UNO ready for end of transition to D-I
February 22nd, 2015
Omaha, NE – The University of Nebraska at Omaha athletic program made the controversial move to Division-I in March of 2011.[audio:http://www.kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/final.mp3]
In doing so the Mavericks cut football and wrestling programs, and added men’s soccer, a move UNO athletic Director Trev Alberts said was necessary for a move to D-I to happen. Taking a look around the country there are examples of universities making tough decisions to ensure the survival of athletics on their campuses. Maryland cut seven programs in 2012, Robert Morris cut seven in 2013, Temple cut five also in 2013 and most recently the University of Alabama-Birmingham announced a proposed cut to its football program in December.
“This was an institutional decision that we made in 2011,” Alberts said. This was not about ‘this is what’s best for the athletic department’, we felt this was best to help move UNO forward. Every institution that lies outside of the autonomy conferences, or the ‘Power Five’, every one of the athletic departments, if they are not integrated into their campuses and creating value which advances the institution beyond the wins and losses, it’s going to be hard to rationalize your existence over the next 25 years.”
Alberts said he knew of the backlash that would ensue, but redirected talk of what he had to deal with personally, to the student-athletes who learned they wouldn’t be able to compete anymore at UNO. He said he also gave each head coach the encouragement and assistance they needed to succeed in D-I.
“We started holding ourselves accountable four years ago on the actual product on the court or ice,” Alberts said. “I’ve long felt that we can’t even hold our coaches accountable on wins and losses until I feel comfortable that we are providing them the necessary support, and it isn’t just financial, its ‘do we have the right people in place?’”
Since the switch to D-I UNO has only had one head coaching change, Chance Lindley retiring from women’s basketball top post for personal reasons in October 2013. Alberts said he is proud of that steadiness. He also said things have changed quite a bit since he arrived on campus.
“When I got here in 2009, coaches were coaching, recruiting, teaching, raising money, selling corporate sponsorships and doing their own uniforms,” Alberts said. “At the end of the day, the industry specific expertise they have presumably, is coaching. So let’s have them be the best coaches the can be, let’s recruit, coach and develop young people. My job and our staff’s job is to support them.”
Alberts said the growth within the athletic program has been remarkable, with men’s baseball winning back-to-back Summit League regular season titles and men’s soccer winning a share of the Summit League title in 2014. Alberts also noted the $75 million arena currently being constructed just south of Aksarben Village.
“The arena is going to make a big difference, so immediately softball, baseball and men’s soccer,” Alberts said. “But I would tell you now that the arena has presented itself that’s totally changed the recruiting game for hockey, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball.”
Alberts knows being in a metropolitan area like Omaha is immeasurable for UNO going forward, as is having an arena on campus.
“I think today we have a significantly different value on campus and in the community,” Alberts said. “I don’t want, in any way, to suggest that we’ve arrived or that we are done. But we are on our way. With the arena we are on the way as we will be able to capture all of our revenue streams through hockey which is so important for us. We want to continue slowly building those other programs, we certainly haven’t arrived, we’re pleased with our progress, but we are not satisfied.”
The arena will be completed by the fall 2015, just in time for all of UNO’s programs to be eligible for postseason play. That was just one downside to moving to D-I, Alberts said, the four year span where the NCAA prohibited the Mavericks from competing in post season tournaments. He said his staff has laid the groundwork to help UNO flourish and to keep them apart of the national conversation going forward.
“I’ll look back 25 years from now at the people that are here, l they will be doing unbelievable things and our stuff will seem so small,” Alberts said. “That’s the exciting thing, with a little hard work and vision, UNO can go about anywhere it’s allowed to go.”
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