Randy York's N-Sider Blog

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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Jun 18

On Deck August 9th: Huskers’ Night at The K

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                                                                      Kansas City Royals Photos

Buy Your Tickets Here for Huskers’ Night at The K Aug. 9

Gordon: Homegrown Royal     Erstad: Facility Nation’s Best

Gordons Invest in Training     Looking Back at 2013 Night

Nebraska Sets Kauffman Stadium’s College Night Record

By Randy York

Twenty-nine years ago, President Reagan was lowering America’s taxes, Back to the Future was the nation’s No. 1 movie, The Cosby Show was the No. 1 TV show, and my wife and I were snaring two left-field seats inside Kauffman Stadium to watch the Kansas City Royals beat the St. Louis Cardinals to become MLB’s 1985 World Series Champions. 

Don’t look now, but the Royals, whose 28-year playoff drought is the longest in professional sports, are leading the American League’s Central Division.  Alex Gordon, No. 4 on your scorecard and No. 1 in the hearts of Husker Nation, demonstrated his All-Star/Gold Glove-like magic to help Kansas City win its 10th straight game and its third consecutive victory at Detroit, 2-1.  The Royals have not won this many games in a row since 1994.

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Gordon Drives in a Run and Also Saves a Run

Luck played a part in this celebration.  Gordon’s first-inning single was the result of a wacky bounce that plated the Royals’ first run, but his diving fourth-inning catch in left field was all skill.  Fortunately, I walked into a co-worker’s office just seconds before the American League’s best left-fielder caught the ball in left-center to end a scoring threat and the inning.  Three of us shook our fists when we saw the former Husker All-American go into a diving slide and a stomach sprawl to make the catch.  It had to hurt, but Gordon jumped right back up with his trademark visible grin.

Why is this important?  Because three days after Father’s Day, any dad who might have been short-changed can still get a real thrill – a ticket to the Royals’ Saturday, August 9th, 6:10 p.m. game against the San Francisco Giants at Kauffman Stadium.  It will be Huskers Night at The K, and even though there will be no formal program involving the Nebraska Alumni Association like last year, now would be a good time to buy tickets for the family.

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Nearly 1,300 Huskers’ Night Tickets Already Sold

Nebraska gobbled up all 5,100 tickets for last year’s inaugural event and then almost doubled that total to set a College Night record at the K.  This summer, Husker fans already have purchased nearly 1,300 tickets through the promotion link.  If the Royals stay hot, expect that number to climb quickly. 

Like last year, a table located at Gate B will distribute the red-and-white KC Royals Husker caps.  Fans are encouraged to arrive early. Gates will open at 4:30 p.m. and only individuals that present a Huskers’ Night ticket purchased through this link will be eligible to receive a cap.  Huskers’ Night pricing for the Aug. 9th game ranges from $15 seats in the outfield to $46 seats in the Dugout Plaza.  The Royals dynamically price all games throughout the regular season and pre-discounted prices will vary based on numerous market factors. For more information on Dynamic Pricing, please check out this FAQ page.  For more information or to purchase 20 or more tickets, contact Britt Gardner at 816-504-4174 or britt.gardner@royals.com.

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Alex Gordon Bobblehead Giveaway August 10th

Gardner, account executive for group sales and special events for the Royals, said more than 5,200 Husker fans purchased tickets last year through www.royals.com/huskers.  That total accounted for 43 percent of Kansas City’s “University Day” ticket sales among the four schools which had special promotions – Nebraska, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri. 

“We’re excited for another successful Huskers’ Night this year,” Gardner said.  “I’m confident we’ll have a similar turnout at this year’s event, and instead of the 1,500 caps we gave away last year, we have 6,000 to give away to Husker fans this year.”  Gardner stresses that only fans who purchase their discounted tickets through this link are eligible to receive a hat.

Last year, an estimated 10,000 Big Red fans were inside Kauffman Stadium for Huskers’ Night at The K, and countless Nebraska fans plan to take advantage of another special promotion a day later.  On Sunday, Aug. 10, it will be Alex Gordon Bobblehead Giveaway, presented by Pepsi, when the Royals complete their home series against the Giants.  Kansas City officials expect unusually early arrivals for that game, so don’t be surprised to see another sea of red hours before the 1:10 p.m. opening pitch at The K.

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New Beginnings: Husker Day in Minneapolis

Today is a milestone day for Nebraska in Minneapolis.  From 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst will be at Lyons Pub in Downtown Minneapolis to Meet-N-Mingle with fellow Husker fans, who will celebrate the first Husker Day at Target Field. About 150 Husker fans are expected to participate in the event and watch the Minnesota Twins play the Chicago White Sox at 7:10 p.m.

Nebraska, of course, played Indiana in the Big Ten Conference Championship Baseball Game at Target Field last year.  The home of the Twins was voted “the #1 baseball stadium experience in North America” by ESPN the Magazine.  Target Field also will host the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 15.  Since Minneapolis is just over a six-hour drive from Lincoln, the seeds are being planted to consider Target Field as a meaningful summer vacation for Husker fans who like to celebrate their Nebraska roots.  

There’s another important reason why Nebraska fans have become Minnesota fans.  Brian Duensing, the Marysville, Kan., native who played at Nebraska, was the Twins’ third-round draft choice in 2005.  Nine years later, he’s still a major contributor as a left-handed relief pitcher maintainimng a 2.89 earned-run-average this season.  Duensing played in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the last Summer Olympics to include baseball.  He still has fond memories of his Olympic experience and remained loyal to Nebraska, sponsoring the Millard South American Legion baseball team, proving that once a Husker, always a Husker!

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Jun 17

Husker Fans Can Support Ameer in Two Ways

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Ameer Abdullah sees the “N” on his jacket as a reflection of the brand.

Last Chance to See Ameer’s Senior Season

All-American Explains Reasons for Decision

Uplifting Athletes Road Race Set for July 20

Sign Up Here and Help Tackle Rare Disease

Wanted: 11 Ameer-Like Shadows of Himself

By Randy York

When All-America running back Ameer Abdullah explained his decision to return to Nebraska for his senior season, Big Red fans nationwide celebrated like it was the Fourth of July.  Countless fans thought a professional writer crafted Abdullah’s announcement to return to the Huskers a week after Nebraska beat Georgia in the Gator Bowl.  They were wrong.  The youngest of nine children in a family that values education above sport wrote every word of his announcement.  Now, Husker fans can return such loyalty in two distinct ways: 1) Support an upcoming road race that raises money to fight pediatric brain cancer; and 2) Buy the last of Nebraska’s rarely available season tickets to watch the 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate’s final season as a Husker.

The reasons behind the words that Abdullah shared last January reflect his own brand, and the same can be said about the way he encourages Husker fans to sign up for the second annual Nebraska Football Uplifting Athletes Road Race on Sunday, July 20, in Lincoln.  The race 5K race begins immediately following an 8 a.m. Fun Run on a Sunday morning. Both events begin and end outside Memorial Stadium.

Abdullah will be there to meet Nebraska fans who want to support the cause of pediatric brain cancer.  So will about 100 other Husker football players who will volunteer their time to an event that drew 700 runners and raised approximately $15,000 in its inaugural event last year.

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‘Rex Burkhead Thing’ an Annual Event

“I know I’m speaking for everyone on our team when I say how extremely blessed we all are to support pediatric brain cancer through the football team,” Abdullah said.  “A lot of people label football.  I see this event as part of our team brand.  It started as a Rex Burkhead thing (Rex above with Jack Hoffman) to support Team Jack and help other kids just like him.  We’re carrying Rex’s tradition on because it’s part of our own brand and our own hearts.  For us as a football team, this is a universal fight against pediatric brain cancer.”

The Huskers appreciated the 700 runners who participated in last year’s Road Race, but you know athletes, especially those who have committed themselves to Uplifting Athletes, a student-based organization sanctioned  by UNL.  Nebraska’s chapter, working with the Lincoln Track Club, has set a goal to draw 1,000 runners and raise $30,000 to donate to their favorite cause.  The cost is $25 for the one-mile fun run and $30 for the 5K.  Each participant receives a race-day T-shirt and wrist bracelet, not to mention non-stop pats on the back from Nebraska football players who will be cheering on Big Red fans instead of the other way around.

“Events like this really put a face behind the team,” Abdullah said.  “This is a great experience for us and the fans who sign up and show up.”

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True Trifecta for Everyone Who Signs Up

Keith Zimmer, Nebraska’s longtime associate athletic director for Life Skills, envisions a “true trifecta” for everyone who signs up for the road race.  “First, fans are helping the Nebraska football team make a difference in our fight against pediatric brain cancer,” Zimmer said.  “Second, this event gives fans a chance to get up-close and personal  with our football team.  Fan Day is the traditional celebration inside Memorial Stadium, but this is a great way to support and interact with our players.  Third, an event like this promotes fitness and overall wellness, something else that our football players strongly believe in.”

Abdullah says the players are eager to help the cause in any way they can.  “The vast majority of us are healthy, and we just want to show people how much we appreciate them,” Abdullah said.  “We have ability, we’re on scholarships or decided to walk on, and we’re playing a game.  So many others, including little kids, have cancer.  They don’t have the opportunity we have.  We want to recognize them and show them how much we care and acknowledge those who are heavy on our hearts.”

Truthfully, events like next month’s Road Race, influenced Abdullah to return for another season.  “Nebraska has so much to offer any athlete who decides to come here,” he said.  “When you try to put yourself into other people’s shoes, you don’t understand it at first.  You don’t know what it all means.  Nebraska has really opened up my eyes.  We all have the opportunity to build and to grow and to be better people.”

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Doing What They Can to Help the Cause

“A lot of us were born not to be selfish,” Abdullah said.  “Some of us take the power to play sports and influence society seriously.  More than 100 of us want to give something back to people who have given so much to us.  We may not be able to cure cancer, but we can have a positive influence on the community and help people in another way besides medicine.”

Abdullah can’t help but measure his own words after sharing them.  “I feel like Nebraska gives you so many opportunities, and it’s not just football,” he said.  “It’s a chance to grow in a lot of different ways, and I wanted to come back here and have an even better year than last year.  I wanted to get my degree.  I wanted to do what I could to help Sam Burtch lead this organization.”

Burtch, Nebraska’s 2013 Walk-on of the Year, is a junior wide receiver from Murdock, Neb., and the 2014-15 president of Nebraska’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes.  He succeeds C.J. Zimmerer, another role model Abdullah greatly admires.

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Abdullah: Burtch a Huge Force for Team

“Sam Burtch (pictured above with Nebraska Director of Athletics Shawn Eichorst) is a huge force for our football team,” Abdullah said.  “He’s a fearless guy on the field and off the field.  He’s done a tremendous job organizing events that help us fight pediatric brain cancer through outreach opportunities.  Sam Burtch has my utmost respect.  He really, truly wants to take on the most difficult challenges that people face throughout the world today, and I really respect him for that.”

Husker fans can show their support right here, right now.  You can participate as an individual.  You can join a team or you can create a team.  The best news is you can still help out even if you have a conflict with that July 20th date.

The best news of all?  Husker fans everywhere have a chance to show their support for Nebraska’s 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate.  Yes, this is Ameer Abdullah’s final season as a Husker.  His decision to return for his senior season is a tribute to the Nebraska brand, which, of course, is fueled by an unparalleled collegiate fan base.  This is your last chance to act on a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Take advantage of it right here, right now!

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Jun 12

Satisfied Wright Wants to End Career in Style

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Chad Wright’s No. 1 goal: Reclaim the NCAA discus title he won in 2012.

By Randy York

Too bad Yogi Berra wasn’t watching the men’s shot put at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships Wednesday night in Eugene, Oregon. If baseball’s legend had been in the stands, he could have walked down near the field after the event was over and shared a piece of wisdom with Nebraska senior Chad Wright and his throws coach, Carrie Lane.  After interviewing both student-athlete and coach last week, I could only envision what Yogi would have said…something like: “You were both right, and both wrong at the same time.”

A Yogi-ism came to mind because both the teacher, who recently won an NCAA Midwest Region Assistant Coach of the Year Award, and the pupil, who happens to be a three-time NCAA First-Team All-American in the discus, could sense each other’s mindset before they climbed aboard a charter flight from Lincoln to Eugene last Sunday. 

It’s been a tough year for Wright in the shot put and it ended Wednesday night when his season best throw of 62-10 prevented him from advancing to the finals and ensured a 13th-place finish, eight notches below his fifth-place First-Team All-America finish as a junior.  Lane, the coach, continued to motivate because she wanted Wright to bring his “boxing gloves” to Eugene, so he could “pummel the face” right out of that 16-pound iron ball.  The strategy must have worked because Wright, the athlete, did, in fact, pass 10 of the 23 performers who ranked ahead of him entering the NCAA meet.

Wright Has No Regrets. He Just Wants His Title Back

What we had here was reality bites and any number of Yogi-like witticisms could have painted the portraits unfolding inside Wright’s head. 

Yogi said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else.”

Wright told me: “Some people say there are certain things they wish they did or could do over.  Personally, I think I did everything I needed.  My goal this year is to reclaim my NCAA title in the discus.  That’s my main agenda. That’s my focus.  Once that event finishes Friday, my college athletic career is over.”

In my pre-NCAA Outdoor Championship conversation with Wright, he could hardly say the two words I wanted to discuss…shot and put. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a Yogi-ism inside his head that could have worked perfectly: “I wish I had an answer to that question because I’m tired of answering it.”

This isn’t the first interview of my life, so I switched gears and deleted an “s” from discuss and that seemed to put some bounce in Wright’s voice because we finally were getting to the only word he wanted to talk about – discus.

Wright Had Best Second-Place Throw in NCAA History

“I’m about fourth in the nation this year,” he said without pausing to remember his NCAA gold medal performance as a sophomore and his second-place finish last year despite uncorking the longest second-place discus throw in NCAA Championship history.

“”I want to reclaim my title,” he said.  “We have a well-rounded team this year.  We need to score points.  I think we have a really good chance of placing well in the NCAA this year. Last year, I got second.  This year, I’m trying to do better.  I want to finish first, and I’m ready to take on the challenge.”

Wright praises Lane for helping him embrace the competition.  “She’s pretty much revamped and refined my technique,” he said. “She’s also given me some great tips on focus, eating right and sleeping right.”

He’s not surprised.  “Nebraska was the best of all the schools I visited,” the Kingston, Jamaica native said.  “When you visit, you can see how they take charge, and that was a real plus for me.  I liked the support system I saw for athletics.  That’s one of the main reasons I decided to come here.”

Team Loaded with Depth Makes Practice More Fun

Knowing that he won’t graduate until next May as a major in mathematics and a minor in business, I’m curious about his interests post-degree. “I’m not sure yet,” Wright said. “Next year will be the indicator of whether I’ll be able to stay here.  I’ve really enjoyed this year.  We have a lot more (NCAA) qualifiers and it’s competitive.  It makes practice more fun and more interesting.”

Ah, practice, another word for a tailor-made Yogi-ism: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice,” Yogi said before adding: “In practice there is.”

“Chad had a personal best last year and finished second after winning the year before,” Lane pointed out. “It’s going to be a fierce battle.  The No. 1 guy’s from Kentucky and the No. 2 guy’s back from UCLA.  He’s the guy that beat Chad last year.  In a meet like this, it can be a completely different outcome. The wind affects the discus tremendously.  Whatever marks people have coming in mean nothing. This meet is a completely different ball game.”

A disclaimer is in order before we end The N-Sider.  Yogi once said: “I didn’t really say everything I said.” 

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Just Take It

With that in mind, we end with the best Yogi-like advice that Carrie Lane can give Chad Wright before Friday’s ultra-competitive discus throw: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Here’s another way to put it:  However Wright finishes Friday in the discus, he can do something he’s probably already considered – buy a shot put somewhere and bury it.

Forever…

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