Friday, March 30, 2007

Husker Family Feud

The great schism of fans over the events at the end of the 2003 Husker football season is well known. But in Thursday's Omaha World-Herald, Lee Barfknecht revealed how deep the schism runs with the very players who wore the scarlet and cream.

As part of Steve Pederson's desire to transform the spring game into a show for recruiting, the athletic department has organized a golf outing for former Husker lettermen the last three years. It's a great idea... bring the former players back to town, especially the one's busy in the fall playing on Sundays in the NFL.

Except now several former Huskers have organized an alternative golf outing, called "Fun - The Original Husker Way" and scheduled it at the same time as the "official" letterman's golf tournament. The alternative outing is promoted as a tribute to former trainer Doak Ostergard, and has drawn comittments from many "big names" -- the Peter brothers, Tommie Frazier, and Tom Osborne, to name a few. Frank Solich is even trying to sneak away from Ohio spring practice for the afternoon. So far, over 150 people have signed up for the alternative outing, compared to 130 last year for the sold-out Letterman's outing.

While the organizers of the alternative outing won't say it, the name definitely suggests dissatisfaction with the athletic department. One might say that the timing does as well, but with the number of events scheduled that weekend for all the players that are coming in from out of state, there might not have been another good time. But it's fairly obvious that the divide amongst some fans also applies to the former Huskers as well.

What's really interesting is the venom of a small contingent of Steve Pederson fans against Tom Osborne accepting the invitation to appear at the alternative event, claiming it as a "shot at the program." Apparantly, 25 years of coaching, with 3 national titles pale in comparison to the fact that Osborne chose to honor a trainer that served the program for 18 years.

Yep...Nebraska is really getting over 2003. Not.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Parse Avoids LA; Detours through Grand Rapids on the way to the NHL

UNO all-time leading scorer Scott Parse surprised Maverick hockey fans this week (and probably the brass of the Los Angeles Kings as well) when he signed an amateur tryout contract with the Grand Rapids (MI) Griffins, the AHL affiliate of his beloved Detroit Red Wings. Interesting move from Parse, who last summer said that the Kings "didn't want me." Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall showed some inpatience with Parse last week, complaining that Parse was playing hardball with them. The Kings look like they aren't going to be able to sign Parse. Since Parse could have signed a tryout deal with any AHL club, one has to wonder if there was any interest in Omaha's AHL team. Certainly, they need all the help they can get.

Looks to me like Parse is schooling the Kings, much like he schooled much of college hockey the last 4 years. In his first AHL game, Parse scored in a shootout and also tallied an assist to break the Griffins' 6 game losing streak. Parse will likely become a free agent in August; look for Parse to remain unsigned until then. Right now, I'd give the Detroit Red Wings the lead in the Parse derby, though many Mav fans would love to see Parse reunite with Bill Thomas. BLT's contract with the Coyotes expires at the end of the season, though. Maybe UNO will have a couple of free agents getting attention from the NHL this summer...

Former UNO door-opener (and executive producer of the Mike Kemp Show) SAM is compiling a list of the greatest players and moments in the first 10 years of UNO hockey. Voting continues through April 5th, but here's my ballot:

Best Forward: Scott Parse (duh), Jeff Hoggan, Alex Nikiforuk, David Brisson, Jeff Edwards, Bryan Marshall, Billy Pugliese, Bill Thomas, Allan Carr, James Chalmers
Best Defensemen: Greg Zanon, Jason Krischuk, Daniel Samuelsson, Juha Uotila, Mike Eickman
Best Goaltender: Dan Ellis, Chris Holt, Kendall Sidoruk
Best Moment: Tuesday Night over Bowling Green, St. Patrick's Day Massacre of Michigoon, Mavs in NCAA Tournament, Billy Pugliese's series winner in double OT to send UNO back to the Joe in 2000, Scott Parse's series winner in OT against Lake State to send UNO to the Joe in 2005.
Best Games: Tuesday Night, UNO defeats Ohio State with Pugliese's double OT goal to return to the Joe, St. Patrick's Day Massacre, UNO follows up 11-0 drubbing by beating #1 Maine 4-3 in year #2 of the program, Mavs Rout Lakers 8-0 in 2006.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Let the BrieJay Whining Begin: Husker Hoops vs. Oregon at the Qwest Center

Today's Omaha World-Herald confirms the BrieJay fans worst nightmare: Nebraska will play a basketball game against Oregon this December at the Qwest Center, otherwise known as the home of UNO Maverick Hockey. (Despite the claims of some of the more elitist Creighton fans that CU somehow "owns" the Qwest Center.)

Also, Doc Sadler dismisses talk about him leaving the Huskers for the open Arkansas job (which looks like it's going to A&M's Billy Gillespie at this time):

"But since coming to Nebraska in August, the commitment our fans have made and our administration has made is even stronger than I first realized. My family and I are committed to Nebraska for a long time, and want to help build a program that some day the people of Nebraska can be very proud of. I'm talking about a team that expects to be in the NCAA tournament every year. That's my commitment, and it hasn't wavered one bit, nor will it."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Big Red Roundtable: Pre-Spring Practice Edition

Well, with spring practice beginning, it's time to reconvene the Roundtable, with me hosting on the subject of football as we look forward to spring practice. We may need some extra security this time, as the Roundtable invites not only "Blankman" and Jon from MidwestCoastBias but also AJ the HuskerH8er. This is kind of like pairing up Rush Limbaugh with Al Franken on "Meet the Press". If anything, this round should be interesting with some very different opinions... Hopefully, nobody pops a cup here.

The coaching staff says the quarterback race is wide open between Sam Keller, Joe Ganz, Beau Davis, and Patrick Witt. What is your expectation as how this will turn out next season?

First of all, I really do believe this is an open competition. Having said that, if Sam Keller is everything he's touted to be, he'll win the job in the end. As an incoming freshman who joined the Huskers halfway through his senior season of high school, Patrick Witt gains just from the extra bonus experience. As for Beau Davis, his disasterous debut against Texas Tech in 2004 left a bad taste in many Husker fans mouths. Bill Callahan says he's improved dramatically from his freshman year, and since he's only taken 10 snaps in mop-up duty since then, I can't argue. Nevertheless, I think this becomes a 2 person race between Joe Ganz and Keller.

My take on Joe Ganz is that he's Nebraska's version of Rich Gannon. Not a highly regarded physical talent, but found a system with Bill Callahan that fits his abilities. We really haven't seen much of Ganz in game situations, but my take is that he's a better player than most people give him credit for.

Sam Keller is Nebraska's version of Brett Favre. He's a gunslinger that was penciled in as a first-day NFL draft pick next month until Dirk Koetter went insane at Arizona State. Keller brings in a lot of strengths: strong arm and experienced at a BCS-conference program. That experience in handling the pressure of starting, not to mention recognizing and understanding BCS-caliber defenses is huge. That's what Husker fans are banking on when they ink Keller into the starting spot in 2007.

But the gunslinger reputation might not be the best fit for this offense, which has been considered a "dink-and-dunk" offense by some. That's not Keller as I understand him. He's more like Favre, who grew into this offense in Green Bay, but early on, trusted his arm more than his mind and forced balls into coverage, resulting in interceptions. Over time, he learned to go through his projections and throw the ball away if nobody was open. His interceptions dropped, and the Packers ended up in the Super Bowl. Great analogy? Perhaps, except Keller has one year of eligibility left. With the season opening with 3 opponents that went to bowl games (including 2 in the BCS) in 2006, the Huskers don't have the luxury of letting Keller learn the hard way.

Then, there is whatever caused his teammates in Tempe to revolt against him last summer. Perhaps it was more Rudy Carpenter than Keller. We don't know. That's why Keller's little parking lot disagreement is a little concerning to me. Does Keller have a problem with his temper? Will Keller throw the ball into coverage, expecting his receivers to somehow get open, and if it ends up being intercepted, how will he respond?

In the end, if Keller's departure was because of Carpenter and Keller adaps well to this system, he'll win this job easily. Those are big assumptions, and thus, I don't completely eliminate Joe Ganz either.

Besides quarterback, what positions will have the biggest battles and how do you expect them to work out?

In my mind, the next biggest hole is on the defensive line, where Adam Carriker and Jay Moore will be early draft NFL draft picks, and Barry Cryer and Ola Dagunduro graduate. That's a huge loss. Ndamukong ("A Boy Named") Suh and Barry Turner are going to be the first two guys who are going to need to step up and fill 2 of these spots. After that, it's an open competition. At tackle, Ty Steinkuhler has the edge for the other spot, but will Brandon Johnson make a move here? With Turner out this spring due to injury, that will open up the competition. The move of Clayton Sievers to defensive end is intriguing; is CozBohl going for more athletic defensive ends? My instinct suggests that the d-line against Nevada will be Suh and Steinkuhler inside being backed up by Johnson and perhaps Craig Roark. Outside will have Turner and Zac Potter on the ends, being pushed by and alternating with Sievers and Pierre Allen.

After that, the next interesting competition will be in the secondary. Zack Bowman is still out this spring, but will Armando Murillo challenge Andre Jones and Courtney Grixby? At the very least, it will provide more depth in the secondary. And can Rickey Thenarse bring his physical play to the secondary at safety? My take: Next fall's opening secondary: Bowman, Grixby, Thenarse, and Tierre Green.

I'd also like to see some of the touted (hyped) receivers like Menelik Holt, Chris Brooks, and Will Henry make a splash. Nebraska's receiving corp had trouble getting seperation in losses against Oklahoma and Auburn, leaving Zac Taylor few options. Could one of these youngsters explode and push the rest of the group?

2 years ago, the 2005 recruiting class was touted as one of the nation's best. Only a few players from this group have made an impact thus far; who do you expect to emerge this spring?

I've said it before...the 2005 class was good, but not as good as recruitniks hyped them when they signed. So far, only Bowman and Marlon Lucky have made a real splash so far. Turner, Steve Octavien, Suh, and Cody Glenn have had their moments. This spring, I would have hoped that Craig Roark would have made his move, but he's out with a shoulder. Two guys that need to step up this spring are linebackers Nick Covey and Phillip Dillard, as the incumbents at linebacker are all seniors. I also wonder if we're finally going to see Chris Brooks make an impact at wide receiver.

In the 1990's, Coach Osborne started matching up the #1 offense against the #1 defense in the spring game. Bill Callahan switched this around and put the #1 offense and defense on the same team, playing against the reserves. Do you prefer a format?

I really prefer the old format of 1's vs. 1's. Watching the top squads overwhelm the reserves doesn't tell us anything about either squad, unless a reserve breaks through and makes a play against the starters. And the problem is, with the blowouts of recent years, very few reserves make an impact. In fact, it generally makes it an uninteresting event. I gave it a chance the first couple of years, but skipped last year. Right now, I'm leaning towards skipping this year's spring game as well as it seems to be more of a PR show for fans and recruits than anything else. If my daughter was a few years older, I might consider it as an low-cost, low-risk way to introduce her to the game of football.

So what do the rest of the members of the Roundtable think? Brandon and John over at MidwestCoastBias give their thoughts in this week's podcast. (If you can't listen to the whole show, fast forward about 38 minutes in; their response goes for the last 20 minutes or so). At the other end of the spectrum, AJ should inflame with his hostile outsider's perspective. And as always, our regular compatriots over at DoubleExtraPoint, Big Red Network, and Corn Nation will also be checking in as well.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sam Keller already in trouble in Lincoln

The Lincoln Journal-Star is reporting that QB Sam Keller was cited by UNL Police today for "disturbing the peace" after an incident over a parking spot near Memorial Stadium. Allegedly Keller yelled obscenities at a woman and threw a plastic cup at her car after she took a parking spot that Keller wanted.

Big deal? By itself...nope. Darren over at Big Red Network really explains it well.

However, this does bear watching. Last fall on the scout team, Keller was known for yelling at teammates. And of course, there was the circumstances revolving around Keller's departure from Arizona State, with questions about Keller's behavior. So while it might be tempting to pass this latest incident off as a "no-big-deal" magnified by campus security (who have been accused of blowing incidents out of proportion before), it's not like this behavior is out of character for Keller either.

The question I asked last August still applies: Is Sam Keller the Huskers' Savior or did we just get someone else's problem? We'll see how it plays out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Alumni Like Doc Sadler

The World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht talked to former captains Dave Hoppen, Beau Reid, Bruce Chubick, and Andy Markowski about Doc Sadler's first year as men's hoops coach at Nebraska. All came away optimistic with Sadler and the future. Let's be honest. Nebraska had a rough off-season with coaches departing and players questioning the program. Some didn't qualify, and some decided to leave. The uncertainty left a short bench, which grew shorter during the season. Injuries didn't help things either.

Yet except for two blowouts by Kansas, Nebraska hung in there this year and competed against most of the conference. Even kept hope alive for the post-season well into February. Not bad for a squad that, even before the roster shrunk, was picked to finish 11th.

Is Sadler headed to Arkansas next? He says not, and he hasn't given us any reason to doubt him to this point. In any event, the off-season could be a little difficult. Sadler is still out recruiting for next season, including Ola Dagunduro's little brother Adeola. One slight problem is that Sadler has signed more players than he has open roster spots for next season, which means that unless some of these guys don't qualify, some current players will be asked to leave the program. That could be a sensitive issue, depending on how it's handled. Perhaps it's naivete, but I'm not expecting a problem.

Friday, March 16, 2007

CU Spins the Great NCAA Ticket Heist

The uproar over tickets to the 2008 NCAA basketball tournament continues, with the Creighton folks circling the wagons and changing their stories. Surprisingly, KXSP-590 AM is turning themselves into the Pinnacle Sports Network in terms of doublespeak.

CU Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen was interviewed yesterday over the whole issue and acknowledged that they knew they were going to face criticism for choosing their supporters over the general public. Creighton's position does have some merit. Originally, Creighton sold NCAA tickets to season ticket holders on a 1-to-1 basis; if you have 2 season tickets, you could buy 2 NCAA tickets. I don't have a huge problem with that. I don't like it...but I understand that's the way it works.

When that was done, Creighton was left with about 1,000 tickets. At that time, they chose to remove the limits and allow their ticket holders to buy extra tickets. Their logic was that if they didn't do that, Creighton and the Qwest Center would be forced to hold a ticket lottery, where the NCAA would charge everyone who entered the lottery $9 per ticket, whether they got tickets or not. Creighton decided that would result in a large number of unhappy folks who got charged fees and not get any tickets, and so they chose the lesser (in their minds) evil of offering the remaining tickets to their ticketholders.

I see Rasmussen's point...but I'm still not sure I agree with it. And let's clear up something else: this was permissible under NCAA rules, but just because it's permitted by the rules doesn't necessarily make it right. Ever run across a rule that isn't quite right? How about the tuck rule? What about the clock rules in college football last season?

Basically, it comes down to the fact that the Qwest Center was built with the promise of big events for the people of Omaha. The fact remains that the people of Omaha are paying for this building, and they never had a shot to buy a ticket to one of these premier events. The issue of the $9 fee is disconcerting, but that's an NCAA problem. If you let folks know that there are only 1,000 tickets available, people will get the idea that the chances in the lottery aren't very good, and people will set their expectations.

The primary problem with Creighton's decision is that it perpetuates the perception of elitism of Creighton supporters. And when KXSP's Matt Perrault throws gasoline onto the fire in his blog, the perception becomes ever-so-greater. Let's look at a few things Perrault said:
If you aren’t a Creighton fan, well, sorry – maybe you should be if you want the chance to go to the NCAA basketball events at the Jays home arena.
The very definition of elitism. 'Nuff said.
Without CU running the event and asking for the event to be held with the help of the Missouri Valley Conference – the event wouldn’t have ever come to Omaha.
How the heck did Nebraska become the host for the NCAA volleyball championship? It's not Creighton's home court? Think again. That's not a Husker logo on the Qwest Center calendar; that was a Creighton home game at the Qwest. Plus, it's not like the idea of the Huskers hosting a basketball game at the Qwest Center is completely foreign. And did you know that Rutgers is hosting this weekend's regional at the Meadowlands on Seton Hall's home court? In other words, Creighton's involvement was not required to bring an NCAA regional to Omaha.
And that’s why so many people are bitching about this. Husker fans believe they are entitled to whatever they want because that is the way it has been in this state for years.
When I first heard about this story, guess who were the first people I heard criticize it. A Missouri fan (the HuskerHater), an UNO alumnus, and an Iowa State alum. Yep, some Husker fans are upset too. But it's not just Husker fans who are criticizing it. The problem is that the NCAA championship transcends Creighton, but also appeals to all sports fans in the Omaha area.

Even Creighton knows that it's not "their" event. When CU announced that tickets were gone, the press release was titled "Omaha Announces Sellout For 2008 Basketball Tournament". Problem is that while the people of Omaha are the reason why this great event is coming to Omaha, it's Creighton fan who gets the spoils. Bruce Rasmussen at least realizes this, Matt Perrault doesn't. (And don't even get me started on Travis Justice...)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Position Changes and Creighton Fans Hoarding Hoops Tickets

The Journal-Star has some interesting pre-spring practice position changes:
  • Bo Ruud to SAM linebacker to replace Stewart Bradley. This should open up the weakside linebacker position; will Steve Octavien become a consistent threat?
  • Clayton Sievers to open defensive end to compete with Barry Turner, who will be out this spring due to injury. Pierre Allen to "base" defensive end to compete with Zach Potter. Is Cozbohl looking for smaller, quicker ends?
Also, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson says that 4 quarterbacks will evenly split snaps this spring: Sam Keller, Joe Ganz, Beau Davis, and Patrick Witt. Hmmm...we'll see how long this lasts. Color me skeptical here. Zac Lee is still hampered by his knee. Also, Major Culbert will see time at I-back to complement Marlon Lucky. Cody Glenn still is hampered by his foot problems. No word on Kenny Wilson, which must mean his knee is still not right.

I see that Creighton fans are more interested in next year's NCAA regional (that won't feature their team) than this year's regional. In fairness to Jays fans, travel on short notice is never reasonable, though I'd expect that more would pack into the car and head to the French Quarter. And who can blame Jays fans for grabbing all of the regional tickets for next year so they can make a nice profit.

The real criticism goes to the folks at Creighton and MECA who didn't give the general public a chance to buy the tickets. I understand giving Creighton's patrons the first shot to buy tickets...but it should have been limited to the number of season tickets you have. 4 season tickets = the right to buy 4 NCAA regional tickets. Where Creighton did the people of Omaha wrong was by going back to CU fans and asking them a second time to buy tickets. Creighton fans already had their chance; the rest of the tickets should have been opened to the rest of the general public, who are backing the bonds that built the Qwest Center and made an NCAA regional possible in the first place. Shame to Creighton, and Shame to MECA for forgetting the people who made this NCAA regional possible in the first place.

I see the BrieJay fans over at the BrieJay Cafe are joining the Defenders of the Faith over at South Park in their hatred of Kevin Kugler. Interesting that each group thinks that Kugler "hates" their program and is "in love" with the other. In other words... the extremists in Red and Blue are both so whacked out that they've lost perspective and mistake criticism with hatred. Even KXSP's Matt Perrault isn't immune to it. (Of course, in his case, it's more professional jealosy...)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Sparty Finishes off the Mavs

UNO's hockey season came to it's end tonight with a 4-1 loss to Michigan State. Sparty came out rolling in the first period, outshooting the Mavs 19-6 and the Mavs were simply unable to recover. And thus ends a season that fell short of expectations, finishing the season 18-16-8. The sweep by the Spartans wasn't a complete surprise after the announcement that Scott Parse would be unable to play this weekend, but this weekend's series was merely UNO's final last gasp opportunity to achieve the goals for the season.

We can go through the season and we'd find a season filled with missed opportunities. It all started with the opening weekend in Alaska and continuing all season long. But I'm not sure what that proves. Perhaps our expectations were out of line all along. In many respects, the snake claimed many UNO fans this season.

Instead, I'd like to salute Scott Parse as he prepares to transition to the NHL, either with the LA Kings over the next few weeks or as a free agent this fall. His absence due to injury was felt this weekend by no doubt, and his mark of 197 career points will probably stand for a long, long time.'s been a pleasure to watch you in person the last four years.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Patrick Departs...and some Hockey Talk

Senior-to-be tackle Chris Patrick declared today for the NFL's Supplemental Draft in July, citing family reasons and denying some of the rumors floating about him on the internet:
"There have been all kinds of wild rumors. It’s been ridiculous really. People can speculate all they want. My standing with the team was good.“
In response, Bill Callahan would only say that Patrick's status with the team was under evaluation.

Compare that to last week's story when Patrick was quoted as saying:
“I’ll let the university comment. I’m not going to say anything right now.”
Once again, it sounds like there might be more to this story. Darren over at Big Red Network speculates on some possibilities why Patrick could be on the outs with the coaching staff, but then just as quickly rejects any chance that the coaching staff could be at fault. Kind of inconsistent in my opinion, since we simply don't know anything other than what Patrick has said. If you are going to reject Patrick's story and start speculating as to what is actually the cause, you've got to be open-minded to consider all possibilities. Especially when the answer could be "all of the above".

The UNO Mavs hockey team gave up another goal in the final minute of regulation tonight at Michigan State, losing the opening game of the best-of-three series. UNO's next loss will be the last game of the season. Tough break for UNO, with Scott Parse and Juha Uotila out of the game tonight with injuries; they'll need to find a way to win tomorrow night and then again Sunday. On the positive side, UNO has been playing much better lately on Saturday's than on Friday's.

Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports have an interesting article about how Omaha's three hockey teams may be a crowd. ESPN's Barry Melrose, the man keeping the mullet alive, feels that if there ever was a market that could support three hockey teams, it would be Omaha:
"The market will determine who stays. Omaha's situation is rare, for sure. If Omaha ends up supporting three teams, that says it's a great sports town, not just a great hockey town.''
Personally, I think that it's going to be tough for three teams to survive in this market, let alone thrive. Especially with the casual sports fan jumping on the Creighton bandwagon. There simply aren't enough die-hard hockey fans in this area to support three teams... you have to grow the audience for hockey. The Lancers have the tradition of 20 years to work from, and UNO has the alumni base of a school with 15,000 students now competing against the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. The OAK's have ... umm... a cool logo, I guess.

I see that the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights now acknowledge that they are losing millions of dollars in this experiment... though they should have seen this coming. And they aren't quite ready to throw in the towel...yet... (Personally, I thought the OAK's would be gone this summer, but it looks like they'll give it one more shot.) But if the Knights are going to survive, they have to quit trying to sell tickets to the fans of other hockey teams, and start finding fans of their own. Sure, there are some people who can't get enough hockey, but that's a limited audience.

In the end, I still believe that Omaha is better off without the Knights...especially with the possibility of the Penguins relocating to Kansas City. (The arrival of the Pens and Sidney Crosby to KC will certainly increase awareness of the sport around here.) Three teams dilute the audience for each team, and lightly attended events simply don't have much atmosphere. Even worse, the casual sports fan gets the idea that Omaha doesn't care for hockey since the all of the teams play in front of a lot of empty seats... when in fact the opposite is true. Omaha loves hockey... it just has more hockey than it probably can handle at this point.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Kemp to UNO Athletic Director?

Today, UNO announced five finalists to be the next athletic director: Cliff Dochterman from Cal-Riverside, David Miller formerly of SMU, William Weider formerly of South Florida, Bruce Van De Velde formerly of Iowa State, and UNO hockey coach Mike Kemp. An intriguing group of candidates.

The big name on the list is Van De Velde, who was in charge of the Cyclones for 5 years. He brings not only Division 1 experience, but also experience in a BCS conference.

Miller has a local connection, as he hails from Manning, IA and has a brother-in-law who played football for UNO. Dochterman has experience with several division II schools who have transitioned to division 1.

Kemp is the intriguing "internal" candidate. The timing of the announcement could be better, what with the Mavs on the road at Michigan State for the 2nd round of the CCHA playoffs. They need to win 2 out of 3 games this weekend without Hobey Baker candidate Scott Parse, who left Saturday night's game against Bowling Green in the 1st period with an injury. They probably don't need the "Kemp for AD" distraction this weekend.

Many UNO fans are torn with respect to (and for) Kemp as coach. AJ thinks he must go; Sam wants him to stay. So why consider him for athletic director? Two reasons come to mind: (a) he knows the program, it's wants and needs, and the community and (b) he's very personable and able to sell the program to players and fans. Is he the best business mind? Don't know, but I don't know about the other candidates either. But in this environment where UNO's athletic department has burned bridges with many supporters, Mike Kemp might just be the right guy to come in. Of course, one question is how Kemp is viewed by the other athletic programs. Would they view Kemp as "one of them" --- or the hockey guy firming up his power over the rest of the athletic department?

Now, could Kemp wear both hats? Guys like Barry Alvarez have done it for a period of time. But Kemp told 1620 the Zone today that with the needs at UNO that it would be difficult to wear both hats. In some respects, this might be a win-win situation for UNO by allowing Kemp the opportunity to rebuild UNO athletics and name his successor at the very least. It could be a way to start the healing after UNO's summer of discontent.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mav Hockey: Next is Michigan State

Saturday night, UNO finished off the sweep of Bowling Green 7-5. It was a unceremonius swan song for Scott Parse, as he left the game early with a leg injury without scoring a point. Which is very unfortunate, because he didn't get the ovation from the fans he so richly deserves. Still UNO scored 7 goals Saturday night with Parse and Dan Charleston out of action, so the Mavs certainly are clicking offensively. That's five victories in a row now...

Next up for the Mavs is a best of three series against Michigan State in East Lansing, with the winner going onto the Joe. UNO needs to keep on winning to keep their season alive, and while they are playing well as of late, the competition gets a whole lot tougher from here on out.

Bowling Green nearly didn't make it to Omaha on Friday for this series, as they only made it as far as Des Moines before I-80 was shut down. Jonathan Matsumoto blogged about their adventures in making it to Omaha, as they ended up heading south and taking 2 lane state highways through the blizzard. Their pre-game meal ended up being at the Pizza Hut in Red Oak, IA, and when they got out, the bus was stuck in a drift. They ended up getting pulled out by a John Deere tractor:

Fortunately, they made it to Omaha in plenty of time for the Friday night game and put an scare into the Mavs, but UNO ended up winning in overtime Friday night.

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.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday Morning Sunshine

The sun finally has come out, hopefully signalling the end of the Blizzard of 2007. Still haven't seen a snowplow operating in my neighborhood yet, though. Hopefully the roads and weather will improve enough for the family to get to the Mav hockey game tonight.

A few new items:

AJ has a hilarious satirical rebuttal to Nebraska's bogus Big XII North Division championship ceremony after the Colorado game.

Trev Alberts, now with CSTV, says that "things (are) just not the same at Nebraska":
"It seems to a lot of people, who have a real care for the program, that anyone who was or is intimately associated with coach Frank Solich or coach Tom Osborne is not welcome there. The truth of the matter is it's just an insecurity factor. That's what I've been able to ascertain. I mean, who would want to follow coach Osborne? The footsteps are so large at Nebraska that I really don't fault Callahan for his insecurity, or Steve Pederson either, for that matter."
The Daily Nebraskan has even more about the concerns about the cheerleaders. Seems that the athletic department's new sponsor for the squad, Carrie Vitulo, has not taken the NCAA-required one-day safety certification course since being hired three months ago, effectively reducing the cheerleaders role to standing, clapping, and yelling.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Callahan Wants an Extension & The Empire Strikes Back

Didn't get to check out in person the Mavs beating Bowling Green 3-2 in overtime tonight, thanks to the blizzard. It was a white out drive home, and the only plow I've seen in the neighborhood is broke down. So it was an evening to listen to the game on the radio...hopefully, everything will clear up tomorrow so we can get to see Scott Parse one last time. (Ooh, ahh, more snow than Knights fans!)

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Bill Callahan is looking for a contract extension. You might be surprised to hear me say this, but Nebraska probably needs to get moving on this. I'm still not sold on Callahan, but every other Big XII coach is signed through 2010 or beyond. Callahan's deal expires after 2009, and recruits are going to want to see a commitment to the coach. And in this world, it's just paper. It doesn't prevent coaches from being fired, or from coaches leaving.

In a way, I'm surprised that Callahan's agent is saying this in publicly. I read a report last month that Callahan is privately grumbling about things at Nebraska that I questioned at the time, but sometimes where there's smoke, there's fire.

The cult is rejoicing over Steve Pederson's response to Tom Shatel's column in yesterday's World-Herald letters to the editor. I thought it was a swing-and-a-miss by Pederson at first. Pederson's comment about it taking 52 seconds seemed odd to me, because the Shatel column I read didn't mention how long he waited. Apparantly, earlier editions stated five minutes, but not the more commonly read metropolitan issue. So that line came up empty with me, though I understand why folks who saw earlier versions found it noteworthy.

Pederson's final line came across as exceptionally lame:
"I would have been happy to explain all this to the writer, had he just asked."
Why so lame? Well, (a) Shatel DID ask Pederson's SID, Keith Mann, about the policy before writing the column and (b) apparantly Pederson has rejected several interview requests from the World-Herald.

The whole point of the article is that Pederson has locked up access to the program, and the only person who seems to have much access to it anymore is Jim Rose who isn't about to ruffle any feathers. Whether Tom Shatel had to wait 52 seconds, 5 minutes, or 5 hours wasn't the point...the point is that the media wants to cover the Huskers, and they aren't welcome. Guys like Matt Perrault and Kevin Kugler come across as one-sided Husker bashers only because the Husker athletic department refuses to give them anything to balance it out. If you compare it to a sport, Nebraska forfeits this game each and every day by not showing up to play in the game of sports media. Yes I know that Pinnacle/Host Communications is spending a lot of money for access to the program... but the result is that it leaves a vacuum elsewhere in the media. Remember, nature abhors a vacuum.

DoubleExtraPoint has a nice article about the winter of discontent. I've commented on this before, and my "Cult" entry earlier this week certainly is guilty of adding to the discontent. Inconsistent on my part? Not necessarily; I didn't say anything about the 2003 coaching change. That is over and done with and can't be reversed. But Steve Pederson's recent actions are still open for criticism, whether it's locking the doors of new complex or requesting boosters send him "thank you" notes. Those are new events, and certainly open to criticism.