This edition of the Big Red Roundtable is being hosted by Corn Nation. With the Husker softball and baseball seasons having started, and the men and women’s basketball teams headed to the conference tournament, it is a good time to give some attention to the Huskers’ “other sports”. This is a good exercise for DXP as I’ve given no love to sports outside of football. I wanted to put a bit more time into this post, but outside responsibilities got the best of me this weekend. Anywho, here’s my stab at the questions.
What’s your interest in the ‘other’ Nebraska sports those beyond Husker football?
At this point in my life, I have a passing interest at best in other sports. I grew up with season tickets to basketball games, and was a big fan for much of my youth. At some point after Danny Nee left, my interest waned. I still follow the team somewhat, but do not schedule my life around the games, nor do I analyze or really think about the team’s success or lack thereof.
I started following the baseball team during the Dave Van Horn era, which I guess makes me a prototypical “bandwagon” fan. As a child I made yearly trips to the CWS and always imagined what it might be like should Nebraska ever make it. With the team’s eventual trips to Omaha my interest reached all-time highs. At times I wish I could better follow college baseball and Nebraska in particular, but the coverage of this sport continues to lag behind that of football and basketball. While living out of state, I’ve found enjoying Big Red baseball somewhat difficult to manage.
I have never followed the more minor sports like wrestling, track or swimming. The same could be said of women’s sports. I enjoy the success of the volleyball team and find the level of play incredible to watch. Unfortunately, I don’t watch it very often.
In which sport besides football would you like Nebraska to succeed most and why?
I would love to see Nebraska have more success in basketball. With an athletic budget of $63,695,480 (approximately 5% of which goes toward NU hoops), I guess I’ve never really figured out what holds us back from becoming more of a basketball school. Perhaps that explains why I hold out hope. There is really no excuse for our performance on the hardwood over the last 25 years. How can we have just one conference title and five NCAA appearances over that time period? If we can’t have true basketball success, I would hope we could at least become more fun to watch. By the end of Collier’s tenure we had become just plain painful to follow. I don’t enjoy watching teams walk the ball up the court or see halfcourt possessions end with an expired shot-clock. I think Doc Sadler looks like the type of coach who can bring some intensity to the team and might just get us over the proverbial hump.
Some Husker fans have the attitude that former athletic director Bill Byrne focused too much on ‘other’ sports which hurt the success of the football team. Do you agree with that statement?
I do feel like Byrne’s pursuit of the Director’s Cup had an indirect effect on the success of the football program. The football facilities certainly slid toward mediocrity under Byrne’s watch. With the new arms race that has developed in the Big 12, I think we are seeing more and more evidence of the importance of facility upgrades to overall program success. While some would argue that this is a case of “keeping up with the Joneses,” I assume there is a direct correlation between spending and success. I don’t fault Byrne, however, for attempting to build up the other sports programs. That seems to fall directly in line with the duty of an athletic director. My guess is that Byrne simply overestimated the type of spending that would or could take place in a state like Nebraska. I imagine he will have far greater success with this type of pursuit at a place like Texas A&M.
And as a follow up to the previous question, do you think that the ‘other sports’ detract from or complement Husker football?
I feel the other sports are definitely a complement to Husker football. It may be cynical, but success in any sport means increased athletic department revenues. As previously postulated, increased revenues should then breed further success.