Later on this week’s column will get around to the sports topic in what sports writers like to call “Husker Nation,” but first a look at some significant developments in issues more important in the field of collegiate endeavor—some of the most important in the academic life on a university campus in Nebraska.
The academic-side news is very strongly positive at Creighton University but puzzling if not disturbing at the state’s largest academic institution, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
First, the good news—mixed with a bit of sad news—at Creighton University:
To replace retiring President Timothy Lannon, who is stepping down, as a result of a troubling heart condition, Creighton has recruited another outstanding president, the Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, associate provost at Marquette University.
New CU President Brings Excellent Credentials
Father Hendrickson takes over at Creighton with excellent credentials and with the optimistic best wishes not only of the Omaha community but also of the much larger area from which Creighton recruits so many of its students and into which so many graduates move after graduation.
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, Chancellor Harvey Perlman has many achievements to his credit but in his 13th year in the chancellor’s job, is struggling to show satisfactory progress towards his goal of a significant increase in the number of students.
At UNL, Why A Goal Of 40,000 Students?
UNL continues to give an excellent education to students which it attracts, but the goal of significantly increasing enrollment has never been satisfactorily explained to the public, in my opinion.
Within the four campus system, University of Nebraska progress is very evident at the Medical Center, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Kearney State University.
(The University of Nebraska at Omaha is one of four universities to receive the federal government’s top honor for community service and higher education. The three other universities so honored are Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa; California State University, Dominquez Hills, in Carson; and Wheelock College in Boston.)
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Governor Heineman’s Final Months In Office
Include Unimpressive ‘Lame Duck’ Results
How unfortunate for lame-duck Governor Dave Heineman that his final months in office (the two years that made him the only governor in Nebraska history to serve more than eight years) have included so many negative or at least questionable results.
The first example that comes to mind is the failure of Heineman’s effort to pick his successor: Lieutenant Governor Rick Sheehy, who resigned in 2013 after disclosure that he had used his taxpayer-supplied cell phone for years to make 2,000 late-night telephone calls to four different women.
Then there was the very visible failure of Heineman (who was joined, oddly, by Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert) publicly-announced support for banker Sid Dinsdale in the contest for the Republican nomination for United States Senator.
Voters Reject Heineman, Stothert Recommendation
Dinsdale was beaten by Ben Sasse, president of Midland University who went on to defeat Democrat David Domina in the contest for filling in the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Mike Johanns.
Heineman also fell far short of his goal to become president of the University of Nebraska system, replacing J. B. Milliken, who resigned to become president of the City College of New York City.
Heineman’s decision immediately met with strong public opposition which quickly assured that he had no chance to succeed Milliken in the job of collegiate administration for which he had no training or experience at all.
It took Heineman until his final year in office to recognize and attempt to do something about the early-prisoner-release scandal in the Department of Correctional Services, one of the major agencies under his jurisdiction.
Eleventh-Hour Niobrara Council Appointment A Divisive Choice
Now comes an 11th-hour Heineman appointment which is certain to be disapproved by the great majority of Nebraskans who believe in preserving the Niobrara River as a natural treasure.
Heineman appointed Lee M. Simmons, rancher and outspoken critic of the Niobrara Council’s policy of restricting diversion of Niobrara water to irrigate fields which can be used for cattle grazing.
As I see it, Heineman’s lame-duck decision is impossible to justify to the very many Nebraskans who want Niobrara River water flowing in-stream, not diverted to water cattle-grazing pastures.
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Ashford Goes To Bottom Of Freshman Class;
No Report Yet On Plan To Reform Congress
Representative-elect Brad Ashford—a politician with a remarkable record of being a Republican, then an Independent, then a Democrat within a span of about two years—is making an unusual entry into the House of Representatives.
(Incidentally but perhaps importantly, at age 65, Ashford is the second-oldest Nebraskan to be elected to Congress in at least the past 75 years.)
Ashford made a newsworthy entrance into the Congress by missing the meeting at which new House members drew lots for priority in selected office space.
When he woke up to what had happened, his name had dropped to the bottom of the priority list. The result: His office will have one of the least desirable locations awarded to new House members.
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How Soon Can We Expect Husker Progress
Toward Conference And National Championships?
Regular readers know that I like to end my column on an upbeat note. As I consider the Nebraska Cornhusker football situation, the best I can do is express the hope that the controversial firing of head coach Bo Pelini after his seventh consecutive nine-victory season will be followed by success of a new coach with a lifetime record, compiled both as a professional head coach and a collegiate head coach, of 147 victories and 146 losses.
Oregon State, where he had been coaching before recruited by the Cornhuskers, his lifetime winning percentage is 54%, which includes three losing seasons in the last five years.
How effective will the new soft-spoken coach, Mike Riley, aged 61, be in leading the Huskers toward the announced goals of conference championships and a national championship?
What Coach Riley and his staff will have going for them at Nebraska but he did not have at Oregon State:
–The support of “Husker Nation,” the fan base which Riley has praised as the largest in the United States.
–In addition, an inherited group of talented underclassmen whom Pelini had recruited and who to date have shown no signs of moving to other colleges (where they would have to spend a year including football practice sessions but no opportunity to take to the field in collegiate games until the following year.)
On the downside, the coach and his staff changes come at a time when the recruiting season is at its peak. To date, there is no indication as to the effect this may have on recruiting of players who were first contacted and wooed by Pelini and his staff.
Change To Winning Environment Might Help Riley
The very interesting “Husker Wrap-Up” TV show this week offered the usual so-called experts and some guest commentators who seemed to think it was important and helpful to the Husker program to know that Coach Riley will be bringing a significant number of his staff members with him.
But Husker fans—including those who, like me, find it unfair to fire Pelini, especially before the Holiday Bowl contest against Southern California, an appearance which Pelini and the Huskers had earned—should, of course, wish Coach Riley success and quick progress towards the conference championships and a national championship which some fans seem to think is a hereditary right of their favorite football team.
In any case, stay tuned. Start counting the years until the coaching change produces a Big 10 championship and a national championship.
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