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.
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.