What’s in a Name? “Nebrasketball” and the Need for a Fresh Start

Posted: January 11, 2013 in Sports
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Nebraska basketball has a problem.  A very real, very untied-to-the-court-itself kind of problem.  Perception.  In a society where perception is too often reality, and in a state where football is rightfully seated on the un-usurpable throne afforded by its tremendous wealth and success, the perception of Nebraska basketball is, unfortunately, very close to the reality.  You see, the Huskers haven’t won much of anything since Danny Nee departed the university in 2000.  It could be argued the Nebraska didn’t really win much of anything even under Nee, who led the Huskers to a 1994 conference tournament championship, an NIT victory in 1996 and 5 NCAA Tourney appearances but never really got over the hump.  The last time Nebraska was much of a powerhouse in men’s basketball was back in these days:

File:1904 Nebraska Cornhuskers men's basketball team.jpg

Recently Nebraska basketball has gotten something of a collegiate “do over.”  They have a new, vibrantly-excited-about-the-job coach.  They have a state of the art practice facility that should rival anything recruits would see anywhere else in the nation.  They have a brand-spanking-new multi-million dollar arena getting erected as we speak in downtown Lincoln.

So, the financial backing is there.  The energetic, young head coach is in place.  The arena is space-age cool and the practice facilities look like something Marc Cuban dreamt up while resting his head on a pile of cash for an afternoon nap.  What else can Nebraska basketball do to try to become more relevant?

First and foremost, they can win.

Nebraska Cornhusker fans will always be passionately, deeply in love with football.  It is their first love.  But there’s another mistress that most Nebraska fans keep on the side: winning.  Charlie Sheen isn’t the only one who loves it.  We covet victories.  Look at the tremendous fan support our volleyball program has received.  Look how excited Nebraska fans are when the baseball program is clicking on all cylinders.  Hell, the Bob Devaney Sports Center used to get packed for women’s games when the program was top five in the nation.

But, if things stay status quo, winning will take time.  And, if the current state of the program is any indication it could take a lot of time.  We’re talking, geologic, mountains-eroding, watching-the-entire-Lord-of-the-Rings-Director’s-Cut-box-set amounts of time.  So what can Nebraska basketball do in the meantime?  What are the little things that will help shed some of the stigma surrounding a program with such little success?  I’m not talking about items that directly pertain to success on the court, but rather the image of the program by its fanbase and college basketball in general.

Here are some small-scale items that should be addressed in order for Nebraska basketball to stop being the Khloe Kardashian of Husker sports.

1.)  Ditch the term “Nebrasketball”

Yeah, it’s convenient.  Sure the school came up with the slogan a few years back in a doomed marketing mashup that’s driven me crazy ever since.  “Nebrasketball” is kitsch.  It’s gimmicky.  It sounds like a B-list power couple from 1999.  Bennifer and Speidi think that “Nebrasketball” is ridiculous.  You want something that rolls off the tongue?  Husker Hoops.  There.  You even have some of that marketer’s wet dream, alliteration, readily available.  All the term “Nebrasketball” does is perpetuate the stereotype that Nebraska basketball is a sideshow. A “hey if you’re not terribly busy we have this kind of cute thing for you to watch” style program.

Nebrasketball is Nebrasketdirt

Nebrasketball is Nebrasketdirt

It’s been around far too long.

Most power couples with idiotic nicknames end up in a flaming pile of divorce and it’s high time for “Nebrasketball” and the Nebraska men’s basketball team to call up a couple good lawyers and start dividing their possessions.

2.)  Get the Student Section More Involved

I’m a die-hard Nebraska hoops fan.  I watch virtually every game and have had season tickets since my junior year of college and I have seen the best and worst parts of the Husker student sections at Nebraska basketball games.  I’ve been there, standing shoulder to shoulder in a packed and rocking arena, when we stormed the court after inexplicably defeating a Michael Beasley-led K-State team and I’ve been there for the games that happen over Christmas break against Alabama State (*Author’s note: A game where the only item of note was that it contained the single greatest name to ever grace a roster in NCAA history)

I repeat, this is not a joke. . .

I repeat, this is not a joke. . .

Where the student section is full of disinterested children and apathetic, seated, students.

But the potential is there.  I see a die-hard, loyal group of rabid Husker basketball fans wearing Husker snuggies and snorkel masks, and taunting the opposition when taunting is deserved.  But we need a united student body.  Not split into two groups on opposite sides of the court.  Sure, that allows the opposition to be heckled during both halves, but it also limits the amount of cool, student section madness that occurs at the preeminent hoops programs around the country.

At many universities the seats on either side of the court, not behind the baskets, are given to the students.  These students are close, loud, and united.  When we make the arena change it would be the perfect time to join both student sections together and move them front and center.

The seats are currently taken up by. . .wait for it. . . football boosters.  Those who donate enough cash to the Husker football program get really choice, free seats.  Seats which are often empty or filled with dispassionate hoops fans who got such great seats as part of a perk package.  Move them somewhere else and let the students waiting to have an impact get their chance.

Don’t make those students wear certain shirts.  Let creativity flourish.  In the past seasons there has been a semi-dress code in place requiring that students entering the game to sit in the designated student section be wearing their athletic department issued Husker shirts.  Is this a K-12 prep school or a university?  Are these fans, or are they working as bartenders at a wedding?

3.)  Get Better Halftime Acts

I feel like whomever is booking the Nebraska basketball halftime shows has a sick sense of humor.  Or maybe I just hope that, some way, somehow, the halftime acts at Nebraska are a big, cosmic joke?  Here’s the thing: mediocre-good halftime shows don’t really matter.  They don’t bring in more fans than would normally come or make up for bad play on the court.  People aren’t geeked up to get to the stadium and see what happens in between the basketball.

Here’s the other thing: bad halftime shows do matter.

Especially for a program struggling with a perception issue; struggling to have people respect it and take it seriously.

We trot out elderly women in fringe and sparkles to slowly shamble out a gratuitously lengthy tap dance set to a song from 1934.

We bring out an act that is, for all intents and purposes, the Duggar family on Unicycles or a girl from China who has the world record for catching bowls on her head. . .while riding a unicycle.

If you feel like you’ve accidentally ingested a vast quantity of hallucinogenic drugs and gone to an off-off-off Broadway Cirque du Soleil, you probably have just accidentally wandered into the halftime of a Nebraska game.  I’m almost certain that every pitch made to the athletic department about Nebraska basketball’s halftime shows revovles entirely around “cute”.

Every time we trot out another troupe of 6-year-olds to show us their almost-cool dribbling moves I feel like a jerk for being disappointed.  Every time I see another f-ing unicycle or someone who doesn’t have teeth — be it from old age or the tooth fairy — I want to shout, “Don’t put this on me, Nebraska halftime shows!  This is your fault!”

If the Shim Shams (*Author’s note: I’m not joking.  That’s what the elderly tap dance crew is called) want to tap dance, that’s fine.  There’re talent shows, Betty White reality T.V., and America’s Best Dance Crew for them to try out for.  But each time they come click-clacking out onto the court and get photographed standing on the “N” at center court, they’re making a mockery out of something that’s already heavily mocked.

Make no mistake, Nebraska basketball by any other name is still Nebraska basketball.  But isn’t it about time we took some pride in saying that?  If we’re going in for a facelift don’t we want to try to have it done right, so we don’t end up the basketball equivalent of Bruce Jenner’s grill?  Isn’t it about time we start piecing together a few of the tiles so that we can create a decent looking mosaic?  These are only very finite pieces, but if you think of them as pieces of chain mail, being used to strengthen a weakened suit of armor, you’ll understand that it really and truly is the little things that matter.


  1. d says:

    OH MY GOD that picture of the old ladies @ center court…that tells the entire story.

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