Tuesday, February 28, 2012

UNO Seeking a Hockey Facility Decision

UNO hockey coach Dean Blais set off a bit of a firestorm locally with a quote in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the long-rumored arena for UNO:
"It takes two years to build an arena," Blais said. "It [an arena announcement soon] would be perfect timing."
Blais said UNO has been working for three years on the proposed arena. "We have the plans and everything nailed down," he said. "And now it is just getting the pieces of the puzzle put together."
From a contract perspective, it would be perfect timing as UNO's lease at the CenturyLink Center expires in two years.  But let's not forget about the history of UNO; almost nothing goes "perfect" for UNO.  (Aside than being able to hire Dean Blais, I think.)  We've heard this story about a new UNO arena for some time; Blais has even said it was a done deal a few times over the last couple of years.  And it's still not coming.

Or is it?  Some insiders insist it is.  They may be right.  I'm still skeptical.  The common rumor is that it's an 8000 seat arena.  Better than last year's 7500 seat rumor, I suppose.  (One I dismissed at that time to quite a bit of ridicule.)  But still woefully too small.

UNO has a valid reason for looking for alternatives to their existing contract with MECA.  Trev Alberts has talked repeatedly that UNO facility costs are out of line compared with what other college hockey programs pay. He's absolutely right.  But how does UNO get them in line?  A new building could help...in theory...but it really depends on how the building is financed.  And that's where the numbers get awfully questionable in my mind..and since we don't even have a solid proposal to work with, all we can do is guess at the numbers.

A new arena is going to cost $60 million to $100 million, depending on how big it goes.  It opens up new revenue streams (concessions, advertising, naming rights).  It also opens up new charges (mortgage, maintenance) that UNO doesn't currently pay.  And that's where I part with many UNO fans.  The more I hear about the UNO arena plans, the less I agree with the idea.

That's based on what I think the numbers will show, and that's pure guesswork on my part.  Speculation is that an 8,000 seat arena would cost around $60 million.  A right-sized 10,000 seat arena would be more; perhaps $80-$100 million.  Naming rights, advertising, suites, and concession revenue only go so far in paying for that bill.  If UNO has to finance $20 million of that bill, that's probably a $1.2 million mortgage each year at 4.5%. 

Spread that over 22 home games a year, and that's over $55,274 a game.  Dividing that over an 8,000 seat arena, that's almost $7 a seat per game.  Each and every seat.   That's an extra expense, and it's extremely unlikely that UNO is paying MECA anywhere near that amount.  (And I haven't even begun to discuss maintenance of any building in these numbers...)

This is fuzzy math at it's worth.  I'm purely guessing at that $20 million.  If new arena revenues and donations mean less money has to be borrowed, the numbers get better quickly.  If that number is low-balled and UNO has to borrow more, the numbers get even worse for UNO.  It's literally a bet-the-program choice; choose wrong, and the financial impact of that decision could destroy the athletic program.  Choose right, and of course, it could save the program.

I still believe that, at it's core, a decision by UNO to build an 8,000 seat arena is the wrong one.  UNO used to play in an 8,000 seat arena:  the Civic Auditorium.  UNO sold out every game in those years, and that apparently is the basis for thinking that UNO can support an 8,000 seat arena again.  I point out one thing though: if UNO is turning back the clock to 1999, then why is UNO wasting Dean Blais' time.  UNO hired Dean Blais because Trev Alberts thought big.  It was an ambitious plan.

That's why 8000 seats is such a bad idea. It says that this is as good as it gets for UNO hockey, as the Mavs averaged that last season.  There's no vision about taking the program to that next level.  I think Blais has championships in UNO's future.  Championships bring interest in the program, but UNO is capping interest at it's current level.

Some fans point out that if seating capacity is reduced, UNO can raise ticket prices.  Sure, that'll bring in more revenue...from the people who have sustained this program all along.  Thanks for supporting the program through think and thin; now pay an additional $200 per seat to pay for the new arena this season.

I don't know what UNO is really thinking.  It could be an elaborate ploy to get MECA to cut a more equitable arrangement.  Or UNO may have a more realistic financing scenario that I'm not seeing.

All I know is that all this talk about raising prices to play in a too-small of an arena depresses me about the future of UNO hockey.  It makes me wonder how much longer I can afford to continue supporting UNO hockey.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Minnesota Sweeps UNO

Disappointing weekend for UNO hockey this weekend as #5 Minnesota came to Omaha and won back-to-back 3-2 victories over the Mavs.  The Gophers dominated the latter part of the first period, and the Mavs were lucky to go into intermission only down 1-0.  But in the second period, the Mavs seized control of the game with an even-strength goal by Brock Montpetit then a short-handed goal by Jayson Megna.

But early in the third period, the Gophers tied up the game with a goal that was officially credited to Nick Bjugstad, but I still think was actually an own-goal that UNO's Brent Gwidt knocked past Ryan Massa.

That took the air out of UNO's sails and the game went to overtime where controversy erupted for UNO fans. Terry Broadhurst gets knocked to the ice, giving the Gophers an odd-man rush that results in the puck in the back of the net. Watch where Dean Blais tries to stare down the refs, seemingly furious at the non-call against Minnesota.

BTW, props to UNO's organ boy. While he struggles to carry a tune (such as his horrific take on Van Halen's "Jump") most of the game, the selection of Cee Lo Green's "Eff You" as the Gophers skate off the ice was rather poignant.

Saturday night, UNO jumped up to a quick lead as Gwidt scored, only to let the Gophers tie and then take the lead halfway through the first period.  That sent Massa to the bench in favor of John Faulkner, who got hung out to dry in the second period as the Mavs lost track of Kyle Rau, who scored to give the Gophers a 3-1 lead.

As the Saturday night game wore on, UNO just plain looked like a tired team.  At times, they struggled to recognize where to go and where to pass the puck.  One of the trademarks of Dean Blais' teams since he took over the UNO program was crisp passing, but that wasn't seen much in the second half of the Saturday night game.  The one highlight of the night was Matt White taking advantage of a lazy Gopher pass for a beautiful short-handed goal to pull the Mavs within one goal.

(Another aside...nice to see that Fox Sports never updated their UNO logo, so they used the much better looking 1997-2010 Durango instead of the more hideous revised bull head...)

But UNO couldn't tie it up, and the Gophers skated back to Minneapolis with all four points.  UNO sits in a tie with Colorado College for 5th place; the top six teams earn home ice in the playoffs.  In seventh place, Michigan Tech sits 1 point behind the Mavs and Colorado College, who plays Tech this weekend.  Meanwhile, UNO has play #9 Denver at home, including an early 6:37 pm start Friday night as the game will be televised by NBC.  A split "probably" means UNO gets home ice...but it's such a logjam with four teams within two points of each other, there are too many scenarios to consider.

If there was one thing to feel optimistic about was that Wisconsin's sweep of Bemidji State makes it less likely that the Mavs would have to play the Beavers.  UNO has shown they can play with just about everybody in the country this season...except, of course, Bemidji State.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Big Ten Baseball Tournament Considering TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha

The AP is reporting that Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park has submitted a bid to host the Big Ten baseball tournament.  Not a surprise to me; it's a natural fit considering Nebraska's entry into the Big Ten and the popularity of college baseball in Omaha.  Last week, the report that the Big Ten was considering the Trailer Park in Sarpy County drew a lot of attention, and some snarky comments from the folks who favored the building of the second ballpark because the Big Ten was considering BFE, and apparently not Omaha's new stadium.

My response was simply:  "how do you know the Big Ten was NOT looking at TD Ameritrade Park?"  Now the truth comes out: they were looking at both parks.  Not a surprise; both Sarpy County, the former Omaha Royals, and MECA have all talked previously about bidding for the Big Ten tournament.  But which one makes the most sense for the Big Ten?

Well, it's not necessarily a battle between Omaha's ballparks; I'm sure other cities will bid.  This year is the last year the tournament will be held in Columbus, Ohio...I would suspect they'll bid again.  But if the Big Ten does decide to come to Omaha, which park would it be?  There are advantages to both parks.  The Trailer Park is smaller, more intimate, and can easily handle the crowds of 5,000 or 7,000 that the Big Ten expects for their tournament.  Downtown at TD Ameritrade Park, crowds of that size will only fill a quarter or so of the stadium.

But downtown presents a lot more advantages outside the ballpark.  Over 1000 hotel rooms within walking distance, for example.  Fans who want to take a break between games can simply walk back to their room, or to a bar or restaurant.  Shopping too.  Out in BFE, fans have to get into their car and drive for anything.  (How's that Pennant Place coming along?)  I guess there is an Arby's opening up at the Walmart a couple of miles to the west.  And Ameritrade Park was designed for tournaments with multiple locker rooms; not sure whether the Trailer Park has the same type of setup.

So it really comes down to what the Big Ten wants, and what the two organizers bid with.  MECA has apparently bid on an every-other-year basis, apparently to also support the Missouri Valley Tournament.  That may - or may not - be appealing to the Big Ten, who were looking for one home for four years. The financial arrangements are also going to be huge, and those bids aren't going to be released publicly.

I do reject the idea that the TD Ameritrade Park is "too big" for the Big Ten. If Nebraska qualifies for the Big Ten tournament, does anybody really think that those games will only draw 6,000 fans?  Try doubling that, and for the weekend championship games, look for crowds tripling that or more if the Big Red is playing.  Is Ameritrade "too big" if the Huskers aren't playing?  Perhaps...but all those other advantages may mean more to the Big Ten if they are expecting fans from around the Big Ten to accompany their teams. 

A lot was said over the last week about the Big Ten considering Sarpy County "instead of Omaha".  I never fell for that, mostly because if there is one thing the former Omaha Royals are good at is promotion.  They never miss an opportunity to promote themselves, so it's not a surprise that in the dead of winter, they passed on the word that the Big Ten was out in BFE. There's nothing wrong with that; that's the business of minor league baseball, and Martie Cordaro's team does it extremely well.  The problem was with folks who "assumed" that since MECA didn't self-promote their bid, they didn't bid.

This bid shouldn't be considered a "Downtown versus BFE" debate; there are going to be other bidders, and if one of the metro area's ballparks are selected, it's a good deal for Husker fans who will have a better opportunity to cheer on the Big Red in the B1G.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mavs Split with Colorado College Sets Up Push For Home Ice

UNO hockey traveled to #15 Colorado College and split with the Tigers to remain tied for fourth place in the WCHA.  Friday night, UNO had a game tying goal waived off with under 2:46 left in regulation.  Terry Broadhurst's shot deflected to Dominic Zombo's skate, then trickled into the goal.  The officials apparently felt that Zombo intentionally redirected the puck, though Zombo's skate pretty much stayed on a straight line towards the goal line. A tough judgement call to make; some hockey experts point to the rule saying that if there is any doubt, the goal should be waived off when the puck goes in off a skate...but others feel it was yet another blown call.

For what it's worth, Dean Blais wasn't too happy about it in his postgame interview.  UNO couldn't score down the stretch, and the Tigers held on for the disputed 4-3 victory.

Saturday night, UNO used a third period rush by Ryan Walters who scored the game-tying goal short-handed in the period, then scored the game winner midway through the third period enroute to a 5-3 victory.  Walters added his own editorial comment, by mockingly waiving off the game tying goal in his celebration afterwards. (See it at 1:20 of the UNO highlight video.)

UNO emerged from a two week road trip in better shape than I thought they'd be in.  A 3 way tie for 4th place, three points ahead of seventh place Michigan Tech gives UNO a small amount of cushion with four games remaining...except those four games are against first place Minnesota and third place Denver.  The top 6 teams host first round WCHA playoff series, making it imperative that UNO at least split the upcoming series.  Obviously, winning out would put UNO in great position...perhaps to even get a top two seed which could allow UNO to avoid having to play in the 2nd round games, should they win their first round series.

The bigger issue in my mind is not home ice, but rather merely avoiding Bemidji State.  Bemidji has had UNO's number as of late, going 5-0-1 in the last two years in Omaha.  For what it's worth, Bemidji State is UNO's kryptonite; the Mavs simply have not been able to out-execute the Beavers.  Last year, the Beavers bounced the Mavs out of the playoffs at home, and with Bemidji floating around in 9th place, you almost have to keep an eye out for them and figure out a way to avoid them.

Up next for UNO is #7 Minnesota, making their first trip to Omaha since 2003.  They've rebounded this season now that former UNO assistant Mike Guentzel returned to the Gophers.  Last season, UNO shocked the WCHA by sweeping Minnesota to open the season, and one could argue that Minnesota never recovered.  I get the feeling that the Gophers might remember that.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Husker Hoops Blows Up and Blows Out Illinois

I turned on yesterday's Nebraska basketball game a little late; it must have tipped off right at 4 pm.  Illinois was already up 15-7 barely five minutes into the game.  It looked like the same old thing from the Huskers.  Bad defense, and woeful offense.  Case in point, Nebraska makes a nice steal and has a 4 on 1 fast break opportunity.  Easy basket?  Hardly.  They get in too big of a hurry and a desperation layup clanks off the bottom of the rim.  Simply painful.  One of the commenters over on the CornNation game thread mentions that Kevin Kugler "sound(s) like he’s swallowing his throat" on the BTN broadcast.  Hey, it's his alma mater, and he's got to call it straight up even though he wants to let his frustration loose.

I'm doing some household chores, watching the game on the side and it's 24-16 when I get called away.  I stop back and it's suddenly 24-23.  Then before I can get back to the television, suddenly the Huskers are up 25-24.  Wow.  So now I'm transfixed.  Suddenly, there's a spark in the Big Red, led by a 2-3 zone defense.  Right before halftime, the Illini try to follow a Brandon Richardson three-pointer by playing for the final shot.  But the Husker defense locks them down, and all they can manage is a wild pass out of bounds as the horn sounds.  Nebraska surprisingly leads by 7.

Nice run, but Illinois is just too good to let this stand.  But Nebraska comes out of the locker room with a can of whoop-a$$ that hasn't been opened in a long, long time.  Another three to open the half, and the defense is stifling.  Illinois just plain gave up.  As the Husker run continued, it started to attract national attention on Twitter.  Nebraska went on a 45-7 run from that point when I got called away, and eventually the lead stretched to 30 points.

It was not only stifling defense, but also a fast paced offense that Doc Sadler had originally called for when he first arrived. Take this alley-oop from Bo Spencer to Caleb Walker, courtesy of BTN:


Yowza.  Nebraska emptied the bench shortly thereafter, and while the demoralized Illini cut the eventual margin of defeat to 23, it was still an impressive victory.  But does that change the fact that Doc Sadler appears to be on his last legs as Nebraska's head coach?

Hardly.  It's just one game.  Even Bill Callahan had his 73-31 victory over Kansas State in that awful November of 2007.  That never could save his job, mostly because Callahan ran up the score on the Wildcats to make him look better than he really was.

But I don't pretend to speak for Tom Osborne.  I attribute yesterday's outburst to everything suddenly going right against an opponent who essentially gave up at halftime.  But if Nebraska can somehow build on this performance, gain some confidence, and win a few games down the stretch, you never know.  Sadler won't be allowed to run this program the way he has going forward; he might save his job in theory, but the need for better players isn't going away.  He'll have to find a way to get those players, and fast.   There's a new arena opening in a couple of years, and fans need some reason to be optimistic about the direction of the program.  If Sadler can't do that in the next few weeks (which I'm pretty doubtful he can do), Osborne won't have much of a choice in the matter.

I like Doc Sadler, and wish him the best.  But we need more games like yesterday, and fewer like we've seen prior to that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It's Official: Mav Hockey Goes Outdoors at TD Ameritrade Park

MECA and UNO plan to lay the ice between 1st & 3rd base.
Today we finally got confirmation that Omaha is joining the outdoor hockey fad.  Nebraska-Omaha will face off against North Dakota next season at TD Ameritrade Park.  Playing hockey games outdoors has become quite a fad in recent years, popularized by the NHL Winter Classic which draws decent ratings opposite college bowl games on New Years' Day.  (That could be due in part to ESPN's bastardization of bowl games, but that's another story entirely.)

The game is nearly a year away, scheduled for Saturday, February 9, 2013.  UNO and North Dakota are naturals for this type of matchup.  UNO head coach Dean Blais previously led North Dakota to two national championships, and it's a straight shot down I-29 for Sioux fans to come to Omaha.  North Dakota has been looking for an outdoor game.  Previously, they were negotiating with Minnesota to play at Target Field, but things fell through.

So will it be a success? Blais thinks it'll be a quick sellout; I'm not so sure.  The game will be part of a doubleheader; the first game will be the Omaha Lancers facing off against the Lincoln Stars at 12:30 pm.  The Mavs and the Sioux (if the folks up north get their way) will follow 45 minutes later.  Omaha is an event town..but will the casual sports fans sign up for this one?  That's a good question.

No doubt that outdoor hockey has been huge in other markets.  Nearly 25,000 showed up in Cleveland to watch Michigan and Ohio State last month.  Nearly 40,000 bought tickets to a doubleheader at Fenway Park last month as well - two years after Fenway hosted the Winter Classic.  Over 110,000 tickets were sold for a Michigan/Michigan State game at the Big House in 2010.  But it's not a universal success.  Last season, UConn played Sacred Heart in front of less than 2000 people.

The timing of this is perfect.  Omaha will be hosting the professional skating championships in late January, and a portable rink will be needed at the CenturyLink Center for the skaters to warm up on.  After that's done, they'll just move it across the street to the ballpark. So that keeps some of the expenses down as the equipment and technicians will already be in town.

Tickets for this aren't going to be cheap.  UNO announced that tickets will start at $30...those will probably be the outfield bleachers.  Count on the good seats costing $75 or $100.  But Omaha is an event town.  UNO fans will want to be there.  Sioux fans are already planning to spend that weekend in Omaha.  I think Blais might be optimistic about ticket sales, but my instinct is that this will sell out.

And if the weather isn't brutal, it could be a lot of fun.  The UNO Marching Band can march in the outfield between periods. The beer is guaranteed to be cold.  And it's something unique.

Players are going to love this.  Many from the north grew up playing hockey outside.  Here's what some of the players at Frozen Fenway told USCHO last month:
“It was unbelievable,” said the Wildcats’ Kevin Goumas. “As a kid you just dream about playing college hockey, much less playing at a ballpark in front of 30,000 fans and playing against a rival like Maine. The atmosphere was unbelievable.”

“You can’t help but notice you’re at Fenway Park,” said UMass goaltender Jeff Teglia. “I’ll never forget it. I found out this morning [I'd get the start] and I can’t tell you how much it meant to me.”
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said the Black Bears’ Brian Flynn.
Last but not least, check out what Joey Diamond had to say about playing at Fenway. Diamond, by the way, is a Yankees fan.
“I thought it was the coolest thing playing in a venue like this,” he said. “It was very special.”
I repeat, a Yankees fan.
After Wisconsin's last outdoor game, two high profile recruits committed within hours after the game, they were so excited about the event.  So now Wisconsin is looking to play outdoors again.  They've played at Lambeau Field and Camp Randall...now next year, they are looking to play Minnesota in Chicago at Soldier Field.

NoDak blogger Goon thinks outdoor games are overdone, but figures that North Dakota might as well join in. Maybe he'll warm up a little if Mario Lemieux and the Stanley Cup make an appearance, as the AP's Eric Olson suggests.

Either way...it's game on...outside.  It should be a whole lot of fun.  Even if they don't put up the Hal Daub Toboggan Run in the outfield.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Night Dessert: Overrated Bluejays Shouldn't Have Been Ranked To Begin With

No, I didn't watch yesterday's Creighton/Wichita State game...just like nearly every other Creighton basketball game.  But it's hard to miss all of the coverage the Jays get in this area. And truth be told, I've felt that Creighton was overrated all season long.  It all started when Creighton dominated Iowa, which gave many in this area a false reading for just how good Creighton is.  All you need to know is that Iowa then lost at home to Campbell...and Nebraska.  As I said at Christmas
(Non-Creighton fans need) A strong stomach as you try to ignore the hype from the Hilltop. Don't worry, unless McDermott's team vastly improves in 2012, the Jays will be exposed in mid-March.  Yeah, Creighton is a little better than Nebraska right now...but that's not saying much this season.  Certainly doesn't justify a vote in the Top 25, let alone being actually ranked.
Well, I figured the Jays would coast through the Valley season...then get blasted back to reality in the NCAA tournament.  Turns out that the Jays aren't even that good.

One thing I did find interesting scanning my World-Herald this morning was a photograph of Creighton head coach Greg McDermott ripping his son on the court.  Apparently he did it multiple times.  I don't know whether McDermott was right or wrong in losing his cool on the sideline; I wasn't watching the game.

What I found interesting was some of the reactions of the media.  Take KOZN radio's Matt Schick on Twitter:
Greg not thrilled w/ Doug's defense on multiple possessions. Grabbed back of his neck and later chest-bumped him. Must be a big game.
Interesting perspective.  Or maybe more accurately, a double standard.  Does anybody believe that Schick would have responded the same way if Bo Pelini got upset on the Nebraska sideline?  Hardly.

Tom Shatel at least admitted the double standard in his column today:
CU coach Greg McDermott, who has had a smile on his face much of this season, was seen lighting into his son, Doug, the team's star, on the sidelines. Reportedly, the scene got a lot of run on ESPN Saturday night.
When Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini does it, he gets hammered in some corners of the media and his fan base. The same is fair for Mac. Now, the Creighton coach is more media savvy than Pelini.
Except that McDermott isn't getting hammered for it.  It's a double standard, pure and simple.  Whether the media likes or dislikes Bo Pelini or Greg McDermott should be irrelevant.  But deep down, that seems to be driving the agenda of some in driving the conversation.  And that's unfortunate.

And yes, before someone reminds me...yes, Nebraska is now in last place in Big Ten mens basketball.  This is a team playing out the season, waiting for something...anything to change once we get to late March.

Speaking of late March, writing off UNO hockey's season could be a little premature as the Mavs took three of four points on the road at resurgent Michigan Tech.  The weekend couldn't have gotten off to a worse start.  Ryan Massa was pulled just five minutes into the game after giving up two quick goals.  But John Faulkner held steady the rest of the way, and the Mavs battled back for a 3-3 tie.  Massa redeemed himself with his first shutout as  Mav on Saturday afternoon.  Now the Mavs sit tied for 4th place in the WCHA with #10 Colorado College, who the Mavs will face on the road this weekend.  After that, it's #2 Minnesota coming to town, followed by #14 Denver.





Friday, February 10, 2012

No Missouri Valley Game Can Ever Be the "Most Important" Game in Omaha

Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald had yet another mental misfire in his "Brunch Bites" today.
But first, the big event of the weekend: Creighton-Wichita State, for all the Missouri Valley marbles. The CenturyLink Center has hosted a few big games since it opened in 2003, but this might be the most important.
Most important game for the Creighton basketball program?  Perhaps.  I'm not going there, as I'm not a Creighton fan.  Not my call, though I don't think there were many games in the Rick Johnson era bigger than this.  Just wild speculation on my part, though.  I could be wrong.

But the most important game at the CenturyLink Center, nee Qwest Center?  Not even close.  Heck, it almost assuredly isn't even in the top five.  Here's number one in my book:  the 2008 NCAA tournament first round game between Southern Cal and Kansas State.  Two marquee freshman, O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley, starring in prime time as the lead game on CBS.  Even the Song Girls were in town for this one.  Southern Cal went on defeat the Wildcats 80-67 in that game.

Creighton-Wichita State?  Well, it's big for Creighton fans, I guess.  (Though I doubt that this is the biggest game for Brie fans.  After all, that Mayo/Beasley matchup in combination with Kansas in town meant a huge payday for Creighton fans scalping their ill-gotten basketball tickets.)  But that assertion is proof once again that Chatelain is simply bad at analysis.  Oh sure, he can work his calculator and put together some statistics...but they rarely connect to explain the situation.  Today he used someone else's statistics to tell us something we already know:  this is Doc Sadler's worst team at Nebraska.  (No duh...)

What's surprising is that Chatelain's normally level-headed fellow writer Sam McKewon jumped on the bandwagon.  Maybe the World-Herald is encouraging their staff to cross-promote, but even so, it reflects badly on McKewon to propagate a bad article.  In fact, judging from Twitter, it seems like KOZN's Matt Schick and Nick Bahe have joined in the cross promotion.  That's unfortunate as it seems cronyism and corporate alliances, not merit of the argument, is driving the conversation.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tuesday Night Beer: Second Thoughts on Sadler and Woodhead

It was a bad weekend for the local teams.  Start with Husker basketball, who dropped another winnable home game - this time against Minnesota. Adding injury to insult, it sounds like Brian Jorge Diaz's foot problems may be terminal.  All the while, you get the sense that Doc Sadler is "dead coach walking."

I'm not sure Sadler should be fired.  I'm less sure that Sadler should be back next season.  We know one thing: barring legal or NCAA issues, Sadler will finish the season.  Tom Osborne would never fire a coach during the season; what would the point be, other than appeasing the boo-birds? But should Sadler return?  I offer one option, and only one option.  And that is that Sadler needs to identify a plan to recruit higher caliber talent to Lincoln. I don't know that Sadler can do it himself. He needs a recruiter, plain and simple. Maybe someone like Scott Spinelli, perhaps?

If Sadler doesn't have a plan, then it's probably time to cut him loose.  He's a good man, but Nebraska is investing too much in basketball to get this type of return.

Then there is UNO Maverick hockey, which lost three of four points to Bemidji State.  Bemidji seems to be Dean Blais' kryptonite; they are undefeated in the last six games in Omaha.  It's not talent; it's a style of hockey that runs completely counter to Blais' style, and seemingly in every game, the Beavers somehow manage to pull off the win.

It's frustrating as heck for UNO fans, who now seem to be resigning themselves to a lackluster end of the season, what with games remaining against Michigan Tech, Minnesota, and Denver.  It's going to take take quite a push by the Mavs to retain home ice for the playoffs.  What's even more concerning is Blais' postgame comments on Saturday night:
“What I see right now is a little bit of a team coming apart at the seams — when you play like that."
 But let's put this into perspective.  UNO is feeling the pain of turning the roster in the transition from Mike Kemp to Blais.  The youngsters that Blais recruited are freshmen and sophomores.  There aren't many juniors and seniors left on this team; it's a team that sorely needs leadership.  That may come in time, but it may not be in the cards for this season.  This year's UNO team could sure use a player like Alex Hudson from last year.  I get that this year's version of Hudson wasn't the same as last year's; the point isn't so much that Hudson shouldn't have been bounced from the team, but rather this team could have used Hudson to have provided the leadership and not get tossed.

Twitter was all abuzz on Sunday night about North Platte's Danny Woodhead.  We all know the story.  The guy that couldn't get a D-1 scholarship offer goes to Chadron, puts up big numbers, goes to the NFL and gets cut by the Jets only to become a star with New England.  But why didn't Nebraska offer a scholarship?  Who's fault is it?  Couldn't Nebraska have used a player like Woodhead?  Absolutely.  But let's put it into perspective.  Nobody else in D-1 offered him a scholarship either. Should Nebraska have?  Neither Frank Solich or Bill Callahan did, though for different reasons.  Woodhead probably wouldn't have fit Callahan's system, and it's clear that recruiting coordinator Scott Downing didn't think much of Woodhead.

But Solich had the first opportunity to offer Woodhead.  It's his mistake, right?  In hindsight, yes.  But put yourself in Solich's shoes.  You have an in-state player who hasn't received a single offer from anybody else.  You are being criticized for recruiting too many Nebraska kids and not enough Rivals "star" players.  Your new boss makes it clear he wants the program to go in a different direction.  And you have a kid that bleeds Nebraska red.  So Solich asks him to walk on to live the dream, and save the scholarship for somebody else.  There's a limited number of scholarships available, and every scholarship you offer to a kid from Nebraska is a scholarship you can't offer to somebody else.

That being said, it was all over once Solich was fired.  I get this feeling that there still was a chance that a scholarship offer from Nebraska might still have been available in late January, depending on how recruiting was going. I look at it like the Bronson Marsh situation; Nebraska couldn't offer early, but might have had room for him late in the recruiting process.

I do know this.  Solich was under a lot of criticism from recruitniks in 2003.  Offering Woodhead a scholarship would have had them up in arms at that time.