Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's Official: Trev Alberts is a Maverick. Now What?

Right or wrong, Trev Alberts seems to be the biggest thing to occur to Maverick athletics in many many years. That's a fact that should upset most UNO fans when hiring a former Husker trumps an NCAA tournament appearance, but it reflects the reality of the situation. To way too many people in this area, UNO is an afterthought in the minds of sports fans.

That's why the hiring of Trev Alberts could be the best thing for UNO athletics since Don Leahy and Del Weber resurrected the dream of hockey at UNO. After some initial success, UNO hockey has seemed to be stuck in neutral in recent years. There has seemed to be a feeling that hockey should be treated like just one of UNO's other programs: no more or no less important. But Alberts declared an end to that perception yesterday:
"We're a hockey school. Is there anything wrong with that?"
That declaration changes the dynamic of UNO athletics, and it seems to have the support of the other coaches. Is this finally a change in the mindset at 60th & Dodge?

In any event, the charge is clear: hockey needs to lead the way for the Mavs, and needs to have the resources to be as successful. Trev gets it. To Alberts, hockey is to UNO what football is to Nebraska-Lincoln.

UNO hockey is at a crossroads. Alberts came out and said yesterday that Mike Kemp is the hockey coach for 2009-10, ending the speculation from the Chancellor's declaration last fall. I have mixed feelings on this; I like Kemp, but the era of bouncing around between fifth and eighth place is getting old. Top four in the conference should be the standard for UNO, and nobody should be happy until UNO gets there consistently.

But which conference is that? UNO's conference membership is now up for discussion, as it seems that the WCHA is now looking for another member to accompany Bemidji State. Northern Michigan turned down the WCHA today, which makes UNO the likely target. Trev Alberts is going to need to make a decision soon on this one.

Don't forget about the long term vision about where UNO should be playing long-term. Don Leahy jumped into the debate last week by raising the pathetic idea of UNO playing at the Civic Auditorium again. Perhaps Alberts can finally bury the horribly stupid ideas such as remodeling the Auditorium or playing in a cornfield in west Papillion, and finally start the ball rolling on a UNO athletic complex with a 9,000 seat arena.

Alberts seems to be thinking long-term and strategic, at least in his initial press conference. That's already an improvement over his predecessors, who struggled with articulating any sort of vision. I don't know if Trev Alberts is going to be able to deliver, but the fact that he's thinking along these lines is already a sign of progress for UNO.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Welcome to the world, Zach

Sorry once again to those of you expecting sports commentary today, but today, that takes a back seat in my world. This morning, my son Zach was born at 8:02 am. Like his big sister, he's got good lungs so far. Mom is doing well so far, and all the grandparents seem happy as well.

Another wonderful journey begins for us.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Night Dessert: Slauson Reunites with Billy C

I was kind of surprised to see Matt Slauson being drafted by the New York Jets, thus reuniting him with Bill Callahan, the Jets offensive line coach. Sure Slauson is happy to be drafted; it means money and a chance to play on Sunday's. But I really wonder if he's truly happy to be back with Bill Callahan; last summer, Slauson felt like he got "jacked around a little bit" in 2007. To be sure, it may have been the result of the dysfunction in the Husker coaching staff. And let's be honest, while it's obvious that Callahan is a horrible head coach, he's more than earned his stripes as one of the best offensive line coaches out there.

I see that Zach Potter has also signed a free agent deal with the Jets. He's the one surprise of the Huskers in the draft to me; I thought for sure he'd go in the late rounds.

I see Tampa Bay drafted the eighth best quarterback in the Big XII in the first round. Yes, I know Josh Freeman has all of the measurables, but he lacks almost all of the intangibles. Granted, he didn't have much of a supporting cast in Manhattan, but many of his problems were self inflicted. The Bucs definitely have a project on their hand.

There's still a lot of consternation around Maverick fans about the probability of Trev Alberts being named athletic director (perhaps as soon as early this week). I see their concern: Alberts has no experience in management. He's getting this on name recognition and celebrity. But I ask the question: if not Alberts, who else? Other than former NCC commissioner Mike Marcil, no other finalist had any administrative experience to speak of either. And frankly, the last few UNO athletic directors have had administrative experience and failed. It's time to do something different. Different doesn't necessary mean different results; it's a risk. But Alberts opens doors for UNO athletics that none of the other candidates can. It makes UNO athletics a desirable topic of every church and business group in town.

Rather busy week setting up for me, so updates may be delayed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Guess Which Former Husker Football Coach Recruited a 1st Day Draft Pick in 2005?

Over dinner tonight, I happened to check out ESPN's coverage of the NFL draft, and saw a name and school slide by on the ticker that caught my eye as I realized which Husker football coach recruited a first day draft pick in 2005. Yes, he wears a green shirt now, but his name isn't Bill Callahan.

No, it's that guy who allegedly couldn't recruit: Frank Solich.

Ohio's Mike Mitchell, a 6'1" safety, was picked by the Oakland Raiders with the 47th overall pick tonight. It's a pick that caught many draft experts by surprise, but apparently the Chicago Bears were also eyeballing Mitchell in the 2nd round as well.

So score one for Fearless Frankie, as Solich now the an honor (for now) as having the highest NFL draft pick between the respective 2005 recruiting classes. Why for now? Well, there's at least one player left on the NU roster from that class that, barring injury, will go MUCH earlier: Ndamukong Suh. But look over that 2005 Husker recruiting class again for a minute. Zackary Bowman was a fifth round draft pick, as his career was hampered by injuries. Zach Potter might go tomorrow, perhaps Marlon Lucky as well. Suh and Barry Turner are probable draft targets next season.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

South Chalco or Bellevue for Sarpy Boondoggle?

KETV-Channel 7 and the World-Herald are reporting that Sarpy County has selected three finalists for the proposed baseball stadium:
  • Southport West by Cabela's
  • 126th & Highway 370
  • Kennedy Town Center in Bellevue along the freeway
The Southport location is widely assumed to be the final destination, but it's coming at a cost. The other two sites are free...and for good reason.

The highway 370 location, if chosen, could be summarized in two words: "Epic Fail." Fans would have to drive to Sapp Brothers at the highway 50 exit, then drive a mile south, then a mile or two east. Convenient for the folks in Papillion, to be sure. But for the rest of the metro area? Out of sight...out of mind.

The Bellevue area is intriguing, but it completely blows away all of the assumptions that folks made about landing in west Sarpy County. It's about 10 minutes south of Rosenblatt, so again, for most of the metro area, it's a further drive than before.

Now, how much is Southport going to charge Sarpy County to build the boondoggle in what really is the only choice? That's the question...and if they build it there, how much more will Sarpy County have to raise taxes to pay for it?

Speaking of which...we still have no idea how Sarpy is going to pay for all this.

Monday, April 20, 2009

OWH: Trev Alberts is UNO's #1 AD Candidate

The Omaha World-Herald reported today that Trev Alberts is the only athletic director candidate that has been invited to interview on campus and meet publicly with staff, students, and fans. He'll be on campus tomorrow afternoon for a public forum at 4 pm in the student center.

Some UNO fans are concerned that Alberts has no experience in administration. That's a concern, though UNO's previous athletic directors had administrative experience...and couldn't pull UNO out of the ditch. Some folks are concerned that Alberts has no understanding of hockey, and that Alberts will ignore or disband the hockey program.

There are no assurances that Alberts won't be a failure, or that he isn't being brought in to sabotage or eliminate hockey. But I consider that talk baseless paranoia, as I can't imagine why Alberts would do that to UNO's flagship sport. If he wanted to make sports administration his career, intentionally destroying a sport won't look good on his resume.

If anything, I expect Alberts to bring a "Nebraska Way" to UNO athletics. Is that a "football only" mentality, or "hockey be-dammed"? Hardly. Look at the relationship between Bo Pelini, wrestling coach Mark Manning, and basketball coach Doc Sadler. Each supports the other; it's an expansion of the Husker family beyond just football. Want more proof? Check out the entire athletic department gathering around the "Tussle on the Turf" between former Husker walk-on Brandon Rigoni and Manning last fall.
It's a mentality fostered by Osborne himself, as you can see when he presents the trophy to Manning.

Whether Alberts is the right individual to lead UNO athletics is a valid question. We don't know how he'd raise funds and chart a vision for the future. But to assume that he's being brought in to eliminate or sabotage hockey is purely paranoia.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

2009 Husker Spring Game in Pictures

Some images from the 2009 Husker Spring Game:

Bo Pelini trots out onto the field, surrounded by Husker fans.
Linebackers coach Mike Ekeler reacts to a comment from a fan at halftime.
Joe Ganz led the kids "Drug Free" pledge at halftime, and remarked how much he wished he was back out on the field playing in a Husker uniform.
Carl Pelini shakes hands with fans.
True freshman Cody Green had to get the butterflies out of his system in his first action in front of a huge crowd.
Quentin Castille and Roy Helu chat as they walked off the field. Castille looked good in limited action; Helu sat out the spring game after tweaking his leg.
Cameron Meredith pursues LaTravis Washington.
Niles Paul and Blake Lawrence didn't play in the spring game. Paul was suspended after a drunk driving arrest, while Lawrence suffered a concussion earlier in spring practice.
LaTravis Washington showed an impressive arm, throwing the ball against the grain as linebacker Sean Fisher moves in for the sack.
LaTravis Washington moved from linebacker to quarterback, his high school position, this spring. In the spring game, he looked like he'd been a quarterback all along.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

2009 Husker Spring Game Recap

Well, that wasn't exactly what I expected today. The weather forecast called for an 80% chance of rain all day, and the defense seemed to be stacked to favor the white squad. So what did we get? The rain drops stopped falling as we drove to Lincoln, and when we got to the stadium, the sun burst through. As it turned out, a beautiful day for football.

There are three reasons to attend the spring football game: getting kids introduced to the Huskers, check out a few key matchups to see development, and watch for any young players that catch your eye. Today looked like a success on the first and last items; sadly, I didn't see the matchups progress the way I had hoped. That's probably because I was looking for too much.

One matchup I focused on early was Ndamakong Suh against the Husker offensive line. Well, while Suh was in there, it was Suh in command. After that, it was tough to track everything as players wore practice jerseys with no names and sometimes folded up into their pads, making numbers illegible. In the first quarter, I sent my nephew to buy a roster as I was really struggling tracking who was who out there.

Here's the good for the day:

LaTravis Washington: This kid has only been through 14 practices at quarterback? He was poised, he was on-target most of the day. I really would have liked to be able to see him without the green jersey, but that wasn't realistic due to the depth issue at quarterback. He's got a howlitzer for an arm, but it was on target. He threaded the needle throughout the day.

Chris Brooks: He teamed up with Washington for several nifty catches.

Lester Ward: The redshirt freshman I-back showed good vision and elusiveness in traffic, then the power to get yards after contact.

Cody Green: For a kid who probably should be focused on his high school prom today, he looked all right as a quarterback. He showed good poise as the game went on.

Ben Cotton & Kyler Reed: Solid introductions for both tight ends today. Cotton showed good hands on his touchdown catch, and Reed outran everybody else on the field on his 71 yard touchdown reception.

Tim Marlowe: If you stayed to the end, you got a treat watching him weave through traffic for a 38 yard punt return.

Will Compton: The linebackers didn't have a great day overall, but Compton caught my eye a couple of time.

Marcus Mendoza: The development of the young I-backs like Austin Jones and Lester Ward allowed Mendoza to move to wide receiver. That move looks solid right now. If this works out the way I think it will, I'll be shaking my head and wonder what Marlon Lucky could have done as a wide receiver.

Other players who caught my eye at times: Micah Kreikemeier, Thomas Grove, Austin Jones, and P.J. Smith.

Granted, part of the reason the quarterbacks looked so good was that they kept things pretty simple for the most part. Lots of short, underneath stuff against base defenses. That's a good thing for a day like today, where the goal was to let them shine and build confidence. The linebackers, however, will be paying for this one, though that was to be understood with the rebuilding project currently underway at that position. It was sad to see Phillip Dillard finally get into the game in the second half. Hopefully, he'll work this summer to address whatever deficencies he's developed in the last six months.

In the end, nobody seemed to get hurt, and we generally saw more positive performances than negative performances today. It was nice seeing the clock stop in the second half, giving the youngsters more snaps to show their stuff and develop further. It was also nice to see live punt returns, though the number of flags might make you question that. Plenty of reason to be optimistic about Husker football right now. Steve Sipple of the Journal-Star even says "Top 25"; we'll see about that. I'm less concerned about where they start the season in the ratings as with where they end up.

Husker Mike's Post Spring Game AudioBlog

Initial reaction to the 2009 Nebraska Spring Game; recorded via audio blog.

Gabcast! Husker Mike's PostGame AudioBlog #9

Friday, April 17, 2009

Trev Alberts and the Other Finalists To Be UNO AD

This morning, UNO announced the four finalists for the once-again vacant athletic director position: Trev Alberts, CBS College Sports broadcaster; Mike Marcil, commissioner of the Sunshine State Conference; Bill Danenhauer, Dana College football coach/athletic director; and Nolan Beyer, Millard South High School athletic director.

UNO chancellor told KOZN-1620 AM radio today that there were no internal applicants, and that he hoped to begin the interview process next week, with the goal being to make a hire by the nd of the semester. That means that hockey coach Mike Kemp, a finalist two years ago for this same job, did not apply this time around, nor did football coach Pat Behrns. Whether Kemp and Behrns truly had no interest this time around, or were discouraged from applying isn't known...but it does raise the question about what will happen to Kemp next month, once the next athletic director is hired. We all know the chancellor's ultimatum from last fall, which makes it painful to watch the man who built the program from the ground up wait.

But I've got to admit that this list looks rather weak compared with the list from two years ago, as I see only one candidate with the background you'd expect of the next athletic director. Mike Marcil has been a conference commissioner in the old North Central Conference prior to his stint in Florida. He's a Creighton alum and Omaha native, though he's been out of town for a while.

The next two candidates really make you question just how much interest UNO received in the position. Bill Danenhauer is the head coach and athletic director at Dana College in Blair - in the NAIA. Hmmm. He's a UNO alum, but his claim to fame was as "The Equalizer" and "Evad Sullivan" in pro rasseling in the WCW alongside Hulk Hogan.
Now, a career in pro wrestling shouldn't necessarily eliminate Danenhauer, but it doesn't exactly send the message UNO probably wants to send. Danenhauer is the brother of former UNO athletic director Bob Danenhauer, who many UNO hockey fans point to as the starting point of UNO's problems in recent years. While holding the sins of Bob against brother Bill isn't fair, it doesn't help Bill in his quest either.

I know absolutely nothing about Millard South athletic director Nolan Beyer, so he may be a fine man. But if NAIA isn't enough experience for UNO, I seriously doubt high school counts either.

Then there is the fourth finalist: Trev Alberts. At first glance, his background in television with CNN, ESPN, and CBS College Sports looks out of place against the other candidates. But Trev Alberts brings something else to UNO that no other candidate can: instant name recognition and access to anybody in this area. UNO's last athletic director seemed to disappear shortly after he was hired. Nothing came of plans from the Karnes Commission. Did UNO ever get the jumbotron at Caniglia Field? What about the Chili Greens complex? It seems that UNO simply couldn't get those projects off the ground for whatever reason.

Could Trev Alberts get UNO athletics moving again? We know from his broadcasting career he's not the type to sit around quietly. (He put Bill Callahan on the hot seat in 2007 before anybody else did, for example. When he felt slighted by ESPN, he was the only member of the broadcast team to walk out, getting himself fired.) And it's not like he's a dumb jock; academic all-American and NCAA "Top Six" student athlete in 1994.

Based on my initial glance, I'd have to put Alberts at the top of UNO's list at this time. I found it interesting that both Alberts and Christensen both used the term "friendraising" in their interviews with Kevin Kugler and Mike'l Sever on KOZN radio this afternoon. That's not a coincedence. UNO faces quite a few challenges in the next few years: is the MIAA and division 2 a long-term solution for UNO? What to do with facilities? How do you get UNO hockey to be a national contender. It's going to take a dynamic leader to push UNO forward out of the rut they've found themselves in. I frankly don't think any of those other candidates fit that mode.

Some UNO fans might wonder if Alberts views this job as an internship to eventually replace Tom Osborne. Perhaps. But barring any health problems, I don't see Osborne retiring any time soon.

Alberts as an athletic director probably has the biggest upside of all those candidates. He's also got the biggest downside, since he doesn't have a background in administration. Is this a risk worth taking for UNO? Right now, I'd say it's definitely worth investigating further.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Night Beer: Trev's A Finalist at UNO

The Omaha World-Herald reports that Trev Alberts is one of four finalists to be UNO's next athletic director. I'm going to wait to see who the other three candidates are before I make up my mind on Alberts' bid. Unlike some UNO fans, I'm not going to hold his Husker background against him.

The weather for the spring game is not looking all that hot. Rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast.

On the positive side, I do like the way they split the rosters for the spring game this year.

A couple of interesting news items on the stadium front. One, Sarpy County has eliminated seven sites, leaving them with five yet to consider. No word as to where these sites are, but you have to assume that a spot by Cabelas will be one of the finalists. When you talk to anybody about the stadium, the assumption is that the stadium is going there. Whether that's true or not remains to be seen. UNO hosted a forum with Royals general manager Martie Cordaro and "self-proclaimed baseball purist" Donald Greer. The point of the discussion was that, of course, the Sarpy County stadium is a no-brainer slam-dunk success, and the downtown stadium was a mistake. Maybe they're right, and I'm wrong. But if they are right, and it's blatantly obvious that a new stadium is going to be such a great deal for the Royals and Sarpy County, then why didn't Omaha jump on it first?

Simple. Just like in Sarpy County, there's no way to pay for a stadium. Except in Sarpy County, we're going through the charade waiting to see what Sarpy County pulls out of their hat. Meanwhile, the funding bills have been sitting in the Revenue Committee for four weeks now.

Tom Shatel shot down one of the arguments people use against the downtown stadium today. He point-blank asked Royals GM Martie Cordaro about whether the Omaha Royals could survive in a 24,000 seat ballpark. The answer?
"Yes, because we are doing it. Our revenues grew 42 percent last year. We are definitely healthy and going in the right direction."
So why not downtown? The answer is a hodge-podge of jumbled logic. "We want to have high school games of the week." Nothing stopping that downtown. "We want to bid on college baseball tournaments." Well, you could do that downtown too. "We want to use the stadium 130, 140 times a year." That would be desired downtown as well. "We want to be home during the College World Series." That might be the breaking point, but c'mon. Why would the Royals want to play in Omaha during the CWS?

It just seems bizarre to want for the Royals to want to counterprogram against the CWS. But I could suggest an alternative. With the NCAA and ESPN scheduling more and more games as single games on one day, what about scheduling an 11 am Royals game, clearing the stadium, then scheduling a 6 pm CWS game? Perhaps on that 2nd weekend? I still don't understand what the attraction of the Royals playing during the CWS; it's not like the Royals draw well once they return to town.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Names I'm Following in Husker Spring Practice

With the spring game this Saturday, I've been patiently reading and listening for "name dropping" from the folks who are covering the team this spring. Sadly, that's all I've had to work with so far, so I'm looking forward to the spring game. Through all the coverage, here's what I've been hearing so far.

Quarterback: With the departure of Patrick Witt, Zac Lee seems to be the prohibitive favorite to nail down the starting job. Kody Spano seems to be the invisible man this spring; we hear more about Cody Green and even LaTravis Washington's howlitzer than we do about Spano.

Running Back: I was really looking forward to see if Roy Helu was indeed faster and stronger, but it sounds like his hamstring injury is going to sideline him. No big deal to me; Helu is a known quantity to me. The upside is that means we'll hopefully get a better look at freshmen Lester Ward and Collins Okafor on Saturday.

Wide Receiver: Niles Paul's status is questionable after a bout of stupidity over the weekend. That opens up more opportunities for a young receiver to make a splash. It won't be Khiry Cooper, who's on the baseball team. The Journal-Star did a feature on Will Henry today. Tim Marlowe's name has come up as well.

Offensive Line: Mike Caputo jumped into the mix on the line, pushing Jacob Hickman over to guard. Perhaps that's only to put a spur underneath D.J. Jones and Ricky Henry, but you'd really like to see the line take their game to the next level. In the early parts of last season, NU tried to pound the ball, but couldn't. So out came the "Spread Coast Offense" with Joe Ganz firing the ball at Nate Swift and Todd Peterson to loosen things up. Those guys are gone, so it's up to the offensive line to become road graders for Helu and Quentin Castille.

Tight End: Mike McNeill became quite a weapon towards the end of last season. But Ron Brown seems happy with the rest of Nebraska's tight ends. I'm curious to see how Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed look.

Defensive Line: Barry Turner doesn't sound 100%, which isn't a big deal to me at this time. So it comes down to...who'll work next to Ndamakong Suh: Jared Crick, Baker Steinkuhler, or Terrence Moore. I also want to see the backup defensive ends: Cameron Meredith and Josh Williams.

Linebacker: OK, has Phillip Dillard REALLY fallen that far? Or have Will Compton, Sean Fisher, Matt Holt, Matthew May, and Colton Koehler jumped their game to the next level?

Secondary: For as bad as they looked at times last year, this secondary could be that good. Chatter is high on freshman P.J. Smith, and Courtney Osborne is getting some mention as well. Eric Hagg and Prince Amukamara too. Anthony Blue is starting to get his feet back in the secondary as well.

So many things to look for, I'm not sure exactly what I'll focus on at this time. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Could Former Huskers Lead UNO Athletics?

Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal-Star broke the news today that several former Huskers are interested in becoming UNO's next athletic director. Former all-American linebacker and television commentator Trev Alberts, former linebacker/catcher and radio commentator Adrian Fiala, and former all-American outfielder and UNL assistant athletic director Paul Meyers are mentioned as potential candidates.

The idea of looking to Lincoln to give UNO athletics a new direction is an intriguing idea, but it certainly raises some questions. Some Maverick fans maintain a dislike of anything associated with the "Skurs", while others (myself included) gladly support both programs. In my case, UNO is my alma mater, but I've been a Husker fan my entire life. I don't see a huge conflict of interest between UNO and UNL in terms of athletics. Nebraska-Lincoln will always be the premier collegiate program in this state; UNO and UNL will always operate on different levels. (Even if UNO upgrades to division 1 someday, UNO isn't jumping up to membership in a "BCS conference".)

That being said, UNO shouldn't be viewed as a training ground for UNL. UNO has had enough a revolving door at the top of their program; UNO needs an athletic director who'll stick around for five or ten years. Anybody interested in taking over the Mavericks needs to intend to stick around 60th & Dodge for an extended time, with no plans to move on until the job is done.

But that might just be the best reason to look to Lincoln for a model of leadership. Bob Devaney spent four decades running the show in Lincoln. Bill Byrne spent nearly ten years in charge. And now Tom Osborne is back as athletic director, following a 25 year run as head football coach. That record of continuity and vision is something that UNO certainly could use.

Hiring someone with a background at Nebraska isn't necessarily an assurance that you'll get that success. In fact, it's not a guarantee of anything. In 2002, Nebraska hired a native son to replace Bill Byrne. An alumnus and a long time member of the athletic department, he was in position to learn the "Nebraska Way", but chose instead to chart a bold new direction, and failed miserably.

That being said, looking to Lincoln for leadership for UNO could be an intriguing move. All of these candidates are connected to the "movers and shakers" of the state, and understand the what it takes to be a success in this area.

Some Mav fans express a healthy distrust of UNL athletics; it's not necessarily a bad thing. It's been long suggested that UNO could never go division 1 because of the perception that the state of Nebraska could only support one public D-1 institution. Of course, if that was truly the case, how do North Dakota and South Dakota support two D-1 programs? Is UNL holding UNO athletics down? Perhaps behind the scenes, but frankly, in recent years, UNO has been sabotaging themselves more than anything that Lincoln could do.

One concern UNO fans should not have is that this postion might be viewed by former Huskers as a "development" position to replace Tom Osborne in 2010. Barring any sort of health problems, I don't see Osborne retiring next year. When Osborne was named UNL athletic director in 2007, the plan was that Osborne would serve for a couple of years and "groom" a successor. But seriously...does anybody REALLY think Tom Osborne is ready to retire? He tried retiring as football coach in 1998, and couldn't do it then. He served in Congress, then decided to run for Governor. When that bid failed, he still didn't retire. I firmly expect that Harvey Perlman will ask Osborne to continue for another few years as UNL athletic director this summer. Will Osborne retire at some point? Maybe. But not next year, barring any health issues.

Would Trev Alberts, Adrian Fiala, or Paul Meyers be a good choice to lead UNO? That I don't know. Meyers has done wonders behind the scenes at UNL, but Alberts and Fiala haven't been in an formal position in athletics. Both men, however, have intriguing records. Fiala has spent his career as a lawyer, and as a broadcaster, he's been called one of the most prepared men in the business. Alberts certainly fights for what he believes in; he was fired by ESPN after Alberts protested how he, Mark May, and Rece Davis were being mislead about their role. I don't see Alberts being a lapdog for somebody else if he were put in charge of UNO athletics.

All three men would be excellent candidates to consider, and make this search a lot more interesting, as they would seem to be the types of candidates that break UNO out of the rut they've been in recently.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tuesday Night Beer: NU Baseball Got Da Funk

Just got finished watching the Huskers get shutout by Creighton in baseball at Haymarket Park 15-0. That's right: 15-0. Nebraska pitching has given up 113 runs in the last ten games over the last two weeks. I got the same feeling watching tonight's game like I did watch the 2007 NU/Oklahoma State football game; a team that has lost all their confidence and folds as soon as something bad happens. Can Mike Anderson pull this team out of their funk? That's a good question at this point. It's not like this team hasn't played well at times; they took 3 of 5 games against nationally ranked Arkansas and Oklahoma State just before this swoon. But right now, this team is struggling to get a nasty funk out of their system.

The Nebraska Sports Blog has a nice take on where the team is right now, and whether Mike Anderson is the right man for the job. I think it's a little premature to discuss this in April; there's plenty of time after the season to do that.

Some rumored locations are being confirmed for the Sarpy County ballpark. The leading candidate, according to the rumor mill, was a site behind Cabela's. Previously, it sounded like this location was scheduled for office space, but with the economy heading south last fall, it sounds like the previous plans were put on ice, creating an opening for Sarpy County. It's probably the most feasible spot in Sarpy County for a stadium, though it has it's issues. For one thing, it's further from Interstate 80 than the downtown stadium's three exits. And perhaps more importantly, the Cabela's land will cost Sarpy County money. It's not going to be free, like some hoped/dreamed of. Other locations being offered are at I-80 and highway 370, also not for free, and Bellevue. That's right...rather than moving to western Sarpy County, the new ballpark could be along the Kennedy Freeway. An intriguing idea, since that location will be more convenient to more of the metro area, but dashes the hopes that the fringes of the metro area will be the Royals cure-all. Anything along highway 370 is a potential disaster, as 370 is so far south, it'll be perceived as essentially out of the Omaha area. Not to mention that the 370 corridor is already being developed. As the World-Herald points out, there already are development plans for the I-80/370 interchange. That limits the multiplier effect of most of these locations since development plans are already underway.

Meanwhile, we wait and see what happens with the funding plans in the legislature. Sarpy County has already struck out with one unrelated bill to increase county powers. The Legislature shot down a bill last week that would have given Sarpy County ordinance power to regulate parking and public indecency. Senator Mike Friend led the charge:
"This is a power play by Sarpy County, and this is a bad idea."
Do you see the state subsidizing a ballpark in Sarpy County? I didn't think so. Meanwhile, we wait for Sarpy County to make nice with the cities of Sarpy County, or for the Legislature to kill the inevitable.

Meanwhile, in the Omaha mayoral primary, Hal Daub is struggling to approach the 40% mark, which is a bad sign for the unpopular former mayor. My assumption is that the majority of voters who selected another candidate rejected Daub from the start, and are unlikely to support Daub in the general election. If that's the case, Daub has an uphill battle to climb. Will he play the Royals/Downtown stadium card again in the coming weeks?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Monday Night Beer: Doc Wants to Git R Dun

KETV ran the rest of Jon Schuetz's interview with Doc Sadler last night, and probably raised some eyebrows by mentioning that he thinks Nebraska basketball can "do something special here." Maybe not Final Four...but he thinks Nebraska can be position to have a shot at it.

Bravado? Insanity? Cluelessness? Not necessarily. Doc freely admits that Nebraska basketball ain't anywhere close now, and that Nebraska hasn't even won an NCAA tournament game. But just because something hasn't happened before doesn't mean it can't happen in the future. Twenty years ago, what would you have said about George Mason University playing in a Final Four? What about Kansas State winning a Big XII Championship in football? Northwestern playing in the Rose Bowl? Nebraska playing in three College World Series?

Now, that's no guarentee that Nebraska basketball is going to make that jump either. But, Doc Sadler's basketball teams give 180% effort game in and game out. It's always good to have lofty goals, with the understanding that while you might not get there, you won't ever get there if you don't try.

Of course, what do I know about getting to the Final Four? I picked Butler to knock off North Carolina in the second round. Oops. So much for THAT bracket.

Speaking of North Carolina, I wonder if Tar Heel fan is still miffed at Roy Williams for wearing a Jayhawk sticker to last year's championship game. Me thinks that two national championships in five years at Carolina soothes those hurt feelings. Frankly, I don't see the problem over the sticker. I was never upset when Bo Pelini wore an Oklahoma hat at the 2004 national championship game; North Carolina and Nebraska's seasons were over at the time, and neither Williams or Pelini were there representing their employer.

I'm curious to see just what kind of demand the "Larry the Cable Guy" concert will have. Dan Whitney has quite the following, but 50,000 people? Granted, it's an event, and people around these parts love to be part of an event. I guess I've never understood the attraction of Larry. Other than Mater from the movie Cars, Whitney's schtick runs at the eighth grade level. I remember listening to Whitney on the radio about ten years ago and tuning out to another station before I suffered any brain damage. Needless to say, plenty of people don't share my opinion. Personally, I think Whitney was moderately more entertaining (or not quite as idiotic) in khakis...

It's a good thing USC isn't on the Nebraska schedule in the future...I can only imagine what TJ Simers would do with this one...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Shatel Has Some Really Good Ideas (& A Really Bad One) for UNO

Tom Shatel, in the printed editions of today's World-Herald, laid out some ideas for UNO. Some of his ideas sync up with my thoughts from earlier this week; some don't. And one in particular is simply horrible.

First thing? Hire a strong leader with a vision, local ties, and let him run. Check.
Next thing? Get an identity and vision for UNO. Check.
Names to suggest? Many of the names we've already heard suggested: Creighton's Mike West, Mike Kemp, plus Mike Moran of the US Olympic Committee and Pat Behrns.

He suggests Kemp might be better suited as the associate athletic director for hockey. An interesting suggestion, but I'm not sure that more administration is the answer for UNO. Besides that, having Kemp in charge and focused on the hockey program, but not coaching, could be uncomfortable for Kemp's successor as head coach. It would be different if Kemp were named athletic director, as he'd have to spread his attention to all sports, not just hockey.

But the worst idea of all? Spending $18 million (or more) to somehow "renovate" the Civic Auditorium and move UNO back. I understand Shatel's nostalgic thoughts about the Civic, but I think UNO's recent history at the Civic is distorting his perspective. You simply can't compare the crowd that shows up for Western Michigan at the Qwest Center with the crowd that shows up for Michigan, Ohio State, or Notre Dame at the Civic. By luck of the draw, UNO has had to play some of their biggest games of recent seasons at the Civic due to the state wrestling tournament.

I remember that last season at the Civic in 2002-03, and the cracks were already starting to form. Empty seats were common then too, and the running joke was asking how much UNO was spending to keep the sellout streak alive, even though only 6000 fans were actually in attendance on a good night. The "Red Army" was formed that season, in a revolt against "the tyranny of silence" in the Civic. That's right. The poor atmosphere in the Civic Auditorium. (Ask the folks with the Omaha Aksarben Knights how well promoting the Civic as a venue worked for them...)

Now you want to spend $18 million to put lipstick on the pig? What does that do for the auditorium? Suites, club seating, etc. And where, pray tell, are you putting suites in the Auditorium? I assure you that the only way to "expand" the Civic is to raise the roof off. I had to be careful when celebrating a UNO goal in my old seats at the Civic, as it was too easy to hit the beams supporting the roof. Adding suites above the existing third bowl is likely to be impractical, which means that suites would likely eliminate existing seating.

So for $18 million, you get some of the amenities that fans demand...but limit capacity to 6500 or so fans. And it's still far away from campus, without practice ice. It limits downtown redevelopment opportunities. And once you spend $18 million downtown, the dream of a campus facility gets pushed back another 20 years or more. Which everybody else seems to agree is the ultimate answer.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Doc Sadler Owns Creighton Fans (well, some of 'em...)

They just don't get it. For a school with as great of an academic reputation, some of Creighton's fans might be as myopic as they come. This week, KETV's John Schuetz sat down with Husker basketball coach Doc Sadler, and asked him about his comments last week about the NU/Creighton basketball games primarily benefiting the fans. Doc explained it a little more...and the Briejay nation whined once more.

Well, he tried to explain it...but Briejay fan is having none of it. Never let facts get in the way of a good tantrum. And boy, is Briejay fan throwing one once again. They're getting quite good at it lately, whether it's their niche talk show host getting cancelled, or Doc pointing out the truth.

What has BrieJay fan so upset? Simply put: the NCAA tournament committee is focusing on one thing, and one thing only: Who did you beat? The more, better teams you beat...the better chances are that you are in the tournament. Arizona and Michigan got in the dance ahead of Creighton, simply because those schools had so many victories against the top teams in college basketball. As Doc says...both Nebraska and Creighton would be better of playing teams like Duke... or Kansas ... or one of those other Top 25 teams.

Now, of course, neither school is getting to play Duke, of course. But the point is made. It's those type of games that give teams their tournament resume. RPI kind-of/sort-of models it...but it's merely a starting point. Does NU/Creighton help both schools RPI? Yes, to a degree. But for the most part, Nebraska's RPI strength is based much more on their Big XII schedule.

Right or wrong...that's the message the NCAA is sending. Should the NCAA adjust their formula and encourage schools to play non-conference games with a bite? Absolutely. But until the NCAA publicly changes their formula, this is what we've got. Here's a few thoughts: make non-conference matchups a key distinguishing factor, not to mention road games. Give the big name schools a reason to hop a plane and fly to Omaha. Make it so that if you lose to a MVC conference champion team on the road, that counts more than beating up on Alcorn State at home.

So Doc spells it out plain as day...and BrieJay fan howls in protest...with the howls having almost nothing to do with what was actually said. If anything, it's like a puppet. Doc talks, and the BrieJay fan dances their silly little dance.