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Notre Dame And Obama
Offer A Splendid Lesson - 05-21-09
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‘Adults In Wonderland’
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Me? A Grumpy Old Man?
One Reader Thinks So - 12-11-08
Top Athletes Should
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Omaha Stars Again
On National TV Stage - 7-02-08
Obama ‘Stumbling’ To Victory? - 5-08-08
"‘Charisma’ Not Always a Good Thing" - 2-27-08
"Nosy Congress Makes
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"Right Decision Could
Help Both Fair, UNL" - 10-12-07
"Stop Trying To Make God A Republican" - 10-6-07
This week we are again making my column available Friday instead of each Saturday as we had originally planned.
A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a Friday reminder that a new column is available.
Is This The Way to Run UNL’s
October 19, 2007
In the continuing brawl over administration of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln athletic program, Chancellor Harvey Perlman clearly has won two rounds and popular former Husker football coach Tom Osborne has won another. But all hands concerned should remember that there will be more rounds, some of them as least as contentious - - and potentially considerably more contentious - - than what has transpired to date.
For starters, Chancellor Perlman took some of the heat off himself and other leaders in the NU system by firing Athletic Director Steve Pederson (whom he had given a five-year contract extension in July). The firing relieved at least some of the “Fire somebody!” and “Fire everybody!” pressure from some fans and wealthy donors. (However, some other fans and wealthy donors publicly and emphatically criticized Perlman’s decision.)
Perlman then further eased some of the pressure by recruiting the popular Osborne as a nominally “interim” replacement for Pederson.
For Osborne, if was at least a preliminary triumph - - appointment to an indeterminate term in a position in which, it was widely believed, he had been interested after he retired from coaching in 1998.
Osborne, presumably with Perlman’s approval, quickly made clear that he will not be a caretaker with responsibility for quickly helping find a “non-interim” athletic director - - one with the business management experience and fund-raising record which have replaced experience as a former football coach as the generally-accepted prerequisite for an athletic director’s job.
Instead of starting to seek such an athletic director to replace Pederson (and Osborne), Osborne indicated clearly that he intends to stay for an indeterminate period (“years” was mentioned as a possibility during his press conference with Perlman) and become involved in the football program, including the decision whether to fire Coach Bill Callahan at the end of this season at a buy-out cost of several million dollars. (There is always the possibility that Callahan would prefer to be bought out rather than serve as a sort of de facto co-head football coach with Osborne.)
If Callahan departs, would Osborne, with Perlman’s approval, recruit a new football coach who would, again with Perlman’s approval, be presented to the new athletic director who might prefer to choose his own head coach?
There was a great deal of comment indicating that the appointment of Osborne will have a calming effect on the volatile Husker football situation. But there is also the possibility that Osborne’s active involvement in the football program, including the possibility that he might fire Callahan, could create a troubling uncertainty in the minds of players, the present coaching staff and possible recruits.
Osborne is a deservedly popular Nebraskan. Whether, at age 70, he is the man to come back and be given authority over the Nebraska football program and the myriad of other responsibilities of the UNL athletic department remains to be seen. Stay tuned.
Remember Pederson’s Achievements
I like Steve Pederson, and I truly regret that the Husker athletic situation is playing out in a way that, when some drastic action was called for by some fans and wealthy donors, Chancellor Harvey Perlman chose Pederson to be the fall guy.
Pederson’s departure should not obscure his achievements, including expansion of Memorial Stadium, creating the Tom and Nancy Osborne Athletic Complex, recruiting a popular and promising basketball coach and support of the volleyball team in a way that drew praise from Coach John Cook. (Cook mentioned specifically Pederson’s leadership in bringing NCAA tournament events to Omaha’s Qwest Center.)
Crybaby Fans, Media ‘Experts’
I don’t know whether Pederson’s departure will satisfy the fans and sports broadcasters and writers who have been demanding that heads - - or at least Pederson’s head - - must roll. But I do think that a good many fans and some sports commentators, both print and broadcast, have performed very badly in these trying times for the Husker football program.
As a longtime Nebraska Cornhusker football fan (I saw my first game in 1932), I have more sympathy for the players and, yes, the coaches than I do for crybaby fans - - those who feel personally offended when a bruised ego prevents them from proclaiming “Aren’t we great?” (heavy emphasis on the “we”) as they do when the Huskers are playing well.
And I have a hard time generating even a modicum of respect for those broadcast and print commentators who, from their seats high above the playing field, indicate that they feel they can (1) call better offensive and defensive signals than the coaches (2) out-coach the coaches also in deciding which players should be on the field and (3) so accurately determine the mental attitude of the players on the field that they can tell whether the players are trying their best or have simply given up.
A World-Herald headline offered this judgment last Sunday: “Cowboys take fight out of Huskers early.” One of the paper’s several football reporter/commentators declared: “This team gave up in the second quarter. Nothing it showed in the second half can change that.”
You had to read the quarter-by-quarter statistics to learn that in the second half, the team that “gave up by the second quarter” had out-gained and outscored (14-7) Oklahoma State in the second half. A sports staff member whose job is to offer opinions, since he is identified as a columnist, suggested that he didn’t have to call for the firing of Steve Pederson and head football coach Bill Callahan because “on the most surreal day in Nebraska football history Callahan and Co. made that case by themselves Saturday.”
So, you see, suicide, not execution as demanded by news media critics.
Another opinion from the sports columnist: “Unless you’ve walked in his shoes, you always have to be careful assuming what is inside a player’s head or heart. But from my birds-eye view, it looked as if NU lost its heart, stopped playing - - gave up - - on OSU’s 90-yard, six-play touchdown drive that made it 24-0 early in the second quarter.”
The columnist didn’t say when was the last time he walked in one of a Husker player’s shoes.
Among reporter/commentator criticisms was this total puzzler, describing Nebraska as going into “desperation mode” when, trailing 17-0, Coach Bill Callahan chose to try for two yards for a first down instead of trying a 27-yard field goal. Somebody not as football wise as reporter/commentators might say that it was an appropriate, gutsy call on Callahan’s part to try to move on for a touchdown, bringing the score to 17-7, instead of settling for 17-3 on a chip-shot field goal. Among other reporter/commentator judgments: “This passing game desperately needs a showcase tight end. It’s a glaring mistake that Bill Callahan hasn’t developed one.” And this: “It’s becoming clearer every week that Bill Callahan’s plays don’t highlight his best talent.” And this: “…the worst Nebraska football crime in half a century.”
* * *
The tone of the newspaper judgments (most of them stated so strongly that one hesitates to call them opinions) was relatively mild compared to some of what I heard driving home from the game and listening to a call-in show hosted by two self-anointed experts on Husker football.
One of the hosts of the show asked whether UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman should keep his job. He suggested calls to members of the Boards of Regents saying, “I want these guys gone and I want them gone now.” The commentator said further that “some crazed lunatic is ruining” the Husker football program. He added that he was not necessarily calling Pederson a lunatic but the situation looked something like that.
After insulting a caller who had pointed out the Huskers’ performance in the second half, this talk show host declared: “I’m not emotionally involved with the football program.” He also had said, displaying that remarkable sports commentator ability to read players’ minds and intentions, that the Huskers had “flat-out quit.”
Need I add that a string of callers, some of whom apparently had been at the game, some of whom may have been watching it in a sports bar, were equally emotionally, ferociously critical in their comments?
* * *
Ak-Sar-Ben Chooses Well
The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben staged one of their more meaningful coronation balls this year—perhaps the most meaningful in the organization’s 111-year history of recognizing particularly noteworthy individuals and families, always with one choice from Omaha until this year.
This year those responsible for the choice of the King and Queen of the mythical Kingdom of Quivira for the first time chose to recognize two non-Omahans, both Lincoln residents. For king, Tom Osborne, whose service to Nebraska goes far beyond his legendary years as the coach of three national champion Cornhusker football teams, and Halley Ostergard, whose choice recognized the contributions of two Lincoln families: her parents, Tonn and Holly Ostergard, and Holly Ostergard’s parents, Duane and Phyllis Acklie.
The new queen’s father, I thought, addressed very well - - and graciously - - the broader message which Ak-Sar-Ben was sending. Tonn Ostergard said:
“We don’t necessarily feel this is a recognition of just our family, but rather a recognition by the Omaha leadership to the many families across the state that contribute in so many ways.”
I congratulated the coronation ball chairman, Chris Murphy. He and I agreed that, after all, Ak-Sar-Ben is Nebraska spelled in reverse (I avoid saying it is spelled “backward”) and that choosing non-Omahans for both king and queen demonstrated Ak-Sar-Ben’s interest in all of Nebraska.
Chris and I also agreed that choosing Halley Ostergard as queen offered a two-for-one benefit: recognizing both the Ostergard and the Acklie families.
Ak-Sar-Ben Chairman Richard Bell deserves credit for persuading Tom Osborne to accept the recognition of public service that goes with the annual crowning of an Ak-Sar-Ben king. At the traditional king’s breakfast the morning after the coronation, Osborne recognized a number of those involved in this year’s ball and coronation, including Dick Bell, whom he described as the person “who talked me into this.”
Talking with Tom after the breakfast (before he had taken the job of interim athletic director at University of Nebraska-Lincoln), I told him I was pleased to hear that he plans to use the platform provided by Ak-Sar-Ben for expressing his concern about some basic trends in American society and what can be done to reverse those trends. In his breakfast remarks, Osborne had noted the story on the front page of Sunday’s World-Herald which reviewed an alarming total of 27 homicides in Omaha this year. An alarming rate of school dropouts is one of the basic causes of such violence, Osborne indicated.
The new Ak-Sar-Ben monarch, who has a TeamMates Mentoring Program designed to provide counseling for youths, expressed hope that Omaha’s developing Bright Futures program will help keep at-risk children in school with its promise of a fully-paid college education for youths who graduate from high school rather than dropping out.
“If it can’t be done here, it can’t be done anywhere else,” Osborne said of the Bright Futures program.
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