Friday, May 30, 2008
In any event, Nebraska's gamble with holding Johnny Dorn for the Saturday night matchup against the Eater Nation from Cal-Irvine looks like a success, though you've got to wonder about pitching Thad Weber for three innings today in relief. He would have been a Sunday starter, but now you really hope that the Huskers can win tomorrow night so you don't need him in a potential doubleheader on Sunday.
The whole Roburt Sallie soap opera finally ends at Nebraska after two bizarre marathon attempts for him to become eligible. Let's go back to August 2006... Doc Sadler is just hired, and Nebraska is still trying to get Sallie eligibile, as the NCAA is questioning Sallie's prep school record. The semester starts and Sallie still didn't have an answer. So Sallie started attending classes, though he withdrew once the NCAA rejected his appeal. Which was a huge problem, since the act of enrolling at Nebraska without being cleared by the NCAA made him ineligible to ever play under Big XII rules. So Sallie goes to a JuCo, and Nebraska, unaware that Sallie is now ineligible to play anywhere in the conference, recruits him again... Then once they realized the problem earlier this month, they appealed to the conference, who of course, turned down Nebraska's request.
So we're left with a bunch of unanswered questions:
How did Sallie get enrolled at Nebraska in the first place? It raises a lot of questions about how things are being done, especially now that in this day of electronic transactions, it's possible to do a lot of things without a paper trail with signatures.
Why does Roburt Sallie have an attorney?
Who's supposed to be monitoring these situations? Could Nebraska have other situations where eligibility is an issue, even in other sports?
Going back to Wrigley Field, the rumor mill is hot that the NHL is going to play another outdoor hockey game this next season. Based on the success of last year's New Years Day game in Buffalo, they're going to repeat it... This time, it's the Chicago Blackhawks taking on the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. Wrigley could be an awesome experience for hockey in theory. First factor in the history of the park, especially the history of the stadium hosting Bears games in the past. Set the field up like it was for football, with bleachers in right field and add a few extra bleachers in left so fans are nearer the field, and you might just have an unbelievable experience for about 40,000 fans.
There's also talk that they might also use the ice at Wrigley to play a CCHA game on January 2nd with Notre Dame. USA Today reports that Michigan would be the opponent, while WLS-TV mentions Michigan State. Doesn't look like UNO would be a candidate, as their schedule appears to be pretty much set at this point, with a game on January 3rd against the Purple Cows of Minnesota State. (Though I'd reschedule that game in a heartbeat if UNO had a chance to play at Wrigley...)
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
He complimented both Frank Solich and Bill Callahan.
Whenever you see those two names together, it's way to easy to start rehashing the same old tired debate that will never change anybody's opinion. It's sure nice for once to see both men getting a little positive talk.
I will always remember Coach Solich’s amazing ability to connect with his players on a very personal level, inspire loyalty from his players, and instill toughness in his team. On a more personal note, I will be eternally grateful to Coach Solich for giving me the opportunity to be a Nebraska football player.And when I when I was frustrated with my status on the depth and made the foolish, selfish, and inmature decision to contemplate transferring to another school, I am eternally grateful that Coach Solich welcomed me back with open arms.
As for Coach Callahan, I wish more Nebraskans had known him like I did. He is one of the hardest working and most intelligent individuals I have ever encountered. He is a life-long learner who was always eager to learn from others and improve himself. Coach Callahan may not have won enough games or connected well enough with the fan base to keep most Nebraskans happy, but he should be remembered as a fundamentally good man who gave Nebraska’s football program his best shot.
He also talks about his experience with Bo Pelini:
Political pundits often talk about the “it” factor. “It” is some combination of a personal charisma and intangible qualities that inspires and motivates others. John F. Kennedy had an abundance of “it.” Ronald Reagan had “it” too. These days Barack Obama appears seems to have more of “it” than any other politician. As far as football coaches go, Bo Pelini has more of “it” than anyone I have ever encountered. Unlike Kennedy or Reagan whose charisma could be detected after watching just a few moments of a speech, Coach Pelini’s “it” factor cannot be easily measured or identified from the outside looking in. But “it” is readily apparent to anyone who has ever spent a significant amount of time around Coach Pelini. “It” is in the way he treats people on a daily basis. “It” is the confident swagger with which he conducts his daily affairs. “It” is in the way he builds confidence in young men. Nebraska football’s program is fortunate to have a coach with so much of “it.”
Husker fans could learn a lesson from Garth Glissman.
Friday, May 23, 2008
But Mildren wasn't just a football player. He later went on to become Oklahoma's Lieutenant Governor as well as vice chairman of a regional bank.
Some have been surprised by the reaction of Husker fans to Mildren's death. I think it's because the last 15 years have changed the dynamic of the Nebraska/Oklahoma relationship. In the 70's and 80's, the teams were bitter rivalries, and goodness knows how many times "Sooner Magic" pierced the hearts of the Huskers and their fans with a late touchdown to defeat Nebraska.
Barry Switzer resigned, and eventually coaches like Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake sent Sooner football into a tailspin. In the late 90's, the Sooners bore little resemblance to their tradition. Of course, all that changed once Bob Stoops came on board and restored the Sooners to glory.
Nebraska seems to be about ten years behind the Sooners in that respect. Tom Osborne retired, and likewise, a failed coaching experiment sent Husker football back to the days of Sputnik. Husker fans can merely hope that our new coach from Youngstown, Ohio is the secret to a return to glory at this point.
Meanwhile, the formation of the Big XII conference has changed the dynamic. The classic matchups used to be annually on Thanksgiving weekend. Now they only occur two out of every four years, and even then, it's closer to Halloween than Thanksgiving. We now have a shared enemy in the University of Texas.
Has this changed the dynamic of the Nebraska/Oklahoma matchup? I think it has. In the 80's especially, it was a true rivalry (at least on this end) with hate. Now that we've seen the matchup go on hiatus twice, and seen both programs struggle through some lean years, the hate seems lessened.
In many respect, it's almost like we're brothers now. Yeah, when it comes time to butt heads on the field, we want to win, and win badly. But there's a respect there now that wasn't there 15 years ago.
After that 2001 classic matchup, Husker fans and Sooner fans didn't talk smack as much as talk about the great game and that we both expected to meet again later that season in the conference title game. (Which never happened due to upsets later that season, ironically on Thanksgiving weekend...) The hatred that might have been there before, wasn't there anymore.
I know I've read several comments from Sooner fans over the past six months expressing their condolences as to what the previous regime did to this program, with wishes that Husker football get back to some semblance of decency. Much like many Husker fans wished for the Sooners ten years ago when Oklahoma was the team bumbling around on the field.
Is the bitter rivalry dead for good? Never say forever. But right now, it's not a rivalry anymore. I think we respect each other's programs too much to really hate them.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
A couple of interesting nuggets from the Lincoln Journal-Star. One is that Big XII Commissioner Dan Beebe wants to eliminate the redshirt season for football players; everyone would get five years of eligibility.
It's an interesting idea, though one would wonder what impact it would have on scholarship numbers, since I doubt in this day and age of Title IX, the number of scholarships could go up in football. Obviously, except for guys leaving early for the NFL, football careers would last longer, so you would have to cut back on the number of players you recruit each season. Would players get a benefit out of playing on special teams rather than on the scout team? In some positions, such as defensive secondary, linebacker, and receiver, quite possibly. Offensive linemen and quarterbacks...not so sure since they frequently have to master the mental game first.
Some recruitniks are all up in arms over the 2009 recruiting class. Yep...they're worried about guys who are finishing up their JUNIOR year of high school. Most notably, a commit from an Alabama safety...who was apparently only receiving interest from Samford. NU recruiting coordinator Ted Gilmore puts it in a little perspective:
“The only perception that matters is those guys that are in that office, sitting there watching the tape and doing their evaluations."
KOZN's Kevin Kugler passed on a little gem a couple of days ago. (podcast) Seems that the operators of dumpcoz.com got a response, supposedly from a cousin of Kevin Cosgrove. Coz's Cuz is still a little miffed about the negativity, asking how Husker fans sleep at night with all the negativity they've shown towards Cosgrove, especially since Coz was beloved everywhere else he coached. (Must not have talked to many people in Wisconsin; my wife's cousins up there thanked us in early 2004 for taking Coz off their hands...)
Now I understand that it's tough for the family to hear people they love criticized and condemned, and the natural inclination is to want to defend your family. And some of it, especially the phone threats and chants directed to his son were completely out-of-line and completely unacceptable. But simply stating how horrible Nebraska's defense was last season? (#114 out of #119 1-A teams? Allowing 76 points to Kansas, then 65 to Colorado?) That's failure of such magnitude that frankly, you have to expect criticism.
CornNation.com has a whole new look, so if you've got a few free minutes, wander over and check things out. Jon will hopefully have some good news on Husker baseball to cover this weekend.
Have a great weekend, everybody. And don't forget to take a minute to thank the men and women who served this great country in our Armed Services.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Brandon, the High Plains Drifter, discovered the worst idea for a new Husker video: A combination of watching the 1997 championship team eat dinner, the Bo Pelini introductory press conference, and spring game highlights. All for just $24.95.
The only possible explanation that I can come up with for this is that HuskerVision was committed to producing some sort of video...and no Husker fan in their right mind wants to buy a 2007 highlight video.
As it is, I figure this one is destined to join a bunch of those free AOL CD's in your landfill.
Now that the downtown stadium is looking like a done deal, we're now finding out what Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo plans to do with the stadium property. First up is a new "Arctic Center" as the new "front door" to the zoo. Let's see now...north downtown redevelopment gets a boost, College World Series guaranteed through 2035, zoo gets even bigger and better. Only thing left to find out is whether the Royals or a new independent league team will be playing in the new ballpark.
I know I've said it before, but I don't think I've said it very clearly. I still think the Royals play downtown in the end. It's not the stadium the Royals wanted three years ago, but it addresses some of the Royals needs. It's better for them than Rosenblatt, to be sure. 50% of the Royals ownership might want to move out of town now, but I think the other 50% is committed to staying in Omaha. And in this case, I think the "stay in Omaha" side will prevail. Why? Well, for starters, the 50% who'll keep the Royals in Omaha are named Buffett and Scott. Not to mention that naysayers who say that the Royals won't play there also said the new stadium wasn't going to happen, that the mayor was going to get recalled, city council wasn't going to support this, yadda yadda yadda.
Bo Pelini has a word for those of you who don't want to hear him say that Frank Solich never should have been fired: Tough. (But as Steve Hanaway proved over at the BigRedNetwork, these old wounds may never heal.)
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Would another baseball team come to town? My best guess: Yes. It, however, wouldn't be a AAA level team. The Pacific Coast League, of which the Royals are a member, is probably the loudest voice demanding a stadium custom built for AAA baseball. Highly unlikely that another AAA team would come to Omaha.
It also wouldn't likely be a AA or single A team either. The nearest leagues are in Texas (and Oklahoma) for AA, and Michigan/Ohio for single A. Both of those leagues are bus leagues, and those bus trips would be rather grueling.
But there is a nearby league that would fit Omaha... the independent American Association, which includes Lincoln, Sioux City, Kansas City, and St. Paul. A bus league to be sure...but easy bus trips and natural rivalries. And they're interested, of course. Would downgrading professional baseball from AAA to independent hurt Omaha? To some extent, but even the Royals admit that minor league baseball isn't about the game... Kansas City has done a horrible job of sending future prospects through Omaha in recent years, so it's not like Omaha would lose their opportunity to see the future stars. Heck, some people think that in recent years, the Kansas City Royals have been a AAA farm team for the rest of Major League Baseball.
Now, could a 24,000 seat stadium work for any minor league team? That's a $140 million dollar question. It might be more intimate than Rosenblatt, as you could easily close down the upper deck...but would that be enough?
One possibility for the Royals that hasn't been discussed is the LaVista rumor. I still don't see that being very realistic. Omaha didn't see a lot of value in investing in a smaller stadium optimized for AAA baseball. Where does LaVista, with 5% of the population base, get the resources to build a AAA stadium? Council Bluffs used casino profits to build an arena that struggles to pay the bills. What's the funding source for a new stadium in LaVista?
The city dismisses concerns about the slow pace of negotiations, and for good reason. The #1 priority is, and has to be, the NCAA. If the NCAA isn't happy, this new stadium doesn't happen and the future of the CWS becomes cloudy. First things first, Omaha. But after that, the next game starts. And all sides are positioning themselves in the news media, whether it's the Royals and the PCL criticizing the new stadium and talking about moving, or the city, talking about other leagues.
I still think in the end, the Royals sign on to play in the new stadium. It might not look realistic now, and might get ugly down the line, but I think it happens.
Monday, May 12, 2008
"I've talked to a number of people and the consensus was that he is a real guy. He's a normal Joe like the rest of the people that were in there. It's pretty obvious he's not a polished speaker, and that's probably what makes it better. Ninety percent of the people in that gymnasium aren't polished speakers, either.
"I think that really touches home with these people: He's one of us. Not arrogant or cocky or anything he could be or should be. That goes a long way, especially in the Midwest."
Blankman had an interesting take on Pelini's comments in Columbus (the real one in Nebraska, remember?), where he mentioned that the "tunnel gates" would be soon be coming down. Now, I've thought the gates were kind of clumsy...especially when the guards didn't realize that the team was ready to come out....so getting rid of them isn't a big deal to me. Is it a de-Pedey-ification of the stadium? You could look at it that way, or simply a realization that they simply get in the way. The claims that removing the gates somehow dishonors six greats from the pre-Osborne era is somewhat disenguous considering that the man who put the gates up also took down the pictures of Nebraska's all-Americans and Hall-of-Famers and put them in storage.
But the statement that caught my eye was Pelini's statement that Husker players will play with a renewed sense of determination:
"I'll tell you one thing: When we take the field you're going to see a team that's out there playing with passion. That's what it's all about. They're going to play hard, with great effort and passion, because they're not playing at the University of Nebraska, they're playing for the University of Nebraska and the people across this state."
Let's be honest... last year's team didn't play very hard the last couple of months of the season. So why believe it now? Simple. Bo Pelini has walked this walk before, whether it was 2003 Nebraska or his LSU defenses. Conversely, the previous regime also had a track record with the "dumbest team in America."
Yes...it's all talk right now. That's all we've got in May. But I've got to believe that Nebraska's effort has to be better in 2008...and that's a great first step for this program to make on it's way back from the depths of the Error.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Many people still cling to the belief that the NCAA didn't want a new stadium...well, read the details and start doing the math. The new stadium provides additional revenue streams from parking (remember the Qwest Center has OVER TWICE as many parking spaces as Rosenblatt, despite the misinformation that's run rampant), and premium seating (skyboxes and club seating) fees that simply didn't exist at Rosenblatt, and likely wouldn't without a more expensive retrofit.
And the folks complaining about the increased hotel taxes were probably shocked to learn that Nebraska ranked as the second most affordable vacation spot in the country when you look at hotel and meal costs. Yeah, that extra buck at the Super 8 is going to scare people away.
Last weekend, I caught the Columbus Telegram's video of Bo Pelini speaking at a Chamber banquet (via CornNation.com). Good stuff. We all wondered how Bo Pelini would do on the rubber chicken circuit, and he passed with flying colors. Tonight, he packed them in at the St. Pius X/St. Leo's Sports Night with a record crowd.
On the other hand, I caught the Spring Game wrap-up of the Bo Pelini show, and had to wonder about him. Perhaps this show was taped too early in the morning, or after he'd spent too much time looking at film, because he made Tom Osborne look like Robin Williams. We knew he'd be rough around the edges.
Damn that AJ. He took a shot at EverydayShouldBeSaturday earlier this week, so I thought I'd check in with GatorNation... And what do I find but a YouTube retrospective of that 19-0 Debacle in the Desert in 1996. Uggg. Myself and 35,000 fellow Husker fans packed Sun Devil Stadium, only to watch the Huskers bumble their way to three safeties. What a miserable night that was; 98 degrees at kickoff in the "House of Heat" and Nebraska bungling things on offense as if Bill Callahan was already in charge.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
I'm not a fan of the current bowl system. Don't get me wrong... I've had fun in places like Miami (love the weather, hate the travel) and Phoenix at New Years. (Even Pasadena can be enjoyable if you don't go intoside that toilet of a stadium.) But getting travel plans is frequently difficult and expensive. For the 1996 Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech, I had two choices: fly out of Omaha and pay nearly $1000 a ticket, or fly out of Kansas City for half that, but fly back at 6 am New Years morning, only about 7 hours after the game ended. Yuck.
Before "alliances" and the BCS, New Years Day was a football party, with three early games to choose from, followed by the "Irrelevant Yawner Bowl" from Pasadena, and the night cap of the Orange and Sugar Bowls in primetime. And for a few years in the early 90's, the Cotton and Fiesta Bowls were played opposite the Rose Bowel, meaning you had football nirvana.
Not anymore. The BCS spreads the big games out single file, and the early games are pretty much over before some people recover from New Years Eve. (WTF is the point of starting two games at 10 am on New Years morning?) Add in four minute commercial breaks and bad matchups, it's just not what it used to be.
I like the BCS system for ranking teams, though I still think strength of schedule needs to be brought back into the system. It might have saved us from watching Ohio State get blasted in January. Even better is if you'd take the BCS rankings and seed a playoff.
If we're going to have the current tedious games and matchups like Georgia/Hawaii, we might as well do it as part of a playoff.
Last season, our opening matchups in an eight-game playoff would be:
#8 Kansas @ #1 (yeah right) Ohio State, 2 pm
#7 USC @ #2 LSU, 5 pm
#6 Missouri @ #3 Virginia Tech, 11 am
#5 Georgia @ #4 Oklahoma, 8 pm
Those primetime matchups look pretty good to me, and you still could have the bowls for the other teams. Play these games in lieu of the conference championship games or the next weekend. Ohio State, LSU, and Oklahoma all have stadiums larger than the bowl games, so you have better attendance and better atmosphere. Assuming the higher seeds win, turn around and have the following matchups the next week:
Oklahoma @ Ohio State, 2 pm
Virginia Tech @ LSU, 7 pm
(Yes, I know that the visitors in those games would have been Missouri and Georgia.) Again, some good matchups to watch on TV, and nearly 200,000 fans would attend those semifinal games.
The Journal-Star debates this internally and makes some good points on both sides. Tom Osborne surprised me with his support of the current bowl system. If you want to do a playoff, don't mess around with "Plus One". Why make fans travel twice in one week? And why take the higher attendance possibilities of home games off the table. If you want a playoff, do a playoff. But if you keep the bowl system, fill New Years Day up again instead. There's a reason why the NCAA basketball tournament is so successful, and one big reason is that they play 4 games simultaneously all day, and rotate you around the games if you don't have a regional interest in a game. If the NCAA took the bowl game approach, the first round would take a week and a half to play, and those blowout first round games would kill any buzz that a Davidson could provide.
I'll take a playoff over the current BCS setup. But we'll have to wait until 2014 and the end of the BCS to make it happen. My guess is that someone is going to put together a billion dollar proposal that will get the attention of college football's power brokers and make it happen. It'll be HUGE.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Who are some of the new faces that emerged in the spring who could be serious playmakers for your team this fall?
The biggest "new" face has to be wide receiver Curenski Gilleylen. It looks like it's easier to spell his name than catch him, as he's got speed to burn. If he can consistently catch the ball, he'll provide a deep threat that's been a rather rare commodity. An old face in a new place would be Cody Glenn, who moved from I-back to linebacker and basically won a starting job. (Of course, that's in part due to the lack of depth at linebacker!) Also making an impression at linebacker is senior walk-on Tyler Wortman, who might have been the star of the spring game on defense. And while he's not a "new" face, since we saw a glimpse of him last fall, Roy Helu is going to challenge Marlon Lucky for serious playing time. That might free up Lucky to line him up elsewhere on the field to take full advantage of his speed.
What is your biggest concern following the spring?
Wide receiver. Nate Swift and Todd Peterson are nice possession receivers, but the Huskers need some of the youngsters to step up: Gilleylen, Menelik Holt, Will Henry, Chris Brooks. Names that we heard more about before they arrived in Lincoln than after they enrolled.
Any major changes (philosophy, coaching or personnel) that you are concerned or worried about?
Didn't you see how last season ended? Major changes were called for in Lincoln, and we're getting them. I think that, without exception, every new coach is an upgrade over his predecessor. Blankman will disagree with me over Barney Cotton, but considering how the synergy between Dennis Wagner and Bill Callahan worked out, that's got to be an upgrade as well.
Looking over the 2008 which home and away game will be the most difficult?
Home: Missouri (That's easy.) I'm not completely sold on Kansas, and Virginia Tech lost eight players to the NFL draft, not to mention their top two running backs to suspension and injury, off a squad that lost to Kansas in the Orange Bowl.
Away: Oklahoma (Also a no-brainer.) Texas Tech isn't going to be all that easy either, but I like our chances to do better than the last time the Huskers traveled to Lubbock.
Time for your way too early predictions (Yes, you can change them in August). Rank how you see your division finishing up next season.
First of all, there are two teams that are huge wildcards in the Big XII North. The Huskers and Kansas State. With the Huskers, the question is how much of the problem last season was coaching and how much of it was talent. I think it was largely a clusterfool of coaching, though others will argue that it's much deeper in the program. Then there is Kansas State, who signed 19 JuCo's this spring. Usually, you sign JuCo's because you have a pressing need...and with that many JuCo's signed, it sure appears that Ron Prince thinks he has a lot of needs. If it all works out, K-State could surge. But, for right now, I've got to assume there are big problems in the Little Apple.
1. Missouri (No duh... with all those players returning from a Top Five squad?)
2. Nebraska (Call me crazy, but I think Billy C is going to look even more inept this fall...)
4. Colorado (Hawk Love has the Buffs on the move upwards)
5. Iowa State
6. Kansas State
For more, check out the Crimson & Cream Machine...