Trev Alberts was introduced as Nebraska’s 14th athletic director in program history on Wednesday. Alberts took questions both during and after his introductory press conference, spanning nearly 45 minutes of audio. Plenty has been written from that so far but with that amount of audio, plenty has yet to be shared.
Let’s look at some of what Trev Alberts said that hasn’t found its way into a story (at least at Hail Varsity) and why it matters.
The quote: “I’m aware of the openings, and my understanding is there’s a significant amount of interest not only locally but nationally, and I think we’re going to be able to identify some tremendous candidates who can really help us.
“I think it’s really part of what I talked about earlier in terms of respecting everybody on our staff. It’s really important to me. It’s also really important to me that we have coaching staffs and we have an administration that’s reflective of what our student-athlete population looks like. We need to be a place that when our student-athletes come, they’re comfortable and there are people that perhaps look like them and think like them who can support them and help them. This will be a department that is absolutely committed and dedicated to those areas of interest.”
Why it matters: It was Drake Keeler who pointed this out when Bill Moos retired. In the span of just a couple of months, Nebraska lost its Diversity and Inclusion Director, its Deputy AD/Senior Woman Administrator and its athletic director. All three, as Keeler noted, were important in Nebraska’s diversity and inclusion efforts within the athletic department.
Alberts stepped into this role talking about the importance of the student-athlete. “In the next two, three years, I have to earn the trust of the student-athletes,” Alberts said on Wednesday, adding that no one has a job without them. Part of building and establishing that trust will be listening and then turning that discussion into action.
Nebraska has taken steps forward in this space, especially over the past 13 months, participating in things like the #NCAAInclusion Diversity and Inclusion Social Media Campaign. That weeklong event ended with a discussion between Moos and the Nebraska Minority Student-Athlete Collective.
That’s all a start, but the MSAC released a letter in August 2020 that asked for bigger change from Nebraska. A lot of the things the MSAC asked for were given a three-to-five year timeline, and many of the items listed are still yet to be addressed. This is an area where Alberts can step in and immediately build trust with his student-athletes.
Alberts’ comments on Wednesday were promising, but words without action don’t mean much. It’s too early (of course) to say what will and won’t be on this front for Alberts but he seemed intentional in saying that he wants an athletic department that truly reflects its athletes. As of now, Nebraska only has one person of color as a head coach across all sports: swimming and diving head coach Pablo Morales.
For what it’s worth, Keeler also noted that Alberts hired Carrie Banks as UNO’s women’s basketball head coach in April 2020. She’s currently the only Black head coach among Nebraska’s Division I schools. Alberts was “also on the search committee for the new UNO chancellor, Joanne Li, who is the first Asian-American ever in the Nebraska system to hold an executive leadership role,” per Keeler.
We’ll certainly follow up with Alberts as he settles into his role and can further discuss what he’s seeing in terms of growing diversity and inclusion within Nebraska Athletics.
The quote: “John’s an outstanding leader. I’m not foolish. We’ll be supportive of John. My goal is to help and I can learn from John Cook. And I can learn from other coaches, right? I don’t have all the answers, so that’s why we’ll do it together.
“But, you know, John has proven for a long time that he understands what it takes. People often forget that it is way harder to stay at the top than it is to get to the top. You have an incredible amount of appreciation for him, so we’ll do what we can to help ensure that the volleyball program has what they need and what John needs to make sure that they’re competing at a real high level. It’s an extraordinary thing what our volleyball program here has done. It is literally the the North Star for volleyball nation and our fans have helped make that a reality. Look at recruiting. I think he’s got the number one recruiting class coming in? If you don’t think that a sold out Devaney helps that. That’s why we need to get back having our fans because that’s what sells Nebraska. So I’m just really, really proud of what John’s done.”
Why it matters: There were plenty of people who thought that John Cook was a natural selection as Nebraska’s next athletic director. Obviously he still has a volleyball team to coach and hasn’t formally announced any plans for the day he retires from coaching, but it was still an option for many.
Cook’s career has been nothing short of impressive. Since taking over the Husker volleyball team in 2000, he’s won a national title four times (2000, 2006, 2015, 2017). His list of honors is a mile long, but it’s not just about the accomplishments on the court for Cook. He’s always been adamant about recruiting and developing players who will be far more than just what they do on the court. Needless to say, it’s worked.
And that leadership that Cook has learned from others like Terry Pettit and evolved into his own style could be a benefit to someone like Alberts. It’s helpful the two know each other too. They previously met when Nebraska played in a tournament at Baxter Arena in Omaha to kick the new arena off for UNO.
“We spent a lot of time talking and planning that and I told him that the deal was if we did that, he would have to give me a rink-side seats for hockey and I went to the hockey game and we sat and talked the whole time,” Cook said about that point in time. “I got to throw the fish on the ice, which was really cool, but whatever year that was, I thought in the back of my mind . . . A light bulb went off that Trev needs to be our A.D. I was really impressed. I think he fits everything we were looking for. One of the things I’m going to tell him is that he’s walking into a great opportunity because I think Nebraska Athletics, with the right leadership, is ready to take off like a rocket ship.”
That’s a ringing endorsement from one of your best coaches. Cook can absolutely be the support system that Alberts needs in the athletic department, and it seems he knows that already. He may be the boss, but he has some strong leadership in his coaches. Cook is absolutely one of those coaches you can learn from and grow from, no matter what role you are in.
The quote: “Obviously last year there were a lot of opinions out there. You know, I think it can be pretty natural to say, well, things aren’t working out. Nebraskans don’t run from challenges, we confront them. And so the Big Ten is an extraordinary conference with outstanding institutions across the board, not just in athletics but academics, and so we need to do our part. We need to do our part. We’ll just keep working.
“The Big Ten needs Nebraska to be successful and I believe that Nebraska needs the Big Ten so we’ll keep working and developing those regional rivalries. And when success comes, suddenly being in the Big Ten is pretty awesome.”
Why it matters: Alberts’ first big event (aside from his introductory press conference) will be Big Ten Media Days. He didn’t have much to offer as far as his schedule, but it seems unlikely the new athletic director won’t be in Indianapolis in just a few days.
Chancellor Ronnie Green and President Ted Carter both reiterated on Wednesday that Nebraska is committed to the Big Ten Conference. Full stop. There was no room for discussion about whether Nebraska would you look elsewhere, because that’s clearly not a conversation Green nor Carter want to have. Alberts’ echoing their comments makes it clear: Nebraska is a member of the Big Ten and the Huskers are not going anywhere.
What stood out in particular about Alberts’ comment was that last line. “And when success comes, suddenly being in the Big Ten is pretty awesome.” It feels like there was a heavy lean to football in these comments (and maybe a little basketball too), mostly because other Nebraska sports have found success in the Big Ten.
The 2020 season was an emotional one for a number of reasons. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Ten’s handling of its fall sports created an uproar at many of its schools. Nebraska was the loudest, and specifically football, which meant that the Huskers took a lot of heat until others like Ohio State stepped in and agreed. Through that, rumors circulated that Nebraska wanted out. For a season? Sure, but what if Nebraska just went back to the Big 12?
In the end, it was all just rumors. Regardless of who said what and whether or not any one sport wanted to go elsewhere doesn’t matter anymore. What does matter is that Nebraska is a member of the Big Ten and Alberts made sure to say that on Wednesday alongside his bosses.
Nebraskans don’t run from challenges, he said. Nebraskans, instead, confront them. “We’ll just keep working,” he said a number of times about a number of questions.
Yes, the work continues.