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Head into the weekend with a big portion of Hot Takes:
Is Nebraska in a “rebuild” mode? In Shawn Eichorst’s letter to fans, he asked for patience and support as Mike Riley “rebuilds our storied program one brick at a time”. That comment caught many fans off guard as Riley’s role at Nebraska has not been previously described in that manner. Many fans took offense at characterizing Nebraska as a rebuilding project.
First and foremost, we should acknowledge that parsing a single word from a quote, interview, or press release is a risky proposition at best. That said, “rebuild” is a poor choice of words.* For many people, “rebuild” brings visions of losing teams with absolutely no chance of winning championships. When I hear “rebuild” in reference to a sports team, I think of how my Kansas City Royals were in a rebuilding mode for the better part of 15 years, Kansas football since Mangino left, or other perennial doormats.
*Personally, I would have gone with improves, aligns, corrects, or strengthens our storied program one brick at a time. Given that this was a publicly released letter and not an off-the-cuff interview remark, I assume the use of “rebuild” was intentional, not accidental.
So is Nebraska rebuilding? Mostly no, but a little yes.
I believe the psyche of this team needs to be rebuilt. I continuously see the word “toxic” used to describe the program under Pelini. I think it is rather easy to see that not all of the players have bought in to Riley’s culture (or, they initially bought in but voided their purchase after a few losses). Between the “us against the world” bunker mentality and coaches who were critical of administrators and fans that was widely acknowledged under Pelini, this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Cleaning this up will take time. And effort. And likely, “encouraging” some players to continue their career at a different institution. The culture, my friends, is something that needs to be rebuilt.
Those who dislike the current A.D. probably already know that when Pelini was fired Eichorst said: “At the end of the day, I think we have kids in our program that are capable of winning championships.” I agree. In my opinion, Nebraska is not devoid of talent. There are high level athletes at Nebraska. There are separate discussions to be had on if that high-end talent is a) healthy enough to play, b) being coached and/or utilized correctly, or c) playing to their potential, but NU has some talent.
A key issue in this season has been the depth of talent. Without singling out a specific player or position group, I can think of some examples where the front-line starter is out (due to injury, suspension, or performance) and there is a noticeable drop-off when the backup is in the game. In short, I think Nebraska’s first string is as talented (if not more so) than any team in the division. The second team is not more talented than the rest of the division. The talent on this team does not need to be rebuilt, rather the depth needs to be restocked.
Adopt Mike Riley? Fans, are you frustrated with the performance of MIke Riley? How can you get the message across that you are unhappy?
“For Sale” signs in his yard? That’s a little outdated – plus, I’m not sure a For Sale sign in the lobby of the Embassy Suites would get your point across. Register firemikeriley.com? Sorry – somebody already beat you to that.*
*and if I’m reading the registration from whois.net correctly, firemikeriley.com was created the day Riley was announced at NU. Sheesh. You’re either very opportunistic or you have zero faith.
Sure you can voice your opinion on message boards and radio shows, but that won’t get any attention. You need something fairly original and flashy – like posting an ad on Craigslist. The ad (which has since been removed) refers to Riley as a pet. It is a healthy mix of satire and passive aggression: “He would be better off with a gentler home where less is expected of him.” Hilarious, right?
Firing a coach in his first year is such an absurd notion that it’s not worth wasting the keystrokes. It is just not going to happen. Feel free to re-read the first two sentences as necessary. Therefore, the only thing this ad accomplishes is making Riley’s tenure look even more precarious than it truly is. This story got some run nationally, and I guarantee it will come up in the living rooms of potential recruits as they tell kids to avoid a situation where the “greatest fans in college football” think their coach is a joke.
Nebraska’s greatest asset is the passion of its fans. All of the things that keep Nebraska what it was – and can be again – are directly tied to the fan base. So when one fan thinks he’s a funny guy, it hurts the reputation of those of us who stand by the program, regardless of who is in charge. If you really feel that strongly about Riley, there are ways to make your point to the decision-makers (i.e. financially) without causing damage to the program’s reputation.
Do we hear boos this year? Between the tradition of winning, and the collective class of the best fans in college football, Nebraska coaches and players rarely hear boos at home. Refs get booed. Sometimes NU’s opponent gets booed. But it’s pretty rare to hear boos directed at the guys wearing the “N”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time there was booing directed at the Huskers was in 2011 against Ohio State.*
Don’t be surprised if we hear some boos against Michigan State or when Iowa comes to town. If the Huskers get down early, struggle on offense and/or defense, or look similar to how they played against Purdue, expect the boos to rain down from a frustrated fan base not used to losing.
I do not believe in, nor condone, booing college kids. Period. If you want to argue that a coach making six figures should be booed for poor performance…well, that’s your prerogative. I’ll won’t stop you from booing, but I definitely won’t join in.
Will the goalposts survive the season? To the best of my memory (and Google abilities), the goalposts in Memorial Stadium have not come down since #3 Nebraska beat #2 Colorado in 1994. Over those 21 years, the goalposts have survived due to a combination of hubris (“we’re Nebraska, we don’t do that”) and lack of opportunities (only six wins over ranked teams at home since the 2001 OU game, and only one against a Top 10 team – #9 Michigan State in 2011).
But could that change? Michigan State comes into Lincoln ranked #6. Iowa is currently #10, and should continue to climb as the teams in front of them lose. Given the poor season NU has had, the thrill of upsetting an undefeated conference team (I initially typed “rival”, but deleted it), and the passion of Husker fans, I could see it happening. Obviously, there is the sizable hurdle of 3-6 Nebraska finding a way to knock off a Top 10 team, but should that happen, well, don’t be surprised if they come down.
The good news is, even though NU might be out of practice, the goalposts should come down fairly easily. During the BYU game they showed a shot of the North Stadium posts on HuskerVision. You could see some rust forming where the upright meets the crossbar. Twenty-one years is a long time.
Let’s await Game Day with another edition of Husker Hot Takes:
Jon Schuetz is in (and then right back out) as public address announcer.
This fiasco is not a good look – at all – for the University. First off, are they really setting the precedent that all social media posts are fair game, even those made months before you are a candidate for a job? I completely get not saying anything negative while a UNL employee, but the idea that something posted months ago disqualifies somebody from a job is concerning.
Then, there is the perception that University leadership is does not tolerate those who publicly criticize University officials. I am a supporter of Chancellor Perlman, especially for the things he has done for UNL (you know, the actual school – not necessarily the athletic department). But by this standard I’m likely disqualified from ever holding a public-facing job at UNL – as are the majority of people with a Facebook or Twitter account. I don’t recall bashing Perlman here or on social media, but the odds are good that somebody could find something they find objectionable.
Finally, how do you make the hire – let alone send out a press release – when you haven’t finished vetting the candidate? If a review of the candidate’s social media accounts for questionable content is protocol, then you probably should let that process finish before making any announcements. Had UNL done that, they find the “offensive” post, tell Schuetz that they’re going another direction, and both parties are spared public embarrassment.
As for Schuetz, kudos to him for taking the high road and handling this with nothing but class. He didn’t try to say he was “hacked” – he owned what he wrote and respects UNL’s decision. From what I’ve heard, that is the type of man and professional he is. Long time company man Lane Grindle will be behind the PA mic on Saturday. I haven’t read if he has the job permanently or on an interim basis. In any case, it’s worth noting that Perlman is set to retire in June.
All the cool kids are wearing black
I’m happy to see the Blackshirts handed out – if for no other reason than avoiding the weekly Blackshirt Watch by the local media. I’m also happy to see the tradition returning to its roots instead of the much maligned way that Pelini and staff handled it. There are – to my knowledge – no written rules or criteria on when and how the Blackshirts should be handed out. Although, I’m sure that given a choice, “how they did it in the mid-90’s” would be the preferred standard.
And that’s part of why this topic is close to “shark jump” status: Had Pelini’s defenses maintained the high level of the 2009 squad, his method of giving out the shirts when they were “earned” on the field would probably become accepted as the right way. But since his last few defenses had big issues, we almost universally reject his way of doing it.
Personally, I liked the Craig Bohl method of handing them out in a ceremonial type setting instead of just hanging them on a locker. I think that method helps to underscore the legacy and exclusivity of the Blackshirt mystique (as well as creating a made-for-YouTube moment), but alas, Bohl’s defenses struggled too.
Jack Gangwish is my hero
Jack Gangwish had himself a pretty good Monday. He endeared himself to the local media by offering some great quotes in the press conference (with “head-butting mother fathers” being a personal favorite) while displaying the passion that got him elected a team captain. Then prior to practice, he received a Blackshirt and had an emotional reaction that has gone viral.
Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for in-state walk-ons who toil in obscurity, pay their dues, and earn key roles on Saturdays (see also: Makovicka, Jeff and Joel; Rigoni, Brandon; and dozens more). Gangwish has entered that elite pantheon, and I’m excited to root for him this fall.
Mormons have a sense of humor (and Photoshop skills)
Husker fans on Twitter already know Faux Pelini (@fauxpelini) Tunnel Walk of Shame (@tunnelwalkshame), and Zombie Devaney (@ZombieDevaney) are some funny folks to follow. But for the BYU game, you may want to consider following Boney Fuller (@boneyfuller). He’s had some pretty funny tweets taking some good-natured swipes at the media guide head shots of Husker players (freshman TE Matt Snyder is a personal favorite, with honorable mention to kicker Drew Brown), as well as noting the resemblance between some Husker players and ears of corn. My guess is he’ll have some more good content between now and the end of the game.
The weather is cold, but the takes are hot:
A teenage boy makes grown men lose their minds.
There has been much hand-wringing over a certain high-profile running back recruit potentially decommitting from Nebraska. One report said it was a done deal. Another said not so fast. A third said “beats me, I have no clue”.
All of this uncertainty, left those who passionately follow recruiting twisting in the wind. Sadly, the reactions were predictable: When it appeared as if this kid was not going to honor his verbal pledge to Nebraska he was trashed on message boards and Twitter. Who needs him? Then when word came out that he was not necessarily leaving, folks backtracked and started proclaiming him the heir apparent for Ameer Abdullah.
But the worst happened Friday night. Reports came out that this young man suffered a “leg injury” in his high school game. I saw more than one grown man suggest that his injury (the severity of which was not immediately known) was – and I quote – “karma” for being less than 110% certain where he wants to spend the next four years of his life.
I find this absolutely disgusting.
If you want to be disappointed that a potential difference-making player may not end up in Lincoln, that’s fine*.
*Although you probably should remind yourself that of the three running backs NU signed a few years ago, Ameer Abdullah was the least touted of the bunch.
But when you find some sort of sick satisfaction in a high school kid getting injured, that is reprehensible – and it’s not what Nebraska is about. Even worse, are the grown-a__ men who feel the need to tweet or message their frustrations to a kid because they feel like a spurned lover. Nebraska’s compliance department had to issue a reminder that it is a NCAA violation for fans to have direct contact with recruits. Besides, it’s creepy and gross.
You probably noticed that I’ve gone out of my way to not name the kid in the middle of this brouhaha. Why? If he’s as talented as advertised, I’d like for him to end up at Nebraska. But would you go (or want your son to go) to a place where the fans will turn on you at the drop of a hat? Since I believe that most kids (as well as most adults) do search for and read things written about them, I’m not going to help bring this crap to his attention. The less people outside our fan base know about this, the better.
The Committee hates Nebraska.
Nebraska dropped three spots in the latest College Football Playoff poll, despite a) not playing a game and b) multiple teams ranked ahead of NU losing last week. As one might expect, this news was met with confusion, anger, and accusations that the Committee (containing a bunch of very respected football minds) is stupid, biased, or is conspiring against Nebraska.
Certainly, there is confusion throughout the nation on what the Committee wants to see and will reward. “Quality” wins over ranked teams certainly seems to be something they value. Without getting into a team-by-team scheduling breakdown, Nebraska is lacking. Their best win (Miami) was almost two months ago. Since then, NU has beaten who they should beat and lost to the only ranked team they played.
The answer here is simple: We should ditch this stupid playoff and go back to the BCS.
Or, and this may be even crazier, Nebraska should only worry about winning games. If NU wins out, I’m confident they will be rewarded for their efforts. But if NU loses to Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Iowa, then where they were ranked on Veteran’s Day won’t matter at all.
Screw Freedom. Let’s battle for the right to wear a red shirt.
Since the announcement of the new Freedom Trophy (ugh), fans of Wisconsin and Nebraska have pushed for different stakes on the budding Wisconsin-Nebraska rivalry: Instead of some generic (and rather ugly) trophy, let the two teams find out who the “real” Big Red is. They propose that the winner gets to wear their red jerseys next year (home or away).
For those of you pushing this idea, I like where your head is at. It would be a concept unique to college football (to my knowledge) and it certainly is better than the Freedom Trophy*
*Of course, many of the rejected trophy ideas are better than the Freedom Trophy…
But my fellow Husker fans, let’s be honest with ourselves: say this winner wears red idea take effect, would you really proclaim any school other than Dear Old Nebraska U as the “real” Big Red? Given the back story of Wisconsin’s rise (inspired by Nebraska’s success, and led by a NU alumnus), as well as Nebraska’s credentials (five titles, three Heismans, top five in all time wins, etc.) wouldn’t you ALWAYS consider Nebraska as the “real” Big Red, even if they happen to lose the occasional game to the Badgers? I know I would.
In my opinion, a big part of the fun of these trophy games is seeing the winning team race to the opposing sideline to reclaim the trophy before parading it around the stadium. How would that work here? If Nebraska losses this year, but wins in 2015 would they change into red jerseys on the sideline after the game? Run over to the Wisconsin sideline and force the Badgers to remove their red jerseys? Waiting until next year for the reward is anti-climatic.
Besides, if Nebraska is going to play for something other than a true trophy, I still like the idea that the winner of the Northwestern series gets sole use of “NU” for the following year.
The Huskers hit the gym.
CornFedSports put out a very amusing video showing several Nebraska football players* taking part in a training session with the Nebraska Women’s Gymnastics team.
*Specifically, Jake Cotton, Derek Foster, Jack Gangwish, Andy Janovich, Alex Lewis, Josh Mitchell, and Johnny Stanton. All of them are good sports for being filmed.
If for no other reason, you should watch it to see Jake Cotton’s floor routine*.
*Sadly, Cotton does not incorporate his Michigan State false start move into a reverse somersault or back hand spring. Such a missed opportunity. But he does maintain the Women’s Gym tradition of “throwing the bones” during the floor routine.
Believe it or not, you’ll see the bones thrown more often at a Nebraska gymnastics meet than any Husker football game since Jason Peter graduated.
As a fan of both programs, I really enjoyed this video. The stereotype is that the football players are supremely conditioned athletes, capable of excelling in just about any athletic endeavor, while the gymnasts are the little pixies who do cartwheels and flips. The video does a great job of showing that these ladies are just as tough and strong as their classmates on the football field (as Jack Gangwish’s bloody hands will attest).
Of course, since turnabout is fair play, there is a second video showing some of the gymnasts taking part in football drills. Let’s just say that Drew Brown and Josh Mitchell do not need to worry about anybody taking their jobs.