My initial reaction when the Omaha World Herald broke the story about UNO potentially dropping football and wrestling and moving to Division I was all negative. After taking some time to process the information, maybe it isn’t as bad of a move. Let’s be honest, most of the people saying this is a poor decision are people that love football and probably don’t follow UNO football in the first place.
It’s interesting that on the night the Mavericks win a third consecutive wrestling national championship their program is in jeopardy. Mike Denney has spent 32 years as the head coach of the program and has them at the top. Most people think of a raise when they reach the top, Denney loses a job. The move will negatively impact some coaches, players, etc., but what will it do for the institution as a whole?
UNO Athletic Director, Trev Alberts, made it clear when he was hired at the school that it was his goal to move the school to the higher division. Most people grumbled at the time because that means a football school that would compete with the Huskers for reports….a big no-no in the state of Nebraska by the way. And here we are, just short of two years later and his goal could be a reality very soon. Imagine how difficult it was for a football guy like Alberts to have to cut the program. Alberts was a top player for the Huskers and then went on to the NFL for a short time. It had to be a decision that was extremely tough, but well thought out. Keeping football means more kids, yes….but it also means more money for travel, stadium upgrade and more. Football is available at the next level with The Valley in the backyard for UNO, but it still means travel expenses.
The Board of Regents may have never allowed the move to happen if the school kept football. As mentioned above, you can’t rival the Huskers in state. So Nebraska has football, Creighton has been the “basketball school” and now UNO will be the “hockey school”. It is a little odd to think of a school in Nebraska as a hockey school, but that is what drives UNO athletics.
If the move works out Trev Alberts may have put his name on the short list to become the next athletic direction at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln when Tom Osborne decides it is time for him to step aside. This move will be looked at as one that was made to better the athletic department. What we have to remember is there are other considerations that had to be made with this as well. Were all of the Title IX requirements met? No.
While my first reaction was negative, I applaud Mr. Alberts for this move. It is bold. It is risky. But it may work. Dropping football in a football driven state seems crazy. Nebraska is a football state, but it is a Nebraska football state. The Board of Regents has to approve the move before it will be official, however, here is Trev’s sales pitch….This will help UNK, who is making the move to the MIAA. The school will be able to get some recruits that went to UNO. The move will also bring different athletes to campus. And now there is an opportunity for two schools in the University of Nebraska system to make it in to the NCAA tournament. When the day comes and UNL and UNO are both in the tournament it will call for a celebration. That day may not be in the near future, but it could happen.
So while many are complaining about the move, give it a chance. Are you complaining because you are a fan of UNO and you think this is a bad move? Or are you complaining because it is change and our society does not like change?
I would guess the latter.