Creighton and Nebraska baseball are starting the weekend today. So am I.
1. Nebraska’s 2014 football schedule came out today. First impression: yuck. No Ohio State. No Michigan. Not even a Penn State. Where are the prime time games going to come from? Thank goodness for the Miami, Fla. game. Finally get to see those uniforms in Memorial Stadium. It’s on Sept. 20. Can it possibly snow that day?
Meanwhile, Rutgers, Purdue, Illinois and Minnesota at home. Not exactly fan friendly. Then again… I know some of you are saying no Bucks or Wolverines isn’t a bad deal. But NU hardly got off easy. The Big Red travel to Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin. With a new quarterback, those are all difficult games.
Don’t forget a non-conference trip to Fresno. That’s one of the most unappealing schedules, in many aspects, that Nebraska’s had in a while.
2. Someone wrote me this week that I should have been at the Nebraska Class A soccer final the other night at Morrison Stadium, the one that drew over 8,000. That I missed an historical night in this town. That’s possible. I had no idea that South vs. Prep would draw that many. I’ll think again next time.
Another reader said this was some sort of historical turning point, signaling the beginning of soccer’s takeover of football, what with parents pulling their kids out of football because of concussions and sending them to the soccer field. That didn’t surprise me. We are in such a rush today to attach significant meaning to everything that happens. But let’s tap the brakes.
Football is not going away. That’s a popular story line these days. I’m not buying it. As long as there are boys who like to run into things, and parents of boys who like football, there will be football players. Pulling kids out of football is not the answer. There needs to be more vigilence by coaches and doctors — and parents — when a kid suffers a concussion or a hard hit to the head. Sit him out. Don’t continue to send him in. That’s how problems start. Do that at all levels, including the NFL.
Propping up soccer at the expense of football is a disservice to soccer, or futbol. What happened the other night deserves to stand on its own.
I do think soccer is coming. The culture of America is changing. So are the appetites of ESPN and Fox. There’s more English and international soccer on TV. We saw that first-hand last year during the College World Series, with game times impacted by soccer on TV. Soccer is growing and becoming more popular. I’ve been hearing that soccer is the sport of the future since 1979. Has it finally arrived? Not necessarily. But it’s bigger than it’s ever been and it looks like it’s gaining momentum. It’s coming.
Do I think the Big Ten Network is going to start showing men’s and women’s soccer games over football and basketball? No way. But soccer doesn’t have to overtake football. It’s going to find its own place next to football and basketball.
I will say this: there was a wow factor to the soccer crowd the other night. Does that crowd happen if it’s Prep vs. Millard West? Did the soccer passion at South inspire the number? Maybe.
What matters is a lot of people were talking about it. People in this town, in this state, like to be part of a hot, fresh, exciting event. So high school soccer earned a bit of credibility to the average sports fan.
3. The high school soccer match almost outdrew the Creighton-Nebraska game on Wednesday night. I’ve stopped trying to analyze college baseball crowds. Some said it was the 100-degree heat. I’ll say it was more that the two teams haven’t been sizzling this year. The average sports fan around here doesn’t get excited about college baseball unless one of the local teams is ranked high or looks like a good bet to advance deep in the tournament, with a chance for Omaha. It’s just been a strange spring for college baseball around here, if you want to call it “spring.” And it’s not over yet.
4. Then there’s UNO baseball, which is trying to win its first Summit League championship this weekend. How long before we start thinking about UNO at the CWS?
5. Julie Hermann looks like a terrific hire for Rutgers. She looks competent, strong, a person with vision, a consensus builder. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s coming from Louisville, the school with the Midas touch lately.
Hermann, the former Husker volleyball player, is the third female athletic director of a BCS school. And yet, this didn’t look or feel like the huge story that it maybe once would have been. That’s because women are CEO’s and hold powerful positions in all walks of life. It feels overdue, though. Women don’t get these kinds of jobs in athletics.
The reason is football. That’s not necessarily fair. The biggest and most knowledgeable Husker football fan I know is a woman. My wife. I know, because I hear about it on Saturday nights.
Still, that stigma is out there. I think the way for Hermann to make a big impact, and open doors for other women athletic directors, is to turn around Rutgers football and basketball. Especially football. If she can make Rutgers a player in Big Ten football, she’ll have instant credibility with the public and donors, no matter how many other great administrative moves she makes. Hermann’s actually in a good place to do that. Rutgers lives in the shadow of New York City, the Yanks and Giants and Knicks. There’s not much pressure or expectation on Rutgers to do anything. But with the access to the Big Ten, the opportunity is there.
6. I don’t want to downplay Hermann’s hire. These things are huge, especially for little girls. The other morning, my eight-year-old, Kate, asked who won the mayor race. When I told her Jean Stothert, she had a big grin on her face. The girl won.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m headed out to 120th and Maple to see the future of our city. That’s where they play girls soccer.