This past weekend was one to remember. Our football team came back to beat Michigan, 17-13, in the Big House. I, along with my good friends Jim Abel and Tonn Ostergard, watched it unfold in the biggest stadium in America and in front of the biggest crowd ever to see the Huskers win a game with more than 112,000 in the stands. Coach John Walker’s soccer team won the Big Ten Tournament in Champaign, Illinois to match the regular-season title it won a week earlier on our home field. Our men’s and women’s basketball teams opened the curtain at Pinnacle Bank Arena with Coach Connie Yori’s team beating UCLA and Coach Tim Miles’ team defeating Florida Gulf Coast in two decisive wins over 2013 NCAA Tournament teams. Coach John Cook’s volleyball team won two road games over Top 16 teams at Wisconsin and at Minnesota, winning the fifth set to snap the Gophers’ 18-match home winning streak. To top it all off, Coach Stacy Underwood’s fifth-ranked rifle team beat a third straight ranked opponent, and Coach Bill Straub’s defending NCAA champion bowling team defeated 12 of the 13 teams it faced at a season-opening tournament in Indiana.
What a memorable day it was to watch our basketball teams launch a new era at PBA on November 8th. That morning, a sportsmanship pep rally for 4,300 middle-school-aged children from Lincoln and the surrounding areas featured Husker coaches and student-athletes in a 90-minute event coordinated by our Life Skills Department. Coach Miles and Coach Erstad gave powerful presentations. Tim talked about the importance of setting goals, and Darin talked about “emptying your tank” and to give your best in everything you do. Jordan Burroughs, Mattie Fowler, Shavon Shields, Meghan Williams and Chad Wright also spoke with great passion and purpose, representing wrestling, softball, men’s and women’s basketball and track and field.
I’m proud of the athletic success we have had this year and particularly last weekend. However, our No. 1 priority is academic success, and this weekend we will reinforce and celebrate that important fact. On Friday and Saturday we will salute our best and brightest student-athletes over the last half century. These scholar-athletes helped Nebraska reach an incredible milestone this past year – 300 Academic All-Americans and counting. Each of the 223 individuals who combined to earn 307 CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) Academic All-America certificates, and four others who earned the honor by other publications, were invited back to Lincoln to commemorate this historic and unprecedented accomplishment. Nearly 120 will join us this weekend on our campus. Only two other universities have even reached the 200 plateau--Notre Dame which is second in overall Academic All-Americans with 231 and MIT which ranks third with 204.
Friday night, we will host a private reception and give our Academic All-Americans a chance to tour the Dick and Peg Herman Family Student Life Complex. On Saturday, we will acknowledge each of our Academic All-Americans in attendance following the Marching Band Performance at halftime.
It’s an honor for me to point out that Björn Barrefors, Nebraska’s 2012 Big Ten Conference decathlon champion, is the Huskers’ first and only four-time Academic All-American across all sports. Björn has earned the honor to lead our Academic All-Americans onto the field. Joining Björn will be five other 2012-13 Husker Academic All-Americans – fellow first-teamers Josh Ihnen (wrestling) and Gina Mancuso (volleyball) and second-teamers Morgan Wilken (track & field), Mara Griva (track & field) and Emily Wong (gymnastics). Two former football players from this class – Sean Fisher (second-team) and Rex Burkhead (first-team) – are unable to join us on Saturday with commitments to medical school and the NFL, respectively.
Mike Brown will be honored twice on Saturday…first for being a First-Team All-America defensive back and second for being voted one of Nebraska’s Top Eight All-Time Blackshirts. Mike went on to a stellar NFL career with the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs.
Another legendary student-athlete who succeeded on the court and in the classroom is in Lincoln this week as well. Karen Jennings was the 1993 winner of the Margaret Wade Trophy as the Nation’s Outstanding Women’s Basketball Player and is currently a successful real estate agent in Omaha. She is also a double honoree this weekend. She is in Lincoln for UNL’s Alumni Masters Week and on Thursday afternoon, she spoke to our Academic and Life Skills teams. Karen is one of three Huskers in the CoSIDA Academic All-America Hall of Fame, and just one of three Huskers to earn First-Team Academic All-America honors three times. Two football players, Dave Rimington and Patrick Tyrance, join Jennings in the Academic Hall of Fame, while volleyball players Virginia Stahr and Sarah Pavan share Karen’s achievement of earning first-team Academic All-America honors for three consecutive years. Prior to her highly successful career in real estate, Karen worked as a physical therapist for Methodist Hospital in Omaha.
Even though they are not Academic All-Americans yet, three Nebraska football players became eligible for consideration last Thursday when the Capital One Academic All-District 7 honorees were announced by CoSIDA. By earning an all-district honor, Spencer Long, twin brother Jake Long and C.J. Zimmerer advance to the national ballot, and that’s good news for Nebraska football, which leads all programs nationally with 104 Academic All-Americans. On the women’s side, our volleyball program has won more Academic All-America awards (37) than any other women’s team in the nation, while the Husker softball program (29) ranks second on that list. We also lead all NCAA women’s gymnastics programs with 14 Academic All-Americans.
On Saturday, another outstanding former Husker student-athlete will be acknowledged. Mary Weatherholt will be honored with her teammates and individually at the football game. An accomplished scholar-athlete, Mary was named an NCAA Top Ten Award Winner for 2014 earlier this week. That designation is considered the most prestigious individual award the NCAA presents on an annual basis. I have been fortunate to get to know Mary and watch her compete on the tennis court last year, where she finished as the 2013 NCAA Singles Runner-up. She is one of the finest student-athletes I have ever had the privilege to work with. She was also an All-American in doubles for our Big Ten co-championship team last spring. With this week’s announcement, Nebraska leads the nation with 17 Top Ten winners, two more than second-place Stanford.
This past week I was able to attend the recent Downtown Lincoln Association’s Impact Awards Luncheon with Chancellor Harvey Perlman. Awards were presented for significant development, downtown residential development, downtown business leadership, plus recognition for a downtown champion and a young entrepreneur. Attending that luncheon, in the shadows of the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, brought to mind one of our own leaders who has worked tirelessly to help two of our teams make a smooth transition into PBA. Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm, who oversees both basketball programs, has spent countless hours making our new basketball arena feel like home as well as leading the Game One opening programming this past Friday. Our entire staff did a wonderful job making the opening day memorable. Thanks also to Tom Lorenz and the staff at Pinnacle Bank Arena and our Husker Marketing, Media Relations, Facilities and Events, HuskerVision, Capital Planning and Construction, Ticket Office, Huskers Athletic Fund staffs and all those who had a hand in making opening day one I will always remember.
Until next time, stay positive and Go Big Red!
As competitive as our athletic programs are, I think it’s important to acknowledge that UNL students also compete every day. In the Department of Philosophy, for instance, UNL sent two undergraduate teams to compete in the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl Rocky Mountain Regional Competition in Boulder on November 2. Both teams were sponsored by the Department of Philosophy and the Robert J. Kutak Center for the Teaching & Study of Applied Ethics. Steve Goddard is the interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences which supports our Philosophy Department. There is a national board-controlled group that ranks the reputations of U.S. Philosophy Ph.D. programs, and in the Big Ten Conference UNL is tied with Illinois and is rated ahead of Purdue, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa. The competition is intriguing because each team presents its resolution to an ethical dilemma before a panel of judges and the opposing team. Clare LaFrance, a philosophy graduate student at UNL and the Ethics Center assistant director for undergraduate programs, helped organize and coach both UNL teams along with graduate student Allison Fritz. One UNL team went undefeated through all rounds and won the regional at the University of Colorado. That effort qualifies them to compete in the national championship event in Jacksonville next February. Nebraska’s winning team included Kate Miller, a Philosophy major from Omaha; Maddie Bien, an Anthropology major from Lincoln; Sarah O’Neill, a Global Studies major from Lincoln; Tony Moran, a Philosophy major from Johnson, Nebraska and Oliver Tonkin, a Political Science major who was born in Malaga, Spain, but grew up in Lincoln and was the captain of the team. Congratulations and good luck in Jacksonville!
Cornhusker Marching Band Makes PBA Debut Memorable
Last Friday’s first Nebraska basketball games inside the Pinnacle Bank Arena were as memorable as they were successful, and I’m glad I didn’t miss these historical moments. Jordan Hooper proved why she is one of the best young women’s basketball players in the country, and Shavon Shields displayed his talents and leadership skills, winning a National Player of the Week honor. We’ve all been talking about the extraordinary fan experience for the sold-out men’s game, complete with incredible lighting, compelling videos, spectacular ribbon boards, Tommy Lee on the drums, Karmin singing the national anthem and the awesome sight of the full Cornhusker Marching Band helping us celebrate a new era. It truly was spectacular. Our sincere thanks to the band, celebrities and most importantly…our new fan base that purchased every ticket six months before the opening tipoff.
Last Saturday was a physical game between two of college football’s most storied programs. I want to share an email we received from Tim Byrne, an usher for Section 35 in America’s biggest college stadium affectionately called the Big House. Tim wrote, “I just wanted to comment on how friendly and courteous Nebraska fans were at the game this past Saturday. It was a pleasure!” I know "Hail to the Victors" is Michigan’s fight song, but when a stadium employee compliments our fans after a tough game like that, I want to reciprocate and thank Tim for his compliment and thank our fans for their sportsmanship.
We have another unique challenge for Big Red fans this weekend. Maggi Thorne from our Capital Planning and Construction group reminds us all that UNL will compete for a fourth consecutive year in the Game Day Challenge. It’s a recycling competition to see which schools can divert the most waste during one football game. Last year, we finished second in the Big Ten. Through our first six home games, we’ve diverted an average of 75 percent of stadium waste from landfills to recycling. That pace is about 15 percent higher than last year’s 60 percent. We’re able to be highly competitive an event like this because we have a Solid Mixed Waste Permit from the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in partnership with Recycling Enterprises. This allows us to collect everything in a single stream from the stadium and then sort at a recycling warehouse.
Donde Plowman, Dean of UNL’s College of Business Administration, is in the midst of raising $84 million to build a new CBA facility scheduled to open in 2017. She had more good news last week when Bloomberg Business Week released its 2013 ranking of part-time MBA programs. UNL ranked second in the Big Ten and 18th nationally ahead of Indiana, Texas, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Congratulations Donde for making great strides on CBA’s goals.
Congratulations to John Walker, his assistants and our soccer team on the 1-0 win over Iowa last Sunday in Champaign, Illinois, to add the Big Ten Tournament Championship trophy to our regular-season title a week earlier. Our soccer team has won four double conference championships in the same season, but this was our first Big Ten double title sweep and first in 13 years. Our nine-game winning streak is the longest we’ve had since 2000 and is tied for the fourth-best active streak in the nation. We are seeded No. 2 in our region behind Florida State and will play host to Southeastern Louisiana this Friday, November 15, at 2 p.m. at the Nebraska Soccer Field next to Memorial Stadium. We hope you will take the time to watch our team which is ranked 10th in the latest national ratings.
Husker Student-Athletes: Heroes in More Ways than One
There are so many innovative events that we embrace at Nebraska and one of the most popular is the Husker Heroes Event. On the first Sunday night of this month, 200 of our freshmen and first-year student-athletes met and interacted with about 600 guests at the Hawks Championship Field. It was the fourth-annual indoor event for our special guests and their family. Our Life Skills Department worked with “Organizations Networking for Everyone with Special Needs,” a group that includes 11 participating sponsor groups. It’s a home run every year, and this year was no exception. Every interaction is tender and touching and helps our student-athletes realize who some of their biggest fans in the world are. To prove how true that is, we invite you to view the photo gallery on the link below.