Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nebraska Football Is Not Back

One of the things Husker fans have been criticized for (and rightfully so) is making premature claims that "Nebraska is back". Excessive jubilation over a 10 win season and top 15 defense in 2003 was counteracted by three losses where the score got out of hand late. A 2006 Big XII North Championship was followed by the 2007 meltdown, exposing the Pederson regime and their stalwart supporters for the frauds that they were.

So after a nice bounceback season in 2008 with nine wins, having the same conference record as Big XII North champion Missouri (note the distinction there), and a New Years Day victory over Clemson, it's tempting to make that claim again.

Don't do it Husker fan.

Listen to the words of Bo Pelini yesterday at the Big XII Conference media days in Dallas:
“I know one thing: Our players don’t feel like Nebraska is back because our expectations are very high for what we want to be and where we’re headed,” Pelini said. “I tell them all the time it’s my job to keep them grounded. I think they start to feel the momentum from last year. That’s a good thing. … But they also know there’s a lot of work in front of us to get where we want to be.”
I suppose if nine wins is all Nebraska football means, then I suppose you could say "Nebraska is back." But to me, the gold standard of Nebraska football is that 60-3 mark over five years. That's a record that will likely never be ever seen again, but to suggest that four losses in a year is somehow close enough to three losses in five years is, well, asinine.

Frankly, I don't think there is a need for a Husker fan to ever make the case that Nebraska is back. We'll know when Nebraska football is "back" because everybody else will be saying it for us. That's when Nebraska is in the mix for conference championships and BCS bowl bids on an ongoing basis.

That doesn't mean that Husker fans shouldn't be optimistic, or feel that the program is on an upward trajectory. That's the nature of fans. But show a little balance and discretion. It's a long way back from the clusterfool of the prior regime.

Listen to some of the quotes from players, such as Roy Helu:
“We didn't fully buy into what they were trying to sell as a coaching staff yet last year."
Or Jacob Hickman:
“You're kind of seeing more of a player identity, which the coaches really wanted to try to foster. Better chemistry among the team, and kind of taking hold of the team by the players."
Ndamukong Suh:
“I think our team made a big growth in taking ownership within our own self. Once we can do that as a unit, without having our coaches be on our back all the time, our team will be that much more grown and that much better.''
Certainly I underestimated the depth of the Huskers problems last year. I had heard the stories of the aftermath, but I felt confident that by the fall, all would be fine. But it wasn't fine at the start of the season, though by the end of the season, there were stretches where it was. But never a consistent performance throughout the game. So I'm going to avoid making that mistake this fall.

Nebraska still has plenty of questions going into the fall: question marks abound at quarterback, wide receiver, linebacker, and in the secondary. It's not as if there isn't potential there. Zac Lee, by all reports, has the arm and the legs to be a star. Marcus Mendoza, Antonio Bell, and Brandon Kinnie have the speed to give the Huskers a deep threat they haven't had in years. Lots of new guys on the defense who redshirted last year. But here's the trick: they've not done a darn thing on the field; the talk is all based on practice reports. So count me as intrigued, but not sold yet.

To paraphrase the Who: I won't get fooled again.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sunday Night Beer: New Ribbon Boards Can't Kill "Power of Red"

The new ribbon boards have been installed in Memorial Stadium on the east and west balconies, giving the HuskerVision crew plenty of time to play with their new toys. I'm anxious to see them in action; if used properly, these boards can really add to the atmosphere of the game. Additional game statistics, auxiliary scoreboards, and brief animations to pump up the crowd used judiciously will benefit everybody and correct some of the sins of the 2006 expansion. Steve Sipple's concerns about overwhelming or commercializing the atmosphere have been mitigated at Nebraska, unlike at other venues where the whole game turns out be a non-stop commercial. They keep much of the commercials silent, but could do a better job of delaying some of their canned features after touchdowns.

One thing that sadly won't be changing is the insipid "Power of Red" banners; they're going digital as well. I had hoped that Steve Pederson's firing would have been the end of that slogan, but no... it lives on. Turns out that the signs will be going digital, which means that sometimes the "Power of Red" will disappear for something else... maybe something useful like another adidas advertisement. It's not that I want more advertising in Memorial Stadium; I just find the "Power of Red" to be annoyingly stupid; what does it mean really? The color has some sort of power? Whatever it supposed to mean; it's lost. And on game days when that asinine banner gets pulled over the student section, it's about as subtle as Mark Levin railing at President Obama.

Steve Gow, of the Lake County (MN) News Chronicle, reports that UNO hockey coach Dean Blais has an out clause in his contract that allows him to pursue the Minnesota head coaching position if it opens up. Big deal? Probably not; that's the risk UNO has to take to hire a Dean Blais. Minnesota is a top school in hockey --- and the alma mater for Blais. Maybe that explains all of the focus on Mike Hastings, but from my perspective, that's a bridge to cross when that time comes. If Blais and Hastings have made the anticipated impact on UNO when Blais decides to leave, then Hastings will most assuredly be the leading candidate to take over at that point. If not, he should just be a potential candidate in the mix.

UNO has started a rather cool promotion; fans can request a UNO flag to fly outside their home. Many people around the state fly "N" flags for the Huskers; it's a revenue creator for Nebraska. For UNO, it's not a revenue producer, but rather an advertising medium. UNO could spend hundreds of dollars to buy billboards around town...or give away 3' x 5' flags to their fans who'll fly them in neighborhoods across town. It's a subtle way to not only put your brand out there, but also to show that people in this town do care about UNO. My request went in, and Durango will be flying along with my Husker flag this fall.

Coming up tomorrow at CornNation; my preview of Iowa State. I'm halfway through the opponents so far, and let me tell you, it's a lot easier to do these previews for conference opponents than Sun Belt foes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mizzou and their Delusions of Grandeur

Credit where credit is due: Missouri earned their berth in the Big XII championship game fair and square. Two blowout defeats of Nebraska certainly erased any doubts from Husker fans as to their superiority the last two seasons. But that was then, and the men largely responsible for the Tigers impressive victories are gone. With the departures of Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, and Jeremy Maclin, the Tigers lost the heart of their successful run. Questions and doubts about the Tigers chances in 2009 are everywhere...everywhere except in the state of Missouri.

When Phil Steele picked Missouri fifth in the Big XII North, based in part on the fewest number of returning starters and returning lettermen, the outrage was immediate. Frankly, I think fifth is a little extreme, but I get the feeling that the Miz-zou gang doesn't share the doubts the rest of the college football world generally agrees with.
“If we win the Big 12 North two years in a row and then we get pushed back because we lose some great talent, it’s like a slap in the face,” added nose tackle Jaron Baston. “It’s like, ‘Well, Mizzou had their run. They’re done for now.’ That’s not us. We’re still moving forward.”
But that's just the players; of course they believe in themselves. But the fan base is sharing the "damn the doubters" position. This week, the SB Nation Big XII blogs voted on a preseason all-Big XII team. Each blog was asked to "send us 10 – 15 players from your college squad (i.e. CN will send us Nebraska guys only) or as many guys you believe have a LEGITIMATE shot at making the all-conference team in 2009." CornNation.com nominated 9 Huskers. Oklahoma's CrimsonAndCreamMachine nominated 13 Sooners. How many LEGITIMATE all-Big XII candidates do the Tigers (with 9 returning starters, fewest in the Big XII) have, according to Rock M Nation?


Along side no-brainer selections such as linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and right guard Kurtis Gregory, the Tiger blog nominated quarterback Blaine Gabbert amongst other non-returning starters (tight end Andrew Jones, defensive end Brian Coulter, and safety Kenji Jackson). More nominees than any other team other than Texas, I might add.

OK...maybe the Tiger fans just couldn't follow the instructions. They claim they wanted to submit somebody at every position (except kicker for some reason). I guess it wouldn't be a true all-Big XII team without a Tiger at every position.

It's not a big deal; the bloggers who voted merely brushed aside the reaches. If anything, the nomination spam hurt candidates who probably were on the fringe.

Then there is the Kansas City Star's Mike DeArmond, who had the brilliant observation that "Nebraska Isn't Back." (No s*, Einstein. Nebraska won't be "back" until Nebraska is back at the level that Oklahoma and Texas are currently at.) What Nebraska is, however, is getting better. We'll see if it gets us to that elite level; Husker fans are hopeful. But what does that mean for 2009? DeArmond tells us:
"Here’s where I shake my head in wonder at anyone picking Nebraska over Missouri but over Kansas as well.
The Cornhuskers have an inexperienced quarterback, lost just as much as Missouri on offense, don’t have a running back of the caliber of MU’s Derrick Washington. Shouting The Blackshirts Are Back! seems based more on t he hope that Bo Pelini is a defensive genius rather than a first-year college head coach that was simply better than Bill Callahan."
Dude. Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

While yes, Nebraska lost their starting quarterback and top two receivers and a couple of linemen, that's less than Missouri, who lost their quarterback and top three receivers. And I've got to believe that Tiger fans have to be incensed that DeArmond thinks that Daniel, Maclin, Coffman, and Tommy Saunders is equivalent to Nebraska's loss of Joe Ganz, Nate Swift, and Todd Peterson.

Don't return a running back of Derrick Washington's caliber? Mr. DeArmond, let me introduce you to Roy Helu, Jr.
Oh, and Quentin Castille as well.
Yes, Derrick Washington is a great back. But don't you think that some of Washington's success is due in part on Missouri splitting the field with Maclin, Coffman, and Saunders, with the threat of Daniel having the option to hand off to Washington if the defense tries to cheat and double team the receivers?

Don't get me wrong; Washington is a great back. But ignoring the depth Nebraska brings at I-back is rather ignorant.

Even more ignorant: "the hope that Bo Pelini is a defensive genius". Maybe "genius" is a stretch, but Bo Pelini's track record at Nebraska, Oklahoma, and LSU speaks for itself.

Then the kicker. "Here’s one: those people picking Nebraska to win the Big 12 North are abso-tooting-lutely nuts."

Today, the preseason predictions came out, with the media selecting Nebraska to win the Big XII North in 2009.

Let's be honest. Nebraska has questions. Kansas has questions Missouri has a few more questions. If Missouri answers their questions better or faster than Nebraska or Kansas, the Tigers very well could win the Big XII North. It's not out of the realm of possibility.

But I get the feeling that for some in the state of Missouri, denial seems to be the preferred approach going into this season.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Night Dessert: Watson Exposes Non-Sports Fans

Dialing up and down the sports dial on Monday, alleged sports radio talk hosts talked about how little interest there was left in the British Open once Tiger Woods left. Their rationale: No Tiger means nothing worth watching.

Today, those alleged sports experts forfeited their status in sports. Maybe they'll join former ESPN SportsCenter anchor Kevin Frazier or former CBS Sports broadcaster Pat O'Brien and cover Hollywood instead, since that seems to be their true calling. Somewhere along the line, they forgot why Tiger Woods became the #1 draw in professional golf, and declared that Tiger Woods WAS the draw because of his celebrity. No Tiger = no interest.

Maybe for the Hollywood celebrity paparazzi, but for sports fans, today's final round of the British Open was absolutely compelling can't miss television. (Unless, of course, you absolutely can't stand golf. Even then, the story line was hard to ignore.)

When 59 year old Tom Watson walked up to the 18th tee today with a one shot lead at Turnberry, it was as compelling, if not more compelling, than anything Tiger Woods has done on a golf course. This was a run for the ages, with Watson making putt after putt through 71 holes to be in the lead. Alas, the dream ran out on the 18th green, but for most of the weekend, Watson showed us the best of athletics.

The ET crowd masquerading as sports "experts" confused the playmaking and great play that Tiger Woods is capable of bringing to the golf course with the reality that any other golfer can also make those same shots. Just not with the same regularity that Woods. The absence of Woods from the golf course doesn't mean that those great shots or great drama won't occur; it just means that it won't be Tiger Woods making those shots. Or to put it another way: it's not Tiger Woods, it's the competition that frequently includes Woods, but isn't dependent on Woods.

Bravo to Tom Watson for some absolutely compelling television today. I hope those people who gave up on the British Open have fun chasing Britney around Hollywood tomorrow.

Last week, FSN broke out the reruns of college football games, and I swear it must have been AJ's week. Monday night, it was 1996 Nebraska/Arizona State and the "Debacle in the Desert". Then on Thursday afternoon, my wife informed me that it was 2005 Nebraska/Missouri. Good thing I missed out on 2007 Nebraska/Kansas; that had to be on at some point last week.

Picked up a copy of Phil Steele's Big 12 preview last night and started glancing at it. I must admit, I haven't had a chance to read his stuff previously, and I see partly why it's so popular. It jams as much information into it's 192 pages, but man, it's a tough read with abbreviations and shorthand style. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it, but it's almost like reading crib notes.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Cornhusker Kickoff" Now Available

Back again for it's second year (with a new name) is "Cornhusker Kickoff", a Husker football preview magazine that I've once again had the privilege to contribute to. This year's compilation contains contributions from Steve Sipple and Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal-Star, Darren Carlson and Brandon Vogel of BigRedNetwork.com, Mark Fricke, and David Max and Tad Stryker of Huskerpedia.com. Not mention my fellow CornNation.com blogger, Jon Johnston, who put the whole thing together.

My contributions to this year's publication is a 2008 season review and an in depth look at Husker offensive coordinator Shawn Watson's background. The 2008 review was much more pleasant to put together than the 2007 review, but perhaps more difficult because I tried to capture the feeling of each game, not just mention a few quick stats and summaries of big plays. I'm curious how fans like this year's version (or not); feel free to drop me feedback if you like it or don't.

The Shawn Watson article is one that grew on me as I dug into it. With a new quarterback and receivers coming onto the field, I wanted to get a feel for what Shawn Watson would do with new personnel. As I dug into it, I started to find a lot of parallels between this upcoming Nebraska season and 2001 Colorado. You remember that 2001 Colorado team, don't you? I think that 62-36 score is tattooed as a permanent scar on the psyche of Husker fans the world over.

But what struck me was the inexperience at quarterback that season, but the emergence of several strong running backs and game-breaking tight ends. Sound familiar? But what about the lack of experience at quarterback? Well, in 2001, Colorado bounced between Craig Ochs and Bobby Pesavento because of injuries, and yet still managed to win the Big XII championship that season.

Does Nebraska have that same combination in 2009? I think Roy Helu could explode this season, and Quentin Castille is no slouch either. At tight end, Mike McNeill became a game-breaker late last season, and freshmen Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed looked awfully impressive in the spring game.

Assuming that having strong running backs and tight ends automatically bring you a championship is dangerous, silly, and oversimplistic. But looking at Shawn Watson's career at Colorado, you see that having an experienced quarterback wasn't necessary to have success; Colorado won another Big XII North title in 2002 with an inexperienced Robert Hodge at quarterback. And ironically, when Watson had a three-year starter in Joel Klatt, the season ended badly (getting outscored 100-6 by Nebraska and Texas), resulting in Watson's dismissal from Colorado.

I hope you enjoy the magazine. It's available online from the publisher as well as at magazine racks across the state of Nebraska.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Talk with Trev Alberts

UNO athletic director Trev Alberts spoke at the Omaha Press Club over the noon hour today, and I had the opportunity to sit in. As you might expect, Alberts was a polished speaker and gave an impressive speech. That's to be expected after his years on CNN, ESPN, and CBS College Sports. The real question with Alberts is whether he can fundamentally change UNO athletics for the better, or is he all talk.

As moderator Gary Kerr pointed out in his introduction, Alberts silenced much of his critics when he hired Dean Blais to take over as UNO hockey coach, then negotiated a deal to move UNO to the WCHA. Now with those changes in place, what's next for UNO athletics? Trev answered those questions, but with a focus away from the game. To put it concisely, he's bringing "the Nebraska Way" to UNO.

For all of the administrative problems at UNO, UNO's athletic department has been extremely successful both on the field and in the classroom. Alberts noted that UNO won an award from the MIAA conference for the greatest improvement in GPA between athletes and the rest of the student body. It's a story Alberts wants to promote, because he sees a real chance to point out the value of UNO athletics to the community, the university, and to the families of prospective student-athletes.

Alberts sees UNO's athletes in training to become tomorrow's leaders. He points out UNO's successes with the Peter Kiewit Institute, and says that being located in Omaha can be a huge selling point in convincing students to come to UNO. Yes, Omaha is an advantage, if you are looking at positioning yourself for a career in business (five Fortune 500 companies located here) or technology through making connections or internships...and that's an advantage a lot of other schools can't provide. Alberts is making a point that UNO is going to recruit the parents of prospective student-athletes. (Taking a play from the Nebraska playbook.)

So what is Trev Alberts view of the future of UNO athletics? He says he doesn't have the answers yet, but they are starting to come into focus, and if you read between the lines...you can see the future as well. Alberts points out that while Omahans don't expect you to win every game, they want you to show that you are on the path towards improvement. That explains the criticism Mike Kemp has received in recent years; it explains the criticism of Frank Solich in 2002 and 2003. It also explains why Husker fans claimed "Nebraska is coming back" in 2006 and early 2007 before the Bill Callahan/Steve Pederson fraud was exposed. (And why some Husker football fans are making that claim once again after a nice rebound season in 2008.)

Alberts says you are either progressing or regressing, and Omahans want to support a program that is progressing. The problem facing UNO is that division 2 seems to be headed the other direction; sports and scholarships are being cut to help meet increasing budgetary concerns. That situation has led many former NCC conference members to jump to division 1 in recent years, and by reading between the lines, Alberts indicated that's probably the eventual home for UNO.

In recent weeks, talk of a UNO arena had heated up, but Alberts gave no indication that this is still a priority. Alberts seems to be focusing on making the Qwest Center work for two reasons: (1) UNO has mismanaged their agreement with the Qwest Center and (2) with the hiring of Dean Blais, there's no point in downsizing the home for UNO hockey. Both Dean Blais and Alberts talk of drawing 13,000 or more to the Qwest Center for UNO hockey, which likely would make the need for a UNO hockey arena prohibitively expensive to build.

So how does UNO draw 13,000 for hockey? Well, it starts with winning, and the expectation that Dean Blais is going to do that. But that's not sufficient by itself. UNO is launching the "UNO Road Show", where UNO coaches will meet with the public around town, such as at the Cox Classic next weekend, plus stops in Fremont and Columbus. UNO hockey broadcasts are moving to KVNO-90.3 FM to increase the reach of the broadcasts, but will continue to work with the rest of the media outlets in this town. UNO has been featured in recent week's on KMTV's Sports Soundoff, and 1620 the Zone will be broadcasting from a couple of the Omaha "Road Show" events. But that's not it. Alberts indicated that he's talking to KETV-Channel 7 and Fox Sports Kansas City about expanded coverage, pointing to the success KMTV and Creighton have experienced with Bluejay basketball telecasts.

Can Trev Alberts deliver on the vision he's laying out for UNO? While Alberts has delivered some huge early successes, he makes it clear that this is a long term project, and that there is still much for UNO to do. But after listening to Trev Alberts speak for an hour today, my optimism over what Alberts and UNO is doing is even higher.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

As the TV Announcers Turn in 2009

Last week, ABC/ESPN released their announcer pairings for this upcoming football season, and I got to thinking how some of my favorite announcers are disappearing, seemingly in favor of some of the announcers that just annoy me. I know some will share my likes and dislikes, and others will disagree....and probably rather vociferously. So here are my picks and pans:

College Football
Top Play-by-play Announcers:
Verne Lundquist, CBS. Too bad he's stuck doing SEC games; I was really disappointed that he didn't cover last year's Gator Bowl. He's the top voice in college football as far as I'm concerned.
Ron Franklin, ABC/ESPN. It's a good news/bad news situation with Franklin. Bad news is that he's being bounced around the dial and off of many of the premier games. Good news is that he's focusing on Big XII games

Announcers that make me want to find the radio:
Sean McDonough, ABC/ESPN. His father was a great sportswriter for the Boston Globe. His son is a versatile announcer who can cover football, basketball, baseball, and hockey equally poorly. He was horrible taking over for Jack Buck on CBS baseball coverage in the early 90's, and hasn't gotten any better, no matter where the world-wide leader sends him out.
Bill Land, FSN. I'm not sure FSN even tries anymore, really. They have the rights and figure we'll listen to whatever they can find.
Thom Brennaman, Fox/Big Ten. This one hurts. As good as Brennaman is doing baseball, and even the first year or two of the BCS, last season's Tim Tebow love-fest can't be forgiven. He's too good to have to resort to that.
Dan Fouts, CBS. He's a decent color commentator, if he's prepared. (See 2009 Gator Bowl for an example of where he's not.) But a good commentator usually doesn't make for a good play-by-play guy.

Color Commentators I like:
Kirk Herbstreit, ABC. He's usually more often on-target with his commentary, and he doesn't seem to hold a grudge against teams. Even the 1995 Huskers.

Color Commentators I dislike:
Just about everybody on FSN. Fortunately, we don't have to listen to Artie Gigantino anymore. Oy!
Pat Haden, NBC. One of those guys who sound authoritative...who really isn't. Covering Notre Dame for the last dozen years or so doesn't help him either.

Announcers I like:
Greg Gumbel, CBS. He's solid ...unlike his brother.
Jim Nantz, CBS. Not spectacular...but solid no matter what he's asked to announce.
Dick Enberg, CBS. He's fading out, but his voice still says "big game".

Announcers I dislike:
Dick Stockton, Fox. Fading fast; maybe I just can't get past his NBA legacy.
Gus Johnson, CBS. Makes himself bigger than the game.
Ian Eagle, CBS. I feel like I'm watching Arthur on PBS

Color Commentators I Like:
John Madden, Retired. Yeah, he started to slip in recent years. But he was good no matter how good or bad the game was. In some of those old Super Bowl blowouts, Madden found a way to try and save the broadcast.
Dan Dierdorf, CBS. Not sure why ABC dumped him from Monday Night Football. That's when the franchise started to jump the shark.
Randy Cross, CBS. Doesn't seem to make himself part of the game.

Color Commentators I Dislike:
Phil Simms, CBS. Seemingly smug attitude who got the #1 gig because he won a Super Bowl. (That explanation might also explain why his son Chris got the nod over Major Applewhite at Texas.)
Troy Aikman, CBS. Less attitude, but got the #1 job for the same reason as Simms.
Tony Siragusa, Fox. Fox tries to limit the damage by putting him on the sideline, but then they throw it to him to analyze a play, and starts sounding like a reject from the FSN college crew.

Studio Hosts I like:
Chris Fowler, ESPN. I wasn't sure when he took over for Tim Brando, but he's become the defacto host for college football.
Chris Berman, ESPN. You either like him or despise him, but nobody does NFL highlights like Berman. Yeah, he can be out of his element on golf and on play-by-play, but NFL Primetime is sorely missed on Sunday evenings.

Studio Hosts I dislike:
Lou Holtz, ESPN. Mumbles his way through the broadcast, trying to become the new clown at ESPN by trying to one-up Corso.
Mark May, ESPN. I think most of what he says on-air is designed to get a reaction, not necessarily because he actually thinks that.
Dan Patrick, NBC. He was bad at CNN. He started the decline of ESPN Sportscenter away from highlights and towards personality. I used to think it was Keith Olbermann who drug him down, but Olberman's work on ESPN2 in it's infancy convinced me that it was Patrick, not Olbermann.

I'm sure I left somebody out, and I'm sure someone will disagree with me on some, if not most of these selections. Go ahead and post your comments below...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Night Beer: Sarpy County Starts Feeling the Pain

The folks in Sarpy County are now beginning to realize the boondoggle that their county officials have committed to. Kermit Brashear, the county's chief negotiator, has run up a tab of $678,000 so far...and the meter is still running, much to dismay of some in Sarpy County.

And they haven't even broke ground yet.

If they are already worried about how the costs have escalated on the negotiating phase, just wait until construction actually begins. Remember, the budget calls for building a new stadium for half the going rate. Maybe they'll keep Econobox Park in BFE under the budget...but the trend can't be good for Sarpy County.

The man who was unaware of what Steve Pederson was doing to the Nebraska athletic department is now defending the BCS. If that isn't proof enough of the need for a playoff system, I don't know what is.

I see Tom Osborne is writing yet another book. Frankly, while I'll probably get around to reading it, I'm not sure what else Osborne has to offer that he hasn't already said in his other books. Perhaps he'll give us his reasons why he thinks his run for governor failed, or perhaps he'll have some new insights as to the direction of college athletics. But more likely is that it's going to be much of what was already in his previous books.

I still need to finish up another Sun Belt conference preview for Louisiana-Lafayette for CornNation. It's actually more difficult to write previews for Sun Belt opponents than the others, as there is so little reference material other than the athletic department web sites to work from. I'll get that done later this week, and start turning my attention towards the Big XII schedule, where I already have a baseline to start from.

Props to KMTV-channel 3's Travis Justice for another half-hour of UNO coverage last night. Not only did he shock me with more coverage, but it was all broadcast in widescreen 16:9 coverage on my LCD TV. (One could write a joke about seeing Trav in HD, but I won't go there.) Good interview with UNO head coach Dean Blais and assistant coach Mike Hastings. I'm still concerned that Hastings is back at UNO more because he was with the Lancers than because of his 14 year record in the USHL. But when I listen to Blais, I'm reminded of what a home run hire he is. If Blais does for UNO what he did for every other place he's coached, I'll be more than happy to change my mind about Hastings.

Now, hopefully Trav and KMTV-channel 3 will consider televising a couple of road hockey games this season. That might sound like a stretch...but the days of saying that UNO can't do much of anything ended when Trev Alberts was hired.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tuesday Night Beer: It's Summertime and Nothing's Happening

AJ the Huskerh8r (who's back, BTW, with his Hater's Diary) dinged me for not updating the blog for a week. Truth be told...there really hasn't been much of substance happening. You almost have to make stuff up or rehash old news to make it new.

Take the "news" that Sarpy County and the Royals have finalized their deal. Big whoop there; we've known that's been coming for at least a month. (Yeah, I know some people have known it was coming a lot longer than that; I held out hope longer than most that it wouldn't.) The only interesting news was that stadium construction would only take 14 months. That sounds short until you remember that this stadium is only going to cost $25 million, or about half the going rate for AAA stadiums in Ohio, Georgia, and Nevada. We'll see how this turns out. I suppose that if the Sarpy County stadium isn't ready in time, they could always play at Rosenblatt in 2011.

Speaking of 2011, I've felt that the perfect opener for TD Ameritrade Park would be a Chicago Cubs exhibition game at the end of spring training. Well, yesterday the Cubs and the Ricketts family announced they had a working agreement to submit to Major League Baseball for approval. Then today, a second agreement was announced to sell the Cubs to investor Marc Utay for slightly more, but less upfront money. So what's going on in Chicago? Good question. Best answer at this point is that the Utay proposal is the backup plan in case any questions arise from the bankruptcy court or MLB. It also keeps the pressure on the Ricketts to complete the purchase, knowing that there is another willing buyer. In any event, those plans for the Cubs downtown will have to wait a while longer.

More proof of the lack of substance in local sports news. The Husker athletic department announced on their Facebook page that the Husker wrestling recruiting class was ranked fourth in the country by some magazine. Ugghhh. Recruiting hype is spreading to other sports. Somebody in the athletic department's communications department didn't learn anything from the Steve Pederson/Bill Callahan clusterfool.

Speaking of Facebook, I'm working on a Facebook page there if you'd like to follow Blasphemy there. Still a little rough; haven't had enough time to get it all cleaned up the way it should be. I am on Twitter as well...