kansas went on a run late in the first half and it continued into the second half until Doc Sadler waved the white flag and cleared the bench for the final 10 minutes, creating an eyepopping 92-39 blowout. I see Doc's point...the Huskers have 5 games left, and they all look winnable to some extent: at #142 Baylor (2-10 in conference), #66 Missouri (5-7 in conference; Huskers won at Columbia last month), #130 Iowa State (4-8 in conference), at #236 Colorado (2-10 in conference), and #20 Oklahoma State (5-6 in conference).

After the game, the Huskers were even talking about the NCAA tournament. Some people might call it insane, but winning out will give the Huskers a 20 win season and a 9-7 conference record. Likely? Probably not, but nobody expected the Huskers to have a winning record at this point either. The Huskers still don't have a big win, unless you want to count their November win over vastly overrated Creighton. (#49 in RPI and sinking...)

Friday night, UNO mailed in the first 50 minutes against Ohio State in hockey, falling behind 4-0 before Scott Parse took over, scoring two quick goals to cut the lead in half. Parse picked up the action down the stretch, but the Mavs couldn't get closer than 4-3 in the end.

Saturday night, Parse made sure that UNO wouldn't make the same mistake when he fed Alex Nikiforuk who buried the puck 22 seconds into the game. However, the Mavs went scoreless the for the next 60:07, with Bryan Marshall scoring 29 seconds into overtime to give UNO home ice for the first round of the CCHA playoffs.

The positioning for the playoffs is quite a jumble with UNO, Ohio State, and Western Michigan all within 1 point of each other. UNO needs 3 or 4 points this weekend in the great white north of Alaska if they want to host the hapless Bowling Green perverts.

While it's been a rather disappointing season for UNO so far, I remember the last time I saw Scott Parse take over when the Mavs looked like they were short on heart... it was early January 2006, and UNO went on to only lose once over the next 6 weeks. Not sure if UNO has another run like that in them...but if they do, look out. This team definitely has the talent to compete with anybody...but is also inconsistent enough to lose to anybody.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Rose by Any Other Name

Well, now that I have to drop my little girl off at day care, I have to leave earlier and now get to hear more Jim Rose in the morning, and so far I'm two-for-two with head scratchers from the Husker Information Minister.

Yesterday, Rose let slip this little gem that Husker receivers coach Ted Gilmore notified his players via text message that he was leaving Lincoln to join the Oakland Raiders, only to change his mind later on. Apparantly, dropping bombshells via text message is much more acceptable in February 2007 than it was in December 2005.

This morning, Rosie decided to reject the calls to respect Marlon Lucky's privacy and instead try to disprove some of the internet rumors about Lucky. Frankly, speculating about Lucky is in poor taste while he's in the hospital, even if you are (feebily) trying to defend the guy.

In response to all of the innuendo, Nebraska reversed it's position about not commenting further on Lucky, releasing a statement from Lucky's family and Bill Callahan to deny some of the wilder rumors. It's great to see Lucky is recovering, and hopefully he'll be out of the hospital soon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Prayers for Lucky

The internet is abuzz with rumors about Marlon Lucky and his hospitalization in the intensive care unit. WOWT and Huskers Illustrated are reporting that it is an overdose. Of course, some assume that "overdose" means alcohol or illicit drugs, but that's not necessarily the case. It could be as simple as Tylenol or aspirin.

In any event, it's fruitless to speculate at this point. The attention needs to go towards Lucky's health at this point; there will be plenty of time to consider what happened once Lucky recovers.

The "no further comment" statement issued by the Nebraska athletic department certainly doesn't help matters at all. In the absence of information, speculation runs amok, and in nearly all cases, the speculation is worse than the truth. HIPAA privacy laws limit what can be said without the approval of the patient, so I understand why the statement was made...just commenting that it's counterproductive in this situation. Take the case of Phil Kessel of the Boston Bruins. Last December, he left the team due to a medical issue and the rumor mill ran out drugs, alchohol, and depression before the truth of testicular cancer emerged. Instead of protecting Kessel's privacy... the ambiguity only made the story worse for Kessel.

Bottom line... everyone should concern themselves with prayers for Marlon Lucky at this time.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Catching Up

Zzzz...oh hi there! Looks like the mind-numbing drama of Signing Day got the better of me. Here are a few takes on real events of the past week:

I wasn't terribly surprised by the Super Bowl, as the Colts defense really turned it up in the playoffs. A lot of people forget football is a team game... and that's what causes people to claim that "Peyton Manning could never win a big game". That includes Omaha's local Jim Rome wannabe, Matt Perrault, who cemented his reputation as a "say anything to get a reaction" shock jock by first saying "Peyton Manning played like he always does when it's a big the choke artist that he is.", then amending it to say that he wouldn't win a Super Bowl, then feebling saying only "I was wrong." once he was shown to be ludicruosly wrong. Football is a team sport, and quarterback is just one position on the team. Heck...Baltimore won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer starting. John Elway was a huge Super Bowl loser until he was surrounded by a team in his final two seasons. Now Manning is part of a great team. Teams win Super Bowls, not individuals.

Perrault's comments can probably best explained by the phenomenon of ESPN and other talkers who will say anything and everything to get a reaction. And Perrault's hatred of Manning is easily explained, since he is a native New Englander. But alas, his credibility is once again shot. Maybe I should give NPR a second shot... they probably know more about sports...

Husker hoops continue to plug along. A couple of nice road upsets against Mizzou and Texas Tech certainly are intriguing, showing Sadler's ability to make adjustments to win games. Nobody should expect Sadler to turn this team into a Sweet 16 team in a matter of months, but
Sadler is setting a tone that Nebraska hoops are on the road to recovery. Not this year...probably not next year either. But it will be interesting to follow. Late update: Sadler suspends Jamel White for the rest of the season.... Why? Nobody's saying. But Sadler is setting a tone for how the program is going to operate.

UNO Maverick hockey continues struggle to win points...only netting two points over the last 2 weeks against #6 Michigan State and #1 Notre Dame. Friday night's game against the Irish was especially frustrating, as the Domers scored on a wraparound with 9.6 seconds left in the game...kind of a microcosm of the season. Saturday night, UNO rallied late in the third period to tie the Irish. AJ is calling for Mike Kemp's head again, and while I still disagree, I'm seeing his point.

I will give Kemp props for quickly suspending Adam Bartholomay and Bobby Henderson after their arrests for intoxication at a Iowa casino last weekend. Of particular concern is Henderson's quote in the police report: "I am a hockey player. I'll get out of this." Granted these statements were made drunk, but it reflects poorly on the team and the institution. Too often we hear about athletes abusing their status...which is completely unacceptable.

I'll also give the parents of these young men props as well for going on to accept responsibility. Henderson's eligibility is now over, but hopefully Bartholomay can work his way back onto the team for next season.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Comprehensive Husker Recruiting Report

As RecruitNik nation eagerly approaches the most important day of the year, here's the low-down...
There... and that didn't cost you a thing. Now go out, turn off the recruiting coverage, and do something useful. Thinking about going to the recruiting dinner? Cancel your reservations, and go out to a fine restaurant instead. Or better yet, donate the $40 a person to the Food Bank.

It's truly sickening the amount of attention signing day gets. Take a look at the list of names... Some of the names will never enroll for one reason or another. Others will never play, and many will never make any impact. And some of the so-called "can't miss" prospects ... will be a huge miss. Do I know which ones they are? Of course not. Nobody knows. Not even the coaching staff, who's jobs depend on it, know. We're dealing with 18 year old kids here, and frequently the issue isn't the 40 yard time or how far he can throw the ball or how much he can bench press or how many "stars" some recruiting geek assigns to him from his parent's basement, but rather maturity and character.

So with that, I sign off for this recruiting season. Wake me up when it's over. (Or if CozBohl takes the Vikings job.... pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease, make it happen....)