Hail Varsity Mailbag
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Mailbag: Negative Attention, Looking for Good News and More for Huskers

August 19, 2021

There has been plenty of news in Nebraska this week and the mailbag questions reflect just that. The Hail Varsity staff returns to break down some of that news, provide some good news to pay attention to and much more.

Let’s dive in.

Why does Nebraska attract such negative media? Recently Golf Digest and Bloomberg have had articles on Nebraska. (@BraskyMannn) 

Jacob Padilla: The simple answer is that there’s been a lot of negative for outlets to write about, at least when it comes to the football program. When a program isn’t winning, things like this NCAA investigation or some of the other silly, dumb or strange things Nebraska has done over the last few years garner more attention than they otherwise might. A 12-20 record isn’t going to earn a program or coach the benefit of the doubt. 

Greg Smith: We should be specific here. It’s really just Nebraska football generating the negative headlines. The reason is that for a variety of reasons, Nebraska football can’t seem to get out of its own way. The various things football is in the news for have a wide-range of significance but the reasons are often self-inflicted. They are also largely issues that go overlooked when a program is winning. However, all the issues combined tend to add up as a reason for lack of success.  

Mike Babcock: Nebraska’s success under Devaney and Osborne and the program’s decline have made the Huskers a target. Plus, media numbers aren’t high in the state compared to others so the Huskers are an easy target. Once high-profile nationally program now fallen on hard times. Nebraska is an easy target for the media as well as the NCAA, which would be reluctant to go after, say, Alabama or Clemson for the same infractions. 

Out of all the teams fallen from grace of the football gods (Michigan, Tennessee, FSU, Miami, etc…..), which is Nebraska in the most similar situation to? (@AdamMillerGIS) 

Brandon Vogel: I could spend a day or two trying to answer this question. As a starting point, I used this handy chart-builder to look at some teams historical SP+ ratings over the past 50 years. (Note: It is the rating, not the ranking, so higher on the chart is better. Play around with it. It’s pretty fun.) The past 20 years of Tennessee football match Nebraska’s most closely in terms of how good the Vols have been, but outside the 1990s, the Huskers were in a different class than still-good Tennessee, so Big Orange is out for me. Miami’s chart might mirror Nebraska’s of the past 50 years most closely, so I’d make the Hurricanes a finalist for selection here. Florida State’s chart, minus the big swell from the Seminoles’ national title under Jimbo Fisher, also tracks closely with Nebraska’s. I think my pick is Florida State because I can look at the Seminoles and see that some of the advantages it had in 20th Century aren’t there any longer, much like the Huskers. The competition for Florida recruits is more fierce, which impacts both Miami and FSU, but the difference for me is location. Miami is its own thing, but Tallahassee is part Florida, but also part Georgia. The rise of Clemson, a slight uptick at Georgia, the middle-of-the-pack SEC teams recruiting at a higher level, all of that impacts Florida State more than Miami in my opinion, so I’ll say Florida State and Nebraska are the most similar simply because, while these types of programs almost always eventually get back, I’m starting to wonder if the blend of factors that led the Huskers and Seminoles to really win like no other for 20 years are almost impossible to recreate. 

Do you think the investigation could be used to lower a potential buyout if Trev decides to make a change? -AND- The soccer team has scored a couple ridiculous goals lately — how can I get SportsCenter to notice and put them in the top 10 plays? (@huskerfan4life9)

Erin Sorensen: Andy Staples addressed your first question yesterday, so I’m going to encourage you to go read that. Essentially, yes, Nebraska (and athletic director Trev Alberts) could use this investigation to lower a buyout. Will the investigation itself lead to Frost’s dismissal? Highly unlikely. If he is dismissed and if his buyout is being negotiated, it’s because he lost too many games this season. The NCAA investigation just helps with the buyout piece in the end. 

As for your second question, any time you see a play that should be on SportsCenter, obviously tweet at SportsCenter and tell them. It doesn’t hurt when official accounts do the same, like Nebraska softball did in May. This play got on SportsCenter because it was an awesome play AND because enough people told them to check it out. Bringing attention to it via official channels and fans is more likely to get it in front of producers who will consider it for the show. It’s not a full-proof plan, but it’s usually pretty effective. 

How ready will underclasswomen be if Lauren Stivrins isn’t able to be full-go to start the year? (@danwitte) 

JP: The luxury John Cook has is that even without Stivrins he has two other seniors with extensive starting experience at middle blocker in Callie Schwarzenbach and Kayla Caffey. Schwarzenbach started her first two seasons in Lincoln because of her defensive presence. Last year, Caffey transferred in from Missouri and beat Schwarzenbach out for that spot. Cook could easily just roll with those two as the starting middle blockers until Stivrins is ready. However, Cook is giving Kalynn Meyer and Rylee Gray every opportunity to compete for those spots. Nebraska has plenty of depth at middle blocker with or without Stivrins. 

From a NIL perspective, who was more recognizable last season: Adrian Martinez or Trevor Lawrence in Lincoln, Nebraska? Does that change in Omaha? If Lawrence was more popular, when was the last time a Husker was more popular locally than the big national names? (@AdamMillerGIS) 

ES: I’d give the nod to Martinez in Lincoln, and Omaha. Lawrence is recognizable, but Nebraska is a different situation. Without another competing team or a professional team in the state, the Huskers are the biggest show in town (for lack of better words). That makes Martienz particularly recognizable around here. The difference is that people outside of Nebraska might not recognize Martinez, but they would Lawrence. It’s a little wonky in that comparison, because you’re asking when a Husker was more popular than other national names. If that’s the question, I’d say Ndamukong Suh. He became well known on a national level and would’ve been recognized a number of places outside of Nebraska. 

Which Union Omaha player could play for @HuskerFBNation? (@Union_Omaha) 

BV: Connor Culp probably has place-kicking duties locked up, but Nebraska has yet to settle on who is handling kickoffs. The job description is basically, “please kick it 75 yards off a tee every time” which I’m sure most of the club could handle, but the goalkeepers are the ones most often asked to do this in their first sport, so I think either could be plug-and-play there. But in the non-kicking category, I’m taking a long look at Conor Doyle—6-foot-2, grew up in Texas, where I’m told they hide American football in the food, obviously an elite athlete, could be a fit at wide receiver or the always coveted tall corner. That’s my pick. Texas forever. 

ES: I’m mad at Brandon for taking Doyle, because he’s my favorite Union Omaha player. I even have a No. 22 jersey. You could say I’m a fan (but seriously, Union Omaha is so much fun, and I encourage anyone nearby to get to a match if they’re able). Since Doyle is off the table, though, I’m going to take the recommendation of Connor on Twitter and say goalkeeper Rashid Nuhu. He’d need to put on some weight to be a linebacker, but I could see him as a cornerback. Also, Nuhu played at Fordham which is fitting since the Rams play at Nebraska this season. Small world. 

If you could invite any speaker to come chat with the Husker football team (similar to Alabama & Ernie Johnson), who are you bringing in? (@marcus_scheer) 

GS: There are a lot of great choices for this question. I’m going to go slightly off-board and say Robin Arzon from Peloton. If you are familiar with her story, it’s definitely one of perseverance that would resonate with anyone. She’s also a great presenter and has tons of good catchphrases from classes.  

Do you think they will continue skimping on the cheese sauce for the nachos at memorial stadium this year or do you think they have pandemic cheese left over so we’ll get extra cheese on our nachos? (@HuskerLC) 

ES: I don’t think you want old pandemic cheese, but that’s just me. This question did make me snort, however, so thank you for that. 

GS: I’d attempt to get some fresh cheese either way. 

MB: At this point, nacho cheese sauce at Memorial Stadium would be the least of my concerns. 

If you had to pick one FCS team to be a complete diehard fan of, which would you choose? (@InDaWilderness) 

BV: Maine. There are a lot of good options to choose from, and this is a fun exercise, but Maine is an easy answer for me. For one, I love the state of Maine. If I ever become a best-selling genre novelist under a pen name, first thing I’m buying is a summer home in Maine. Two, I just like knowing that the Black Bears are up there playing football largely in seclusion. Three, I like the color scheme. When I was a kid, my dad was very meticulous about the paint job on his sugar beet trucks. They were white, but had stripe detailing in two shades of blue. While I appreciate contrast, too, I’m a sucker for combinations of blue. In fact, this reminds me that I need to go buy some Maine gear now. 

JP: South Dakota State. I’ve already spent one day as a fan. I know a lot of Nebraskans currently playing for the Jackrabbits, so if I had the time to really invest in following a football program other than Nebraska it would be that one. 

Please give me good news. Any good news. Doesn’t even need to be about sports. (@InDaWilderness) 

BV: College football starts next week. 

GS: Season four of Ozark should release this year on Netflix.  

MB: NBC’s “College Bowl,” with Peyton (and Cooper) Manning is down to the semifinals. 

ES: This story right here.  

JP: We’re only two months away from basketball season starting up again. 

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