Friday, February 27, 2009

Death of Newspapers Could Harm the Husker Blogosphere

Tomorrow morning, Denver finds themselves a one-newspaper town following today's shutdown of the Rocky Mountain News. That's better than San Fransisco, where the Bay Area's only daily newspaper may only be days from shutting down. The parent company of the Chicago Tribune is in bankruptcy, even with selling the Chicago Cubs off to Omaha's Ricketts family for hundreds of millions. In Omaha, the World-Herald trimmed several pages from it's daily edition last month.

Are newspapers a dinosaur? In some respects, yes. The costs of newsprint is increasing, and by the time the paper hits the newsstand or lands in your driveway, the news in the paper is several hours old. Has the internet, and the rise of the blogosphere killed the newspaper?

In it's current form, it seems that way. But the truth is that blogs are dependent on the newspaper industry for it's very survival. Kill the newspapers...and you kill the blogs. Sounds backwards, you say? Let me ask you this...where do most blogs get their content?

The newspaper. Sure, there are a few blogs that do some original reporting, but those are the exception, not the rule. Every one of the BigRedBloggers I've come across do this as a hobby; we all have real jobs that pay the bills for us. We do it because we enjoy it, and we do it in our spare time. That's why you don't find much "news" on the blogs, but rather commentary and analysis. News gets included to, but more often than not, it's a link to mainstream journalists who cover the Huskers as a full-time job. Something that bloggers don't have the resources to do.

And who are those mainstream journalists? 99% of the time, it's the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star. Omaha television stations provide some coverage, but other than highlights, it's superficial at best. Not much you can do in three minutes during a newscast, and the web sites of Omaha's TV stations are pathetic at best. KMTV's "BigRedNow" section talks about "Breaking News", but hasn't been updated in days, with most of the content weeks or months old. WOWT's Husker page has Wednesday's 10-6 win over North Dakota in baseball as the most recent news. KETV's Big Red Zone most recent news is the Patrick Witt departure, with the rest dating back through the offseason and even a little leftover Gator Bowl residue.

What about radio? Frankly, they're almost like full-time bloggers. KOZN's Kevin Kugler and Mike'l Severe get great interviews, but except for an occasional practice report, they aren't breaking any news. Down the dial, KXSP's "Big Show" is mostly fluff and trash talk, building on the Jim Rome audience. The radio stations are limited in what they can do with Nebraska football, as the athletic department's exclusive radio contract with IMG bars the coaching staff from appearing on radio shows not originated by the Husker Sports Network. (Which, by the way, is all that KFAB seems willing to do anymore.)

So where does Husker coverage come from? In the's the World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal-Star, for the most part. Which is why the industry's problems are so dire for us bloggers; if we lose the newspapers, we lose our sources. The signs of the strains are already appearing locally. The World-Herald ceased distribution to parts of western Nebraska earlier this year, and the size of the paper is significantly smaller now than last year. It's not incomprehendable that one (or both) Nebraska major newspapers could cease to exist at some point in the future. And frankly, there's nothing else that will be able to pick up the slack. Bloggers may try, but there's no way those of us with day jobs can break away to cover practice or press conferences.

That's why, despite their many faults, I still subscribe to the World-Herald. Perhaps it's more of a habit, but I still find the daily paper a useful resource. It's easier to read at the dinner table (with less risk of electrocution when a 2 year old spills milk all over the place). I can take it to the living room or the bathroom. I can take the Sunday edition and set it next to the computer as I post my own reactions. At one time, I even considered subscribing to the Journal-Star, but they don't deliver to Omaha, and besides, they do have a great web site. Like them or not, they are still the best resources this state has for news. Certainly, the growth of the internet has pushed both organizations into new mediums. Both now have online video, and their reporters now appear on camera filing reports. But will they be able to stay afloat in an online world?

We have to hope so, because sadly, nobody else seems remotely interested in challenging the newspapers in terms of depth and breadth of coverage.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednesday Night Beer: Disappointing Night for Mav Hockey & Husker Hoops

After last weekend's "close but no cigar" weekend against second ranked Notre Dame, I really had high hopes that UNO would make a strong statement against Minnesota State last evening. But last night's 2-2 tie wasn't the statement I was looking for. At times, UNO looked strong, but overall, more like the team that hasn't won in over six weeks. Now UNO has to play the waiting game, rooting for Bowling Green and Michigan to win games this weekend as the Mavs are idle. (Talk about a distasteful task for Mav fans!) UNO currently sits in a 2 way tie for 6th place, but could be passed by Ferris State and Western Michigan in the standings. If that happens, UNO finishes in 9th place, and has to go on the road for the first round of the playoffs.

At the end of regulation last night, we got our coats on and were on our way out the door when the PA announcer mentioned that a shootout would take place. Not sure why: shootouts are meaningless in college hockey except to decide conference standings, so last night's game is officially a tie. So with it long past our daughter's bedtime, we headed home, questioning the point of it. The questioning rose as we walked past the monitors in the concourse showing UNO goalie Jeremie Dupont being assisted by the trainer after tweaking a groin on the first attempt. Turns out Dupont is ok, but the questions about the shootout remain. Perhaps the shootout was beneficial for Minnesota State of the WCHA to experience, but it really didn't make any sense for UNO.

Driving home, I caught the early part of the second half of the Nebraska/Texas A&M basketball game on the radio, and was stunned to find the Huskers up by 18 points. Got hone and took the dog for the walk, only to find the lead had shrunk to a few points in the waning minute. I thought Ade Dagunduro made the play of the game to flip the ball downcourt, but official Tom O'Neill morphed into the CCHA's Brian Aaron by somehow calling icing. (Yes, I know icing only applies to hockey, but it makes as much sense as saying Steve Harley was out of bounds.) So A&M gets the ball back with 5 seconds left, and proceeds to nail a 3 pointer with .8 seconds left. But the clock runs out, in apparent violation of NCAA basketball rule 5, section 10, article 10 which says that the clock stops upon every goal in the final minute. So a spectacular flameout by the Husker basketball team results in another agonizing loss. Is this Nebraska team out of gas? Have all these close losses worn these guys out? Hard to say at this point, but I wouldn't count this team out just yet.

Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star apparently got the inside scoop on Patrick Witt's sudden departure from the Huskers. Bottom line is that the Witt family essentially told Bo Pelini that they wanted to know who the starting quarterback would be at the end of spring practice so that Patrick could transfer somewhere else if he lost the competition. Naturally, Pelini told the Witt's where to place that request. Patrick Witt had to make a decision: stay at Nebraska irregardless of being the starter or backup, or start looking now for a school where he could be assured of being the starting quarterback. Harsh? Perhaps. But the Witt's forced this by implying that he'd transfer if he lost the competition. That's not a team attitude, and I don't blame Pelini one bit for putting his foot down. Best of luck to the Witt family in finding a school better suited to him.

Kevin Kugler and Mike'l Severe of 1620 the Zone brought up the economy today and how that affects the financing plans of the downtown stadium. Certainly travel is down, keno revenues will be down. But the financing plans did have contingencies with a buffer to ensure that the plan could withstand some amount of revenue shortfalls, but as you may have noticed, nobody last year envisioned the depth of this economic downfall. But in my mind, the question isn't whether the downtown stadium is going to happen: it's already under construction. The question is: how the heck does Sarpy County pull off a second stadium in this environment? Sounds like we might get some answers next week. Will I be eating my words? We'll see.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Night Dessert: Mavs Swept by Irish

After a tough overtime loss Friday night, Notre Dame completed the sweep of UNO Saturday night with a 1-0 victory. The Mavs had an apparent game-tying goal waived off with three minutes left after John Kemp was whistled for a cross-check. A YouTube video of the play had an obscured shot of the actual offense, but it was clear that referee Mark Wilkins already had his arm raised for the penalty as the crowd reacted to the puck in the net. A channel 3 replay just shown on "Sports Soundoff" showed the penalty shortly after Dan Charleston crossed the blue line. So while Wilkins may have erred in putting Kemp in the box, the no-goal ruling was correct.

Now UNO needs to hope for Bowling Green to win one of two games at Western Michigan this weekend. If Western sweeps the Perverts, Western Michigan moves into eighth place, and UNO goes on the road for the first round of the playoffs. Definitely not where UNO wanted to be at the end of the season. UNO has played some of their best hockey of the entire year in the last three games, but three close losses to second-ranked Notre Dame and fourth-ranked Michigan are still losses. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Nebraska basketball had a sloppy first half down at Allen Fieldhouse, but Kansas really didn't put the Huskers away until the middle of the 2nd half. Not a surprise there, but Nebraska really needs to find a win somewhere on the road down the stretch.

Heard an interesting story about Creighton fans at last night's BracketBuster game. Many attendees were oblivious to the starting time of the game, showing up hours early for the game and wondering why they couldn't get into arena. (Hint: the State Wrestling Tournament ran all afternoon, and they needed time to set the basketball court up.) You'd think that after all the commercials and news coverage about the game, more would have paid attention to a simple little detail like the time of the game.

A lot of scuttlebutt is emerging about Patrick Witt's transfer from Nebraska. The timing is interesting, but without anything solid, unseemly rumors sound like sour grapes from Husker fans. Until something comes out more definite, it's best to wish the kid the best. I've long admired Witt; other than his MIP and disturbing the peace incident a year ago, he's done nothing to change my opinion of him.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Move Forward, UNO. The Civic is History, Not the Future.

Due to the state wrestling tournament, UNO got bumped back to the Civic Auditorium for this weekend's Notre Dame series. The Irish took advantage of a Alex Hudson turnover and buried a goal with under two minutes left in overtime for a 4-3 Domer victory.

For much of the evening, it was clear to me that UNO had outgrown the old Civic. The crowd was much smaller than other UNO crowds against big name opponents, mostly because tickets weren't available. (Even though it was supposed to be a near sellout, nearly 1,000 seats sat empty.) It was slightly louder at times than an equivalent sized crowd at the Qwest Center, thanks to the smaller size, lower roof, and the lack of concert acoustics.

But everywhere you went, you had signs of being someplace that time had passed by. The lines for the bathroom snaked out into the concourse. (We'll leave the disgusting plumbing problems in the restrooms out of this discussion.) The concourses themselves were cramped, making it difficult to get back to your seats in time, especially when the Qwestapo blocks your passage back to the seats. Even the ice left something to be desired, as defenseman Eddie delGrosso realized. (Krutov's MavBoni had trouble getting on and off the ice as well...)

UNO certainly didn't help themselves with atmosphere last night. They pushed the students up to the upper tier nosebleed seats rather than their usual spot behind the visiting goalie. The band was nowhere to be found, and the soundman was slow to fire up the school song after goals.

I thought last night had finally stuck a fork in the old Civic vs. Qwest Center debate once and for all, until Nick Fanto tied the game with about 12 minutes left in the third period. Then, the one asset that the Civic Auditorium still has came into play. That low ceiling without noise dampening acoustics magnified, instead of dampened, the cheers coming from the crowd, and it spread. For nearly five minutes, the deafening chants of UNO had the Irish on their heels as UNO took it to the second-ranked Domers. Sadly, it wasn't enough, as the game went into overtime, where the Irish's Billy Maday buried the game winner.

Some fans remember that remarkable stretch in the third period and recall with fondness the Tuesday Night playin game and suggest that UNO needs to move back to the auditorium. Nothing could be further from the truth. Last night's game would have drawn more than 8,000 at the Qwest Center.

But last night's game also points out that the Qwest Center is unlikely to ever be the best spot for UNO Hockey either. The spacious arena was designed for concerts, with sound deadening acoustics to make concerts great. But that makes for less desirable sporting events, except when the action is so overwhelming that it too overtakes the acoustic challenges.

It's been suggested that a refurbished Civic would be the perfect home for the Mavs. I beg to differ. It's still miles from campus. Adding in the amenities that a refurbishing entails further reduces capacity. Last night drew 7300 to the auditorium; a refurbishing might limit crowds to 6500 to maybe 7000 fans a night. And while I'd hope for sanitary reasons they could fix the bathrooms, I don't see how the concourses get solved.

No, the Civic's future is as a spot for future downtown redevelopment. Capitol Avenue has been becoming Omaha's business corridor as it develops from east to west. At some point in the distant future (once the economy rebounds), someone will want to pursue redevelopment of the Civic site. And with the convention center and exhibition hall sitting as unused relics underneath the auditorium, it's an inefficent use of the space long term for this city.

It's been suggested that $15 to $20 million could put the shine back on the Civic. It would help the old barn, to be sure. But it's not a good investment. Two years ago, Omaha tried to bid for the Big XII basketball tournament, but the Big XII rejected the Civic as too small. Yeah, you could fix the place up, but at the cost of further reducing capacity. It's a lose-lose proposition.

The answer: once the stadium debates are over, Omaha needs to revisit a secondary arena near UNO's campus. Use some of the things that make the Civic great as a starting point. Low ceilings, cement block and/or brick to echo sounds. Seats near the action. Then add in the advantages of the Qwest Center: suites, media areas, party rooms, wide concourses, working bathrooms. Then add in things that ensure a home ice advantage for UNO: bleachers behind the goal for the students and the band.

UNO needs to do this, as the Sapp Fieldhouse is also nearing the end of it's useful life as well. A new UNO Coliseum near midtown is going to be necessary for UNO's entire athletic department, not just hockey program. Add in practice facilities for UNO's sports build adjacent to the coliseum means that it's efficient for everybody.

Yes, the money's not there now. But Omaha isn't going to build this now, not with the stadium effort underway. But the need is coming soon, both for the city and UNO.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Husker Football Ticket Prices Going Up; New Screens Going Up As Well

Athletic Director Tom Osborne announced today that Husker football season tickets will go up $2 per game to $54 per game ($378 for 7 home games in 2009). A fairly moderate price increase, especially when compared to Bill Byrne's old trick of keeping the season total price the same when the number of games dropped by a game. But this season's home schedule leaves a lot to be desired for Husker fans. Yes, Oklahoma and Texas Tech are coming to Lincoln. But so are Iowa State, Kansas State, and the Sun Belt Conference (Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, and Louisiana Lafayette). But what choice to fans have, other than complain? Bottom line: in this economy and with this schedule, it would have been nice if the prices could have held steady this season.

Much of the price increase is being targeted towards addressing some of the shortcomings of the 2006 stadium renovations. Two new HuskerVision screens are being installed in the north endzones for the fans at that end of the field. The entire HuskerVision system is being upgraded to high definition, and ribbon boards are likely to be installed along the east and west balconies.

The ribbon boards could be a very cool addition to Memorial Stadium, provided they are used responsibly. Many fans might be used to the ribbon boards at Omaha's Qwest Center, which pretty much are only used to show distracting bouncing advertisements during the game. (Ever notice flashing reflections during televised basketball and hockey games? Those are ribbon boards being abused.)

But ribbon boards can be useful if used judiciously. Check out a Husker basketball game; you may not realize it, but that's a ribbon board on the scorers table. It's used to rotate between advertising, but it's not intrusive because animation is kept to a minimum. In fact, it's less annoying than the old rollerboards that used to be used at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

That doesn't mean that the boards will simply flood Memorial Stadium with advertising. They can also be used as auxilary scoreboards. Take a look at this Daktronics display in Miami showing statistics. Which is how I expect them to be used in Memorial Stadium. Ribbon boards could be used to more statistics than can be displayed on the existing scoreboard, and by using the ribbon boards, frees up the north end zone screen for a widescreen HD display. Yes, there will be some advertising, but if the advertising is done subtly, with animation limited to timeouts, it won't be any more distracting than the current HuskerVision promotions. (Which can be annoying when they are played according to a schedule rather than at an appropriate time of the game.)

We'll see how Nebraska chooses to use this technology, but if done right, it has the possibility of enhancing, rather than diminish, the game experience.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Night Beer: Coz Has Amnesia Over 2007, We Should Too

Kevin Cosgrove seems to have developed amnesia with respect to what happened in 2007, denying to that Nebraska's 2007 defense was one of the worst in division 1-A:
GH: Your final year at Nebraska, your defense was rated #112th in the country…

KC: Noooooo (smiling).

GH: What do you recall it being rated?

KC: I don’t know, I didn’t even look at it, because the way things went down there, it was done before the season was even over. We all knew we were fired before that. It was just a tough time, and I don’t look back at that. But, we did lead the nation in sacks, did you know that?

GH: Your last year at Nebraska?

KC: No, no. We didn’t lead the nation in anything that last year. In 2005, we led the nation in sacks, and tackles for loss. You have to put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks to do that, don’t you?
Kind of reminds you of "I'm doing an excellent job", doesn't it? Coz also gets in his shots at Husker fans:
GH: What would you say to your critics? Would you take websites like almost as a form of flattery, because you are so well-known?

KC: When I was at Wisconsin, working for Barry (Alvarez) we never even knew that stuff existed. I never saw anything negative; the only thing I ever saw was positive. Then I went to Nebraska, and I started looking at the negative stuff, and that was probably the worst thing I ever did. It was the worst thing our team ever did, because our players started reading it. They were not only beating up me, but the players, and that’s a bad thing when that happens. That’s their team, they’re beating up the kids, and that’s not right. As a coach, I can take it. Everybody has their opinions, and god bless them, but I’m moving on, and I’m excited to be a Minnesota Gopher right now.
Based on the e-mails we received five years ago from relatives in Wisconsin, I can assure you that there was plenty of rejoicing in the land of the Cheeseheads when Cosgrove moved to Lincoln. By that same manner, we never saw Husker teams give up 70 points in a game before he came to Nebraska either.

I can assure you I'm excited that Cosgrove is a Minnesota Gopher is the rest of the Big 11. To be sure, while eventually we'll have to move on, I firmly believe that Kevin Cosgrove, Bill Callahan, and Steve Pederson will live on forever in this state as punchlines.

UNO hockey had a meltdown in the third period at #4 Michigan on Friday night. Down 4-3 at Yost in the 3rd, two quick goals led to two more down the stretch as the Weasels got a 8-3 victory against the Mavs. Ouch. Saturday night, UNO led after the first period, and were still tied late until Michigan's Luke Glendenning scored the game winner with just over three minutes left in the game. For the most part, not a horrible performance, but with UNO's winless stretch now reaching 11 games, it's making the future of UNO hockey look more and more cloudy. As the World-Herald's Chad Purcell points out, it would have taken merely .500 hockey down the stretch to keep UNO in 4th place, and out of the Chancellor's cross-hairs. It doesn't get any easier this weekend: #2 Notre Dame comes to town.

Over lunch today, I caught a few highlights of the NBA All-Star Game on ESPN, and frankly, if you need any more proof that the NBA has become the WWE, you've got it now with Shaq's "Phantom of the Opera" entrance dance.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chalco Boondoggle Downsizing

In a former assignment, a former supervisor had a plan to deal with projects that turned out to require more resources than were available: simply do as much as you can, and redefine the scope of the project downward. Project requirements weren't as important as coming in on time and on budget. Anything that didn't get done might get done later as a separate project later on. The results of the project usually ended being less than what was originally envisioned at best, and more often than not, wasn't even usable without a lot of followup work. But it was on-time and on-budget.

Today, Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald reports on the progress of Sarpy County's negotiations with the Omaha Royals on a Chalco ballpark proposal. As predicted, Sarpy County simply can't build a $30-$40 million ball park. So now they're setting their sights much lower. Much lower. $20 million, and a stadium with as few as 5,000 (or perhaps only 4,500) seats.

Can Sarpy pull that off? Well, the odds are better than before, though we still haven't heard how Sarpy County plans to pull this off, except for the Royals chipping in $12 million over 25 years. (That translates to about $6.5 million, amortized over 25 years at 5.5% interest) So that's about 1/3rd of the cost. That still leaves about $15 million for the ballpark itself.

Then there are site preparation and land costs. How much is that? Hard to say, but DLR tells Shatel that Hawks Field at Haymarket Park in Lincoln only cost $13 million of the $32 million project. $19 million was for Bowlin Stadium for softball and the infrastructure. Add in that, and you are looking at cost to Sarpy County of over $20 million...perhaps $25 or $30 million.

Still no word on how to make it happen. Doesn't mean it can't be done...but they keep avoiding the discussion. In fact, it now sounds like an agreement could be reached without having a way to pay for it.

But what good are 5000 seats for the Royals? I argued that a 6,500 seat stadium was too small last month; so how does a 20% cut from there work? (Don't forget that last season, the Royals averaged 5400 fans a night, and that includes 22,287 on the 4th of July!) Shatel alludes to what this means for fans: fewer seats makes the Royals a "tough ticket", which is a positive way to say "expensive tickets". The Royals have done great work in recent years with promotions to get fans to Rosenblatt, so accepting smaller crowds will probably mean less expense on promotions and higher margins. But it does raise the question if it ends up costing $15 a person to attend a Royals game, whether fans will choose to head downtown for $8 independent league tickets.

Bottom line: the Sarpy ballpark is looking more possible than it did before, but if anything, it's looking like more and more of a bad idea.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Politics & Athletic Commentary Don't Mix For Some People

Steve Hanaway of the Big Red Network angered a few Republicans with a quip about a recruit earlier this week:
"To quote George W. Bush, Kevin Young is a “flip-flopper”. And America so dislikes flip-floppers, that we re-elected the worst president in U.S. history just to keep one out of office."
The fact that he also took a shot at Senator John Kerry in the same sentence was lost on a few right-wingers, who are obviously still smarting over the November election. I got a similar reaction last November, when I used a variant of a Barack Obama campaign slogan to state that I still thought Bo Pelini was doing a good job, despite the complete butt-whipping Oklahoma served up on Nebraska the day before.

Politics, religion, and our sports teams are three things in life we all believe in passionately...and in the process, sometimes fail to keep an open mind about. Certainly ESPN learned that the hard way when they inserted Rush Limbaugh into their Sunday morning NFL preview show. That was on purpose, hoping to stoke some controversy into the show, but many left-wing sports fans took offense, calling for a boycott of ESPN before he ever took to the air. (Of course, El Rushbo only lasted four weeks, resigning after denigrating Donovan McNabb.)

In this society, we like to associate with people of a same mind: Husker fans associating with other Husker fans, ridiculing Colorado fans. Republicans associating with other Republicans, demonizing Democrats. But what happens when two Husker fans start talking about the Colorado/Colorado State game, which took place on the same field where Barack Obama accepted the presidential nomination a few days earlier. Over at CornNation, CornBlight and I were doing our first predictions of the season against the backdrop of Obama's speech. I wondered what effect Obama's speech would have on the playing field, but CornBlight proceeded to take a few shots at the Democrats instead:
Corn Blight: Colorado State at Colorado in Denver.
Husker Mike: I have no Hawk love
Corn Blight: This game is interesting because of the high probabiity of riot.
Husker Mike: What will that field look like after being covered for Obama the last week or so.That's half the fun of this game.
Corn Blight: Made even worse because you know there will still be tons of anarchists who have discovered Boulder for the first time. The hippies will be more stoned, the punksters more enthused. Could be wild.
Corn Blight: Colorado 31, CSU 24
Corn Blight: 15 Arrests, 3 people hospitalized.
Husker Mike: Rams 23, Buffies 21, Denver Police 38
Corn Blight: We're assuming that they can scoop that much bullshit out of Denver before the game. Maybe it'll be postponed on account of a flash crap flood.
Now, I joined in with making fun of Colorado and Colorado State fans rioting, but I let the Democratic bashing slide. Maybe I was a little more tolerant in that case; maybe I didn't just didn't want to get into a political debate that night. But in a different mood, maybe I wouldn't have been so tolerant of politics interjecting themselves into the athletic world.

Certainly I know that people of all political backgrounds visit this blog. There have been people who agree with my opinions on football, but are 180 degrees to me politically. Likewise, some folks disagree with me rather strongly on sports, but are probably pretty close to me in their political views.

That's the great thing about America. Everybody has an opinion, and everybody has the right to express their opinion in a reasonable form. And while I agree with you on one issue, we might be bitterly in opposition on another. Welcome to America.

That also means we need to be a little more tolerant of others opinions. If you let someone's political opinion taint your reaction to someone's opinion on athletics, you need to take a step back. That doesn't mean that you have to agree with the politics, but rather, you need to be able to accept those politics. Sarah Palin's UNO hockey jersey has no bearing on the Mavs or on my opinion of Alaska's governor.

Likewise, when someone refers to George W. Bush as the "worst president ever", you don't have to agree with it (or like it), but you do need to accept that it's a viewpoint held by many people in a position to make that assessment. Just like Husker fans had to accept that shellacking by Missouri this season. (Things got better, wouldn't you say?)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Hal Daub and UNO Hockey Enter the Stadium Sideshow

Just when you think that things can't get any weirder in the discussions over the new downtown stadium and the Chalco Boondoggle, today Hal Daub and UNO's hockey program entered the discussions. Of course, former Mayor Daub is no stranger to the stadium debate, leading the stonewalling on the stadium early on, and as a member of the MECA board until last summer, was part of the initial failed discussion to bring the Royals to the new downtown stadium.

Now, Daub announces today that he wants to negotiate with Royals, and will cut a deal if he becomes mayor and the Royals are still looking for a new home. Which is all very interesting fellow MECA boardmember David Sokol (he of the "no sweetheart deals" pledge) is one of Daub's biggest supporters.

So what does this all mean? Well, the chances that Sarpy County can close a deal by March 15th just got more dim, what with Hal Daub playing Monty Hall in a press conference. With all the questions a Sarpy bid faces, the Royals will likely wait to see what's behind "door #2".

Meanwhile, UNO chancellor John Christensen sent an interesting letter to UNO Hockey supporters today, asking for feedback on UNO's hockey facilities. The survey specifically aspects what aspects of a facility are most important to fans, and also asks fans to rank the following options: Civic Auditorium, a renovated Civic, the Qwest Center, Council Bluffs soon-to-be-vacant Mid-America Center, and new facilities on campus or "in the SW area of Omaha". Christensen doesn't define "SW Area" means, as it could mean 75th and Pacific. But we all know that REALLY means Chalco, which makes it likely that Sarpy County is putting out feelers for something else to anchor their "entertainment district".

But like with the Lancers experience at the Mid-America Center, moving away from the heart of the city and even further from campus is likely to be an even bigger mistake for UNO. It's difficult enough getting students from campus to UNO hockey games as it is.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sunday Night Dessert: Crazy Ideas Keep Springing Up in Chalco

Catching up on things I missed during a recruiting-induced coma last week:

Sarpy County is literally throwing the kitchen sink at trying to make SOMETHING happen in Chalco. The latest: horse racing. Of course, it could be an ingenious way to pay for it. Turn the entire ballpark into a large off-track betting parlor, then hold a single turf horse race in the outfield of the new ballpark. So far, that seems to be the most realistic way to fund this ballpark that's emerged so far. I sense that one Sarpy County board member is getting a little nervous that there's been no visible progress on an agreement to build a ballpark with the March 15th deadline just five weeks away.

Sarpy County had tried to bring the Omaha Lancers into the mix, but last week's announcement that they are leaving Council Bluffs to return to Omaha chilled that talk. Frankly, that's probably the most realistic option for Sarpy County. The Lancers deal to play in the Civic is just a one year deal, with options for two more years after that. Certainly gives Chalco and/or Gretna the opportunity to put something together. But frankly, the Civic is probably a better fit for the Lancers than heading even further away from the population base.

Speaking of hockey, it was yet another dismal weekend for the UNO Mavericks, culminating in another rout on home ice on Saturday night. The handwriting seems to be on the wall for Mike Kemp at this point, unless the UNO administration chooses to take back their expectations for UNO hockey. I have mixed views on this: I like Kemp, and always found him personable and a great leader and have the greatest respect for what he did to start the UNO hockey program. But I share the expectations of many UNO fans who wanted this program to do something more in recent years. Making the CCHA Championship game in year three was thrilling. Making the NCAA tournament in 2006 was great as well. But was that it? Is that all that UNO is capable of? I want to give Mike Kemp every opportunity to do it...but at a certain point, it seems UNO is going to have to shake the man's hand, thank him for all he's done, and find someone else who can take the program to the next level.

Maybe there's a hockey equivalent of Doc Sadler out there. After coming oh-so-close against Oklahoma, Kansas, and Oklahoma State, Doc's men finally got their pelt against Texas on Saturday. Even more impressive than the fact that they have a winning record in the Big XII is that they've been competitive in every game despite a huge size mismatch in the opponents favor. That speaks volumes for the type of basketball program Sadler is building in Lincoln.