Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Night Beer: Ohio State Situation Unraveling Faster than a Cheap Imported Sweater

Today was a holiday that college football fans had to occasionally head inside to check the internet for the latest word on Ohio State. It was only inevitable that Jim Tressel was going to be removed as head coach; it was only a question of when. And with Sports Illustrated about ready to drop the bomb on Tressel and the Buckeyes, it was time to fly. And now the NCAA is digging into Terrelle Pryor's car deals as well?  Start queuing up the "Lack of Institutional Control" moniker for The Ohio State University.

And with everything that's going down in Columbus, I'm not terribly worried about Bo Pelini flying the coop and heading back to his alma mater at this point.  If the NCAA comes down hard on the Buckeyes, Pelini (and nearly every elite coach) won't go near a Buckeye program that will be on life support due to NCAA probation. I expect they'll lose so many scholarships that they'll quickly become uncompetitive in the B1G from 2013 through 2016.

And if they don't come down hard, Ohio State will pursue Urban Meyer hard. It sounds like Pelini is down the list a bit, and it sounds like there is  mutual interest between Meyer and the Buckeyes. So at this point, it's not getting worked up about.

Several people have tweaked me about Tom Shatel's column with Omaha Royals or whatever owner Alan Stein over the Trailer Park. One thing is clear, Sarpy County and the Whatchamacallit's did a pretty good job building what they could out in BFE. (Of course, it clocked in at $36 million, a wee bit more than the $25 million that was originally thrown out there...)  I know that Shatel was bedazzeled by all the "family friendly" amenities, though I do take issue with the idea that this is the norm for minor league baseball nowadays. Sure, some of this stuff is the norm, but the Trailer Park takes it to a whole other level. Even baseball park aficionados suggest that BFE's kids area is like no other.

I understand why the Whatchamacallit's did it this way; they sold this as what all parks do, so they did it to the extreme. They know that MECA is likely to bring an independent league team to the more centrally located TD Ameritrade Park downtown, and they needed to make a preemptive strike on that end.  (I reject the idea that some of this wasn't possible at Ameritrade, with it's wide outfield concourses. Carnivals transport carousels and bouncy houses all over the place, and setting one up along the concourse shouldn't be a big deal with an eye towards removing it for the College World Series.  Only the whiffle ball field probably wouldn't work downtown...)

And frankly, I'm not sure how "family friendly" the ballpark is when the carousel costs an additional $5 a person on top of the $11 reserved ticket. Just my observation is that families are trying to spend less money these days, so throwing a hard-to-ignore carousel in the outfield is kind of like the lady who goes around bars each night selling $5 roses, trying to make you feel like a heel for not buying one for your date.  Suddenly, a trip to the ballgame for a family of four starts becoming rather expensive when you are spending $45 on tickets, $5 to park, and $20 for the carousel before you even get to the concession stand.

But hey...I'm cheap...

I also noticed that Stein concedes that attendance will be flat out in BFE this season over last season. The Trailer Park might be the only new stadium ever built that didn't result in a significant increase in attendance as fans flock out to see the new ballpark.  Towson  University recently determined that the average new AAA ballpark results in a 25% increase in attendance.  So what happens after the new ballpark smell wears off, and the surrounding development continues to sit idle for another 5-7 years?  Good question.  Ask Council Bluffs Mayor Mike Hanafan about the Mid-America Center and how that's working out.

Oh, and I've neglected to mention that AJ's back to the blogging world. He's just as over-the-top and confused in his conclusions as ever, but he's still an entertaining read. (Now if he could just figure out how to get an RSS feed going...) And don't worry...he may claim the "Huskerh8er" retired victorious (umm, yeah, right...), but there's no way he can keep his dislike of Nebraska football fans in check all the time.  So he'll still fire off an occasional illogical, but highly amusing, rant against Husker fans.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Impact of Cody Green's Transfer

It became fairly apparent to me during this year's spring game that Cody Green's days at quarterback were numbered at Nebraska. Green had long been passed up by Taylor Martinez, and in that scrimmage, he was outplayed by Brion Carnes and probably walkon Ron Kellogg III as well. And if you believe the rumor mill, Kody Spano as well until a shoulder injury ended his career. So it wasn't a surprise that Green announced he was transferring. If he didn't transfer, I figured he'd find another position on the field.

To be sure, Green improved on his poise in the pocket as a sophomore, but seemed to regress in other areas. He overthrew wide-open receivers in the Holiday Bowl, and was rather fumble-prone. It seems Green's lone highlight of his Husker career was that 49 yard run against Florida Atlantic.

With that in mind, I don't think Green's decision to transfer is a big loss in terms of depth. Yes, it's a loss of experience...but Carnes looks to be ready to play. Kellogg looks like he could be serviceable, and certainly more reliable if we had to go three deep.  If Nebraska has to go beyond that, the season probably is in enough trouble... I don't know of too many teams that have to go to a fourth quarterback in a season.  In that case, Jamal Turner might get a look...and you never know whether Bubba Starling might not be around as well.  Heck, Rex Burkhead is there too... Plenty of options for Nebraska.

Where I think Green's loss is going to be felt is on the sideline. I get the impression that Green is the consummate team player; willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. Even sticking up for his offensive coordinator when many in this state were heating up the vats of tar last December.  He was always a great interview, and in that light, he'll be missed.

Where will Green end up? Hard to say...I've heard Boise State, Louisville (to rejoin Shawn Watson), and many Texas schools. Wherever it is, hopefully it all works out for him and he finds a good situation. I do wonder if this trend of quarterbacks bolting in search of playing time is all for the best, however.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Night Beer: There's Interest in Husker Baseball

One thing is clear to me this week: while attendance was down at Haymarket Park, Husker fans still care about baseball. I do hear a lot of interest and rumor-mongering about the coaching search, and that's a definite good sign for the long-term.  I'm not going to speculate on coaching candidates, because frankly, every coach that Nebraska is considering at this point is focusing on their current team in the post-season. So this search is something that is likely going to drag out for a while...and that's a good thing.

I was rather disappointed that ABC slotted the Nebraska/Iowa game for an 11 am kickoff on the day after Thanksgiving. Granted, it is late February, so playing in daylight is a good thing, but I'm still of the opinion that I'd rather have lunch before kickoff. I guess the message is this:  while Nebraska is a national brand in football, Iowa isn't.  That's why ABC chose Boston College/Miami for the late game that day.

Well, it's official: Braylon Heard is cleared to play at Nebraska. So while Nebraska doesn't have an established backup behind Rex Burkhead, I think it's safe to say that at least one will emerge from the incoming freshmen of Heard, Aaron Green, and Ameer Abdullah.

Quarterback depth could still be an issue this fall with the official word of Kody Spano's hanging up his pads. That's not a surprise; we've heard the rumors for a month and a half. But it does limit the options for the Huskers at quarterback:  Taylor Martinez, Brion Carnes, Cody Green, then what?  Jamal Turner back to quarterback? Maybe as an emergency. Bubba Starling? Check back on August 16th.

I wandered around TD Ameritrade Park around the lunch hour, and I'm just getting a vision of what this area is going to look like in three weeks when the College World Series rolls downtown... and it's going to be cool.  Lots of construction that still needs to be finished mind you, but things are starting to take shape. Exhibit One: Zesto's is now open just beyond right field. Yes, it's only a trailer and a tent, because the construction trailers were only removed days earlier...but it's there.  Unfortunately, the hot fudge shakes weren't there today, so I walked away empty handed, but I figure that's one of those things that'll work themselves out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Night Dessert: No BTN PrimeTime Games for Nebraska?

Color me rather surprised that the Big Ten Network did not select any of Nebraska's games for a prime-time telecast, especially the Tennessee-Chattanooga game on Labor Day weekend. I'm going to profess my ignorance of how the Big Ten deals work, but I don't think timeslots are quite as regimented in the Big Ten as they were in the Big XII. Chattanooga is almost assuredly a BTN game, probably an 11 am kickoff.  (I'm hoping that perhaps the powers that be might push this one back to mid-afternoon, but I'm doubtful.)  That's the game I figured would end up on BTN primetime to welcome Nebraska, but no dice.

The September 10th game against Fresno State looks to be an 11 am ESPN/ESPN2 telecast (insert your favorite Pam Ward comment here).  Michigan/Notre Dame is already announced for prime time, and Penn State/Alabama should get the 2:30 ABC spot. The other candidate for any ESPN morning kickoff is Wisconsin/Oregon State.  The Washington game on September 17th is likely a 2:30 pm ABC game, unless ABC chooses to show Iowa/Pitt.

The next three games are prime-time affairs:  Wyoming (6:30 pm on September 24th) is on Versus, while ESPN or ABC will televise the Wisconsin (October 1st) and Ohio State (October 8th) games at 7 pm.  After that, it all remains to be seen where games end up, though I think Nebraska at Penn State on November 12th is probably a 2:30 pm ABC game.

Heck, at this point, we don't even know when (or who) is going to televise the Nebraska/Iowa game on the day after Thanksgiving.  My guess is it'll be a mid-afternoon ESPN broadcast; ABC has already committed to a 2:30 pm Boston College/Miami game.

Speaking of Thanksgiving weekend, I see one of the never-admit-defeat UNO football boosters suggested that UNO could have played Northern Iowa that same weekend, and draw 15,000 or 20,000 to TD Ameritrade Park. It was an interesting idea initially, as it would be a weekend where UNO could escape the shadow of the Huskers...except for one little problem.  The division 1-AA playoffs start that weekend, so Northern Iowa wouldn't be interested in that game in all likelihood.  I have to admit that the "Save UNO Football and Wrestling" Facebook is rather humorous; at times, it's just about as ridiculous as yesterday's Rapture non-event.

Husker baseball ended the 2011 season on a semi-high note by sweeping a doubleheader from Missouri yesterday. Now the waiting begins, and I think Tom Osborne is going to need to do something.  Mike Anderson has only one year left on his contract, so letting him finish it out is unlikely at best. Very few players will commit to play for an obvious lame-duck coach, so Osborne needs to either extend Anderson's contract or replace him with somebody else.

If I had to make a gut call, I think Osborne will choose to go another direction.  Missing the Big XII tournament three seasons in a row is something that's difficult to explain away. I don't know who would replace Anderson, though I seriously doubt it would be  Virginia's Brian O'Connor. Only if the draw of being closer to family were a huge factor would O'Connor be interested in jumping to a Big Ten school. Let's put the two conferences in perspective:  Jack Dahm resigned at Creighton as boosters were becoming unhappy, and went to Iowa. That speaks volumes to me about the relative strength of Big Ten baseball.

UPDATE: Almost immediately after submitting this blog entry, my Twitter feed exploded. The Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star now are reporting that the players were assembled at 1 pm to inform them that the coaching staff had been terminated. Not a surprise in my mind. I knew Tom Osborne wouldn't act during the season, so all the kvetching and bemoaning about the situation wasn't going to change things.

Now the question, who will be the next head coach?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Frazier Snub Diminishes Glory for Will Shields

In between meetings this morning, I caught the word that Will Shields was in the college football hall of fame via Twitter, and thought great. So I went on for a while thinking that two Huskers would be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.  I just assumed that Tommie Frazier would be in. I mean, how could he not? He routinely shows up on the list of the greatest players of all time (Sports Illustrated's "All Century" team, for example), so he has to get in. I was so sure that I wrote an article for CornNation to be ready to go as soon as the Frazier announcement was made.

Except that Frazier didn't get in. My article got revised and posted as "Frazier Snubbed"...and that's the really awful thing about this...because it takes away the limelight that Will Shields earned. Great player, great career. He deserves the glory.  But for some bizarre reason, Husker fans are left wondering "WTF?"

I'm not going to criticize most of the selections. I had a ballot this year, and I voted for some of them.  Deion Sanders was a no-brainer to me.  Russell Maryland got my nod, and I thought that Minnesota's Sandy Stephens deserved to get in for historical reasons.  But how do guys like Frazier, Willie Roaf, or Jonathan Ogden not get in ahead of some of these guys?

Some would say it was "only one player per team"? OK, then take Frazier.  Some would say that you have to be extraordinary to get in on the first ballot.  OK, then explain Arizona's Rob Waldrop. I'm not saying that Waldrop doesn't belong in the hall...but does he deserve it before Frazier?

Hard to explain these things. I was prepared for Shields to get overlooked this year, so his induction is a really big deal and great news. Only problem is that his quarterback from his senior season was even more deserving, and didn't get in.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Night Dessert: Yet Another Study for the Civic

It seems that every couple of years, the city of Omaha does a survey to evaluate the Civic Auditorium. Problem with the place is while it's structurally sound, it's functionally obsolete and in dire need of maintenance work. Some people pooh-pooh the "functional obsolescence" declaration, but frankly, the Civic has been the destination of last resort for events in the Omaha area.  Lancers need to escape Council Bluffs?  Hello Civic.  UNO needs a place to play division 1 basketball?  Hello Civic.  Those are stop-gap, interim solutions for both organizations. Last week, Ralston voters approved a bond issue to build a new 3500 seat ice rink for the Lancers, and UNO still likely is going to build their own arena for hockey and basketball.  So that raises the question: just what good is the Civic anymore, and what should Omaha do with it?

And once again, some UNO fans are once again suggesting that UNO hockey move back to the Civic. Never mind that the Civic can't hold an average UNO hockey crowd, especially after last season's surge under Dean Blais. Some people remember the sight lines, and the crowd for that "Tuesday Night" play-in game against Bowling Green back in 2000, and jump head over heels for a return to the Civic. Ah, who cares if the plumbing doesn't work, adding in modern amenities means the capacity drops even further. Who cares if the Civic property has already been identified for redevelopment in the next 20 years. First drop of the hat, they're ready to jump back in the old hole.

Problem is, nobody's discussing whether it makes sense to renovate and upgrade the Civic. This survey seems to be intent on deciding whether it makes sense to make any repairs or start mothballing the place. That's not where UNO should play hockey; not if UNO considers themselves an up and coming national power. The only reason UNO should play at the Auditorium is if a natural disaster (Missouri River flood or tornado, for example) closes the Qwest Center.  Here's hoping that the city can find a way to keep the place open for a couple more years.  After that... time to start boarding the place up.

Today's World-Herald featured more interviews with UNO athletic director Trev Alberts and chancellor John Christensen, pretty much confirming my thoughts about ESPN's hatchet job the week prior. Problem is, Alberts and Christensen still aren't putting everything on the table. Just go ahead and release the numbers for football:  tell us what UNO's football revenues were:  tickets, concessions, advertising, etc.  Tell us what UNO's football expenses are:  salaries, scholarships, travel, etc.  And let us draw our own conclusions.  I don't think Alberts has anything to fear here; the story isn't going away quietly on it's own.

Speaking of "going away", Nebraska baseball got swept this weekend by Texas A&M. The World-Herald's Jon Nyatawa had a great interview with Tom Osborne over baseball, unless you are one of those people who want Mike Anderson drawn and quartered tomorrow. Osborne isn't going to throw any coach under the bus during the season, so why anybody expects him to do so now isn't clear. Mike Anderson isn't going anywhere until after the season, then after that, all bets are off. Right now, I think it's less likely that Anderson returns next season...but that's a decision that won't likely be made until June.

I do know one thing; Osborne doesn't look at coaches the same way fans do. Take Doc Sadler, who was rumored to be somewhere on Texas A&M's list of candidates for a new basketball coach. Smarter basketball people than me respect Doc Sadler and the job he's done at Nebraska, and while the results aren't what we want, I'm not sure anybody else could do any better. Unfortunately, that type of talk is pretty depressing. One thing is clear about Sadler: his teams have been getting better. This year, they were approaching the bubble of the NCAA tournament at one point. .. so fans have no choice at this point but to muddle through.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday Night Beer: TD Ameritrade Park Passes the Parking Test

I didn't get a chance to attend tonight's Nebraska/Creighton game down at TD Ameritrade Park tonight, but I was downtown driving past the new stadium about an hour before the first pitch, and frankly, the concerns about having two big crowds downtown turned out, at least for this night, much to do about nothing. Parking lots were filling up, and pedestrians were filling sidewalks, but traffic was moving smoothly. That's the report from the World-Herald as well.  I was struck by this because normally during a big event at Rosenblatt, I'd leave downtown and see the lines and lines of cars backed up for miles on I-80.  Not even remotely the same situation downtown.  Now, the College World Series will be a different beast. Some parking will be lost for events, and many people will be coming downtown just to tailgate and party...but based on tonight's results, downtown is going to handle the College World Series just fine. It may feel the strain when the CWS and the Olympic Swim Trials are going on next June, but frankly, it's worth it to have both ESPN and NBC broadcasting big events from Omaha, just two blocks apart.

I've been reviewing the response to ESPN's "Outside the Lines" report on UNO, and I've seen three distinct opinions.  People who believe that Trev Alberts and UNO is trying to do the right thing (like myself), saw the ESPN report as a waste of airtime and a hatchet job. People who believe that Alberts is a lying sack of manure, doing Tom Osborne's dirty work, are convinced more than ever.  (My favorite is the wrestling blogger who thinks that a grand jury should put people at UNO in jail.  Um, yeah.  Right.)  And a lot of people in the middle are confused, don't know what to think.

And for good reason: UNO's football and wrestlers got the rug pulled out from under them. There's three time all-American Esai Dominguez, who won't have a chance to go for a fourth, choosing to get his degree rather than transfer to another school and likely have to find a new major and have to backup. But there's also the obfuscation of the numbers that both sides claim the other side is performing.  Did UNO football lose $1.3 million ... or just $50,500, like ESPN claims.

Frankly, from my perspective, the $50,500 figure is completely ludicrous. No way that you can fund 6 coaches (probably around $400k total, if I had to guess) and 36 scholarships (at an average of, say $20k each is about $700k), and fund that with average attendance of 3800 a game. Not when most tickets are $10-$15 a game, and students get in free.

But the call from unhappy football and wrestling supporters is for transparency.  And you know what, the only way UNO moves on is to publish all the details about how UNO came up with the $1.3 million figure. Show us the salaries. Show us the ticket revenue.  Show us the scholarship costs.  Quiet all the debate about fudging the numbers.

Because in the end, the argument is likely going to come down to trying to show the impact of the football and wrestling on the entire UNO campus in terms of tuition and fees, as ESPN apparently did. So then you can call out ESPN to give us the costs associated with providing an education to football students.  Of course, they don't have those numbers, but there are some general campus-wide costs you can provide.

Yes, if you take this far enough, the numbers will change as you slice, dice, and puree the numbers beyond any resemblance of what's been reported thus far. But if UNO is really telling the truth, this will expose the claims of deception as unsubstantiated.

Why do this?  Well, some might argue that the students affected by this deserve it. But maybe the best analogy is to compare it to Barack Obama convincing the State of Hawai'i to release his long-form birth certificate to pretty much disprove all the ridiculous claims of the "birthers."  Producing that version of the birth certificate finally resolved that argument, though truth be told, bringing Osama bin Laden to justice probably had more to do with it.

Bottom line, is that while football and wrestling supporters should have known of UNO's financial problems, if only because of the Nancy Belck/Jim Buck scandal five years ago, the only way to stop the debate is to open the books and let them see for themselves. They've had five years to steer the football program in a different direction, and failed to do so.

It's especially ironic to hear former UNO athletic director Bob Danenhauer leading the charge against Trev Alberts this week. Many of UNO's problems with finances with athletics seemed to originate under his watch, especially his (mis)management of UNO hockey in the transition from the Civic to the Qwest Center, which turned hockey from a cash cow into a money loser.  Trev Alberts finally steered hockey out of the ditch, and seems to be poised to bring most of the rest of the athletic department as well.

But football and wrestling are going to be the long-term casualties of what Alberts' predecessors (i.e. Danenhauer) did to Maverick athletics. That's a bitter pill for supporters of those programs to accept, and it'll take special treatment to quiet the clamor. It starts with transparency.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

ESPN Tries to "Wrestle With The Truth" at UNO

The story of UNO's decision to drop football and wrestling went national this morning, as ESPN broadcast a 10 minute story about the wrestlers and how they've been devastated by the decision to discontinue UNO's wrestling program. It's was a story high on emotion, and woefully short on details. Details that explain why UNO was making the change, for example, and how the events of March came to be. It also adds it's own set of muddled, self-contradicting details in a companion story posted online that casts even more doubt on the case against Trev Alberts and UNO.

The original story broke at the worst possible time: as the wrestling team was celebrating their third straight national championship. I don't believe that was intentional; the timing of the announcement was forced by the Omaha World-Herald. Not that there is ever a good time to announce this sort of thing... but some times are worse than others. And it's a sad story, to be sure. The wrestlers did nothing wrong. They got caught up in a numbers game outside of their control. It's unfortunate, but whether we like it or not, budgets are under pressure on college campuses across the nation. Look at Nebraska-Lincoln, where chancellor Harvey Perlman is cutting programs and raising tuition. At UNO, the athletic department receives nearly $6 million a year in funds from the school itself; money that probably should be spent on academic programs, some could argue.

ESPN's online version of the story tries to make the case that Alberts is using questionable accounting, but the expert in question, economist Andy Schwarz, is the one with the questionable accounting:
"UNO had 36 football scholarships divided among 77 of the 121 football players from this past season, and players such as Davis were paying the more expensive out-of-state tuition. The university counts the cost of athletic scholarships as an expense against the football department, but it doesn't count the tuition that student-athletes pay as revenue. If it did, Schwarz said the football program could count at least an additional $700,000 in revenue, and for wrestling it would be at least $200,000."
Counting the tuition and fees that athletes pay to the school is certainly revenue to the school, but not the athletic department. If you include that revenue, then you absolutely have to include the expenses the school incurs while educating these athletes...a figure that's nowhere to be seen in the ESPN report. I don't have that number either, but considering that the University of Nebraska is a state-sponsored school and receives support from state government, that's likely pretty close to (and more likely higher) than the tuition revenue athletes pay. If that's the "smoking gun" that UNO wrestling and football supporters have been counting on, well, that backfired.

The story also rehashed the David Sokol allegation that UNO's football program was sacrificed so that it was no longer a threat to the Husker football program. Of course, ESPN's report didn't attribute that statement, knowing that since making that statement, Sokol has become part of a bigger controversy after resigning from Berkshire Hathaway due to ethical concerns with his stock purchases of a company Warren Buffett was purchasing.  Frankly, it's a silly argument.

Could UNO football become a "powerhouse", as Van Deeb argued? Hardly, I believe. UNO football averaged around 3800 fans a game last season. For comparison, UNO drew nearly as many fans for two hockey games against Wisconsin as the football team drew all season. Some fans point to the success of the Omaha Nighthawks, but fail to realize the difference between professional football (granted, not NFL, but with players that were stars in college) and division 1-AA football (teams like Northern Iowa and Tennessee-Chattanooga). Oh, and the Nighthawks wisely scheduled their games away from Husker games, playing on two Friday nights, a Thursday night, and a Saturday when the Huskers had a bye-week.  UNO can't do that, and thanks to the way television contracts manipulate kickoff times, it's nearly impossible to schedule around Nebraska football.

In the past, we've come to expect sloppy reporting from ESPN when it came to coverage of Nebraska football, so I wasn't surprised to find a bunch of errors ("hockey attendance has dropped in recent years") in the details. But I tried to keep an open mind that ESPN might find something, anything, to call UNO's decision into question.

But they didn't. In the end, the only impact of the story was the pain the wrestlers faced in seeing their program end moments after reaching the pinnacle of success.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Will ESPN Reveal New Information about UNO - Or Just Fling Mud

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" series (hosted by one of my favorite sportscasters at ESPN, Bob Ley) will be airing a report on the changes at UNO this Sunday morning at 8 am, apparently focusing on the end of the wrestling program.

While the preview focuses on the athletes involved, the synopsis of the story says this:
  An "OTL" investigation has uncovered discrepancies between financial data that UNO provided to the NCAA and official statements made to the public.
The supporters of UNO's wrestling and football programs have been eagerly awaiting this report as some sort of expose of UNO athletic director Trev Alberts. Call this a hunch, but while I don't expect anything ESPN to produce anything that reflects positively on the analyst they fired six years ago, I'm skeptical that ESPN has found anything that dramatically changes the situation from what we know. A "discrepancy" could reflect different accounting methodologies that take money earned one way and credit it elsewhere.  For example, I was surprised to learn a year or two ago that Nebraska-Lincoln has reported losses on men's basketball.  Turns out that is because the media revenues for television and radio are commingled with media revenues for other sports like football...and thus, are not credited to the basketball program directly.  (But anybody making budget decisions in Lincoln knows that if men's basketball were to disappear, that revenue would disappear from the athletic department as well.)

Frankly, with the corporate titans of Omaha overseeing, if not outright leading, the entire review of UNO's athletic department, the suggestion that Alberts was playing fast and loose with the facts is pretty hard to believe. Certainly the World-Herald dug into the story, and didn't find anything. I imagine other media outlets did the same.

I do expect this story to take the perspective of the wrestlers, who are 100% entitled to feel disappointed, or better yet, abandoned, by their university. The timing of it was about as bad as it possibly could be. Win a national championship, then find out hours later that the program is over.  They have every right to be upset and angry; they did nothing wrong.  That being said, everything I've heard and read about UNO's decision convinces me that UNO made the painful, but correct, decision to drop wrestling and football back in March.

And frankly, I think I'll likely feel the same way at 8:30 am Sunday morning after ESPN's broadcast.  We'll see.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Wednesday Afternoon Soft Drink: Pac-12 TV Deal Tops Big XII

A lot of our friends in the Big XII tried to waive the Big XII's recent big deal with Fox Sports as something that means that Nebraska acted rashly in jumping to the Big Ten. And they were right that the Fox deal is a big deal...but it didn't change the dynamics of the situation.  Proof #1? Yesterday's even bigger deal between the Pac-12 and ESPN and Fox.  The Pac-12 gets $250 million a year, and gain national coverage of their biggest games on Fox broadcast. That means no regional coverage anymore...and since it's in the Pacific time zone, they'll probably be prime time broadcasts in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S.  Mo' money, guys.

And while guys like David Ubben of ESPN point out that the Big XII will get to go back to the well in a few years when the ABC deal expires, I'll point out something else.  The Big Ten will also be jumping back into the fray at that time as well.  Is Fox going to continue to be a big player? I think so.  I also think NBC might also be ready to jump in as well.

For years, the biggest problem with the ABC contracts were regional coverage, meaning that fans had to subscribe to GamePlan and pay extra for games outside their region. The SEC had the national deal with CBS and didn't have to play that game. Now the Pac-12 abandons regional ABC for a national Fox deal. And in a few years, ABC and NBC will likely fight it out over a national deal for the Big Ten. Yes, that means that the Big XII will be the consolation prize in that fight.

That is, unless Texas decides to bail on the Big XII television deal and deal one-on-one with ESPN themselves.  In which case, the Big XII might struggle to get a deal with the CW or some other niche network.  (Would PBS be interested?)

The addition of Sam McKeown to the World-Herald's staff has been a bonanza for fans...but today's article on the Pistol formation is a little off. The pistol is nothing new at Nebraska; they previewed it in the monsoon at Missouri in 2009, and ran it a lot last season...including most of last season's spring game. So let's not read it as something new, but rather something that's going to be retained. More importantly, is it going to work better down the stretch this season?

Creighton announced via Twitter this morning that more than 15,000 tickets have been sold for next Tuesday's Nebraska/Creighton baseball game at TD Ameritrade Park. Sounds like it might be three-times warmer for this game; should be another huge crowd.  And will this be Mike Anderson's last game in Omaha? I don't normally like to call for people's heads (Steve Pederson being the exception), but at some point in time, Nebraska baseball has to start winning some conference series...

Speaking of ballparks, I had to chuckle about the World-Herald's story on the attendance out at the Trailer Park. Yes, the weather in April was not conducive to watching baseball, so the crowds each day have been impressive. Offsetting the weather is that "new ballpark smell"...which usually is good for a 40% or more bump in attendance as people want to see the new digs. UNO hockey knows about this; their best year attendance wise was that first season in the Qwest Center. So I'm sure the whatchamacallits would be even more ahead of last year for their first ten games if the weather would have been normal.

But wait...they've played games on 11 days in Omaha, right? Yep...and if you read down to the eighth paragraph, you get my point. At this point, the average crowd this season is actually down from last year..because last year, that eleventh game was one of those big crowds that was possible at Rosenblatt...and not at BFE. There are many more of those ahead as the weather warms. Originally, I thought it might be year 3 or 4 (after the "new ballpark smell" fades) before the loss of those big crowds would result in a drop in averae attendance in the much-too-small Trailer Park. Now I'm not so might be this season. It's not a fair comparison to say that "BFE draws more people ... except on nights when people came to Rosenblatt..."

Oh, and in case you think I'm being unfair to Sarpy County and the Whachamacallits... What's the deal with MECA announcing the acts for the Red Sky Music Festival one per week?  At this rate, we won't know the full lineup until the CWS starts, and that's making this take way too long.  Quit dragging things out, and get it finalized.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

God Bless America

Thank you President Obama, and thank you to our brave military for finally bringing the man responsible to justice.