Husker Hot Takes – 5/28/14

The initial installment of Husker Hot Takes was fun and fairly well received, so we’ll do another round…

1.  The Athletic Department is advertising football season tickets for the first time in a long time.  Should we be worried about the coveted sellout streak?

Okay…technically, the ticket office is advertising the ability to join the wait list for season tickets.  You go to a NU Ticket Office website, select how many tickets you would like, pay a non-refundable $25 deposit, and…that’s as far as I went (I currently have tickets and don’t currently have a need for more).  My guess is in one of the next steps you’re asked how much you’d be willing to donate for season tickets.  My assumption is your response to that question plays a big role in where you end up in line.  (Feel free to correct me where my assumptions are wrong).

First off, does anybody remember the last time Nebraska was advertising football tickets for home games?  In my freshman year at UNL (1993) a letter went out to parents of students giving them the opportunity to buy season tickets, but I’m not aware of anything since then.  (Again, feel free to share information in the comments.)

Maybe this is nothing to be alarmed about, and the University is just restocking the backlog of requests (and seeing if they can generate some new donations).  Or maybe the new East stadium expansion coupled with the increasing allure of watching games at home is putting the vaunted sellout streak – the only thing still standing after the Solich and Callahan eras – in real jeopardy?  We all saw the empty pockets of seats in several home games.  Is that a sign of fan apathy?

I don’t know.  What I do know is the proposed changes for the game day experience coming this fall (better Wi-Fi, better tunes, etc.) should help swing the pendulum from Watch at Home to Watch In Person.  (I also think there is room for more improvements to game day, but that is a separate topic).  Regardless, I do have concerns about the streak.

But, I also think that if you were able to get in on that ticket offer in 1993, you got to see some amazing teams.

2.  Buy Beer in Memorial Stadium?

I recently read a column from Brandon Cavanaugh on entitled “Beer Should Flow in Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium This Fall

With no disrespect to Cavanaugh, I have to say:  No.

It’s not just that conservative Nebraska would never go for it (although that should not be underestimated), it’s that the column doesn’t give me a lot of good reasons for why it should happen.

Cavanaugh cites information from Big Ten peer Minnesota that notes how the Gophers actually lost around $180,000 on beer sales last year (partially due to one-time expenditures), and will likely only see a relatively small profit ($15,000) this year.  Okay, so if we’re not doing it to make money, then why should we do it?

Cavanaugh points to the “fan experience”.  In short, fans who tailgate/prime/pick-your-name-for-pregame-boozing ride an alcohol fueled high for the 1st and 2nd quarters, but as they sober up, the second half is flatter than three day old keg beer.  Additionally, Cavanaugh says selling beer would help keep the students around longer, and give a much-needed boost to the “rowdy” factor.

Yeah…Let’s start with the “fan experience”.  I can think of several non-11 am kickoffs where the crowd in the first quarter has been fairly reserved.  And we all can remember many games where the crowd was deafeningly loud in the fourth quarter.  Were these things impacted by the fans sobriety – or lack thereof?  Nope, I think crowd involvement has more to do with the action on the field than the number of Jim Beam and Cokes I consumed prior to the game.  Obviously, opponents and kickoff times matter.  But even with beer being sold in the stadium, an 11 am kick against Illinois will never match the buzz of a night game against Michigan (pun intended).

As for the student section, Cavanaugh notes that the section is often littered with bottles of hard alcohol.  It’s been several years since I sat over there, but that sure sounds familiar.  Would selling beer in the stadium really make a big dent in those empties?  It says here that students are famously short on cash.  Spending $6 for a 16 oz beer is okay, but the thrifty student knows the bigger bang for their buck is sneaking in a half pint of booze and buying one or two sodas.

Bottom line: I think beer has a better chance of flowing at Pinnacle Bank Arena than Memorial Stadium.  Regardless, I think it will take more than “boosting the fan experience” to get alcohol sales past the Board of Regents.

3. Kenny Bell claims he cuts his hair.  Mass hysteria ensues.

On Tuesday, Kenny Bell tweeted that he “lost a bet” and had to “shave the fro”, accompanied by a picture showing Bell without his glorious head of hair.

I’ll go on record:  I don’t buy it.

I don’t know if the picture was altered, really old, or featured some sort of miracle head band*, but my first thought when I saw that tweet was “Kenny’s a little late with his April Fool’s joke”.

*And seriously, Kenny, if it does turn out to be a miracle head band, can you send me the details on where you got it?  My daughter can rock the ‘fro too, but sometimes we just need it out of the way.  Thanks.

If he truly did shave it, I’ll take it as a sign that he’s going to be locked in and laser focused for his senior season.  If not, I’ll continue to feel that Bell is a fun-loving guy who enjoys pulling a good prank on the media and fans.

4.  Where was BTN for Nebraska’s first round game of the B1G baseball tournament?

Games 1 and 2 (Illinois vs Michigan State and Ohio State vs Nebraska) were not shown.  Games 3 and 4 (Indiana vs Iowa and Minnesota vs Michigan) were shown live on BTN.  Adding to the injustice, instead of Nebraska – Ohio State, BTN viewers had a replay of the 2010 Insight Bowl (Iowa vs Missouri) and the 2007 game* between Purdue and Indiana.

*I get that BTN wants to showcase ALL of their schools, not just the marque brands like Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Penn State, but to consider any football game between Indiana and Purdue as one of “The Big 10’s Greatest Games”, is an insult to the intelligence of any BTN viewer.

I understand the disappointment and even some of the outrage.  That game, and especially the ninth inning comeback would have been fun to watch.  Heck, I even had some fun with it myself.  But at the end of the day, I’m not going to lose too much sleep about it.

Let’s face it:  BTN has spoiled us.  We expect that every football game, every basketball game, and every other key event from around the conference will be presented to us.  That is pretty cool.  Remember kids, we are not all that far removed from the days of paying $29.95 for pay-per-view (with those horrible Ticket Express ads) just to watch a home game.  Seriously, if this is the biggest event that BTN misses in 2014, we  have it pretty damn good.

5.  Who is the Most Disliked Person in Sports for Nebraska?

SI recently came out with a slide show of the “Most Disliked People in Sports” (Spoiler:  Donald Sterling wins easily).  No current Huskers made the list of 35 sporting figures (although Richie Incognito and Ndamukong Suh checked in at #4 and #13, respectively).  I saw a tweet from 1620’s Unsportsmanline Conduct asking who would top the Nebraska list.

Who would you pick?

The most common responses were rather predictable:  Bill Callahan, Kevin Cosgrove, and of course:  Steve Pedersen.  I’ll be honest:  my initial answer was Pedersen too.

But should it be?  I get it:  the man was grossly unpopular and is ultimately responsible for a lot of damage done to the football program and the athletic department as a whole.  “Gravitate towards mediocrity” is in the pantheon of infamous Husker quotes.  But c’mon.  It’s been nearly seven years since he was fired.  Since then Tom Osborne came back and helped us believe again.  We canned Callahan.  We joined a better conference.  The Lincoln campus is awash in beautiful new facilities, and teams in many, many sports are on the rise.  Football is as good – if not better – than it was when Solich was fired.

Shouldn’t we move on?

I’m not saying we should forgive and/or forget.  I’m saying we should move on.  Find somebody new to focus our collective dislike upon.

I just am not sure who yet, (but suggestions are welcome).

Top Ten BTN Replacements for Live Sports

Over the last 24 hours, there has been a lot of complaining from Nebraska fans who were unable to watch the Huskers dramatic 7-6 comeback win over Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament.

The entire tournament is being broadcast on the Big Ten Network (BTN), with the exception of the first two games, including that Nebraska thriller.

To make matters worse, fans tuning into BTN hoping to see NU’s bottom of the ninth inning rally were met with “Big Ten’s Greatest Games:  Purdue at Indiana, 2007”.


So if BTN is not going to show live sporting events (which, you know, seems like something they might want to consider), the least they could do is find better programming options than Indiana v. Purdue from seven years ago.

Therefore, I give you the Top Ten BTN Replacements for Live Sports*

*And since the Big Ten has not been about to count to ten since 1990, my Top Ten will have twelve entries.

12.  A Jeopardy! style quiz show where B1G student athletes try to distinguish Legends from Leaders.

11.  Next on Big Ten’s Greatest Games:  A beer pong match up between Indiana and Purdue students from 2005.

10. A 2008 documentary on long snapper practice at Northwestern.  Directed by students of their esteemed film school, the entire program is in black and white, and shot from between the center’s legs.

9.  A sit down interview with the guy who maintains Jim Delaney’s eyebrows.  Grab the tissues, this one gets emotional.

8.  A musical tribute to the career achievements of Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann, set to Yakkity Sax.

7.  Big Ten Bowl Blowout!  Watch Big Ten teams get blasted in January 1 bowl games!

6.  An infomercial for Aaron Craft’s new instructional video:  “The Joy of Flopping”.

5.  A retrospective of the 83,000 times Jim Delaney tried to get Notre Dame to join the conference before he gave up and took Maryland.

4.  Simulcasts from The Longhorn Network’s coverage of Texas’s Spring Game.  Followed by a grainy, pirated feed of the SEC Network.

3.  A Survivor type reality show to determine the next school to join the Big Ten.  In a surprise twist, Wyoming beats out North Carolina, U Conn, and Georgia Tech.

2.  A roundtable discussion with college football announcers talking about their bias against Nebraska.  Scheduled to appear:  Brent Musburger, Ed Cunningham, Kirk Herbstreit, and every other announcer to call a Nebraska game in the last 20 years.

1.  The Jerry Sandusky Children’s Hour.

A Volley Against Tape Delays

On Saturday, Nebraska hosted Illinois in women’s volleyball.  For most people, this was a non-event, “must-see TV” that ranked up there with C-SPAN reruns and that weird guy on the cable access channel.

But for some folks, this was one of the most anticipated volleyball matches of the season.  Illinois came into the match as the #1 team in the country.  Nebraska came in ranked 4th.  After 16 dominating seasons in the Big XII, Nebraska is in their first season in the Big 10 – a very strong volleyball conference.  The match was a clash of volleyball powers and would give the winner an inside track to the Big 10 title.

Those who wanted to watch this clash had few options.  While Nebraska’s home arena (the fabled Coliseum) seats over 4,000 fans, Nebraska fans have sold out over 150 straight matches.  When Nebraska was in the Big XII, most of their home matches were televised in-state by Nebraska Educational Television.  Many of those telecasts would be simulcasted nationally by CBS College Sports.

One of the big selling points for Nebraska joining the Big Ten was the Big Ten Network (BTN).  Yes, BTN is mostly known for showing the football games of Big Ten schools, but they broadcast events from all sports.  So it simply made sense that Saturday’s premier Big Ten volleyball showdown would air on BTN – which it did….on Sunday.

That’s right, BTN aired the match on tape-delay:  at 8 am and 5 pm on Sunday.  At 7 pm on Saturday, BTN aired a football highlights show.

Now don’t get me wrong:  I get that football is the pilot, co-pilot, and first officer of college athletics.  For better and for worse, it is the 800 pound gorilla that gets (and deserves) plenty of air time.  I completely understand that the majority of BTN’s viewers would rather watch highlights of the Indiana-Iowa football game than a clash of college volleyball powerhouses.  I am in no way suggesting that the Big Ten or BTN should set football aside to air volleyball live.

What I am suggesting is the Big Ten should move the volleyball matches so they are not going up against football.

Look:  Volleyball is a niche sport, but it is a niche sport with the potential to be a solid performer on TV.  First and foremost, there are some incredible athletes on these teams – quick, powerful, able to leap out of the gym, and drive a ball at 70 mph.  The game is both easy to pick up (no more than 3 hits per side, when the ball hits the floor or goes out somebody gets a point, play to 25 points and win by 2) and complex in terms of strategy, defense, and numerous other factors.  And yes, there is definitely a demographic who watches for the athletic young women in bun-hugger shorts (why do you think NBC puts beach volleyball in primetime during the Olympics?)  Bottom line:  with the proper exposure and promotion, the sport could be a respectable draw on TV. 

Unfortunately, that is simply not going to happen when it is going head to head with college football and the World Series.  Ideally, the NCAA would shift the volleyball season to the spring when fewer marquee sports are playing and cable sports channels are looking for something to bridge the gap between the NCAA tournament and the College World Series. 

Until that happens, the Big Ten and the Big Ten Network need to schedule volleyball matches during the week when they can be televised.  Yes, it could mean increased time away from campus for teams on the road, but other college teams (notably men’s and women’s basketball) are playing mid-week games for increased TV exposure.  If other sports can gain exposure by playing their games on TV – live, not tape delayed – then why can’t volleyball?

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