On Wednesday night, Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts made an abbreviated 15-minute appearance with Greg Sharpe on Sports Nightly. Alberts’ hectic schedule prevented him from staying on for a full hour or answering fan questions, as is typical on his monthly appearance.
Alberts answered questions on numerous topics, ranging from the recent successes in Nebraska winter sports programs, spring sports starting and preparations for fall sports. He felt like the athletic department, as a whole, has momentum.
Sharpe asked Alberts how Volleyball Day In Nebraska came together. Alberts admitted it was born out of his competitive nature. Retaking the volleyball attendance record Wisconsin seized from Nebraska this last season posed logistical challenges. The Huskers and most other collegiate volleyball programs in the state have experienced high degrees of success. The idea was born because Alberts wanted to break the attendance record. But, as he explained to Sharpe, it became more than that.
“We’ve got to find these stories that we can tell about the men and women in our state, high school coaches, club coaches,” Alberts said, “who really made an impact on volleyball.”
The event also gives an opportunity for the state’s flagship university to “give back” to partner institutions in Nebraska, Alberts said. In last week’s press conference he said all three competing schools will receive $50,000 for the unique event. Alberts stressed the athletics department is going to have to “think entrepreneurially” for the longterm. Other programs have approached Alberts about joining the event. He’s said they’ll look into what else they can do without losing money.
Alberts acknowledged the event is a risk. It’s also his response to volleyball coach John Cook’s challenge to dream big. In the end, Alberts is excited about the celebration of volleyball and volleyball fans in Nebraska.
“This will be a full football production for the outdoor volleyball game,” Alberts said. “We need volleyball fans to show up in a big way and let’s blow this thing out of the water.”
In football, Nebraska’s athletic director said ticket sales for the Red-White Spring Game is around 45,000 as of March 1. He wants to “get that close to a sell out as well.” Alberts expects that exhibition to be physical. It will also give fans the opportunity to see something that “might engage little bit differently than what we’ve previously been used to.”
Alberts reiterated his satisfaction with head coach Matt Rhule and his staff. He loves what they’re doing and using all the tools at their disposal. Rhule’s work ethic has fallen in line with that of Nebraskans. Alberts likes the way Rhule’s staff gets involved with various coaching associations, high school coaches, communities and fundraisers.
“Really engaging in the community is a really important thing to Nebraskans,” Alberts said. “He’s done everything right so far and I’m really grateful that he’s our coach.”
>> Alberts said it’s been difficult not to embrace and cheer the men’s basketball team. Fred Hoiberg’s team just suffered a tough loss to Michigan State on Senior Night the night before but Alberts admired the way they played. He believes fans continue to support the Huskers with sell out crowds because of the team’s mentality. They play with the same ideals that are “reflective of the values of Nebraskans and the way they live their life.” Alberts pointed to the Huskers’ 17-point comeback. He called it grit and toughness and “that has to be our culture.”
>> Nebraska’s athletic director appreciated Senior Night for both basketball teams. He met the families of Jaz Shelley, Isabelle Bourne and Keisei Tominaga, and enjoyed seeing the fans’ reaction to them. Alberts thought those receptions were good representations of the familial atmosphere provided by Husker athletics and fans.
>> The Nebraska wrestling team is preparing for the Big Ten Championships. Alberts said this year is one of the better coaching jobs of Mark Manning’s career. There are a handful of Huskers who could make a run at a conference championship.The athletic director said he’s really proud of how the wrestling program has performed.
>> Alberts enjoyed watching the Nebraska baseball team sweep South Alabama and return to the new field surface at Haymarket Park. He applauded the Nebraska softball team’s competitiveness last weekend. The Huskers went 1-4 will all four losses coming to top 10 teams. “Both of those programs making good progress and have a great chance of having great seasons.”
>> Justin St. Clair was named new head track and field coach last week. He’d served as interim coach since Gary Peppin retired in August. Those were tough shoes to follow, Alberts said. Alberts credited St. Clair’s attention to detail and professionalism as coach. The Nebraska men’s team finished second at the conference indoor championships. Alberts expects men and women teams to have more success in the outdoor season.
>> Alberts said athletic directors across the Big Ten will have meetings around conference basketball tournaments. He called it an “unsettling time” with the transition in leadership. He referenced the legal battles the NCAA is involved with and the upcoming expanded College Football Playoff.
“My real focus has been to not forget what’s important right here at home,” Alberts said. “We’ve got to continue doing that work and participate where we can with our colleagues to make sure the Big Ten is as well positioned as we can make it, longterm.”