Randy York's N-Sider Blog

Jul 19

A Solid Opinion, a Memory, Two Role Models

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Riding the Rails: The N-Sider’s Top Ten Pics

Coaches Get a History Lesson on Train Trip

By Randy York

Union Pacific Railroad’s recent Big Red Express Whistle-Stop Tour to Columbus, Grand Island, Kearney and North Platte was more than Husker coaches meeting and talking to Big Red fans.  In fact, former Husker players reached those sites ahead of time to help warm up the crowds before they heard from Bo Pelini, Tim Miles, Connie Yori and the rest of Nebraska’s overall superb coaching staffs.  In sorting through the photos I took and the conversations I had with those players, three are definitely worth sharing – 1) a solid opinion from a legendary fullback about whether college football players should be compensated; 2) a memory from a former defensive lineman about the peaks and valleys of playing college football and how one can come right after the other; and 3) how two brothers inspired a walk-on from a small town to dream the same dream.

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Corey Schlesinger: College Players ARE Getting Paid

Cory Schlesinger, flanked above by Nebraska Associate Athletic Directors Keith Zimmer and Dennis Leblanc, is a Columbus native whose two hard-charging touchdowns flattened Miami, 24-17, in an Orange Bowl that enabled Tom Osborne to win his first national championship as a head coach in 1994.  Schlesinger minces no words when asked for his opinion on whether college football players should be paid.  “I don’t think they should be paid at all,” said Schlesinger, who played 12 seasons in the National Football League as a fullback.  “I do not agree with the idea.  In fact, I am absolutely 100 percent against it.”  Why?  “Think about how much kids without a college scholarship are paying for college and how many loans they have to take out to pay for their education,” Schlesinger told me.  “Then ask the scholarship kids who aren’t paying a penny how much debt they will have when they leave and you’ll get your answer – they ARE getting paid and they’re getting paid well.”

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Dan Pensick Aware of College Football’s Highs, Lows

Dan Pensick, above, holding two young fans who wanted their pictures taken with a former Husker football player, was inspiring while warming up his hometown of Columbus.  The father of 2013 Husker starting center Cole Pensick, Dan reminisced about playing on the first Tom Osborne-coached team that upset No. 1 Oklahoma and Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims in 1978.  “I talked about winning the biggest game of my college career one week (17-14 over the Sooners) and then losing to Missouri (35-31) the next week, making it the worst week of my life,” Pensick said.  “The biggest response I got from the fans was the way I remembered the last time Billy Sims fumbled in that game.  Everybody in Oklahoma claimed it was his fault they lost, but we hit him so darned hard, he couldn’t help but fumble.  I don’t remember who hit Sims on that last one.  I just remember that Jim Pillen recovered it.  I had two fumble recoveries myself in that game and caused two more fumbles.  It was definitely one of the most rugged games I’ve ever played in, and fortunately, we came out on top.”

Monte Kratzenstein’s Heroes: Clete and Jim Pillen

Monte Kratzenstein, above with Herbie Husker, is a tight end from tiny Brady, Neb. He walked on and lettered in 1987, ‘88 and ’89 for the Huskers.  “My two biggest heroes growing up were Clete and Jim Pillen (from Columbus).  I didn’t know them, but I grew up in a small town, and I just idolized them and what they were able to accomplish.  A lot of walk-on stuff is near and dear to my heart.  I listened to all the games on the radio, and I just think meeting and hearing these coaches is a unique deal that drew a good crowd.  You don’t see something like this very often.  It was nice.  When you put a character like Coach (Tim) Miles in the group, he seems to bring out the best in everyone.  He’s just one of those guys that’s fun to be around, and you can tell it just watching and listening to him.  It was a good kickoff right in the middle of the summer.  Loved the pep rally idea and think in some of these towns, you’re going to draw even bigger crowds on Fridays than you would on Saturdays.  It was cool.  I hope this concept continues.”

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Jul 17

McCartney’s Energy Connects with Nebraska

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Paul McCartney struck a chord with Big Red fans at PBA. World-Herald Photos

Watch Paul McCartney Lead Husker Power Cheer

McCartney Concert: World-Herald Photo Gallery

By Randy York

Now that pop music’s most enduring songwriter has performed back-to-back engagements in Lincoln Monday night and in Kansas City on Wednesday night, I have a very small news flash.  Both packed house audiences at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln and at the Sprint Center in Kansas City were totally engaged with Paul McCartney, and the reviews of both concerts left no doubt about how a 72-year-old Beatle can still deliver the most unforgettable rock ‘n’ roll show on planet earth.  The only apparent difference between the two venues was how McCartney could connect his creative energy with the hometown teams.

In Lincoln, Sir Paul wasted no time delivering a Go Big Red shout out, two songs into his 39-song, nearly three-hour concert.  Shortly thereafter, McCartney led the PBA audience in a Husker Power chant.  He started it with a British-sounding version of Husker.  The crowd – which included Nebraska Basketball Coaches Tim Miles and Connie Yori – roared back with a resounding Power.  Even though reviewers of both concerts put McCartney’s performance among the “best ever” in Lincoln and KC, there was one noticeable difference.  My friends who attended the Kansas City concert said McCartney tried two or three times to get a Kansas City Chief chant going, but to no avail.  Whenever the NFL franchise was mentioned, there was polite applause, but no enthusiastic follow-through.  Both crowds, however, simply couldn’t get enough of McCartney’s incredible energy.

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Miles, Yori, Leblanc Join Boehm at PBA

“I couldn’t believe Paul McCartney went almost three hours straight without a break and without so much as a drink of water,” said Nebraska Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm, who attended the concert and sat with Miles, Yori and Dennis Leblanc, Nebraska’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academics.  “Our little group had a great time listening to a band that’s been around forever and a singer who performs as great as ever.  We sang along with certain songs that took us back to another time.  I swear I could close my eyes and see different decades in my mind.”

Boehm laughs describing how the spirited Miles watches a legend in concert.  “As you can imagine, Tim was as engaged in the concert as anybody,” Boehm said.  “He rarely looked anywhere else but where the action was.  He was totally locked in.  Connie and Dennis loved the show, too.  They know how important it is for students to be able to walk across campus and a couple blocks later, be inside a venue like Pinnacle Bank Arena.  It’s a huge recruiting advantage not just for our basketball teams, but for Nebraska’s entire student population.  There was almost every age group inside the arena Monday night, and everyone was thoroughly entertained.”

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No wonder Sir Paul resorted to the ultimate punchline coming out of his first encore.  The solo Beatle stepped up to the microphone, surveyed the audience, and delivered a line Husker fans never get tired of hearing.  “There is no place like Nebraska,” he said.

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Jul 16

From Down-and-Out to Motivational Speaker

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Ricky Simmons shares his life lessons with campers at Lincoln North Star.

Video: Watch Ricky Simmons Share His Story

Power of Redemption: A Big Osborne Legacy

By Randy York

Ricky Simmons just left my office with a smile, a friendly pat on the back and his traditional goodbye line: “It’s time to go out and spend another day in paradise,” he said, heading for a quick exit down the hallway.  The second leading receiver on Nebraska’s fabled 1983 Scoring Explosion team was in Tom Osborne’s TeamMates office a half hour earlier with the same assurance – that he was drug-free and living every day in a precious way.

It’s been more than five years since Osborne, Simmons’ former head coach, inspired a cocaine addict to serve his time in prison and use the road to redemption to help others from going down that same wicked path.  And that’s precisely what Simmons has done – transformed his down-and-out experience into a platform of motivational speaking.

Tuesday night, Lincoln’s KLKN-TV featured Simmons sharing his story with attendees at a football development camp at Lincoln North Star High School.  Simmons’ late parents were devout Christians, his dad a junior high school principal and his mom an elementary remedial reading teacher.  He told campers straight out how he traded in his NFL football career to become a full-time drug addict.  Somehow, football got in the way of his using, and then after football, it got in the way of his life.

Prison and Osborne taught Simmons to look at life from a more positive perspective.  He speaks at high schools, churches, group-homes and youth organizations.  Tuesday, he was on a football field again because someone who believed in him helped him change.  “I owe my second life to Coach Osborne,” he said.  “That’s why I visit him every week for a few minutes … just to let him know that I’m still on the right track.”

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Jul 15

All-Star Game Has Its Own ‘Husker Hangout’

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Tony Watson Husker Bio        Watson MLB Bio

Alex Gordon Husker Bio         Gordon MLB Bio

By Randy York

A former working colleague of mine has been in Minneapolis since last Friday, helping the company that designed Target Field stage a number of events in advance of tonight’s Major League All-Star Game.  In a central Minneapolis business and entertainment district, located just a block from the stadium that will honor two former Huskers tonight, my friend stumbled onto what he calls a sign of the times – a Nebraska football banner hanging above and right next to two signs advertising Lyon’s Pub, a sports eatery on Sixth Street.  My friend just couldn’t resist.  A UMKC graduate with ties to two former Big 12 Conference schools, White enters Lyon’s Pub and finds another interesting sight that he calls “above the bar”.  It’s a Minnesotans for Nebraska banner, welcoming Husker fans from near and afar.

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Familiar Place for UNL Alumni, NU Department of Athletics

“Found you a hangout in downtown Minneapolis, buddy…good food and good fun,” Bob White emailed me.  The director of international marketing for a Kansas City-based company, White changed careers from telecommunications to sponsorships and stadiums 18 years ago.  With a grasp of design research, brand development, and social media, White knows an interesting setup when he sees one. Just as he couldn’t resist walking into the place and experiencing it, I couldn’t resist calling Lyon’s Pub, which welcomed about 60 Husker fans, plus Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst before a recent Twins-White Sox game.  Eichorst was there for a “Meet and Greet” with donors and Big Red fans supporting former Husker and current Twins’ pitcher Brian Duensing.

“We get Husker fans and transplanted Husker fans in here all the time,” Ray Rodgers told me on the phone this morning, explaining that Lyon’s Pub has been a staple restaurant for three decades of Minnesota Twins and Vikings games.  “I’ve been the general manager for 25 years,” said Ray, whose brother Chris is the owner.  “We’ve worked with the Nebraska Alumni Association for a long time, so we have more than two Husker banners up around this place.  You better believe it was a big deal around here when Nebraska joined the Big Ten Conference.  This is a central location.  A year ago, we were the Husker hangout for the Big Ten Baseball Tournament.”

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Kansas City Royals Photo

Alex Gordon Will Be Introduced But Will Not Play

The Lyon’s Pub crowd will be rooting for both all-star teams tonight because each roster has a Husker player who achieved a spot in the mid-summer classic.  A wrist injury will prevent Kansas City Royal left-fielder Alex Gordon from playing in his second straight All-Star Game for the American League.

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Photo: Peter Diana, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pirates’ First Left-Handed All-Star Reliever in History

Former Husker and now Pittsburgh Pirate relief pitcher Tony Watson will represent the National League after compiling a 5-1 record and a 1.42 ERA in 44 1/3 innings during the first half of the season.  Yesterday, Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said Watson, an Iowa native, is “the best lefty reliever in the game.”  That’s debatable, but this is certain – Watson is the first left-handed relief pitcher to make the All-Star Game in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Don’t worry.  I checked online.  The Pirates joined the National League in 1887.  So, just like Gordon, Watson deserves applause even if he doesn’t play.

Husker Nation is equally proud of both All-Stars who have worked relentlessly hard to get where they are tonight … on the world stage.

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Jul 14

On the Road to the Final Four in Memorabilia

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Vote Here: Take Elite Eight to Memoribilia’s Final Four

By Randy York

So what we have here in Nebraska is a mid-July Elite Eight on the Road to the Final Four in Big Red memorabilia … a fan vote Monday and Tuesday between a belt-buckle collection vs. a tunnel mural and a Husker Shrine with footballs vs. a program from Tom Osborne’s first game as a head coach.  On Wednesday and Thursday, the voting pits a 1923 season ticket letter vs. a program from a 1924 Husker game, plus an impressive collection of memorabilia vs. an I.M. Hipp jersey that was torn off one of Nebraska’s most fabled walk-ons in the 1979 Orange Bowl.

Only in Nebraska will you find 138,000 Twitter accounts and more than 543,000 Facebook fans having instant access to cast a vote between #HuskerBuckles vs #TunnelMurals and a #HuskerFootballShrine vs #1stProgram.  Only in Nebraska would two Modern Era memorabilia collectors go head-to-head, followed by two Osborne Era accumulators who have memorabilia from a quarter century of success that allowed Osborne to average more than 10 wins and fewer than two losses per game over 25 consecutive years.

Only in Nebraska can fans celebrate 125 Seasons of Husker Football with their favorite pieces of memorabilia in a unique contest that sends the Grand Prize winner and another to corporate sideline seats in Memorial Stadium for an 8 p.m. Homecoming Game against Illinois on Sept. 27th, plus a two-night stay a few blocks away at the Downtown Holiday Inn and a Misty’s gift card.

Each Era Will Be Represented in Final Four

Following Final Four survivors in the Modern and Osborne Eras in the first two days of voting will be head-to-head voting Wednesday and Thursday to determine the Devaney and Old School Eras that will solidify each era a spot in the Final Four of Husker memorabilia.  So congratulations to all Elite Eight qualifiers – Brett Johnson and Colby Quaif (Modern Era), Myles Frohling and James Herrold (Osborne Era), Doyle Lyon and Scott Butterfield (Old School Era) and Chad Johns and Amanda Badget (Devaney Era). 

Johnson has collected belt buckles from his father since 1983.  Quaif’s mural features his dad and his two oldest sons as fans and his step-dad who played for the Huskers in 1956.  Frohling’s shrine includes game balls from the 1979 and 1994 Orange Bowls, including autographs from both Tom Osborne and Bobby Bowden, plus an Osborne-autographed game ball from the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.  Herrold’s program signifies Osborne’s transition from Devaney’s offensive coordinator to his own perch among college football’s elite coaches.

Lyon acquired his 1923 ticket letter via eBay from a seller who had no idea of its historical significance because it represented Nebraska’s first season inside Memorial Stadium.  Butterfield’s 1924 program came from Nebraska’s Homecoming Game against Colgate.  John’s impressive collection of memorabilia includes pop bottles, glasses, 1966 faculty tickets and a model of Memorial Stadium made from LEGOs.  I.M. Hipp’s jersey has a cache all its own.  Isaiah Moses Walter Hipp became one of the nation’s hippest names when Nebraska was the only school in the country to respond to and accept the talented South Carolina-based running back’s request to walk on.  Badget submitted the jersey owned by her husband.

In addition to social media voting, fans can vote via emails submitted through gobigred@huskers.com. 

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Jul 10

NU Great Fit for Academically Strong Big Ten

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Distinguished Scholars Emily Wong and Eric Schryver focused on academics.

62 Huskers Named Distinguished Scholars

Wong Worthy of NCAA Top Ten Award

Schryver NCAA Postgraduate Scholar

By Randy York

The Big Ten Conference is proud to say that since its inception, the pursuit and attainment of academic excellence has been a priority for every member institution. The Big Ten leads all conferences with nearly 1,600 Academic All-Americans, adding 40 in the last academic year that includes seven Husker student-athletes who elevated Nebraska’s nation-leading overall total to 314 Academic All-Americans.

Despite the Huskers’ domination of that key academic category, Nebraska ranked third in the Big Ten Wednesday when the conference announced its Distinguished Scholar Award Recipients, who maintained a minimum GPA of 3.7 or higher for the previous academic year.

“The Big Ten is a great fit for Nebraska,” said Dennis Leblanc, NU’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Academics.  “Boyd Epley (former Husker student-athlete who became the first strength and conditioning coach in NCAA history) used to say ‘If you want to be the best, you have to run with the best’ and being in the Big Ten, we’re playing to our strengths – having more Academic All-Americans and more Top Ten Award winners than anybody else.”

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Faculty Athletic Rep Jo Potuto presents Wong with NU’s top individual award.

Wong a Strong Candidate to Be Top Ten Winner

Four 2013-14 Husker Academic All-Americans made the Distinguished Scholar list, including track-and-field student-athletes Levi Gipson, Anne Martin and Cody Rush.  The fourth Academic All-American among the 62 Distinguished Scholars has impeccable credentials that could enable gymnast Emily Wong to become Nebraska’s next Top Ten Award winner.  “She definitely has all the elite qualifications to earn that award,” said Leblanc, who finds it intriguing that Nebraska is now a member of a conference that administers nearly $200 million annually in direct financial aid to nearly 9,500 student-athletes for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports.

In terms of Distinguished Scholar Awards, Ohio State had 88 student-athletes honored Wednesday.  Penn State was second with 74 and Nebraska third with 62, followed by Minnesota (61), Michigan State (59), Northwestern (57), Michigan (56), Indiana (49), Wisconsin (46), Illinois (45), Iowa (44) and Purdue (43).  The conference understandably does not distinguish those Distinguished Scholar categories, but given Nebraska’s competitive nature, we find those numbers interesting, especially when you consider the depth and breadth of the vast majority of Big Ten schools.

Ohio State, for instance, has 900 student-athletes and 36 athletic programs.  Penn State has 800 student-athletes and 31 varsity sports.  Nebraska has 600 student-athletes and 24 athletic programs, 12 fewer than the Buckeyes and seven fewer than the Nittany Lions.  With 50 percent more student-athletes than Nebraska, Ohio State earned 30 percent more Distinguished Scholars than the Huskers.

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John Welk and Anne Martin earned awards at the NCAA Championships.

Welk, Martin Sweep Four NCAA Elite 89 Awards

Leblanc finds a relatively new academic measurement interesting as it commemorates its fifth season – NCAA Elite 89 Award winners, presented annually at each national championship event to the male and female student-athletes who own the greatest cumulative GPAs while competing at the highest athletic level in their respective sports.

John Welk and Anne Martin, joint qualifiers for the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships the last two seasons, have swept that award, increasing Nebraska’s total to six such honors.  That ties the Huskers with Baylor for fourth place nationally, trailing only Alabama and Stanford, each with 13, and North Carolina with eight.  Ohio State and Penn State each have five, one fewer than Big Ten-leading Nebraska.

“When the Elite 89 Award is presented at a basketball Final Four, there are only 60 candidates eligible to win it,” Leblanc pointed out.  “To earn that award in track and field, you have to be the best among numbers that reach into the hundreds.”

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Dennis Leblanc thinks the Big Ten Conference is a “great fit” for Nebraska.

Leblanc Honed His Skills Working for Pepin

Nebraska’s track-and-field program was honored with 21 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars in the past academic year to represent more than one-third of the Huskers’ overall total.  Thirty-one years ago, Leblanc worked as a director of operations for Pepin-coached teams.  “He recruited solid athletes who were also solid academically,” Leblanc said of Pepin. 

Pepin’s teams won more conference championships than any other program in Big Eight or Big 12 Conference history.  “It’s worked well,” Leblanc said, acknowledging that the Big Ten sponsors more official sports than all conferences with the exception of the Ivy League.

Striking that pivotal balance between academics and athletics is integral to the Big Ten’s identity, and Nebraska feels like it fits right in with its own mission that has been successful for decades – putting the emphasis on the student before the athlete across the board. 

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Jul 08

Four More Stops on HSN Summer Road Show

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Rhonda Revelle and Darin Erstad will be guests Thursday in Grand Island.

By Randy York

If you missed Huskers’ Sports Nightly (HSN) featuring Shawn Eichorst, Tim Miles and Mark Manning in Scottsbluff Monday night, don’t worry.  Just be happy that the program’s Summer Road Show makes four more statewide stops this week – tonight in Broken Bow, Wednesday night in Holdrege, Thursday night in Grand Island and Friday night in Nebraska City.  Every 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. CT show will be carried live on the Huskers’ Sports Network’s affiliates and include a free audio stream on Huskers.com, plus a free video stream with a link that will be tweeted on the afternoon of each show.

Greg Sharpe and Ben McLaughlin will host special guests Brenden Stai and Mike Babcock on Tuesday night’s show at the One Box Convention Center in Broken Bow.  Stai was a First-Team All-America offensive lineman on Nebraska’s 1994 national championship team before going on to play five years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one season each at Jacksonville, Detroit and Washington.  Babcock, editor of Hail Varsity Magazine, is considered Nebraska’s No. 1 football historian.

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Video: Taylor Throws for 5 TDs in #2 NU’s 42-33 Win over #3 UCLA

Analyst Steve Taylor an All-American Quarterback

McLaughlin will team with Lane Grindle for Wednesday night’s road show at the Holdrege Country Club.  The night’s special guest is Steve Taylor, a multiple Nebraska All-America quarterback who now assists on HSN’s football coverage.  Taylor was named the Most Valuable Player of Nebraska’s 30-15 victory over LSU in the 1987 Sugar Bowl, a win that solidified Nebraska’s finish in the final top five of both national polls.  Taylor was the only player to score a touchdown in Nebraska’s 7-3 victory over Oklahoma in 1988, a win that snapped the Sooners’ 31-game Big Eight win streak and helped the Huskers earn an outright Big Eight title and Orange Bowl berth for the first time in five years. 

Grindle and McLaughlin also will host Thursday night’s show at Bandits in Grand Island, where Nebraska Baseball Coach Darin Erstad and Husker Softball Coach Rhonda Revelle will be special guests.  The Huskers’ two head coaches share what they believe is the nation’s best collegiate indoor facility – the Alex Gordon Training Complex.

The week’s Summer Road Show will end Friday at The End Zone in Nebraska City with McLaughlin teaming up with Matt Coatney, the voice of Nebraska women’s basketball, and John Baylor, the voice of Husker volleyball.  Nebraska City’s KNCY-FM will become a 2015 affiliate for football.  Friday’s focus will be on nationally prominent Nebraska programs coached by John Cook and Connie Yori.

Eichorst, Nebraska’s Director of Athletics, joined Miles, the NU men’s basketball coach and Manning, the Huskers’ wrestling coach, at Scottsbluff’s historic Midwest Theater to kick off the 2014 Summer Road Show.  Here are some highlights of Monday’s show:

Audio: Shawn Eichorst on Football Game Day

Audio: Eichorst on Student-Athletes’ Summers

Audio: Nebraska’s Loyalty ‘as Good as it Gets’

Audio: Mark Manning on Scottsbluff’s Adams

Audio: Tim Miles on Alliance’s Mike Peltz

Audio: Miles, Manning on native South Dakota

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Jul 07

Memorabilia Lightning Round Voting Begins

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Vote Here to Turn Sweet 16 into an Elite Eight

Nebraska: The Nation’s Most Loyal Fan Base

What Signifies 125 Years of Husker Football?

By Randy York

Today begins the lightning round of voting to celebrate 125 Seasons of Nebraska Football MemorabiliaIt promises to be exciting if not exhilarating because of the swiftness of each ballot cast and the isolated spotlight on each second-round segment over the next four days.

The Sweet 16 should get even sweeter with the nation’s recently annointed most loyal fan base in college football seizing the opportunity to make a difference in six-hour chunks around the clock.  “Beginning Monday at 9 a.m., voting is limited to one every six hours per social account,” said Kelly Mosier, director of digital media.  “Vote totals displayed, however, will not be final because they will not reflect the votes Huskers.com will receive via email.”

Sweet 16 Reseeded, Ready for Your Vote

Mosier’s digital media team re-seeded the Sweet 16 to reflect the voting status each item has earned.  This week’s pivotal stretch drive takes me back to the game show electricity that television fans felt back in the 1960s when contestants on Password and Beat the Clock couldn’t wait to see how much faster they could think, let alone make a decision when the competition got tougher and the stakes went higher. 

This week’s second round will reduce the Sweet 16 to the Elite Eight with the top four seeds in each of the four regions represented – 1) The Old School Era (from the beginning of Nebraska football in 1891 until Bob Devaney arrived in 1962); 2) The Devaney Era, an 11-season game-changing paradigm that included back-to-back national championships in 1970 and 1971;  3) The Osborne Era beginning in 1973, covering a quarter-century of excellence that ended with 60 wins in the Huskers’ last 63 games en route to three national titles in 1994, 1995 and 1997; and 4) The Modern Era featuring teams from 1998 to the present.  Those four eras are the cornerstones in our time-tunnel transport through history.

Here’s this week’s bracket that will determine the winners in accelerated 24-hour Facebook and Twitter voting, plus emails submitted through gobigred@huskers.com: 

Monday July 7th 

Old School Era

No. 1) Coaches’ Ball vs No. 4) 1923 Ticket Letter

Modern Era

No. 1) Custom Helmet vs No. 4) Buckle Collection

Tuesday July 8th 

Devaney Era

No. 1) Complete Set vs No. 4) Champ Tickets

Osborne Era

No. 1) Football Room vs No. 4) SI Covers

Wednesday July 9th

Old School Era

No. 2) 1924 Program vs No. 3) Freshman Beanie

Modern Era

No. 2) Tunnel Mural vs No. 3) Husker “Crib”

Thursday July 10th

Devaney Era

No. 2) Hat and Stairs vs No. 3) IM Hipp Jersey

Osborne Era

No. 2) First Program vs No. 3) Mini-Trophies

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Jul 03

Is Big Red Scramble The Way of the Future?

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Before the first Big Red Scramble, golfers head to their starts at Iron Horse.

By Randy York

Wednesday’s first-ever Big Red Scramble at popular Ashland golf courses Iron Horse and Quarry Oaks – located 10 minutes from each other – drew 59 teams, 236 players and positive reviews from those who participated in the inaugural event.  Designed to consolidate Husker events supporting a single sport into one extravaganza to promote and thank all sports’ fans and donors, the Big Red Scramble may have defined itself as the way of the future.

“Wow!  What a day for a Husker fan!” said Ken Baldwin of Omaha.  “Golf was great, but the other stuff, like talking to former players from the past and having Tim Miles hit a drive for us, made it so much fun.  I thank Nebraska Athletics for giving some of us fans an opportunity to mingle with some great guys we normally just read about or see in the media.”

Baldwin, who just missed a hole-in-one on No. 2 at Iron Horse when his tee-shot stopped six inches short of winning a free Chevrolet, got a kick out of watching Miles and former Husker football players Cory Ross and Barrett Ruud hit drivers for him and team members Gene Burton, Tyson Owens and Ryan Bargen.  The four were also the beneficiaries of putts from former Huskers Eric Crouch, Jamie Williams and Kenny Wilhite, as well as swimming coach Pablo Morales, men’s gymnastics coach Chuck Chmelka and athletic department administrator Steve Waterfield.

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Hole 7 at Quarry Oaks is a pristine part of one of Nebraska’s finest courses.

Winning Teams Shoot 19 and 16 under Par

The foursome of Judd Knispel, Jerry Knispel, Devon Wegner and Aaron Stockton combined to post a score of 55, 16-under par, to win the Iron Horse competition.  At Quarry Oaks, Mike Hershberger, James Hershberger, T.J. Reynolds and Chad Geiger combined to score a 52, a sizzling 19-under par.  Interestingly, both winning teams included a father-son combination.  Jerry Knispel, a bank president in Fairbury, Neb., is the father of Judd Knispel, an insurance agent in Council Bluffs.  And Mike Hershberger is the father of James Hershberger.  Both are Certified Public Accountants in Lincoln.

Huskers contributing celebrity drives at Quarry Oaks were Lauren Cook, Jay Moore, Scott Gutschewski, Alex Henry, Steve Taylor and Darin Erstad.  Talk about a stacked deck.  Gutschewski helped Nebraska to a 14th-place finish in the NCAA Golf Championships in 1999 before going on to play on the PGA Tour.  Erstad isn’t a professional golfer, but he hits the ball so far that one of Nebraska’s premier golf courses, The Dismal near Thedford, once asked him to drive a new hole they were building to determine whether the make it a long par 3 or a short par 4.

Nebraska’s two head golf coaches, Robin Krapfl and Bill Spanger, each contributed bonus approach shots at Quarry Oaks, and in my mind, they had to be stroke-savers for all kinds of foursomes.  In the foursome I was in at Iron Horse, for instance, we could not have had much better support on the tee-box and green.  Judd Cornell, an assistant coach under Spangler for the men’s golf team, unleashed a 310-yard drive for us. 

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Omahans Don Perry, Jim Perry and Vernon Rahn saw Cory Ross hit 320 yards.

Cory Ross Drive Takes Off Like a Rocket

Cory Ross, Nebraska football’s Offensive MVP of the Year in both 2004 and 2005 despite being only 5-foot-6 and 195 pounds, drove a ball that we estimated to be about 315 yards.  It took off like a rocket and when it finally landed, our rag-tag team was in ideal position for one of our rare birdies.  Kudos also to Heisman Trophy winner Crouch, whose putt saved our group an ugly bogey.  I did not ask if Nebraska Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm made any putts at Quarry Oaks, but I’m sure he did because Williams rolled in a long putt on No. 18, and the length of that putt is bound to get longer by the day.

Bottom line, Sarah Hannon, a native of York, Neb., and coordinator for the Huskers Athletic Fund, did a great job organizing this first-of-its-kind event that served members from all 18 athletic booster clubs.

“Our goal was to make this a friend-raiser more than a fund-raiser,” Hannon said Thursday.  “We wanted to give back to all our friends and donors who so generously   support us all year long.  This is the largest golf event we’ve ever put together, and it was fun to see all the programs represented.  We had 20 coaches, former players and administrators who were also part of the event.”  It’s too early to say Wednesday’s experience guarantees the way Nebraska Athletics will do business in the future, but the first attempt at consolidating such events was, at the very least, encouraging.

Weber Grill not a Bad Consolation Prize

Baldwin, of course, was among the happiest participants.  He didn’t win the car when his putt on No. 2 stopped six inches short, but he did win a Weber grill for being closest to the hole.  “I’ve never had a hole-in-one,” said the retired Omaha Westside Community Schools administrator.  “The feat of doing something I’ve never done would have been more important to me than the new car.”  The good news is, there’s always next year, and Ken Baldwin probably will be among the first who will enter the 2015 event. 

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Jun 30

UP Brings Athletics, Academics Together

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NU Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst and Donde Plowman, Dean of CBA.

Bo, Connie, John Get History Lesson, Ideas

Photo Gallery: Big Red Express Tour

Two of Nebraska’s Most Iconic Brands

By Randy York 

Husker coaches who made Saturday’s sweep of Columbus, Grand Island, Kearney and North Platte on the Union Pacific Big Red Express Tour were amazed about the camaraderie factor imbedded in a 17-hour day among colleagues.  “Those of us who are academic administrators got plenty of quality time with each other that we don’t often get, and in a relaxed manner,” said Donde Plowman, the James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean of UNL’s College of Business Administration.

Brian Hastings, President and CEO of the University of Nebraska Foundation, and Plowman conducted some business while the train wheels were moving, plus they had a lengthy conversation about the ups and downs of trying to lead change in their respective organizations. 

Plowman’s time with UP executives Saturday created even more quality time because Union Pacific “hires many of our students and is a major partner for both CBA and Engineering,” she said.  Tim Wei, UNL’s Dean of the College of Engineering, was also aboard the Big Red Express, representing Nebraska after earning his bachelor’s degree from Cornell, his master’s from Lehigh and his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from fellow Big Ten Conference institution Michigan.

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Tim Miles Gives Donde an iPhone Lesson

Count Plowman as an academic administrator who cherished her informal time with Nebraska’s coaches and especially with Miles, who looked at her broken iPhone and asked why she had not had it fixed.  “He then threw his iPhone on the train floor to demonstrate the quality of his phone case, which he was promoting, and proceeded to tell me where I could get the glass fixed in Lincoln for $50,” Plowman said.  “He claims to use the service all the time with his kids’ broken phones.”

Plowman, a tenured professor in UNL’s Department of Management as well, is sharp enough to position the “No Place like Nebraska” comment herself:  “Where else,” she asked, “would a dean get that type of seemingly trivial but very human kind of exchange with a head coach?” Plowman catches herself with a connected thought.  “Nowhere in the country would a dean get asked to accompany the coaches like that at an event,” she said.

“One of the most unique things about Nebraska’s national brand is we recruit student-athletes who are really good students,” Plowman said.  “We lead the nation in Academic All-Americans, and the coaches talked about that at every stop on Saturday.  Shawn Eichorst talks about it constantly.  The coaches are trying to recruit athletes who are looking at universities where academic reputations are huge.  As a dean, I’m working hard to raise the stature and the visibility of our college.  Our goal is for the top-tier student-athletes to attend UNL and study business.  We want it to be an easy choice for any student, whether an athlete or not.”

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Plowman presents CBA diploma to Husker offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles.

Chmelka: Hey, That Selfie is My Sister

At each Saturday stop, alums from UNL’s College of Business “would come up to me and say: ‘I graduated from your school,” Plowman said.  “I pulled a Tim Miles and did a selfie with each one of them.  For them, it wasn’t like getting an autograph from Bo, Tim, or Connie, but each seemed to like the idea that the dean wanted their picture.”

Talk about a small world.  When Nebraska Men’s Gymnastics Coach Chuck Chmelka saw Plowman taking a series of selfies, he felt connected.  “That CBA alum you just took a picture of is my sister,” Chmelka said. 

We have the perfect ending for a dean who has teaching experience at the graduate, undergraduate, doctoral and executive education level in organization theory, strategic management, organizational decision-making and organizational behavior.

Let the record show it was after 10:30 p.m. when Plowman and her husband stepped off the bus in Nebraska’s North Stadium parking lot Saturday when she got another surprise from another head coach – a hug from Bo Pelini, who said simply: “Nice to get to know you.”

"What a day," Plowman said.  "It was simply amazing."

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