It has been a tremendously busy start to this fall with five straight weeks of hosting more than 25 events, including four football games, six volleyball matches, one cross country meet and five soccer games. In addition, we have cut ribbons, witnessed grand openings and given tours of two new facilities--East Memorial Stadium and Pinnacle Bank Arena, plus hosted a grand opening and volleyball floor dedication at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Even though our football team has an open week, and our volleyball, soccer and cross country teams compete on the road this weekend, we have had another busy week here in athletics.
I attended the annual Division IA Athletic Directors’ Association meetings in Dallas this week where we discussed a variety of key issues facing collegiate athletics including potential NCAA governance changes, football recruiting, the O’Bannon and concussion-based litigations as well as embarking on a new four-team football playoff system to begin in 2014.
Given all the concerns surrounding collegiate athletics, rest assured that at Nebraska, academics is priority one and we attempt to recruit student-athletes who have the ability to excel at the highest levels in the classroom and in competition. As testament to our commitment, we lead the nation in Academic All-Americans with 307, we lead the nation with 16 NCAA Top Ten Award winners (the Heisman of academics) and have won 25 team national championships and 137 individual national championships.
We also have a strong reputation of educating and nurturing our student-athletes while they are here so that by the time they graduate, they are well balanced and prepared to excel in their chosen field of employment and at giving back to their communities.
Each year our sport programs energetically compete for the annual Life Skills Award which goes to the team that scores the most points related to community service, leadership and proactive education. This award is announced at our annual spring Student-Athlete Recognition Awards Banquet.
Coach Bo Pelini’s football teams are consistently among the contenders, winning the men’s award twice in the past three years, and I expect they will be in the running again this year with C.J. Zimmerer leading the team in community service. C.J. was recently named to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team for his outstanding efforts in the community and particularly for his leadership role in Uplifting Athletes.
Our football program has now produced back-to-back members on the Good Works Team, and we would love to see consecutive Team Captains from Nebraska as well. Last year, Rex Burkhead was named to the team and voted Team Captain and this year C.J. has a chance to capture Captain honors as well. See the Quick Hitter on C.J. to find out how you can help make that happen.
Last week at his annual State of the University Address, Chancellor Harvey Perlman shared his excitement about our future and challenged every member of this great university to set the bar high.
He said: “We are comfortably a Big Ten University, but that generates higher expectations for our achievements. We serve Nebraska in our role of producing and attracting talent and in supporting and generating economic growth.”
I share his optimism and passion and encourage all Husker fans to click this link and get full access to Chancellor Perlman’s comments.
As a Big Ten University, noted for its excellence in research, Chancellor Perlman believes we have the opportunity to reset the table – to reformulate our ambitions and our aspirations, to set new goals and objectives and to rise to the elevated expectations that lie ahead. Our research potential is unlimited. In addition, our Chancellor has raised the bar with a goal of increasing enrollment to 30,000 by 2017. Fueled by one of the largest freshman classes in our history, total enrollment has already increased by one percent this year over last to 24,445.
When I recently addressed business leaders from all over the nation at the College of Business Administration (CBA) Partnership Summit and Advisory Board meeting luncheon, I told Dean Donde Plowman that athletics must raise our game because we know the deans across our campus are doing the same. No one has set the bar higher than Donde. Perhaps the state’s most active fundraiser, Dean Plowman intends to raise $84 million to build a 240,000 square-foot CBA facility at 14th and Vine Streets. This new facility will play a major role in meeting Chancellor Perlman’s academic and increased enrollment goals.
Donde called the new CBA building, which is planned to open in 2017, a game-changer and no one would disagree with that statement. Why is CBA important to Husker Athletics? Every day in recruiting we are competing for the best and brightest student-athletes to come to the University of Nebraska. More than 1,000 of our 6,000-plus student-athlete graduates have degrees from the College of Business Administration and we currently have approximately 20 percent of our student-athletes enrolled in CBA. When the new CBA building is complete, it will be the perfect bookend to our East Stadium Expansion and will be an incredible recruiting tool.
In athletics, with the support of the Board of Regents, President Milliken, Chancellor Perlman and our generous donors, we’ve recently built or are building seven “game-changers” as well:
- Dick and Peg Herman Family Student Life Compelx
- Hendricks Training Complex
- Alex Gordon Training Complex
- Pinnacle Bank Arena
- East Memorial Stadium including the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory and the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior
- Renovation of Bob Devaney Sports Center
- And coming in 2015, new Soccer and Tennis Complex
It’s an impressive list to be sure, but in my mind, there is no bigger game-changer in athletic recruiting than the new College of Business Administration building.
Nebraska academics and athletics are inextricably linked priorities that are imbedded in our culture and strengthen our brand. Success in academics, athletics and life depends on teammates who work together, dream big, reinforce each other, hold each other accountable and build for the future. We will continue to be a strong campus partner and advocate in support of all UNL students.
Until next time, stay positive and Go Big Red!
I had the great pleasure of attending the Woody Greno Cross Country meet this past Saturday at Pioneers Park. It was a beautiful fall day and we put on a wonderful meet. While some of our student-athletes are competing at a high level as freshmen, one senior Husker is making up for lost time. Because of a preseason injury last year, Nebraska senior Trevor Vidlak competed and won his first cross country race in two years at Sioux Falls, S.D. on September 6 finishing first at the Augustana Twilight Invitational. He took runner-up honors at the Woody Greno/Nebraska Invitational last Saturday. Trevor has led Coach Dave Harris’ men’s team to first-place finishes both weeks and for his efforts won Big Ten Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week honors both weeks and was also honored as the Division I Men’s National Cross Country Athlete of the Week by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association on September 10.
Video: Trevor Vidlak Interview
Freshman Setting Positive Tone for Husker Soccer
Congratulations to forward Jaycie Johnson who has made an immediate impact on our soccer team that is enjoying a four-game win streak. A first-year player from Lake Winnebago, Missouri, Jaycie recently earned her second Big Ten Freshman of the Week Award after scoring the go-ahead goal in our thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 win over No. 14-ranked Denver last weekend. Jaycie, in fact, has scored goals in four straight matches, including three consecutive game-winners and seven goals total. With four straight wins, we are now 6-2-1 on the season. Coach John Walker hopes to capitalize on our momentum as we hit the road this weekend, playing at Northwestern on Friday and at Illinois on Sunday.
Congratulations to C.J. Zimmerer for being named to the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. C.J. is our senior fullback who has done a remarkable job of connecting with other students on campus and in the community. This is the second straight year Nebraska has had an honoree with Rex Burkhead named to the 2012 Good Works Team.
By an online voting process, Rex was named just the third team captain in the 21-year history of the Good Works Team and was also the 2012 National Uplifting Athlete of the Year. I believe C.J. deserves to captain this year’s Good Works Team, an award considered the equivalent of the “Heisman of Character”.
C.J. was the first president of our Nebraska Chapter of Uplifting Athletes, made sure the chapter is a recognized club on our UNL campus, and is credited with suggesting the idea for Jack Hoffman to carry the ball in our Spring Game to Coach Pelini. Jack celebrated his 8th birthday on Thursday in Atkinson, Nebraska, and in his honor September 26 has been declared National Pediatric Brain Cancer Awareness Day. Jack would love for C.J. to be the next Team Captain, so if you want to help Jack have a great birthday, please join me in voting for C.J. to win an award based on criteria he exemplifies – leadership, integrity and commitment.
One of Nebraska Athletics’ greatest differentiators is Life Skills, and that was certainly driven home Monday night (Sept. 23) when more than 350 student-athletes connected with all kinds of future employment possibilities at our annual Career Fair in the West Stadium. Associate Athletic Director Keith Zimmer, Life Skills coordinators Jessie Gardner and Stacey Burling, and Life Skills assistant Jordan Wilson hosted the event that drew 29 companies. Several of our former student-athletes were there representing companies seeking prospective recruits. Dr. Jeff Hill, a Husker split end in the early ‘70s, was there representing the University of Nebraska Medical Center as Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs. Brandon Rigoni, a former Husker football captain, represented his new employer, Gallup, the Omaha-based global research company. Josh Mueller, who lettered four years as a tight end, represented Gavilon, an agricultural business that provides essential commodities and services. It was nice to see Paige Hubl, one of our volleyball captains last year, representing TEKsystems, a privately held staffing company. Blaine Hoppenrath, a four-year women’s swimming and diving team letterwinner, represented BNSF Railroad, which combines nearly 400 different railroad lines. Two former Husker student-athletes represented Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical sales company – Kellen McClure (track and field) and Amy Benge (golf). John Hastings, a former Husker student-athlete in track and now assistant principal at Lincoln Southwest High School, represented the Lincoln Public Schools.
The previous Monday night (Sept. 16) was historic because it was the first-ever Inner Circle Leadership meeting at Memorial Stadium. Three distinguished letterwinner alumni – Dr. Alan Nissen (basketball), Garth Glissman (football) and Maggi Thorne (track and field) – shared valuable leadership and life skills insights with 29 upper-class student-athlete leaders who represent nearly every intercollegiate team we have. The goal of the alumni panelists is to offer practical leadership insights that serve current Husker student-athletes for their remaining time in college and on into their professional careers. Nissen is a retired dental surgeon. Glissman is an attorney at one of Omaha’s largest firms, and Thorne is the assistant director for Capital Planning and Construction in our Athletic Department. All three gave our student-athletes sound advice – from treating people with respect and learning how to take risks to the need for integrity, discipline, passion, accountability and teamwork. All three also emphasized how to use existing resources to network and become more involved.
The Inner Circle will meet three times a semester to hear a panel of three former Husker student-athletes sharing their creative insight, unique perspective and life experiences. The following 29 current student-athletes in the Inner Circle will be the benefactors: Paula Andrie – Track and Field; Amanda Burau – Bowling; Brandon Chapek – Football; Kyle Craw – Track and Field; Hannah Dittmar – Soccer; Craig Driver – Track and Field; Kelly Dunn – Swimming and Diving; Hannah Edwards – Cross Country; Ellie Ewere – Track and Field; Derek Foster – Football; Mattie Fowler – Softball; Ryan Grassel – Golf; Jacob Griess – Track and Field; Kylie Greischar – Soccer; Maritza Hayes – Soccer; Annie Jackson – Track and Field; Harvey Jackson – Football; Caleb Kolb – Wrestling; Sarah Larson – Cross Country; Anna Minnick – Track and Field; Steffi Neisen – Golf; Sunny Russell – Rifle; Jamie Schleppenbach – Gymnastics; Katie Simon – Basketball; Kristin Strecker –Swimming and Diving; Desire’ Stephens – Gymnastics; Seth Wiedel – Track and Field; Austin Wilson – Wrestling; and Chad Wright – Track and Field.