Tuesday, July 31, 2007

T.J. Simers Baiting Husker Fans Again

After having such success in baiting Husker fans last year, Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers is at it again. Before the 2002 Rose Bowl, he fired off a couple of lines that Woody Paige would have rejected:
One of the players also participated in a halftime contest, and won round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines. I can't imagine anything worse than living in Nebraska and winning round-trip tickets.
I KNOW the women in Nebraska are corn-fed and a little more substantial than our starlets, but the players lined up to have their pictures taken with Brad Pitt, while ignoring Heather Locklear on the other side of the court. I'm sure that will make their mothers happy. I know my mother would have just loved a picture of Pitt, but still, you would have thought the guys from Nebraska would have enjoyed seeing a pretty woman for a change. But some of them even passed up Locklear to make acquaintances with Jon Lovitz and Ronald McDonald.
Then, last year before the USC game, he rolled out the usual tired "hick" lines, even suggesting that indoor plumbing hadn't made it to the state yet.

Now he's looking to spend a few days in Nebraska before the USC game, in search of livestock, "big butted women," and feed stores. Yay! Perhaps Mr. Simers could take a few lessons from AJ the Huskerh8er, who at least has fresher takes on Husker fans.

Sad thing is that T.J. is going to get the reaction he's looking for, and in return, get plenty of fodder for more columns in September. The Lincoln Journal-Star is reminding fans that it's satire and not to take him seriously...but that's rather unlikely to work.

In the meantime, it's 4-to-1 odds on seeing "The N Stands for Nowledge" in the Times in September...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Weekend Wrap: Callahan Points to Turnovers

A few thoughts from a somewhat soggy weekend:

Bill Callahan points to turnovers as the key factor in losses last year, according to a story in today's Omaha World-Herald. It's easy to look at the Oklahoma game and see the impact of 5 turnovers. But Nebraska only turned the ball over once in losses at USC and at Oklahoma State, which makes that 41-7 drubbing down the stretch against the Cowboys even more baffling. While turnovers played a factor in some losses (they certainly didn't help), there were more problems other than turnovers that need to be addressed.

I posted some observations about the quiet confidence of the Huskers over at CornNation last week. Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star made the same observation in picking the Huskers to win the Big XII North this season:
Two things about the Huskers stood out in San Antonio: Bill Callahan’s sense of calm, confidence and growing ease around reporters. And Bo Ruud’s sense of urgency.

“There are no excuses now,” said Ruud, a preseason All-Big 12 linebacker, alluding to the fact Callahan’s recruits are in place. “There’s nothing to fall back on. We have to take that next step.”
Speaking of the Journal-Star, talk of building a new arena in Lincoln is heating up. In some respects, Lincoln feels threatened by Omaha's Qwest Center, which has taken a few events, such as the State Wrestling Tournament, that used to be in Lincoln. But is that justification to spend $100 million on a new arena? Kind of doubtful. However, with the Devaney Center needing some updates and Pershing Center being out-of-date, there is a business case for a new arena if it becomes the new home of Husker basketball. I wonder how long it will take for some new Briejay fan to take a swipe at Nebraska basketball attendance, not even being aware of the fact that Husker hoops used to double or triple the Jays in attendance in the not-too-distant past. Good idea? If they are doing it just to get state wrestling back, fuggetaboutit. But if Lincoln is doing it in conjunction with the University as a replacement for the Devaney with all the prerequisite amenities (suites, club seating, etc.) it could make sense.

AJ the Huskerh8er has a nice take about the obsession some folks have with recruiting. And yes...it's an obsession for some. Remember that all-everything, Tom-Lemming-rated-#1 recruiting class of 2005? Well, yet another of those can't-miss-gonna-start-as-a-true-freshman signees is departing the football program early. Craig Roark suffered from injuries and position switches, and is leaving the team and considering transferring to a division 2 school. For those of you keeping track, 11 players from that class have left the program prematurely. As I said 2 years ago, the 2005 class was severely overrated:
The 2005 recruiting class was simply overhyped.

First of all, let me say this: It's way too early to judge the 2005 recruiting class.

It's too early now, it was too early this summer, and it was too early last winter when some people handed these guys starting jobs.

Let me also say this: The 2005 recruiting class was ranked more on numbers (31 recruits) than on quality. There will, no doubt, be some fine football players in this group. And in a year or two, we should be enjoying their success on the field.

But somewhere along the way, the hype meter went off the scale. Harrison Beck, Craig Roark, and Rodney Picou were going to be starting. Marlon Lucky was this year's Adrian Peterson. Zac Bowman was going to declare after this season for the NFL draft.
The problem with the obsession is that these players arrive with the expectation that they are going to play...and when it doesn't work out for them, they don't react maturely because they feel they've been promised the starting job. It doesn't help things either when the coaching staff is making the same promises. Bill Callahan confessed this week that he promised Terrence Nunn playing time as a freshman:
I remember Terrence asking me, Coach, am I going to play as a freshman? I said, There's no question you'll play as a freshman, because at that time we didn't have any wide receivers that really came from a passing system, per se.
We've heard these allegations before, from Brian Hildebrand and insinuated by Jordan Congdon. Now, even the coach admits it.

I also see that AJ hates my Cubbies... too bad that they're now a half-game out of first place. Nice to see that KOZN 1620 AM has picked the night and weekend games back up. Hard to say how long they'll keep it up, but Cub fans are always optimistic. Even with the idea that Kerry Wood might actually be able to pitch this weekend for the Cubs. Hope springs eternal....whether warranted or not.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Big XII Preseason Predictions

Corn Blight over at Corn Nation tipped me off to BurntOrangeNation's Preseason Big XII Blog Predictions. Here's how I voted:

Order of finish
North: Huskers, Missouri, Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State, Colorado

Most folks have the Huskers and Tigers 1-2. I was impressed with Ron Prince last season, so I'll put them 3rd. As for why Iowa State gets ranked above Colorado, it's simple: they play in Ames, not Boulder.

South: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor

Bob Stoops is the best coach in the Big XII, and his defense is stacked. His offensive line might be the best in college football. Yes, he has to find a quarterback, but he converted a wide receiver to quarterback two days before fall practice started last year and brought home a title. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State might just have the best offense in the Big XII.

All conference units:
BON wants us to rate units, not individuals...so here's my choices:
QB: Missouri, Texas
I'm probably in the minority, but I think I'll take Chase Daniel over Colt McCoy. I'm not ready to put Sam Keller in this mix based on his 2004 numbers.

RB: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
Watching Jovorskie Lane rumble down the field is fun...and he's their second best back behind Mike Goodson. OSU's Dantrell Savage isn't bad either. Since we're looking at units, I almost put Nebraska on the list, but the health of Nebraska's best returning I-back (Cody Glenn) is still in question.

WR: Texas, Oklahoma
Might be unfair, but with Oklahoma's quarterback questions, I think that Texas' receivers will have bigger years. Missouri's tight ends would have earned a mention if they were a seperate category. Oklahoma State might have bumped the Sooners if not for Artrell Woods back injury. Nebraska's might be the deepest, but they disappeared in games at the end of the season against Oklahoma and Auburn.

Offensive Line: Oklahoma, Texas A&M
Oklahoma's might be the best in the country, and A&M's is plowing the road for their backfield. Nebraska would probably be 3rd on my list though, as they've improved every year and are growing deeper each season.

Defensive Line: Texas, Oklahoma
The Texas defensive front was their strength last season, and the key pieces return. Oklahoma's defensive front is solid as well. Nebraska has to replace EVERYBODY.

Linebackers: Nebraska, Texas
With a new defensive line and a leaky secondary, Nebraska is going to need a HUGE impact from their linebackers. Their depth will allow Nebraska to experiment with a 3-4 this season at times. I see the rest of the bloggers love Bo Ruud...wish our fans did as well.

Secondary: Oklahoma, Oklahoma 2nd String, Kansas State
Oklahoma's secondary is light years ahead of everybody else. As I started to look around the Big XII, I realized that Nebraska's really isn't that bad. We'll see how Zack Bowman recovers from his assorted injuries, but the key with the Husker secondary is how the defensive line rebuilds.

Offensive Player of the Year: Chase Daniel. If Missouri is really going to challenge for a Big XII title, Daniel will need to have a huge year.
Defensive Player of the Year: Reggie Smith. Best player on the best defense.

Best Offense: Oklahoma State (#2: Missouri)
Best Defense: Oklahoma

Best Conference Matchup: Bedlam-Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State . BON says we can't vote for our games involving our team, so I've got to go with the best defense versus the best offense.

Best Nonconference Matchup: Again, NU-USC is off the board for me, so I'll go with Miami-Florida vs. Oklahoma. I almost went with Kansas State at Auburn or Kansas State at Fresno State, though. (Bill Snyder is obviously not in charge of scheduling anymore!)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Oh woe is me...Pederson Gets an Extension

It was about 3:00 when the e-mail from Husker Dave arrived to taunt me with the news of Steve Pederson's contract extension, with the message to "hail Steve Pederson". I'm surprised it took that long...after all, the news broke earlier in the morning.

If you can really call it news, that is.

Frankly, the only way Steve Pederson's contract would have been news was if the announcement was that Pederson wasn't being retained. Let's be realistic for a moment...did anyone REALLY expect Harvey Perlman to suddenly change his mind about Pederson? His contract was up, and Perlman has stood behind Pederson ever since he hired him nearly 5 years ago.

It wasn't so much a question of if...but when. And today made perfect sense to make the announcement since much of the local sports media were down in San Antonio for Big XII media day. Sports talk shows were booked solid with interviews with coaches and players, leaving nearly no time to rehash the entire pro-Pederson/anti-Pederson debate.

Needless to say, I'm not distraught over Pederson getting an extension. I fully expected it. In fact, my response to Dave was that the only thing this changes is that it'll cost more to buy his contract out. (heh heh!)

I could rehash the debate and issue a rebuttal to the reasons for extending Pederson's contract, but that's not worthwhile. Instead, I'll try to put some hope into Pederson's statements to the World-Herald today:'
In the eyes of many fans, Pederson's image has yet to fully recover.

Pederson said Monday he'd like to see progress in "moving forward together."

"I want to make sure that we do everything possible to make everybody feel part of this," he said.

"You know in this job not everybody's going to agree with everything you do, but what you hope they know is you're doing what you believe is in the best interest of the university and our athletic department."'
I've heard this talk a few times before, and it's been empty words in the past. Perhaps this time it's different. We can hope...as it's time for peace for Husker Nation. Way past time.

In the meantime, next up is a contract extension for Bill Callahan. His contract situation was similar to Pederson, and it's time to either extend his contract or fire him. And if Gary Pinkel is worthy of a contract extension, Bill Callahan certainly deserves one.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Defense Needs to Pick It Up, and Did Purify Catch a Break?

When you consider that more than half of last year's defensive starters are now preparing for NFL training camp, defense is my major concern with the 2007 Huskers. Today's Omaha World-Herald spotlights Ndamakong Suh in a feature and tries to diminish those concerns:
"Having the defensive line be a question mark is kind of a huge slap in the face. But those of us first on the depth chart just haven't had a chance to prove ourselves as much as past players have. This is our time to shine and show what we can bring to the table."
I'm trying to remember the last time we've had so little returning depth on the defensive line and I certainly don't recall ever having to replace every starter. It will be interesting to see how the young Huskers grow into the holes left by the departures of guys like Adam Carriker and Jay Moore.

I've never understood fans who continually bash the Ruud family. Some felt that Barrett Ruud wasn't talented enough to start at Nebraska, even though he's slated to start for the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now the Ruud bashers are turning their attention to little brother Bo. Despite being named all Big XII last year by the coaches and preseason all Big XII by the media last week, I still hear some fans questioning whether he should even start. Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star even commented on it today, saying that Ruud's intelligence allows him to always put himself in the right position. And if the story about his work in the weight room is correct, maybe he'll finally silence all those doubters.

Speaking of Sip's column, he gives major kudos to Maurice Purify's lawyer for setting the stage for Purify's one-game suspension. I still believe it's far too lenient, as I felt it should have been for the entire season. From my perspective, the punishment from Callahan is merely for getting himself into trouble again (the DWI) after Callahan told him to stay out of trouble after the bar fight.

Probably the most inane justification for the one game suspension is that if Purify were suspended for the first two games, then he'd be reinstated for the USC game, thus illustrating that Callahan cared more about winning than in discipline. What?!?!?! In other words, if you are worried about the perception about being too lax in discipline, the solution is to become more lax.

Besides, now people will just say that that either Callahan is worried about the Wake Forest game, or doesn't want Purify to go into the USC game without having a warmup game.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Look Back at 2006 - Part II: Defense

In the first part, I focused on offense but didn't have time to get to the defense. Looking back at 2006, I have to admit that the injury to Zack Bowman was bigger than I thought it would be. Or more importantly, it meant more to defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove than I thought it would be. For much of the season, the secondary spent most of their time in soft coverage with support from the linebackers. The pass rush was pretty much limited to the front four...which meant quarterbacks usually had plenty of time to find their receivers. The strategy worked ok at times...namely USC. But it also floundered at times, most notably when backup Kansas quarterback Adam Barmann torched the Blackshirts "bend and break" defense for nearly 400 yards. But by the end of the season, Cosgrove had a little more faith in the secondary and unleashed the defense with better results against Oklahoma and Auburn.

As we look at 2007, here's who we lose:
QB Zac Taylor (signed with Buccaneers)
RB Brandon Jackson (2nd round draft pick to Packers)
FB Dane Todd
TE Matt Herian (signed with Buccaneers)
K Jordan Congdon (transferred to USC)
DE Adam Carriker (1st round draft pick to Rams)
DT Barry Cryer (signed with Chargers)
DT Olo Dagunduro (signed with Dallas)
DE Jay Moore (4th round draft pick to 49ers)
LB Stewart Bradley (3rd round draft pick to Eagles)
FS Andrew Shanle (signed with Bears)

Obviously rebuilding the defensive line will be a key point for this fall, as the Huskers will break in an entirely new line. On offense, filling the hole left by Brandon Jackson will be key.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

DXP: Taking Issue with Mandel & Me

DoubleExtraPoint blogger Jeffie Husker takes issue with Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel's assertion that Bill Callahan goes "run-the-ball-three-times-and-play-defense" at times with his playcalling. And really, it depends on how you look at things. DXP broke down the second half of the Cotton Bowl by downs and it showed balance. But that's not exactly how I saw things. Instead, I looked at it by drives, especially in the 4th quarter. The first drive of the quarter was the most balanced, but it stalled after Nebraska got called for holding. The next drive was pass-pass-pass-punt. The next drive was rush-rush-rush-rush-rush-pass (3rd & long)-pass (4th & long). The final drive doesn't really count; 2 passes with seconds left in the game.

Look at it for the quarter, and you'll see 7 rushes and 8 passes before desperation set in. Looks balanced, yes? But the second and third drives were anything but balanced; they were polar opposites. Kind of like taking a cold day in January and a hot day in July, averaging them together, and say, wow, those two days averaged out to be rather pleasant.

I use another example of imbalance. Look at our first down play calls against USC:
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 1 yd
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 2 yds
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 1 yd
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 2 yds
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 0
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 0
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 0
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 0
  • Marlon Lucky rush for 3 yds, fumbled
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 6 yds
  • Brandon Jackson rush for 4 yds
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 3 yds
  • Kenny Wilson rush for 3 yds
  • Zac Taylor rush for 4 yds
  • Zac Taylor pass to Nunn for 21 yds.
It took nearly 40 minutes (and 16 1st-and-tens) before he threw the ball on first down, and it's not a coincidence that Nebraska scored it's only touchdown on that drive.

Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp may have summed it up when he said that "West Coast Guys are programmed." Watching Husker football in person, you can identify a lot of playcalls based on (a) what they've been running the last few plays and (b) personnel in the game. Three tight-end sets mean rushing, 4 wide receiver sets mean deeper passing. Early last season, Brandon Jackson in the game usually meant passing until BJax took over as starting I-back. Don't think defensive coordinators recognize these tendencies as well.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Before Looking Ahead...Let's Look Back...

Next week are the Big XII's Media Days...which means that pre-season practice starts soon...which in turn means football season is just about here. But before looking ahead to 2007, let's sum up 2006. Overall, it was an improvement over 2005: 9 wins instead of 8, a Big XII North championship (complete with bogus trophy celebration). There were some nice games: a comeback against Texas A&M and nearly upsetting Texas. But there were still bad games: a meltdown against Oklahoma State and an assume-the-fetal-position gameplan versus USC.

The highlight of 2006 has to be the comeback against Texas A&M, with the near upset of Texas a close second. Both games were inconsistent, with Nebraska looking like a top-10 team at certain points of the game and then other times looking like Callahan's 5-6 2004 clusterf***. Which really highlights the main problem of 2006 and much of the Callahan era: a Jekyll-and-Hyde offense that sometimes wants to grind the ball out and other times wants to turn into an aerial circus. When you look at the overall numbers at the end of the game, it looks balanced. But that's usually the only time it looks balanced because during the game, it frequently looks more like run-run-pass (if it's 3rd & long)-run-run-run-punt followed by pass-pass-pass-pass-pass-punt.

Some fans like to point to Pete Carroll giving Nebraska credit for showing how to beat USC as being proof that Callahan's game plans have been all right. Weird thing is that most of those fans used to view credit from opposing coaches as kind of a reverse psychology. The fact is that teams that played USC tough didn't follow the Husker game plan of run the ball on first and second downs, then throw on third and long. They mixed it up in an attempt to have a balanced attack -- a far cry from Nebraska's arch-conservative game plan. Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated kind of sums it up in today's mailbag:
Finally -- and this doesn't apply just to Callahan but to nearly all the NFL-bred coaches in the collegiate ranks today -- you do not win championships in college anymore by playing not to lose (as they often do in the pros). It's a huge pet peeve of mine and a common theme among the worst coaches nominees (see Dorrell, Karl; Gailey, Chan). The strange thing is, Callahan has shown he's more than willing to break out the flea flickers and other trick plays, but in last year's USC and Oklahoma games, and when the game was on the line against Auburn, he retreated to all-out, run-it-into-the-line-three-straight-times-and-play-defense mode. I can't emphasize this enough. I hate that.
The thing that I find hard to understand is that at key times, Callahan can make some of the dumbest play calls. Swing passes out of the end zone. Throwing the ball on 3rd and short with time running out against Texas. So I criticize him for throwing the ball in the wrong situations...and for running the ball in the wrong situations. Inconsistent? Only to a simpleton. Each situation is different. Some people think the choice of game plans against USC was run the ball or throw the ball on every down...but isn't there something in the middle? Couldn't you throw a pass on 1st down sometime during the first 40 minutes of the game? (Look it up...16 straight runs on first down to open the game.) Arkansas proved that you don't want to turn into Air Coryell against the Trojans...but you also don't want to run the Millard North offense either. (Especially when you supposedly have been practicising the "West Coast Offense")

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New York Post: BCS to move to a "Final Four" in 2011

The New York Post is reporting that the BCS is seriously considering adopting a "plus-one" format in 2011 that will match the top 4 teams in a Football Final Four, with the winners advancing to a championship game. The semi-finalists would meet in 2 of the existing BCS bowl games, and the winners would play a week later in a title game. The report isn't clear, but it looks like the existing BCS title game might transition into a "regular" bowl game to be played along side the Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta.

The positive of this idea is that you get two very compelling "Final Four" bowl games. For last season, the matchups would have been Ohio State vs. LSU and Florida vs. Michigan. And in my opinion, a much more compelling championship matchup between LSU and Florida.

But the logistics of teams playing in two bowl games in a week is going to be a huge problem. Bowl games work today because fans have nearly a month to get travel plans made between the time the matchups are finalized and the games occur. Ticket sales can be managed, and travel agents have time to arrange for charters and airline seats. That all goes out the window in this scenario.

Do the teams and fans have to fly from one bowl site to the next? Or do you play all three games at one site? If you play all three games at one site, how do you handle practice facilities for 4 teams for the "Final Four"? How does that city's travel industry handle two New Years Day bowl games? Do they have the hotel rooms? Can you fly in double the number of football fans? Then consider the fans. How many fans can hang around a bowl site for an extra week? (Probably only blue-hair retirees, for the most part.) Or will they try to fly home the day after the game, and then return a few days later?

If you play the semifinals in different cities, and then play the title game in yet another city, how do travel agents handle this? Win, your flight goes to another bowl. Lose, your flight goes home. Suddenly attending a bowl game takes up a week and a half of vacation time instead of just 2 or 3 days of vacation over the holidays.

My take? Optimistic fans will simply stay home for the semi-finals and have their travel plans ready to fly to the championship game. Folks with plenty of money and free time may be able to attend both games...but that won't fill the bowl stadiums. In the case of the Rose and Fiesta Bowls, the locals may take up the slack...but the Orange Bowl will really struggle to sell semi-final tickets.

If this scenario happens, it really will spell the end of the bowl system as we know it. The logistics of teams playing two bowl games a week apart will lead to the semi-final games being moved to home fields, where larger stadiums closer to fans will mean even MORE money.

Bottom line: While a "Final Four" has it advantages, it's still inferior to a true 8 or 16 team playoff.

Monday, July 16, 2007

AAFL: Pro Football for Nebraska?

In light of the failure of the USFL, NFL Europe (twice), and the XFL, there's yet another plan to try professional football in the Spring. The All-American Football League will attempt to piggyback on the devotion of college football fans by tying their franchises to college football. Team rosters will be filled from nearby colleges so that fans are already familiar with their teams, and may even play in their college stadiums.

Can it work? Maybe.

Let's face it. The NFL is king, and college football might just be America's second favorite sport; it might be a tossup whether Major League Baseball or NASCAR is #3. The challenge for this new league is to somehow be able to leverage the traditions of college football, yet resist the temptation to turn it into a gimmick.

Why would it work? Look at Nebraska, where our past heroes still matter to fans. If we didn't care about them...why would we have cared if they held a second golf tournament this spring? And as we've seen with the rise of Husker baseball in recent years, Nebraska fans are always looking for a reason to wear their red t-shirts. Let's suggest you name them the "Nebraska Bugeaters" with red uniforms with a roster full of former Huskers along with a few UNO and Kearney players to pad it out. It could be huge.

Why would it fail? History is full of failed pro football leagues. Would former Huskers be willing to give up their day jobs and careers for $75,000 salaries? Could a franchise turn a profit with a 40 man roster earning $3 million?

Nebraska is on the sidelines on this one...probably for good reason. Talk from the league is that they'd pay $500,000 to the athletic department per game, and that would translate into a lot of revenue for the athletic department. But would that revenue be new, or would it be revenue diverted from other Husker athletics? (Would fans choose between a Husker baseball game or a Nebraska AAFL game?) They talk about playing these games after spring practice is over, but it might be a bigger success if they target the 8 weeks between Memorial Day and the end of July, playing in the evenings when it's (hopefully) cooler.

I've suggested that full-fledged Arena football would be a good fit for Omaha, and I still feel that way especially if they could bring in former Huskers. But it's one thing to try to draw 10,000 people to Omaha's Qwest Center and sell them beer. It's another thing entirely to draw 30,000 people to Memorial Stadium and not be able to sell alcohol. It might be a success for the first few games just for the novelty, but if the football isn't good and the Husker ties turn out to be simply a gimmick, it will wear off fast.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Return of Warren Swain

No...not to Nebraska...but the new home of former Huskers, the MAC and specifically Ohio University. Yes, Warren Swain has finally found a broadcasting job in division 1-A as "Voice of the Bobcats", 6 years after bowing out to allow Jim Rose to take over. (Boy, that worked out well!)

The guy who took over for Swain on Husker basketball also has a new gig. Randy Lee has left Lincoln to become the voice of the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

In some football news, Stewart Mandel puts Bill Callahan on his list of worst coaches in college football. Mandel has never been a fan of Callahan, calling him a "colossal mistake" in 2005 and panning his game plan after the Cotton Bowl. Personally, I don't think Callahan belongs on the "worst coaches" list...but unlike some Husker fans, I'm not putting him anywhere near the best coaches list. This year should begin to provide us with some solid evidence that Mandel is right or wrong on Callahan. Win 11 or more, and Mandel has egg on his face. Win fewer than 9, and Mandel looks more and more right. As for the rest of his list, the only coach on his "best coaches" list that I disagree with is Mack Brown, who probably would be on the OTHER list if he hadn't recruited Vince Young.

Oh, and congratulations to former UNO Maverick Scott Parse for signing with the NHL's LA Kings.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sooners "Vacate" 2005???

Today's announcement by the NCAA that the Oklahoma Sooners must "vacate" their 2005 victories is certainly an odd one. What it seems to mean is that the Nebraska-Oklahoma game apparantly didn't happen. Oklahoma's record is 0-4 for 2005...does this mean that Nebraska's record is now 8-3? And if that game didn't really happen...does Nebraska owe it's ticketholders a refund? And does this "vacancy" also remove Bill Callahan's "gesture" from the record books as well?

Blankman over at MidwestCoastBias has a great take on Trevor Robinson's decision to visit Notre Dame and Michigoon. He gets it...

One of my wishes has come through... ABC/ESPN has assigned Ron Franklin to be the prinicipal announcer for Big XII games, as I had hoped for in May. Yeah... Bwent Mushburger is still doing "Saturday Night Football" albeit now with Kirk Herbstreit instead of Bob Davie. I guess that means ESPN College Gameday will be at the ABC Saturday Night game...which means Gameday will be in Lincoln for the USC game.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Recruitnik Obsession Backfires

Recruitniks across HuskerNation are in a tizzy after word leaked that Trevor Robinson is reconsidering his commitment to the Huskers. 1620 the Zone reported that Robinson is overwhelmed by the fanaticism of those that obsess over recruiting. Rivals.com reports that Robinson's cell phone has been ringing non-stop, and Husker message boards are filled with fans criticizing everybody and anybody other than themselves.

Nevermind the fact that the kid is 17 years old. Nevermind the fact that the kid has to live with this decision, not the fans. Nevermind the fact that their obsession creates the very situation that leads to these situations.

And don't forget the kid still hasn't changed his mind yet. Just imagine what will happen if he does actually sign with somebody else?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Heat Wave Thoughts

We're officially in the dog days of summer... the College World Series is over, as are the Stanley Cup Finals. College football is still 8 weeks away. Not much to talk about now... CornBlight over at CornNation has declared July the "Month of Corn" since there really isn't much else to blog about yet. Speaking of which, I'll be contributing a bit to CornNation as well. This blog won't be going away, but I'm not sure how the two are going to balance each other out just yet. My guess is you'll see some cross-posting and a little cross-promotion, much like my response to the FireMarkMay blog's summer roundtable.

Today's Omaha World-Herald had a couple of interesting articles to read. First one was on Tampa Bay Devil Rays' all-star outfielder Carl Crawford. Many people don't know that Crawford was Frank Solich's first quarterback recruit:
Crawford can stretch singles into doubles and chase down line drives in the gap. Football, though, still feels more natural to him. It's more instinctive, more reliant on athleticism.

His senior year of high school, the 6-foot-2 lefty rushed for 1,200 yards. He also averaged 25 points on the basketball court, drawing interest from UCLA.

"He just had speed and athleticism," said Gill, the former Nebraska quarterbacks coach, in 2000. "Those two qualities right there, they jumped off the tape."

Nebraska's tradition and coaching staff jumped out at Crawford. Head coach Frank Solich came to Houston during recruiting and ate with his family.

"None of the other coaches had done that," Crawford said.
Hard to argue that Crawford isn't one talented athlete, and that his decision to take the millions of dollars from Tampa wasn't the right one. But you do have to wonder what might have happened if Crawford had shown up in Lincoln in the fall of 1999. Ah...if only, if only...

The new management of the Omaha Royals made an ill-advised attempt to revive their plan for a Royals-only stadium downtown in today's paper, suggesting that the cost difference between the "Replace Rosenblatt" and "Renovate Rosenblatt" options should be given to the Royals for a new downtown ballpark. Talk about chutzpah!

First of all, if there is any money to be saved by renovating Rosenblatt, it will be mostly because the city WON'T be repairing many of Rosenblatt's infrastructure issues at that time. That $25 million dollar estimate doesn't begin to touch the dilapidated infrastructure that will need to be addressed at some point. Siphoning that money over to a minor league ballpark would be an irresponsible act by the city as far as I'm concerned.

Spending the money on the College World Series is a no-brainer in my book. A 2003 study found that the CWS had a $34 million dollar economic impact on the city each year. A 2005 study showed that a minor league ballpark would only have a $9 million dollar impact annually. The only question is whether or not we spend $25 million now (and potentially $30-$40 million in several more years) on Rosenblatt, or if we invest the money in a new ballpark downtown.

Once we figure out the right answer to the CWS, we can look at the Royals situation. However, that $9 million of economic impact is going to make it very difficult to justify the expense of a new minor-league ballpark.

In the meantime, I'll have to keep an eye on my Cubbies. I haven't had much to get excited about since that ill-fated game 6 in 2003. I had to take the dog for a walk in the 7th inning, as I wanted to get back in time to watch the Cubs celebrate making the World Series. We all know how well THAT worked out. But Pinella certainly has them playing better, getting all Cub fans hopes up one more time.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Summer of 2007 better for UNO

What a difference a year makes...at least for UNO. Last year, UNO athletics was reeling from a triple shot of the NCC's demise, budget deficits, and graft and corruption by the chancellor and vice chancellor.

A year later, UNO finds their division 2 programs in the MIAA. The football team is getting a new look with improved uniforms. The hockey program is making an aggressive push to grow the ticket base. And all new management has taken over, with a new athletic director serious about righting the wrongs of the past few years.

Specifically, he has a five point plan to restore UNO hockey as the flagship of the Maverick athletic department:
  1. Re-engage members of the Blue Line Club. Reach out to current members and lapsed members to get membership back to the 2,000 member level.
  2. Engage Aksarben Knights ticketholders and sponsors by enlisting the Knights organization.
  3. Engage the Media -- print, TV, and radio.
  4. Create and enhance the collegiate game atmosphere. Enlist the students and Red Army, and regular fans. He met with the Band Director and the band will have a different look, sound, and location this year.
  5. Improve in the ticket office, marketing, and sports information office.
Yes, at this point, it's all talk. But it's positive talk, and all good ideas to revitalize the hockey program, which will serve as a foundation for all of the other sports at UNO.

Other news from the Mavs is the departure of assistant Doc Delcastillo as Alaska-Fairbanks new head coach and the hiring of Nick Fohr as replacement. I have mixed emotions on the departure of Delcastillo. On one hand, Doc helped bring some great talent to UNO. Guys like all-American Scott Parse (who apparantly is going to sign any day now with the LA Kings, much to my surprise) and Bill Thomas of the Phoenix Coyotes. But at the same time, while UNO has been a speedy offensive powerhouse, they've found themselves undersized and been overpowered by teams like Boston University. Furthermore, you've gotten a feeling that something just wasn't right with the Mavs in recent years. AJ points towards Mike Kemp, but the whispers around the program pointed more towards disatisfaction towards Delcastillo.

The promotion of Nick Fohr looks like a winner at this point. Fohr skated for the Mavs from 1998 to 2002, and has spent the last three years as director of hockey operations. I don't know whether Fohr is ok, decent, or great coach at this point. What it does bring is a sense of tradition to a young program. When you look at Nebraska football, the tradition of former players contributing to the program meant a sense of continuity, bringing a passion to the program. Now UNO hockey now can follow that tradition.

I don't know what caused UNO to play out-of-sync the last couple of years, or whether Delcastillo should shoulder any of the blame. But Fohr's promotion has the opportunity to breath new life into the program, much like the new administration seems to be breathing new life into the athletic department.