Thursday, September 13, 2012

Records Reveal Nothing New About UNO's Plans to Drop Football and Wrestling

The Omaha World-Herald received a copy of the records surrounding UNO's controversial termination of the football and wrestling programs as part of the Mavericks move to Division 1 last year, and failed to find any "smoking gun". In fact, no documents showed any mention about dropping football and wrestling prior to the announcement.

So what does this mean?  Pretty much nothing at this point.  People are going to believe what they want. When did UNO decide to drop football and wrestling?  The records are not clear about that, which makes you immediately question whether the records are complete.  But there's no evidence to support the various conspiracy theories floating around out there, most of which are fairly ludicrous.

The idea that Tom Osborne ordered Mav football to be shut down is pretty much crazy talk from my perspective. There's no evidence to support that, and frankly, there's little for Nebraska-Lincoln to gain by doing that.  That being said, I think circumstantial evidence does show that Husker football was a leading cause of the end of Maverick football.

I'm a UNO alum who never attended a Maverick football game.  I'm guilty as charged.  If I could go to a football game, I would go to Lincoln.  But some people did both. Back in the 80's and early 90's, the Huskers and Mavs coexisted better.  The Huskers almost always played at 1 pm; UNO at 7 pm.  If someone wanted to attend both games, they typically could.  If someone wanted to listen to the Husker game on the radio, they could and then head to UNO for the Mav game.

All that changed once the Big XII formed and nearly every Nebraska game was televised.  Some at 11 am, some at 2:30 pm.  And many at 6 pm.  Game times were never set until a week before the game, so suddenly that neat arrangement of game times fell apart.  People had to choose:  Mavs or Huskers.

I don't know what the attendance used to be like for Mav football.  I just know that in the last season of UNO football, the season attendance for football rivaled one weekend of UNO hockey.  Other than the season opener, fans weren't coming to football games.  The market spoke about UNO football, and the silence was deafening.

When UNO football fans complain about the abruptness of the decision to drop football, they say that with some blinders on.  They could see firsthand the lack of support.  They plenty of warning in 2006 when NU regent Chuck Hassebrook wanted UNO to drop football.  They had to know the numbers were not good for UNO football, but what was done to make UNO football viable?  They put in a big-screen television, and that was about it.

Should UNO have dropped football?  In an ideal world, no.  But we don't live in an ideal world.  We're reminded time and time again that government spends too much money, and UNO athletics was needing more and more government funding to stay in the black. Right or wrong, the decision was made that UNO needed to do something to cap that spending.  Football became expendable in that analysis.  There wasn't a financial model that supported UNO football moving to 1-AA and becoming less of a drain on the University.  A money game with a BCS opponent would bring in $400,000 or more ... but the additional scholarship requirements of 1-AA would more than consume that.

In the end, it came down to the bigwigs saying that they didn't that they didn't want UNO to subsidize football anymore.

That's why UNO football was dropped in 2011.  The answers UNO football boosters have been looking for have always been there; they just aren't the answers they want to hear.

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