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Nebraska’s sinking money into hoops -- doesn’t mean it cares


Hey, Nebraska cares about basketball. Really.

A scathing column by the Omaha World-Herald’s Lee Barfknecht – he ripped the school for its halftime shows, PA mishaps and a general malaise around the program in general – prompted Cornhuskers athletic director Tom Osborne to defend his school.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy and made a significant financial commitment to position basketball for the future,” Osborne said in a release Wednesday. “Basketball is vital to our athletic program overall, and we would hope our commitment to strengthen the sport is viewed positively. Within the next three years, our basketball facilities will be among the very best in the country.”

That commitment includes an $18.7 practice facility (under construction) and a move from the 13,000-seat Devaney Center to a 16,000 seat downtown arena 2013. (Nevermind that the Huskers average 8,950 fans a game.)

Clearly, no dummy, coach Doc Sadler noted in the release that he’s never been denied a request from “Coach Osborne” and that winning would help boost the program even more.

Nebraska, which has never won an NCAA tournament game and hasn’t been involved since 1998, is 16-8 overall and 4-6 in the Big 12. It moves to the Big Ten next season.

Thing is, Barfknecht’s correct.

They don’t care about basketball in Nebraska. Never have. I doubt they ever will. Football rules. Always has. It’s why Osborne is still referred to as “coach” and why the school’s moving to the Big Ten. It’s often said that without any professional sports in Nebraska, the school becomes the de-facto rooting interest.

But that only applies to football. Those fans are the ones flocking to road games to fill opposing stadiums with red. They don’t do it in basketball. Even if the basketball team has new facilities and a fancy new arena, Barfknecht is talking about the attitude toward the program. From his column:

Two things set the tone for a good atmosphere in college basketball: the energy of the student section and an engaging, well-prepared P.A. person, who acts as the master of ceremonies.

The Red Zone students were outstanding Saturday. The rest of the presentation was far from it, including the microphone that wasn’t on at the start of the national anthem solo. That also isn’t a first.

Think this stuff would fly in football? Think Roburt Sallie’s enrollment mess would have happened? Think trailing in facilities as long as Husker hoops has would be acceptable?

Not a chance. Yet durable mediocrity too often passes for the norm around NU basketball.

Sadler’s got an uphill battle. He’s at a place with no hoops tradition, has a dearth of in-state talent and is heading to a conference that could be even tougher to get wins than the Big 12. Good luck building a program in that environment.

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.