What an honor and a privilege it has been to watch our men’s and women’s basketball teams compete among the nation’s best and improve their postseason tournament opportunities. It was a thrill to be at Indiana’s historic Assembly Hall to watch our men defeat the Hoosiers on Wednesday and I look forward to the regular-season finale against Wisconsin on Sunday. I know our fans will again pack Pinnacle Bank Arena and not only show their appreciation for seniors Ray Gallegos and Mike Peltz, but also enthusiastically cheer on our hard-working team to give them an incredible home-court advantage against the No. 9-ranked Badgers. Your support at PBA for both men’s and women’s basketball this season has been amazing and on behalf of all our student-athletes, coaches and staff – we thank you!
It was such an honor to participate in Jordan Hooper’s last regular-season home game. The Big Ten Player of the Year will graduate in May and epitomizes what it means to be a student-athlete at Nebraska. She is everything that we, and this state, are about. I’m proud to be able to attend and support our teams at their respective Big Ten Conference Tournaments and like all Husker fans, look forward to following the men’s and women’s teams throughout the postseason.
March Madness magnifies the intensity of intercollegiate athletics and allows our basketball student-athletes to compete on a big athletic stage. But we should be reminded of the big picture and cognizant of just how much our student-athletes contribute to this great university, our community, the Big Ten Conference, and the NCAA as a whole. They work extremely hard and inspire each of us on a daily basis.
Everything we do in the University of Nebraska Athletic Department is focused on the student-athlete. It is our No. 1 priority to ensure that our student-athletes have everything they need to be successful in academics, athletics and life.
The current landscape of intercollegiate athletics is being readily debated. In recent news, there is significant talk of restructuring the NCAA to better serve student-athletes in the 21st century, giving student-athletes a greater collective voice, and discussions about the value of an education and if student-athletes should be compensated. The issues that are being highlighted are important issues that we take seriously and will continually strive to improve upon at UNL.
We have a long history and reputation of treating our student-athletes with the utmost respect and dignity. In that regard, we have several mechanisms in place to better enable us to provide for our student-athletes and to care for them holistically. Our student-athletes are represented and have a voice through our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), led by Keith Zimmer as well as under the careful watch of our senior staff sport administrators, plus Dennis Leblanc (Academics) and Jamie Vaughn (Compliance). In addition, our Faculty Athletics Representative, Josephine Potuto, is appointed by Chancellor Harvey Perlman specifically to assist with reviewing everything we do and to make sure that we are properly caring for the health, safety, and welfare of our student-athletes.
Our goal is to provide broad-based academic opportunities integrated with athletic experiences in order to help each student-athlete expand his or her mind, body and soul. We appreciate and respect all student-athletes and strongly support life-long educational experiences and other benefits that intercollegiate athletics uniquely offers to student-athletes through their voluntary participation.
It takes a lot of time, effort, commitment and dedication to be successful both academically and athletically. Therefore, our student-athletes deserve the same commitment as well as the best faculty, coaches, support staff, equipment and facilities reasonably necessary for them to succeed.
In my last column, we outlined some of the resources that empower our programs to recruit, retain and graduate the nation’s best and brightest student-athletes.
In this column, we will summarily share with you some of the resources and support services Nebraska makes available to our student-athletes to help them achieve their ultimate goal of receiving a college degree.
Excellence in Academics and Athletics: The Value of a UNL Degree
Academically, you may be aware that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is among the nation's top 50 national public universities. In addition, The Fulbright Program has named UNL one of the “45 top producing” research institutions. And with Nebraska Innovation Campus taking shape as a new section of the university that invites private businesses to become partners with university researchers, I believe UNL provides our student-athletes unlimited opportunities. As you know, this incredible environment is the very foundation of our nation-leading 310 Academic All-Americans and 17 NCAA Top Ten Award winners.
Members of the Big Ten Conference are proud to be about more than athletics and to be the catalyst and model for academic collaboration. Each institution is also a member of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), an academic consortium of Big Ten Universities, plus the University of Chicago. CIC members, when viewed collectively, conduct a combined total of $8 billion in funded annual research, accounting for 12 percent of the total federal research funds awarded annually.
Academically and athletically, our facilities are simply among some of the very best in the Big Ten and the nation. As an example, the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior and the Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory in the new East Stadium provide our student-athletes unprecedented opportunities to accomplish healthier and safer athletic performance levels never before achieved through this unique shared research space. To our knowledge, no other university has such an extensive research facility primarily housed within its athletic facilities.
Our Athletic Department is also unique, compared to our peers, in that we annually operate with a positive net margin, or “in the black”, without receiving any university subsidies or state tax dollars. In fact, the most recent NCAA Division I Revenues and Expenses report showed that only 23 of the 120 programs that comprise the current Football Bowl Subdivision operate in the black.
What is Athletic-Based Financial Aid and What Does it Cover?
There are two NCAA Division I types of athletic-based scholarships – full and partial. A full athletic scholarship consists of tuition and fees, room, board and required textbooks. Sports that can only offer full scholarships are called “head-count” sports or “counters”. Head-count sports and the maximum number of student-athletes who can be on scholarship each year at Nebraska include: football (85), volleyball and sand volleyball (12), men’s basketball (13), women’s basketball (15), women’s tennis (8) and women’s gymnastics (12).
“Equivalency sports” can offer full scholarships, but many divide a set number of scholarships among the student-athletes (hence, the term “partial scholarship”) to better field a competitive team. The equivalency sports at Nebraska (and the maximum scholarships annually, which can be divided among student-athletes on each team at the coach’s discretion) include: softball (12), men’s track and field and cross country (12.6), women’s track and field and cross country (18), rifle (3.6), soccer (14), bowling (5), men’s golf (4.5), women’s golf (6), men’s tennis (4.5), men’s gymnastics (6.3), wrestling (9.9), women’s swimming and diving (14) and baseball (11.7) Baseball is the only equivalency sport which is required to provide a minimum of 25 percent to each student-athlete offered financial aid.
Let’s consider the value of a full athletic-based scholarship. Of our 600-plus student-athletes, 164 have received full-rides during the 2013-14 academic year, meaning Nebraska Athletics pays 100 percent of their tuition and most fees, room and board, and required books. For a Nebraska student-athlete who is a resident, this equates to $18,422.00 per year or $73,688.00 over the course of a four-year college education. For a Nebraska student-athlete who is a non-resident, this equates to $31,749.50 per year or $126,998.00 over the course of a four-year college education. In 2012-13, Nebraska Athletics paid a total of $8.9 million in athletic-based financial aid for all scholarship student-athletes.
However, athletic-based financial aid does not include the total cost of college attendance. A true cost of attendance also includes such things as non-required books, study aids, additional meals, gas, entertainment, transportation, etc. The estimated cost of attendance at UNL is $3,474.00 more than a full grant in financial aid for resident and non-resident student-athletes. In that regard, to help narrow that gap, as permitted by NCAA guidelines, Nebraska Athletics provides student-athletes $700 for the academic year to spend on clothing, travel home, school supplies or other personal items. Further, those who demonstrate additional need may qualify for another $700. Student-athletes also have the opportunity to receive academic-based financial aid. A number of them do, but each scenario is evaluated independently because NCAA rules dictate whether or not each scholarship affects a student’s and team’s overall athletic scholarship limits. We provide the maximum assistance permitted by the NCAA. However, these additional forms of assistance generally fall short of the true cost of attendance. In fact, one goal associated with the NCAA restructuring dialogue is to provide the group of five resource conference institutions with greater flexibility to provide more resources to student-athletes – scholarships at or closer to cost of full attendance, as well as other enhanced resource and support services.
Student-athletes also receive a number of intangible benefits, such as being part of a team or a historic program, working with world-class coaches/mentors, making lifelong friends and networking colleagues, improved career earning potential with a college degree and other unique opportunities, such as regular-season and post-season competition and travel.
In addition to the intangibles, and in addition to resources offered to all UNL students, our student-athletes have access to the Dick and Peg Herman Family Student Life Complex, tutors, computer labs, personal and career development, elite medical and psychological care, athletic training support, strength and conditioning support, sport-specific and individualized nutrition support.
Resources Beyond an Education
Nebraska has and will continue to invest heavily in the lives of our student-athletes for all the right reasons. In fact, in 2012-13, Nebraska Athletics provided approximately $35 million toward the care, education and training of our student-athletes, as they pursued a world-class education that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. The resources allocated include, but are not limited to: tuition, room and board, required books, sport program operations, travel, equipment and gear, elite medical care, nutrition/training table, strength and conditioning, performance research, and further individual/program support in the following areas: academics and life skills, marketing/spirit squads, media relations, and HuskerVision. This $35 million-plus investment in our student-athletes does not include the multi-millions of dollars we spend annually to provide the best possible facilities and coaches.
You simply cannot quantify the total educational opportunities presented to student-athletes while attending college. Many of our UNL students and college students across the country simply would not have had this opportunity to attend and receive a degree from a Big Ten institution if not for their special talent, and this is true whether that talent is in athletics, music, theatre or art.
We are very fortunate to be able to provide broad-based athletic programs that strike the necessary academic integration and balance. Granted, we are not perfect in that pursuit, but we strongly believe that our mission, core values, intentions and people have put us on the right path. Furthermore, our ability to provide for our student-athletes is directly related to our tremendous fans and supporters. Without you, these opportunities would not be financially possible and for that we are forever grateful.
Until next time, stay positive and Go Big Red!
Big Ten Honors NU’s Extraordinary Spencer Long, Emily Wong
One of the proudest moments I’ve had was when I learned that Spencer Long and Emily Wong received the 2014 Wayne Duke Postgraduate Award from the Indianapolis Big Ten Community Partnership. No one would dispute Emily’s or Spencer’s credentials to become the only Big Ten female and male senior student-athletes to receive this annual $10,000 scholarship. Spencer and Emily exemplify the best of the best in their relentless pursuit of a postgraduate degree immediately following their incredible achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership. Emily and Spencer are among those rare student-athletes who are All-Americans both athletically and academically. That explains how UNL swept this award that honors one of the greatest leaders in the history of intercollegiate athletics for the second consecutive year, repeating the efforts of 2013 award winners Sean Fisher (football) and Katelyn White (track and field). Spencer is motivated to pursue the prevention of brain cancer and an education in medicine, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Emily has her postgraduate sights set on physical therapy school, hopefully at the University of Nebraska’s Medical Center. These two well-balanced Huskers will succeed and represent Nebraska at the highest level, and we’re counting on both to return often to help inspire others to continue the tradition they helped build.
Congratulations to Nebraska soccer players Jaycie Johnson and Katie Kraeutner for being invited to participate in training camps for two national teams. Jaycie, coming off one of the best freshman seasons in school history, is a 5-6 sophomore-to-be forward from Lake Winnebago, Mo., and Lee's Summit West High School. She participated in the U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team training camp from Feb. 22-March 2 in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Katie is a 5-4 junior-to-be forward from North Saanich, British Columbia. She participated with Canada's U-20 National Team in Vancouver. What an honor it is to have two Huskers invited to elite training camps that will only enhance their collegiate resumes.
I want to commend Gary Pepin and his coaching staff for our men's and women's track and field teams' competitive performances in last weekend's Big Ten Indoor Championships in Geneva, Ohio. Our runner-up men's team scored 118 points, 4½ points behind Big Ten Champion Wisconsin and 46 points ahead of third-place Penn State, which was considered by many to be the Big Ten pre-meet favorite. Our women's team finished third with 92 points, behind both Penn State and Michigan. Our men's team had four Big Ten individual champions – Oladapo Akinmoladun in the 60-meter hurdles, Travis Englund in the high jump, Levi Gipson in 600 meters and Patrick Raedler in the long jump. Patrick, a senior from Germany, is a repeat Big Ten champion. Travis is a senior from Grand Island (Neb.). Levi (Lincoln) and Oladapo (Grandview, Mo.) are both sophomores.
After launching their seasons in warmer climates, I'm fairly certain that Darin Erstad and Rhonda Revelle monitor Lincoln's weather forecasts as much anyone in Nebraska. Darin's Husker baseball team was scheduled to host Kansas State in its season home opener on Tuesday, but had to postpone due to inclement weather conditions. The Huskers plan to host three games against St. John's at Hawks Field this weekend. Rhonda's Husker softball team is scheduled to open its home season on Wednesday, March 19 against Iowa State at Bowlin Stadium. Two days later, the Huskers will host Minnesota in a three-game Big Ten weekend series. Don't forget to buy your single-game, series and season tickets on Huskers.com.
On Monday, tickets go on sale to the general public for the Big Ten Conference Baseball Tournament on Friday, March 7th. The Big Ten Tournament will be held May 22-25 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, the home of the College World Series. The tournament will feature an eight-team field for the first time in conference history, and we are definitely excited to bring this annual tournament to Nebraska for the first time in 33 years. The double-elimination format will culminate with a single championship game on Sunday, with the winner earning not only a tournament title, but also the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Championship and the possibility to return to the same stadium. We believe the eight-team format, similar to the CWS, will be well-received among Big Ten teams and fans attending the tournament. Purchase your tickets on Ticketmaster and pack the stadium in support of the Huskers.
Late last week, the NCAA Men's and Women's Rifle Committee announced that Nebraska was one of eight teams to qualify for the 2014 National Collegiate Men's and Women's Rifle Championships, which will be held March 14-15 on the Murray State campus in Murray, Kentucky. Coach Stacy Underwood's team qualified for both the smallbore three-position and air rifle competition. A total of 48 competitors will compete, including 40 from the qualifying teams and eight additional competitors who were selected on the basis of scoring averages. Several Huskers were honored at the Great American Rifle Conference’s Awards Banquet last weekend. Freshman Rachel Martin earned first-team all-conference honors in smallbore. Fellow freshman Lauren Phillips earned second-team honors in smallbore and honorable mention recognition in air rifle. Sophomore Denise Martin earned honorable mention in the same smallbore. Senior Sunny Russell was named Nebraska’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year and Nebraska was awarded the team Sportsmanship Award.
Congratulations to Katie Jewell (pictured), Kirk Hartman, Mike Nieman and Cathy Robertson, who each received a Parents Association Award, which is based on positive feedback to UNL campus and staff about employees who make a significant difference in students' lives. Bryan Reiling, chair of the UNL Teaching Council, and Timothy Draft, co-president of the UNL Parents Association, co-presented the awards to each of the four athletic department employees. Our Athletic Department's associate director of academic programs, Katie coordinates academic support for our baseball and football teams, assists staff in monitoring changes in NCAA academic legislation, and monitors the Academic Progress Rate and Graduation Success Rate; Kirk serves as the Executive Director of Video Production for HuskerVision and oversees all coaches shows and big screen productions; Mike is the academic counselor for men’s and women’s track and field and cross country; and Cathy works directly with our women’s soccer team as Coach John Walker’s secretary.
Congratulations to Mark Manning, his staff and seven Husker wrestlers who have earned spots on the NCAA's latest Coaches' Panel Rankings and RPI Rankings, released last Thursday. Nebraska will compete Saturday and Sunday, March 8-9, at Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championships, an important prelude to the NCAA Championships, slated for March 20-22 in Oklahoma City. James Green, our junior 157-pounder, is ranked No. 1 in both polls with a 26-1 record. Fellow junior Robert Kokesh (174) also earned top-five spots in both sets of rankings. Other ranked Husker wrestlers are 149-pound junior Jake Sueflohn (Nos. 4 and 7) redshirt 184-pound freshman T.J. Dudley (Nos. 7 and 8), plus Tim Lambert (125), Austin Wilson (165) and Collin Jensen (heavyweight).
We thank Chuck Chmelka for appearing on our Tuesday night radio show on the Huskers Sports Network and enjoyed having senior Eric Schryver join Coach Chmelka to share their thoughts on two upcoming events. Our men's gymnastics team hosts Iowa, Minnesota, Air Force and Arizona State on Saturday, March 15, at the Devaney Center. On Friday and Saturday, March 28-29, Nebraska will host the Big Ten Conference Men's Gymnastics Championships at the Devaney Center. Individual qualifiers and team finals will begin Friday evening while individual finals will begin Saturday afternoon. We hope to see loyal Husker fans at both events.
Wong, Schleppenbach Prepare for Last Home Meet
We also thank our women’s gymnastics coach Dan Kendig for appearing on Tuesday night's radio show and bringing senior Emily Wong with him to share their thoughts about the last home meet of the season this Saturday, when we host Arkansas at the Devaney Center. Coach Kendig hopes his team can attract a crowd of 4,000 fans. Emily is a five-time first-team All-American and one of the most popular female gymnasts in school history. I join Dan in his desire to showcase Emily and fellow senior Jamie Schleppenbach when they compete for the last time at home. The meet will be an opportunity to sharpen their focus for two more road trips this month – a March 15th trip to East Lansing to compete against Michigan State, Illinois and Ohio State, followed by the March 22nd Big Ten Championships at Penn State.
Pinnacle Bank Arena Crowd Salutes Curt Tomasevicz
What an honor it was for me to meet Olympian Curt Tomasevicz. I was returning from our Big Ten Joint Group Meetings (Faculty Athletics Representatives, Senior Women’s Administrators and Directors of Athletics) held in the new conference offices in Chicago and Curt was returning with a medal from Sochi. A former Husker walk-on and letterwinner in football, Curt was a member of the USA's four-man bobsled team that earned the bronze medal. A record crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena gave Curt a well-deserved standing ovation Saturday afternoon during the second half of the Nebraska-Northwestern men's basketball game. It was Curt's third Olympic experience in bobsled. He was a member of the four-man team that won the 2010 gold-medal team in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. After 10 years of intensive training, Curt has retired from his second sport, and with his work ethic and dedication, I’m confident he will be successful in the next chapter of his life. We are thrilled that Curt has agreed to come to our Red-White Spring Football Game on April 12 to lead the adults in the Drug Free Pledge at halftime. After scoring a touchdown last year, I’m also pleased to announce that Jack Hoffman will again participate in our Spring Game. This time he and his father Andy will lead the pledge for the students.
Video of Jack's Run in the Spring Game
Jordan Hooper Credits Nebraska for Her Development
It was a great pleasure for me last Thursday night to present Big Ten Player of the Year Jordan Hooper with a framed photograph commemorating her record-setting performances over the last four seasons as a Nebraska Cornhusker. It's hard to imagine anyone going from a one-room schoolhouse in the Nebraska Sandhills to handling the constant pressure of an All-America career in the Big Ten Conference and starting on a world championship team in Russia the summer before her senior season. Almost everyone who watched Connie Yori's team beat Illinois last Thursday night stayed after the game to show Jordan their appreciation for her dedication. I encourage everyone to vote for Jordan to win the NCAA Senior CLASS Award. It's a prestigious honor, and Jordan would be a worthy recipient. I speak for Husker fans everywhere when I say we hope Jordan's Senior Night was not her last game at Pinnacle Bank Arena. We want to see her, and the entire team, back in PBA for the NCAA Regionals. Thanks, Jordan, for your legendary performances over the past four seasons.
VIDEO: Jordan Hooper Press Conference
Speaking of Legends, I want to credit everyone connected with our men's basketball team for pulling off our second annual Legends Weekend. It was fun to unveil throwback jerseys for Saturday's win against Northwestern at Pinnacle Bank Arena. The jerseys paid homage to the 1911-12 Husker team that went 8-0 to win the Missouri Valley Conference Championship. Fifty former Huskers representing every decade since the 1940s returned from across the country for Legends Weekend, and Coach Miles is confident that total will increase in upcoming years.
Every time I watch one of our teams on the Big Ten Network (BTN), I am so proud that we are part of a conference that has been one step ahead of the nation’s other major conferences regarding its television network. The BTN is an amazingly managed network for our fans/supporters, as well as a strategic branding and recruiting tool. I often hear from parents and grandparents letting me know how much they enjoy seeing their children and grandchildren compete on this national network. I particularly enjoy the short, new “Faces of the Big Ten” brand shots. BTN produces them with quick tags: Big Life…Big Stage…Big Ten. The overall theme is every student-athlete has a story and we invite you to check out Nebraska soccer player Hannah Dittmar, Husker football player C.J. Zimmerer and NU bowler Amanda Burau featured in these half-minute spots: