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Mike Riley
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Mailbag: A Concert with Mike Riley

May 16, 2017

If you could attend any concert with Coach Mike Riley, what would you choose? That was one of the questions we received this week and it was a good one. We also touched on other topics from recruiting to Title IX to plenty others so as always, it wasn’t a dull week around here.

Brandon Vogel, Jacob Padilla and Erin Sorensen answer your questions in this week’s Hail Varsity mailbag.

Q: What concert(s) would you want to go backstage with Mike Riley (and Mama Dee, of course)? Or, if you’re really feeling up to a challenge … You get to accompany each coach to a show. Which coach do you take to which acts? – A.W., Lincoln, Neb.

BV: Central Texas, with its deep barbecue and dance-hall culture, is one of my favorite places in the country. Same goes for Mike Riley who has a house down there, is an avowed fan of what they call “Red Dirt” music and has been known to drop in at Gruene Hall, one of the best places in the world to spend a (non-gameday) Saturday. So give me a Saturday at Gruene Hall, after eating barbecue, with Riley. I don’t really care who we see play, but if I get to choose it would probably be Wayne Hancock or Dale Watson, both of whom frequent the place.

And yes, Coach Riley, if you’re reading this it is my official pitch to come down to Texas and do a story on you and your life “off-the-clock.” I’m sure it’s exactly how you’d want to spend a portion of the approximately 10 days you get off a year. But it would be fun, and people would love it. Could become a classic of the genre, provided I can write well enough to pull it off. Think about it.

Q: Who are your favorite former Huskers to follow on Twitter and why? – H., David City, Neb.

ES: Great question. I’m a big fan of Kenny Bell, Spencer Lindsay, Corey Whitaker, Spencer Long, Eric Warfield, Gabe Miller, Jordan Westerkamp, Kenny Wilhite, Jeremiah Sirles…. The list goes on. I know I’m missing quite a few but for now, these are some of the ones off the top of my head that are the most engaging and fun.

Q: Huge recession hits and University drastically cuts athletic program; which six teams survive (and still allow compliance with Title IX). – B.

JP: Football, volleyball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and… let’s go with bowling. That’s three men’s sports and three women’s, and it includes all the mainstream sports. I picked bowling over softball, soccer and other women’s sports because it seems like that is probably the most nationally elite program Nebraska has.

BV: I’m no Title IX compliance officer, but I’m not sure this is even possible to do while keeping football. To the best of my understanding, Title IX requires that the scholarship money spent be proportional to number of males and females in the student body. At Nebraska, that’s around 54 percent male. Football gets 85 scholarships, which is a heavy thumb on the scale. Based on these scholarship numbers (, which are a year or two old, I don’t think you can do it with three men’s sports and three women’s sports. None of the women’s teams are large enough.

So, keeping the six sport total, you could do it this way: Men get football only. That’s 85 scholarships (54.5 percent). Women get volleyball, track and field, women’s basketball, soccer and softball for 71 scholarships (45.5 percent). I think that gets you in the ballpark of Title IX compliance.

But if you wanted to keep the three-by-three setup and went with the most popular spectator sports you’d probably have football, men’s basketball, baseball, volleyball, women’s basketball and softball. To make that work, the football team could only offer about 61 scholarships. (For what it’s worth, FCS teams are capped at 63.)

Q: What famous Huskers do I invite to my wedding that’ll be the life of the party? – D.A., New York City, N.Y.

ES: There is only one answer to this question – Kenny Bell. I mean, you could also invite basically anyone on my Twitter-follow list above and that would work. But Bell, he’s the guy. Invite him.

Q: When do you all see the Huskers playing the Texas Longhorns again?  Would enjoy playing them occasionally in football. – E., Ark.

ES: Sort of depends on what happens to the Big 12, I think. I’ve seen people say they’d like Oklahoma and Texas to come to the Big Ten if the Big 12 were to dissolve. That would change things up pretty quickly. However, I don’t see that happening so we’ll just have to sit here and wait for future non-conference schedules to come out. I wouldn’t write Texas off the list, but I can’t imagine they’ll be high on it. Oh, the joys of history.

Q: Chances of the baseball team taking Big Ten title and making it to NCAA tournament? – R.C.

BV: Decent odds for the Big Ten regular-season title. Need to take care of business and some help from Rutgers or Purdue against Minnesota, but Nebraska’s right in the thick of things there. As for the tournament, as of now I think the Huskers are in a pretty good spot to make it.

Q: Since a redshirt can play four games without losing the redshirt, why don’t we see more of that? It gives them game exposure. – M.H.

JP: The four-game rule only applies to players who have their season cut short by injury. You can’t just play four games then decide you actually want to redshirt.

BV: Jacob is correct. We’re still in a “burn the redshirt” time, meaning if a player plays in a regular-season game that redshirt is gone unless that player gets injured (hardship waiver) and has appeared in less than 30 percent of the team’s contests, none of which came after the midpoint of the season. So, for example, a football coach can’t say star linebacker is hurt for the first 70 percent of the season (during which he’s really practicing and gaining experience) and then play him in the last three games of the season.

That said, the NCAA is considering a change that would allow for players to appear in some games and not burn a redshirt. Most coaches seem to be in favor of this and I personally like it, at least as it pertains to football, from a strategy standpoint. Do you let your freshmen who could potentially play practice for eight games before deploying them at the end of the season? Try to use them based on particular need depending upon opponent? Opens up a lot of options.

Q: Getting a lot of great recruits. What position groups is the staff focused on for the remainder of the class? How big will this class be? – B.C., Overland Park, Kans.

JP: The 2018 class should end up somewhere between 15 and 18 depending on what kind of attrition we see. The class currently has three wide receivers, two cornerbacks, one tight end, one defensive end, one offensive lineman, one defensive tackle and one kicker. Nebraska is still in on a few wideouts a few defensive backs and a few linemen on both sides of the ball.

Q: If the Huskers could schedule at a road game to play at any university in the country, where would you most like to go to cover a game? – H., Deshler, Neb.

BV: I’m excited for the Oregon game this fall as my experience with the Pacific Northwest is minimal. For that reason, a game at Washington would also excite me. Ole Miss has a great gameday scene, so that one would probably rank up there as well. In the Group of 5 category, give me Appalachian State in October. I was able to visit its stadium earlier this spring and it’s gorgeous, plus it’s always sort of fun to see big teams like Nebraska compete in smaller stadiums. The game at Wyoming, also a beautiful backdrop, checked that box.

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