April 12, 2013
Dear Husker Fans,
In the best-selling book Good to Great, author Jim Collins reviewed 1,435 established companies and their performances over 40 years to determine what it takes to change a good company into a great one.
After his five-year research project concluded, Collins identified 11 companies that he believed moved from "good" to "great" over a measurable time with above-average success. Of those "great" companies, he discovered consistent findings: There was no miracle moment. Instead, there was a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process—a framework that kept each company, its leaders, and its people on track for the long haul. No quick fixes, no overhauls, no gimmicks. Successful companies feature disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and who take disciplined action.
My observation at the conclusion of the men's and women's basketball season is that we have two talented leaders at the helm of our Husker hoops programs who both can be successful in taking our teams from good to great as measured by this time-tested committed-to-excellence approach.
Coach Connie Yori led our Husker women's team to its second NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last four years, posting the second-most victories in school history (25). The Huskers won 12 games and finished second in the Big Ten Conference, ranked as the No. 2 RPI conference in the nation. This year's berth into the NCAA Tournament is our fifth in the last seven seasons. I'm most proud that Nebraska was one of 25 teams in the 2013 NCAA Tournament with a 100-percent graduation rate. In fact, all five of Connie's NCAA Tournament teams have had 100-percent graduation rates.
Coach Yori's priority is to establish a culture of discipline. As outlined in Collins' book, "A culture of discipline is not a principle of business; it is a principle of greatness." Coach Yori's philosophy is to recruit great students who have a strong desire to become better players and people, and we see evidence of that every day.
I'm proud to salute Jordan Hooper and Katie Simon for earning academic All-Big Ten honors, and the women's basketball team, which annual contends for the Life Skills Team Award of Excellence, winning the award twice.
With four players earning all-Big Ten honors this season and two Huskers contending for national awards, Coach Yori's teams exemplify how a culture of discipline can lead to greatness.
Despite losing four starters and seven of the team's top nine scorers from the previous season, Coach Tim Miles improved the Husker men's win total by three in his first year as head coach. His team achieved this while playing in arguably in the best conference in the nation and against the 13th toughest schedule in the country. In fact, all of our losses were to teams that competed in the postseason. There were no excuses from Tim. Although we were picked last in the Big Ten, we saw great improvement over the season, capped by a win over Purdue in the first round of the league tournament, marking the program's first-ever Big Ten Tournament win.
The team's focus on daily preparation and limiting mistakes, along with solid defense, gave the Huskers a chance in nearly every Big Ten game. I observed solid coaching and student-athletes' skills nurtured to their full potential as evidenced later in the season in our rally from a 19-point first-half deficit to a 64-60 win against Iowa on February 23. With three victories over NCAA Tournament participants in a rebuilding year, the future is very bright. I was also pleased to see Brandon Ubel and Trevor Menke named to the academic All-Big Ten team.
I believe Coach Miles has the discipline, personality and the wherewithal to get what Collins refers to as the "Flywheel" turning. The Flywheel only works if you keep the direction steady and keep pushing to gain a steady momentum.
Husker fans apparently agree with the positive momentum displayed by Coach Miles' first Husker team, as we have sold more than 11,000 season tickets for next year in the Pinnacle Bank Arena, and that doesn't include 1,500-plus expected season ticket purchases from UNL students who will absolutely love their seating in the lower bowl, including the courtside section. The public season tickets currently sold are the most since records have been kept.
One Collins quote in particular resonates with me as it applies to us. "Greatness is not a function of circumstance; greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline."
I know Coach Miles and Coach Yori concur. We have the best practice facilities anywhere in the country. And as Coach Miles has said, the new Pinnacle Bank Arena downtown will be an amazing difference-maker.
I am confident Coach Yori and Coach Miles will continue on their disciplined journeys to take their teams from "Good to Great," and I look forward to supporting their efforts.
It's not too late to get your season tickets for the Pinnacle Bank Arena. More than 2,000 season seats are still available for the men's games. We also have excellent seats that do not require a donation for the women's games.
Until next time, stay positive and Go Huskers!
Director of Athletics
Run Jack Run!
Seven-year old Jack Hoffman's 69-yard run at last weekend's Red-White Spring Game was truly inspirational to us all. Jack is an extraordinary young boy who is gallantly battling cancer and nearing the end of 60 weeks of chemotherapy. As the father of three young boys, and as a college athletics administrator surrounded by strong, gifted student-athletes on a daily basis, I'm humbled to be reminded of what is truly important. We should never take for granted our many blessings, including our health, family, friends, the joy of being part of a team and the opportunity to receive an education. We are so proud to have Coach Pelini who maintains a special culture of caring and to have student-athletes such as Rex Burkhead and C.J. Zimmerer serve as role models and friends for our young people in need like Jack. We are proud that our football team has formed a chapter for Uplifting Athletes to help raise awareness for pediatric brain cancer. Jack has inspired us all to keep fighting and to give back.
Drug Free Pledge Time Capsule
Speaking of role models, I was very proud of Shavon Shields and Lindsey Moore leading the drug-free pledge for more than 8,000 youth at halftime of the Red-White Spring Game. In addition, thanks to Will Shields, Shavon's father and former Husker offensive lineman, for leading the adult pledge. My family signed the drug-free pledge banner that was available to all youth to sign at the Husker Nation Pavilion on Saturday. That banner will be placed in one of the Time Capsules that will be buried in a vault near the entrance of the East Stadium. It will be opened in 2062. Hopefully, that date will coincide with Nebraska's celebration of its 100th consecutive sellout in Memorial Stadium.
During the noon hour the day before our Red-White Spring Game, Dr. Tim Gay, a physics professor, gave a free lecture in Memorial Stadium. It was part of the Chancellor's Distinguished Lecture Series entitled "Football: Its Physics and Future." Because Nebraska fans know Dr. Gay through his physics/football video series that was previously shown on our big screens in Memorial Stadium, there was an overflow crowd for this lecture. Fortunately, the lecture was filmed so all of us can view an edited version. Dr. Gay did a great job helping people understand the issues that can threaten a physical game like football. It's interesting to watch the approach of a physics professor who played college football at Cal Tech. He's a big picture, outside-the-box thinker, and I believe his expertise could help us focus on helmet development in the future.