Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesday Morning Coffee

A few quick notes as the annual recruiting sabbatical gets underway.

I noticed that Nebraska is still holding their annual recruiting dinner. Perhaps Steve Pederson had a non-refundable reservation with the hotel. Or maybe the football staff has been so busy trying to repair the damage done by the previous regime that they forgot to tell the marketing staff about the realities of college football. Or maybe they figured that they needed to hold out an olive branch to those folks who still cling to the folly of obsessing over recruiting despite watching the Pederson Error implode the program. Expect complete coverage of every meaningful detail right here. (In other words, not a single word. Let's wait until recruits actually arrive on campus and begin playing before setting any expectations or doing any "rating".)

Have their ever been a couple of Blackshirts so erroneously derided as the Shanle brothers? Scott was ridiculed as the poster child for "slow Nebraska kids who shouldn't be on the field", but somehow managed to become a starting linebacker for the New Orleans Saints. Now little brother Andrew is going to the Super Bowl as a member of the New York Giants. Memo to recruitniks: some of these Nebraska kids you've dissed for the last few years can play a little football.

Well, well, well. Seems that Husker Information Minister Jim Rose apparently wants his old job back, according to radio insiders. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for the rest of us), it sounds like Greg Sharpe is going to remove the interim designation from his title.

Bo Pelini signed his contract last week, and one of the more pleasant surprises was seeing incentives for academic achievement in there. One could argue that the money could be used by the academic departments instead, but remember, the money to pay for Pelini comes from athletics. In this case, putting requirements on academic as well as athletic success is a refreshing change and shows that priorities aren't completely out of whack.

And another horrible weekend for UNO hockey this past weekend, failing to gain a single point against "Bye", who haven't won a single game all season. Ok, ok. Some UNO fans tend to look at everything as a glass completely empty. UNO sits in fifth place in the conference, trailing #1 Miami, #2 Michigoon, #5 Michigan State (who UNO plays this weekend), and #8 Notre Dame. Looking at those standings, UNO is probably exactly where they should be in the conference, though I think most UNO fans wish they were a little closer to Notre Dame than they are. UNO could sure use a point or two this weekend against the Spartans. Fourth place is just about completely out of reach, but others are right on UNO's heels.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Legislature Ups Ante in Bid to Rid Omaha of College World Series

A new wrinkle in the ongoing saga of the College World Series emerged today as State Senator John Synowiecki, who represents the area around Rosenblatt, introduced a bill today that would fund a renovation of Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium. Synowiecki told the Omaha World-Herald that he offered the bill because the entire state has a vested interest in keeping the College World Series in Omaha.


Then why is the money being only offered for a plan that the NCAA has repeatedly rejected? The NCAA is clear on this matter, and proposals like this only add fuel to a divisive, emotional issue.

I understand Synowiecki's point to a degree; he represents the Rosenblatt area, and is doing everything he can to keep the College World Series in his district. From his perspective and for his district, five more years of the College World Series at Rosenblatt is better than 20 years of the College World Series downtown.

(Correction: Senator Synowiecki represents downtown as well. My apologies for the error.)

However, that logic doesn't apply when you look at the entire city or even the state. 5 years is NOT better than 20 years.

Now, a co-sponsor of the bill, State Senator Brad Ashford mentions that the bill could be amended later to fund a downtown ballpark in the future. Which makes me ask the question "why not leave the bill open ended?" If the bill isn't to put pressure on the city to reject the NCAA's demands, then why put those restrictions in there in the first place?

Some of Omaha's so-called leaders are playing with fire here. Maybe they should just come out and just tell the NCAA that they aren't going to roll over and grant the NCAA what they are asking for. If the NCAA doesn't like it, they can take the College World Series and find someone who will.

Maybe that's a harsh statement, but it's closer to the truth. People say the right things, but their actions betray them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shawn Watson to Alabama: Famine and Pestulance Follows

Word out of Alabama is that Nick Saban is interested in hiring Husker offensive coordinator Shawn Watson to replace Major Applewhite, who left Alabama to rejoin the Texas staff. Obviously, this would have a disastrous effect on Husker recruiting this close to signing day, as Watson would lead most of the Huskers' prized commitments to change their mind. Further alarming fans would be the thoughts that Watson would take most of his playbook with him, leaving only the stretch play and the fake punt the Huskers ran against Auburn.

But that's just the tip of things, Husker fans. Watson also has most of the athletic department's financial records, including the bank account numbers and credit card numbers of every booster and season ticket holder. If he leaves, he'll take those with them and begin draining the accounts of every Husker fan.

Watson's departure would create a huge vacuum that would divert asteroids off their path and would lead a meteor to crash into Lake McConaughy. The resulting tsunami would wipe out Ogallala as well as much of the Sandhills. The impact crater would be so deep it would release tons of molten lava which would begin flowing eastward across the state, overriding farm fields and sealing the Platte River forever.

Another meteor would crash into the State Capitol, killing nearly every leader in state government, resulting in Senator Ernie Chambers to ascend to the governorship under the state consitution's succession plan.

OK... let's be serious here. Watson's departure would be difficult, but wouldn't be the end of the world. If Watson doesn't want to be part of this next era of Nebraska football, then let him go. No sense keeping someone here who doesn't want to be part of things. Will he be missed? Yes. But you'd never know who would replace him, and how things would have evolved with or without Watson. So much of the consternation over Watson is overblown at this point, it's almost a mass panic.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Buh, buh, buh, Billy and the Jets

Former Husker coach Bill Callahan is back in the NFL, taking over as run-game coordinator and assistant head coach of the New York Jets. When the announcement was made earlier today, it looked like Callahan might end up being offensive coordinator, but Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer didn't get the Baltimore Ravens head coaching job.

Good for Bill. Although it seems bizarre for Callahan to be named the "run-game coordinator" given his love-hate relationship with "pounding the rock", it sure seems that the NFL is a better fit for Bill Callahan. Callahan usually said the right things about being the head coach, but I never really got the feeling he really meant it. I really question whether he'll get another shot as a head coach in the NFL or a BCS-level college program with his history with the Raiders and the Huskers, but that doesn't preclude him from a long successful career in the NFL as an assistant.

That might be construed as a cheap shot at Callahan, but it's more of a statement of reality. Callahan is 51 years old, and generally speaking, programs are increasingly looking towards younger blood for head coaches. This year in the NFL, 12 men were interviewed for head coaching jobs, and only two of those coaches had previous experience as a head coach.

But there's no need to feel sorry for Bill Callahan. Not only is he moving on in his professional career, he'll get a lump sum payout of $3.125 million before taxes on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Rosenblatt Controversy: Who Do YOU Trust?

One thing that I've discovered in recent months is that there are very strong opinions about replacing Rosenblatt Stadium for the College World Series. The problem is that those strong opinions are on both sides of the issue, and consider the other side to be completely out of touch with reality and not to be trusted.

Today, KOZN radio's Kevin Kugler discussed a Baseball America blog entry where NCAA head honcho Dennis Poppe told the American Baseball Coaches Association that city of Omaha officials initiated discussions of building a new ballpark to replace Rosenblatt, conflicting with Omaha World-Herald reports that the NCAA brought up the idea of a new stadium.

So who's right? Well, maybe both to some degree. The Baseball America blog doesn't contain quotes, so we don't know exactly what Poppe said to the coaches. Poppe did tell USA Today last summer that Omaha "initiated the process", but that the NCAA responded with the idea of a new stadium. So who's right about who first request a new stadium: USA Today and the Omaha World-Herald with quotes, or Baseball America as an aside?

Or maybe we should blame the Omaha Royals, who brought up the whole new stadium idea in the first place and planted the seeds in the NCAA's mind.

In any event, people are choosing who to believe. Personally, I believe Mayor Mike Fahey and the NCAA folks who are saying that it doesn't make sense to renovate Rosenblatt. However, it's clear to me that many people are not trusting the mayor. They feel the Mayor is ramrodding the stadium down the throats of Omahans to build his legacy. Is he? I'm not sure there's a lot of evidence in that corner. In fact, even David Sokol agreed that Fahey was working on remodeling Rosenblatt a year ago.

If anything, I think the politics of this situation are actually working against the Mayor, with political opponents of the Mayor trying to capitalize on the emotional tie Omahans have for Rosenblatt.

One thing is clear... Omaha's civic leaders need to come to an agreement on how important they consider the College World Series to Omaha and what the NCAA is asking for, if anything. It's inconceivable that some civic leaders are holding up a 20 year contract with the NCAA because of a parking lot (hint: when people need more parking, they build parking garages) or because of a perceived need to expand a struggling convention center (And even then, some folks at eomahaforums.com used Google Earth to show how a Rosenblatt-sized stadium could be placed on lot D and still accomodate a 50% expansion of the convention center! So even that argument doesn't hold water.).

To that extent, the NCAA might need to be the organization that comes out and makes their demands clear to all of the citizens of Omaha. Some people don't believe the Mayor, and some people don't believe his opponents. I don't think the NCAA likes coming out and giving ultimatums, but in this case, we're not going anywhere fast and the only way this appears to get resolved is if the NCAA comes out and makes their demands public. If it turns out the NCAA would be just fine with a dressed-up Rosenblatt, then the Mayor will have some serious explaining to do. On the other hand, if the NCAA did tell the city that Rosenblatt needs to be replaced, then the members of MECA should resign in disgrace for placing their own political agenda ahead of the city's needs.

Somebody is playing a very risky game of chicken with the NCAA and the citizens of Omaha.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday Night Beer: A Nighttime Spring Game?

A few quick thoughts before we endure an Arctic plunge:

Tom Shatel had a couple of interesting takes in his column today in the Omaha World-Herald. First of all, he says that Bo Pelini is considering moving the spring game to a 6 p.m. evening kickoff on April 19th. A night game for the Spring game? Well, it might up the atmosphere a little as the fans will arrive slightly more lubricated. The weather could be really fine, but I also remember a mid-April blizzard back in the middle 90's. If the weather is dicey, some fans might just decide to stay home. But they are apparently thinking big, hoping to have a sellout. Could be fun if the weather holds.

Shatel was more concerned about whether the Husker spring game would revert back to the 1's vs. 1's format. If he saw Big Red Wrapup on NET this evening, he would have heard that the staff is leaning in that direction. That would be a wonderful thing since it might actually give the staff and fans a better gauge on where this team is than the farce of the last four years.

Shatel also talked to LSU athletic director (and former baseball coach) Skip Bertman at the BCS title game last week. Bertman indicated that as soon as the Omaha Royals started pushing for a downtown stadium, that sealed the fate of Rosenblatt Stadium with the NCAA. Bertman told Shatel that Omaha had done as much with Rosenblatt as can be done, and it's time to build new.

But alas, Omaha's convention authority are doing their darndest to get the College World Series out of Omaha. The president of the authority quit the ballpark commission today, apparently to protest the use of the Qwest Center parking lots for the new ballpark. KMTV-Channel 3 reports that it looks like this may lead to lawsuits between the city's convention authority and the city itself. So let me see if I've got it straight. You've got the NCAA demanding a new stadium near hotels and restaurants. (In other words, downtown Omaha.) Meanwhile, you've got a bunch of South Omaha residents hiring Kevin Costner so that they can continue to rent out their yards for t-shirt sales and parking. Not to mention a bunch of alleged city fathers protecting their own parking lot. Other than Mayor Fahey, is there anybody in this town that wants to keep the College World Series in Omaha? Right now, it's hard to see anybody.

Let's face it. MECA's issues with a ballpark near the Qwest Center are more about political posturing than anything. Limiting the capability of expanding the Qwest Center? Well, MECA should worry about turning a profit on the convention center first before worrying about expanding it. Parking? Well, one solution would be to build a parking garage or two on the existing Qwest Center parking lots.

I see the President of the University of Georgia is proposing an eight-team playoff for college football after not getting selected to the BCS title game this season. I like the idea of an eight team playoff. I don't like trying to use the existing bowl games for it, though. Sure, LSU fans will pack the Superdome and USC fans will pack the Rose Bowl, but how many fans will rush to New Years Day bowl games knowing that if they win, there will be another, even more important semifinal game to travel to a week later? And then a potential championship game the week after that? There is a sentimental tie to the bowls, but the bowls aren't practical - or fair - if you are having a playoff. Using the bowls favors Pac-10 and SEC teams where the bowls become essentially home games for those conferences. If someone is going to get a home game, at least earn it on the field. That means that places like Lincoln, Ann Arbor, Columbus, and State College have to be included as potential hosts for the opening rounds of the playoffs. It's fairer to those schools, and will make much more money since all of the stadiums I suggest seat more fans than three of the four "BCS" bowl stadiums. More seats means more money. And if Nebraska had to play Miami at the Orange Bowl all those times, there's no reason why a Florida shouldn't have to come north to play.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Night Dessert: A Weekend of "L"s

UNO hockey gave it a go for a little while this weekend against #2 Miami. Friday night, UNO dominated the second period and even carried the play well into the third. UNO's penalty kill was particularly strong, as on several occasions, it looked like UNO had the advantage. In fact, on Miami's first power play of the evening, UNO outshot Miami 4-0. But, as was the case in the first two meetings, Miami turned it up late, scoring two goals with about five minutes left in the game to break a 3-3 tie and adding an empty net goal in the final minute. Saturday night was pretty much a domination by Miami, aside from a rather nifty Bryan Marshall goal. While Friday night's game was closer than the score indicated, the Saturday night game was more lopsided than the score indicated. Too bad, because the Saturday night game had great attendance and the Qwest Center was rocking initially.

Husker hoops got pasted by Kansas as well. I only saw a few highlights of the game, and while you can say that Nebraska played better than last year, that might be more because Nebraska played so poorly the last couple of years against the Jayhawks. In any event, Doc Sadler isn't rushing things in Lincoln, redshirting several freshmen to help build some depth. And it's not like #3 Kansas should be much of a measuring stick for the Huskers anyway. The Jayhawks right now appear to be on a path to steamroll through the Big XII on their way to the NCAA tournament this year. Texas A&M looks like their only speed bump, though you never know about Missouri in Columbia.

Introducing Bo Pelini and the rest of the football coaching staff ensured a big crowd for the game, but didn't seem to be the good luck charm some might have hoped for. In any event, Pelini came off a little more passionate than his predecessor, who had to read "Go Big Red!" off his note cards when introducing himself to fans four years ago.

If there was ever any doubt about Pelini's devotion to his players, here's another example courtesy of the Lincoln Journal-Star. New assistant Mike Ekeler says that shortly after joining the Oklahoma coaching staff in 2004, the Sooner coaching staff spent five days meeting with the Dallas Cowboys to share ideas. Except, of course, Pelini who had other priorities:
“He didn’t come to one meeting,” Ekeler says. “He stayed outside the meeting room and was on the phone talking to GMs/player personnel, all these people in the (NFL) for all these guys back at Nebraska, guys who played their tails off for him, who would never do anything else for him again. And I thought, ‘You know what? This guy gets it. This guy totally gets it.’”
Now do you see why Pelini coached in that national championship game? Yeah, the ring is nice. But Pelini wasn't about to turn his back on his players if he had any choice in the matter.

Was that Green Bay/Seattle playoff game fun to watch or what? The snow was coming down so hard that Fox had to use their sideline cameras for much of the second half since there was almost no visibility from the press box. And let's face it, Brett Favre leading the Packers this deep into the NFL playoffs is the greatest story of these playoffs. The Sunday games were somewhat of a surprise, especially with how San Diego fought off injuries to defeat the Colts. I'm sure some people will criticize Peyton Manning, but he's not the guy who couldn't stop the Charger backups today. Football is a team game, and only great teams win in the playoffs. Great players can't do it by themselves. And in the case of today's game, a lot of great players (Marvin Harrison, LaDainian Tomlinson, Bob Sanders, Philip Rivers, Reggie Wayne) came off the field injured, and the Charger backups picked up the slack. With the number of injuries the Chargers suffered, it looks like New England will be a prohibitive favorite to return to the Super Bowl. But I'll be pulling hard for Favre and the Packers...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Reality Check: Pelini's Coming, Not Dorsey, Highsmith, and Steltz

Hey, I'm as pleased as many fans that Bo Pelini is returning to Nebraska, this time as head coach. But I'm also a realist who also knows that his players are NOT coming along with him. Nebraska's defense is not likely to jump from the third worst in division 1-A to the third best.

But there's no reason to not expect the defense to be improved. Heck, it would be nearly impossible to get any worse. Bo Pelini isn't a miracle worker, and there are serious questions with depth at linebacker not to mention the defensive line. But I'm not convinced that Nebraska's problems on defense last season were primarily a talent issue. Let's look at last season again, shall we?

September: 5 games, 133 points allowed (26.6 points per game)
October: 4 games, 150 points allowed (37.5 points per game)
November: 3 games, 172 points allowed (57.3 points per game)

Each month, Nebraska faced a team that ended up in the top 10 (USC, Missouri, and Kansas), so it's not like the schedule got dramatically more difficult as the season went on. But the defense got progressively worse as the season went on. Yes, there were some injuries here and there, but other than Lance Brandenburgh, none were season ending. So what was it? Corey McKeon blamed it on conditioning and scheme. Steve Octavien blamed it on lack of belief in the scheme. Lack of confidence built on itself, and as the season unraveled, the lack of belief in the old staff simply became a large, festering wound.

Well guess what. Strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy is gone. And one thing that seems to be universal with Bo Pelini is belief in the scheme, whether it was at LSU or 2003 Nebraska. Players play hard for Bo Pelini, and playing hard is something we really haven't seen much of.

Does this make Nebraska a top defense all of a sudden? Hardly. But perhaps if Nebraska's defense upgrades to merely mediocre, Nebraska likely wins a couple extra games in 2008. Heck, the three games before they played the Huskers, Colorado scored 69 points combined. They scored 65 against the Huskers.

Hey, I don't expect miracles. But it would be difficult for the Nebraska defense to be any worse than in 2007.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

#2 Miami Heads for Omaha

Nebraska-Omaha hockey has their hands full this weekend as the #2 Miami Redhawks head to town this weekend. These two teams met to start the conference season, with the Redhawks sweeping in Miami. The games were a little closer than the score indicated, as the Friday night game was 4-2 Miami with five minutes left and the Saturday night game was 3-2 Miami with just over a minute left. Now, UNO gets them at home and with a little more experience, not to mention Juha Uotila, who is back in the lineup after missing the fall semester due to grade issues.

UNO is going to need to play their best hockey of the year this weekend. They showed signs of that this past weekend in sweeping Western Michigan, with the only goals coming off of defensive breakdowns resulting in odd-man rushes. In order to have a chance, UNO is going to have to eliminate those breakdowns, as Miami will capitalize on any and all mistakes, much like they did in November. One of the strangest stats is how UNO has been outshooting it's opponents all season, yet getting outscored. UNO seems to play great defense about 80% of the time, but when they make a mistake, the puck inevitably ends up in the back of the net.

This series will set the tone for the rest of the season, as UNO currently sits in fifth place in the CCHA... get swept, and the teams behind UNO in the standings inch closer to the Mavs. On the other hand, any points UNO gets will not only solidify their position, it could be the spark that UNO needs down the stretch.

Monday, January 07, 2008

BeauxShirts Take The Trophy; Pelini Brings a Ring to Lincoln

Tonight's LSU victory over Ohio State was closer than I thought it would be, but it was still an impressive victory in the National Championship game. And based on Fox's coverage of the sideline, you would have thought that Bo Pelini was head coach of the Tigers. Heck, it was Pelini who got the Gatorade bath, not Les Miles.

But he's not. He's the head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Some people would have preferred that Pelini would have closed the door on LSU five weeks ago, but that's not the type of coach Bo Pelini is. He finished the job in Baton Rouge; he owed it to his players. That shows that commitment means to Pelini, and that dedication will come back to pay huge dividends for Nebraska in the future. In this age when commitment is just a word, it's refreshing to see someone walking the walk.

Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star talked to Frank Solich about how he came across Bo Pelini five years ago, and how Solich worked through Tampa defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who in turned called USC coach Pete Carroll. It sounds like Solich had several top names in mind: Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Solich probably couldn't have made a bad choice at the time, but now it looks like he made a great choice.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Night Dessert: ThunderStruck

Steve Sipple spotted a familiar name in Friday's official Lancaster Court records: "Collins, Thunder G., 28, transient, two counts, 30 days’ jail. Also: violate protection order, 45 days’ jail.” Remember him? He was the junior college all-American who was going to be the next great Nebraska I-back. Husker Information Minister Jim Rose spent the entire summer debating whether his theme song should be AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" or Garth Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls".

Except that he wasn't the next great Nebraska I-back. I remember listening to the Frank Solich post-game call-in show after the San Jose State game, and somebody called in and asked "Is Thunder going to start next week (against Notre Dame)? after gaining two yards on two carries. Yep...the recruiting hype meter was in full force with Collins, who ended up rushing for 763 yards and five touchdowns over two and a half seasons. Since leaving the football field, he's been in and out of trouble. He still holds out hope for playing professional football, hoping to play for the Omaha Beef indoor football team later this spring.

Look for Tim Beck to be introduced Tuesday as Nebraska's running backs coach. Beck grew up around the corner from Bo Pelini's childhood home in Youngstown, Ohio, and is also a former teammate of his at Cardinal Mooney High. Recruitniks should be relieved to know he's well connected in Texas. Pelini also says he'll introduce a new strength coach Tuesday as well.

Pelini right now is concentrating on tomorrow night's BCS Championship game against Ohio State. My prediction? LSU 38, Ohio State 10. I didn't think Ohio State deserved a BCS title game shot when it was announced, and while I've soften my thoughts a little, I still think other teams deserved a shot. Why have I softened my opinion? Well, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech laid huge eggs in their bowl games for starters. (Georgia still deserved the shot more than the Buckeyes...) I still like LSU in this game, and certainly could beat Ohio State as badly as Florida did last year. But I give Ohio State a better chance than I did a couple of weeks ago. For one thing, I think Ohio State is working the motivation factor really hard. Certainly motivation was a huge factor in several bowl game upsets, such as Florida/Michigoon or Oklahoma/West Virginia. Not to mention Kansas/Virginia Tech.

But I also look at the bowl records of the respective conferences: SEC 6-2, Big 10/11 3-4. That still gives the advantage to the SEC and the Tigers. LSU has already played and defeated several teams of Ohio State's caliber: Virginia Tech and Florida, and beaten more decent teams (add South Carolina, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee) than Ohio State (Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Illinois) played all season long. Huge advantage: LSU. Geaux Tigers.

UNO hockey certainly started 2008 on the right foot, sweeping Western Michigan 6-3 yesterday and 4-2 today on ESPNU. Jerad Kaufman was solid in net all weekend and seems to have taken a firm grasp on the #1 goaltender spot. It appears that UNO is cutting down on the number of defensive breakdowns, but they'll need to totally eliminate them this weekend. That's because #1 Miami is coming to town. If they can find a way to steal some points this weekend, it helps dig them out of the hole they dug in the first half of the season. Quietly, senior Bryan Marshall is tied for second nationally with 31 points, and is the nation's leader in assists.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

What's Wrong with Husker Recruiting? Nothing!

Mitch Sherman of the Omaha World-Herald has a nice story about the current state of Husker recruiting. Unlike some fans, the staff (including Shawn Watson and Ted Gilmore who were retained) expected players to change their mind. Watson told the World-Herald:
"Recruiting today is driven by relationships. Kids are making decisions that are people driven. The primary figure in any recruit's (decision) today is the position coach."
Gilmore adds:
"We knew there were going to be decommits. I know people want to say those kids committed to Nebraska, but you're discounting the relationship part of it."
Bo Pelini talked to World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel as well, and told him even more:
"I'm not into this whole 'Rivals' thing and all that stuff. They (Rivals) don't really know truly what's going on, and I don't concern myself with perception and everything and how all that works. By the end of the day, we'll get done what we need to get done. They (Rivals) are what they are. They're not experts."
Sherman closes with the following prediction:
"Expect little of the program-driven Internet hype to which Husker fans grew accustomed to under the previous regime. Pelini has already displayed a dislike for it. That shouldn't be confused with a dislike for recruiting, mind you. His staff recognizes the significance of recruiting but figures to find a healthier balance between recruiting and player development.

Most notably, recruits will hear a different pitch. The message will be more about what Pelini thinks the prospects need to hear, rather than what the prospects want to hear. Pelini takes pride in not sugarcoating anything. Such an approach should lead to the signing of players who come to the program with their eyes wide open."
Music to my ears as sanity tries to break through. The dangers of recruiting hype have long been documented here. Can we hear a hallelujah?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Are Some Omahans Ignorant or Just Playing Hardball with the NCAA?

Every so often I hear a little bits of dissent against the idea of replacing Rosenblatt Stadium. Some of it is mostly ignorant of the realities of the situation. Others seem to think the NCAA is bluffing on this issue.

Are they bluffing? I'm not sure that calling the NCAA on this is a good idea. Even former mayor Hal Daub, who's been critical of his successor's attempt to guarantee a 20 year commitment from the NCAA, admits that Indianapolis and New Orleans made bids for the College World Series during his time in office. You call the NCAA's bluff on this, and you risk losing the whole thing. Think that's impossible? Tell the folks in Kansas City about it; they lost the NCAA headquarters and the Big XII basketball tournaments.

There are some practical reasons to oppose a new ballpark. Some point to the cost and the potential impact on taxes. They point to the future bills for utility improvements which will run into the billions. Definitely not chump change, that's for sure. But is it relevant? What happens to taxes if the College World Series leaves? Are we REALLY better off? $35 million in economic activity disappears from our community.

A common idea is that the College World Series would NEVER leave Omaha. Omaha supports it too well, with volunteers and tradition. It simply could NEVER succeed elsewhere.

Maybe. But in reality, likely not. CBS thought the NFL would never leave them...then lost the rights to the NFL for several years. Both the NFL and Big Ten conference continue to play hardball with cable companies and fans by insisting on placing games on their own cable networks. I'm sure many Cleveland Browns fans didn't think the Browns would leave, nor did Baltimore fans think their beloved Colts would leave. Those with the power will use it.

If you want to call the NCAA on this, prepare to face the end of the College World Series in Omaha.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Blowing up the Civic to Save the College World Series

Today's Omaha World-Herald reports that Omaha's stadium comittee is now looking at the Civic Auditorium site for building a new stadium to replace the obsolete Rosenblatt Stadium.

My first choice still is the parking lot north of the Qwest Center Omaha. Plenty of parking already exists, and the Qwest Center facilities could be utilized for some of the amenities. It has everything with one sticking point: the current managers of the city-owned Qwest Center don't want to give up control of the parking lot.

So now two more locations have popped up, the Civic and a parking lot northwest of the Qwest Center. I'm less in favor of the northwest parking lot option as it eliminates some of the aesthetics of the original lot; it could work however.

The Civic is an intriguing idea, as it has become functionally obsolete as well. It's still in fine shape physically, but without any tenants and any modern amenities, it's future looks bleak. Some people continue to push for UNO to move hockey and now basketball to the Civic, but that too is a money losing proposition long-term for both sides. So why not replace one obsolete facility with a needed facility?

The Civic does have some questions: is it too close to the interstate for an event like the College World Series? Will the NCAA accept putting some of their fan-frenzy events underneath the Interstate? (Downside: aesthetics. Upsides: guaranteed cover from the summer sun and inclement weather.) Is the stadium too close to the 22 and 40 story First National buildings across the street? With that location already in a developed area, is there much incremental development benefits to this location. And in a location surrounded by office buildings, how can parking be accommodated for 30,000 baseball fans on a weekday afternoon?

It's certainly an intriguing idea, and if it were to be selected, would eliminate a lot of questions about the future direction of both the College World Series and UNO hockey.