Tom Osborne

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.

Rejected Nebraska Sports Teams

Yesterday, the University of Nebraska announced that they will be adding a new intercollegiate sport:  women’s beach volleyball*

*Stoic, conservative Tom Osborne has only been retired for a week, and already his replacement (former Miami A.D. Shawn Eichorst) is breaking out girls in bikinis?  Seriously, Shawn – wait until T.O.’s chair is cold.

For an outsider who may not be familiar with Nebraska’s strong volleyball tradition, adding beach volleyball probably seems a little strange; especially considering how the state is over 1,500 miles from any beach more impressive than Linoma Beach.  Heck, I’m born and raised in Nebraska and I think beach volleyball is a rather odd sporting choice for a midwestern school where sand is most commonly found on icy streets.  Cynics will point to a big reason why NU is adding this sport:

Weymouth Beach Volleyball Classic 2007

So many caption ideas.  So few that I should actually type.

But after talking to one of my sources within the Athletic Department, the beach volleyball decision makes more sense.  He was able to share some of the other sports that were considered, but ultimately rejected:

  • Alpine Skiing
  • Surfing
  • Competitive Tanning
  • Foxy Boxing
  • Women’s Ski Jump
  • Debate – in bikinis
  • Polo
  • Marco Polo
  • Pole Dancing
  • Sailing
  • Tackle Football (hey oh!)
  • Men’s Basketball
  • Women’s Jello Wrestling
  • Deep Sea Fishing
  • Drinking Games
  • Snowboarding
  • Waterboarding
  • Ultimate Dirty Old Man (that’s where you try not to feel creepy ogling girls young enough to be your daughter)
  • Academic Decathlon – in bikinis
  • Team Typing (in Stereo)

All joking aside, I think Nebraska should be very successful in this new sport – especially with the amount of volleyball talent already on campus.  I have no idea where they will play (or even who they’ll play against), but I’m guessing the matches will be a well-attended events, except when adidas brings out the throwback uniforms:

Adidas throwback uniforms for the beach volleyball team

Rejected Tom Osborne Tributes

The legendary Tom Osborne is retiring as Nebraska’s Athletic Director at the end of the year.  Saturday marks his final home football game as a University of Nebraska employee.

It is impossible to overstate the impact that Osborne has had as a coach, mentor, teacher, U.S. Congressman, Athletic Director, and statesman.  Lots of fans have been wondering how the Huskers will properly honor a man who has meant so, so, so much to the football program, athletic department, University, and state over the past 50 years.

The popular suggestion is to have Osborne lead the Huskers onto the field as part of the famed Tunnel Walk, but I just don’t see that happening.  Osborne has never been a person who wants or needs the spotlight – as Bob Costas described him after Osborne’s first National Championship “a man who has studiously avoided self-aggrandizement in an age all too devoted to style over substance”.

So how can the Husker program and fans properly honor T.O.?  Here are some suggestions:

  • During the game on Saturday, have the offense run nothing but option to the short side of the field, fullback traps, and two play-action passes to a wide open tight end.  Just like the old days, Nebraska scores 80 on Minnesota.
  • Bo Pelini has his jaw wired shut and takes five tranquilizers to mimic Osborne’s stoic sideline presence.
  • During halftime, the Cornhusker Marching Band forms the shape of the iconic T.O. profile
  • Barry Switzer shows up and tells Osborne he gets “one free swing”.
  • Former Big XII Commissioner Dan Beebe shows up offering “two free swings”
  • Former Athletic Director Steve Pederson returns and Osborne gets to kick him in the groin.
  • Post game comedy show with Tom and Larry the Cable Guy.  Tom wears this.
  • After every touchdown, the Huskers go for two.
  • Adidas provides “throwback” sideline attire for the coaching staff.
  • Have Herbie Husker tackle the Minnesota Gopher mascot.  Herbie then pulls the head off of his costume to reveal…it’s Tom Osborne  (thunderous applause).
  • Lawrence Phillips, out on a temporary parole, publicly apologizes for being a black eye on Osborne’s sterling legacy.
  • At halftime, a rocking chair is brought out to midfield.  Tom is invited to sit in the chair, and then receives a lap dance from the Scarlets dance team.
  • Tom invites the 86,000 fans over to his house for a “righteous kegger”.  His wife Nancy is seriously pissed, but still makes enough ‘lil smokies for everyone.
  • Jason Peter and Grant Wistrom sneak up behind him and dump a Gatorade bucket of ice water on him.
  • Tom is presented with one of each of the 19 fish he named in 30 seconds.  Fittingly, the fish are wrapped in newspaper columns that questioned him or his team.
  • As a thank you for not hiring Osborne after the 1978 season, Nebraska allows Colorado to take three scholarship players to improve their woefully bad football team.
  • Tom is serenaded by Joyce of the Sidetrack Band.  Tom leads the crowd in a rousing chorus of “Screw the Sooners” before doing a solo version of the Sidetrack Band’s NSFW version of “For The Longest Time”.

Or, more likely:  HuskerVision runs a video montage of classic moments and old clips, including several tributes from college football legends (Keith Jackson, Bobby Bowden, Switzer, etc.).  After which, the fans give him a long and loud standing ovation while Tom squirms uncomfortably in the spotlight.  After the applause dies down, Tom makes a self-deprecating comment with his trademark dry wit.

The Future of Nebrasketball

I started this post a week or two ago as a “Fire Doc Sadler” piece.  At the time, there was still some doubt* on if Nebraska would fire their basketball coach**.

*Yes, as of this post, Doc Sadler still has a job, but the near universal opinion from the media is that he will soon be out of a job.  I suspect that to be the case too (and I hope so, because I’d really rather not have to use this space to rip Tom Osborne a new one).  But Doc needs to go.  The results have not come.  It is time.

**Fact – NU has not fired a men’s basketball coach since 2000.  Twelve years.  Let’s put that another way:  Nebraska has fired two football coaches since they have fired a basketball coach.  Yikes.

So instead of making a case for why Sadler should be fired this year instead of giving him another year, let’s discuss what Nebraska Basketball is, and what it could be.

First, what it is.  Right now, Husker hoops is teetering between neglected afterthought and statewide joke.  Attendance is horrible, fan apathy is rampant, and there is zero positive buzz about the program.  Yes, there are some things you can count on:  the month of December will be spent playing teams you have never heard of (Maryland Eastern Shore???), at some point, there will be speculation about Nebraska making the NCAA tournament (only to have it come crashing down like the proverbial lead zeppelin).  On a positive note, it is all but guaranteed that once a year Nebraska will upset some ranked team they have zero business beating (see also: Kansas, Texas, Indiana).  Of course, to find that amazingly fun and exciting game, you have to suffer through a half-dozen blowout losses where the talent gap between NU and the ranked teams is painfully evident.

And I firmly believe it does not have to be that way.

Nebraska basketball could be the second most popular team in the sport in the state*, and a major source of excitement and conversation.

*The 10 most popular sports in Nebraska:

  1. Nebraska Football – Duh.
  2. Nebraska Football Recruiting – an entirely separate beast from what happens on Saturdays
  3. Nebraska Volleyball – the most successful team over the last decade
  4. Creighton Basketball – A solid program, but their popularity has as much to do with NU’s poor performance as it does with their success (and the beer doesn’t hurt).
  5. UNO Hockey – A good mix of hockey fans and people who enjoy drinking beer while watching sports.
  6. Nebraska Baseball – In the CWS years, they were a strong #3 on this list.
  7. Omaha Lancers/Lincoln Stars/Tri-City Storm – The games are fun, but let’s be honest:  this is glorified high school hockey.
  8. Lincoln Saltdogs/AAA team formerly known as the Omaha Royals – For both of these teams, it really is more about a night at the old ballpark than the game, but they still do well.  Just don’t ask me to dignify the stupid new name of the O Royals by typing it here.
  9. Nebraska Women’s Basketball – a winning program.  In a best of seven series with the NU men, it wouldn’t surprise me if the women won a game or two.
  10. Nebraska Men’s Basketball – The number of empty seats is rapidly gaining on the number of full seats.

Let’s be clear – I’m not saying that Nebraska can become a program to rival Kentucky, Duke, Kansas, or North Carolina.  But there is absolutely nothing standing in the way of Nebraska being a team that can regularly finish in the top half of the conference, make the dance 6 or 7 times a decade, and make it to the Sweet Sixteen (or farther) every so often.  I think that is a fairly reasonable expectation.

I can hear some of you laughing right now.  You’re thinking “Nebraska?  In the Sweet Sixteen?  The same Nebraska that could barely score 34 points (in 40 minutes) at Michigan State?”

I get it.  I hear you.

And yes, it can be done.

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.

King For A Day

One of the perks* of my contributor position with HuskerMax.com is free membership to the site and access to the message boards.

*Let’s be honest – that membership, and the beverages I consumed at the HuskerMax tailgates pretty much doubles what I earned from my first year of writing for them.

None the less, the message boards are fun, entertaining, and a good distraction while eating lunch.  A member had started a thread asking a simple question:

“YOU are Athletic Director for a Day.  You are in (Tom Osborne’s) chair for a day and can make whatever decisions he is empowered to make.

“What’s your move?”

Sure, threads like these are a definite sign that we are in the long gap between the bowl game and the start of spring practice.  But these are also the sorts of questions that I love – an opportunity to be creative, have fun, and throw it out there.  So with that said, here is how I’d spend the day:

  • 8:00  A big day should start with a big breakfast at the training table.  I’m thinking waffles, bacon, and maybe some biscuits and gravy.
  • 8:30  Talk to the ticketing folks and set up 4 perminent seats (hey – this is only a one day gig)
  • 8:45  While I’m at the ticket office, it’s time for big changes.  The students are now in the lower sections of West – right behind the other team’s bench.  The big money (and blue hairs) can move over to East.  Finally, one skybox is set aside and donated to charity for each game.  Team Jack, Make A Wish, cancer patients, folks on their death bed, you name.  Everybody deserves to see a game at Memorial Stadium.
  • 9:30  A friendly chat with Doc.  I’ll let him finish out the season, but then it is time to move in a different direction.
  • 10:00  Need some positive energy.  Raises for John Cook, Ron Brown, Connie Yori, and other coaches who have brought home a conference championship in the last 5 years.
  • 11:00  Recess.  Fire up the Tunnel Walk, cause I’m running out on to the field.  Hopefully Tommie will be around and can throw me some passes and a few option pitches.  See if any volleyball players feel like a game on the sand court.
  • Noon  Lunch with Osborne and Larry the Cable Guy.  Because I can.
  • 1:30  Check email and Facebook.
  • 2:00  Ideally, I’d call off the Frank Solich tribute, but since I know T.O. would just reinstate it, I’ll schedule a Danny Nee appreciation night.  Same thing.
  • 2:30  Head over to Huskers Authentic and do my Christmas, birthday, and Groundhog’s Day shopping with the AD’s Discount.
  • 3:30  Call Dan Beebe with a job offer.  Laugh and hang up.
  • 3:35  Head back over to ticket office.  Probably should pick out seats for volleyball, men’s basketball, and baseball.
  • 4:00  End of day debrief with Osborne.
  • 4:45  Graciously decline his offer to take over after he retires.
  • 5:01  Head out to my new seats, and watch a replay of the 1996 Fiesta Bowl on the big screen while enjoying an adult beverage and Fairbury hot dog.
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