Steve Pedersen

My Two Cents: Hiring Coaches With Nebraska Ties

One of the things I’ll never really understand is the complete and utter obsession some fans have with hiring coaches and assistant coaches with some sort of Nebraska tie – a former player, former coach, was born here, did a social studies project on Nebraska in the 5th grade, once drove through on I-80, whatever.

I can understand the concept that maintaining the sacred culture and tradition of the football program is easier (but not absolute) if the person is from here, played/coached here, or “gets” the fabled Nebraska Way.  But it just doesn’t always work out that way.  Steve Pedersen was born and raised in Nebraska, and worked at NU long before he returned to become one of the most hated people in the state.

And this is not necessarily a Nebraska problem.  When Michigan fired Rich Rodriguez, the alumni, fans, and media made it clear that the Wolverines needed to hire a “Michigan Man” who knew and understood the program, the culture, and their proud traditions.  Enter Brady Hoke…

For me, I think the desire to hire somebody with ties to your school stems from safety and comfort.  Let’s face it:  change is scary.  Firing people opens up a Pandora’s box of questions – Who are we going to get?  Will they be worse than what we had?  Will they like us?  Will we like him?  The amount of unknown is overwhelming and can be frightening, so for some fans it makes sense to seek comfort in the arms* of a familiar name or face.  As the old idiom states “better the devil you know then the devil you don’t”.

*There is the start of a break-up/rebound/booty call analogy in that last paragraph.  I’ll let you run with that if you so choose.

This is not to say that certain candidates for Nebraska’s vacant head coaching job (i.e. Frost, Scott) would not (and should not) have a potential advantage because they know the lay of the land and what makes this unique and highly passionate fan base tick.  Certainly, there are advantages to be gained through this – but there are also landmines too.  Any baggage from your previous connections will be waiting for you at your destination.

Call me crazy, but I don’t really care if the coaches we hire are former players.  I care if they can lead a team, coach their position, develop talent, and recruit new talent.  Put it this way:  who do most fans think was the better coach – Barney Cotton (Nebraska native, former Husker player, and UNL grad) or Milt Tenopir (none of the above)?  Exactly.

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 HuskerCorner.com 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).

Nebraska’s New Alternative Uniform

When UCLA (an adidas school) released a new uniform yesterday, I got a hunch that we could see something different from Nebraska for their September 14 game against the Bruins.

Today, Nebraska and adidas revealed the alternate uniforms the Huskers will wear.  The set has some minor tweaks to the iconic helmet (a large black stripe instead of the thinner red stripe, a matte finish, and a facemask that transitions from red to black) although the classic sans-serif “N” remains untouched.  The biggest change is a black jersey instead of the usual red.  (A full slide show can be seen here.)

So what do I think?

I don’t like them.

Yes, I am an unabashed old-school fuddy-duddy who thinks Nebraska’s uniforms are fine as they are, thank you very much.  But there is more to my dislike of these jerseys than me being averse to change.  My biggest objection is the black jersey, for two primary reasons:

  1. Only the defense – Nebraska’s storied “Blackshirts” – should wear black jerseys.  Period.  Considering that Nebraska, under Bo Pelini, has not handed out the Blackshirts until the middle of the season, does it really make sense that some third string wide receiver gets to wear a black jersey before Ciante Evans and the rest of the defense?  What in the name of Charlie McBride is going on here?
  2. After the defense’s disastrous performance against UCLA in 2012 (36 points allowed, 653 yards of total offense, with over 300 rushing and passing) black is the last color Nebraska should be wearing against the Bruins.

But I understand why this is happening, and why it will continue to happen.  Recruiting top talent is very important, and today’s kids like wearing cool uniforms like Oregon and dozens of other schools are wearing.*  Black will always be a cool color for young males, as it denotes toughness and strength.  Additionally, Nebraska makes nice money from their contract with adidas as well as the sales of replica jerseys and shirts.  From an operational standpoint, doing an alternative uniform is as close to a no-brainer as you can get.

*A side question:  At what point does the novelty of teams wearing alternate uniforms go away for kids?  I would guess that a quarter (if not more) of all D-1 schools have a mix-and-match “uniform system” with thousands of potential combinations.  Beyond that, many more schools (including staunch traditionalists like Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Nebraska) have dabbled in alternative jerseys or helmets.  When does the “wow” factor switch to “ho-hum”?

My secondary complaint about these uniforms is a repeat of a complaint from last year:  instead of Nebraska receiving a unique, special, and symbolically relevant design they get a cut and paste mockup from this year’s adidas template.  I continue to find it offensive that Nebraska’s athletic apparel partner (who just signed a new contract with the university this year) thinks so little of one of their flagship schools that they cannot create something unique for them; something that no other school wears.

Adidas – if you want to use a high profile Nebraska game to market your super fancy, inter-galactic space polymer uniforms, go all out.  Show the nation that you have talented designers who can create multiple looks, instead of some guy who makes subtle tweaks to a generic template.

A few other thoughts on these uniforms:

  • I don’t care for the vertical split in the numerals.  It makes me think of the uniforms a prison team would wear.  Despite the mostly clean records of Bo Pelini’s players, Nebraska is still living down the off-field crimes of a few former players.
  • What is the pattern on the shoulders?  A first glance, it reminded me of a Bear Bryant houndstooth.  What adidas should have done was used the outline of the state as their pattern, but that would have required doing something unique and outside of the approved template, so I can see why they didn’t.
  • Just to show you that I’m not entirely negative on these:  I love that I’ll be able to read the numbers from row 47.  That was a major short coming of last year’s set.
  • Nebraska’s new athletic director, Shawn Eichorst, really owes Tom Osborne.  Instead of being the guy who trots out the first alternative football uniforms (and likely earned Steve Pedersen-esque ire from the fans) he is simply following a precedent that T.O. set last year.
  • As if you needed further proof that I’m old – I watched the introductory video and my main thought was “Just hold still so I can see the damn things”.

Overall, my feelings are about the same as they were last year:  They could have been a lot better, but they definitely could have been much worse.  In the end, my feelings about them will likely be swayed by how Nebraska plays in the UCLA game.  Win and I’ll probably like them a little more.  Lose and my dislike will only grow.

Honoring Mediocrity

Recently, the Lincoln Journal-Star’s Steven M. Sipple sat down with Nebraska Athletics Director Tom Osborne and asked a bunch of questions, including one that many people have asked over the years:

Will Nebraska ever formally recognize and honor former head coach Frank Solich?

It appears likely.

And I think that is a bad decision.

%d bloggers like this: