Alberts, Denney interviews shed new light on split
March 18th, 2011
KVNO News’ Ben Bohall contributed to this report
Omaha, NE – The decision by the University of Nebraska at Omaha to recommend football and wrestling be eliminated has stirred controversy throughout the campus and community. Particularly controversial is the cut to the wrestling program, one of UNO’s most successful athletics teams.
KVNO News’ exclusive interviews with wrestling Coach Mike Denney and Athletics Director Trev Alberts this week shed new light on the relationship between the two men.
When Trev Alberts accepted the position of Athletics Director at UNO in 2009, he stated a clear vision of taking the University to the highest level of NCAA competition: Division 1. On Sunday, March 13, he announced that vision was no longer over the horizon. UNO would recommend to the University of Nebraska of Board of Regents that they accept an invitation to the Summit League, a division one conference. This would be the realization of Alberts’ driving idea. This week, in an interview with KVNO News’ Ben Bohall, Alberts said that at least one coach didn’t see the future exactly as he did.
“He made it well known on many occasions to me that he was not supportive of a move to Division I,” Alberts said, “and really felt like it would impair his ability to win national championships.”
The coach Alberts spoke of was wrestling coach Mike Denney. But Denney said he feels he may have been misunderstood by administrators.
“I think what was taken wrong by that is that I’m not against Division I,” Denney said. “I’m against the moratorium that you have to go through before you can be eligible to compete in the championships.”The moratorium states that a school moving to Division I can’t compete in championship events for a span of four years. The difference in opinion about the move to a higher level of competition undoubtedly put strain on the relationship, but there were other issues. Alberts was a driving force behind UNO’s The One Fund, a reformed way of donating to the athletic department. It was a way to unify the donations that came in and streamline the process. Alberts said Coach Denney was initially skeptical.
“I think that he probably had more questions than the average coach,” Alberts said. “Because, quite frankly, he and the booster club for wrestling, was more active. So I think he wanted to ensure that the funds that were raised for the booster club for wrestling actually went to benefit wrestling.”
Coach Denney admitted he wanted leeway to raise funds his own way.
“You do not have to give us more any money in our budget. Just allow us to raise money, allow us to do our thing.”
Even now, there are discrepancies on why the decision to drop wrestling was made. Alberts reiterated a point he made at the initial press conference announcing the decision, saying that dropping wrestling better aligns the University with the new conference.
“So then we started a hard look at the Summit League and what its championship offerings were,” he said, “and what sports that they sponsored on the championship level within the conference structure, and recognized that both football and wrestling were not offered as part of the championship sports.”
Coach Denney said he was given a different explanation as to why the program could no longer be sustained.
“For us to keep wrestling and to keep it at a championship level, they would have had to give us a lot more money.”
The decision has roused emotion from the community and the student body, both for and against. Alberts said the decision was not made without intense consideration.
“You have to have some feel, from not only the community, from those that ultimately make decisions whether we’re on the right track. And those individual conversations were supportive.”
But Coach Denney said he wished he’d been a part of the discussion.
“Not once was I ever asked for my side of it, my wisdom, my knowledge,” Denney said. “Not once, have I ever been in this whole time did he ever come down, and sit down and say, what do you think of this?”
For now, the fate of a wrestling program, and moreover, a University, lies in the hands of the 8 members of the Board of Regents. The Board has set a public hearing on the issue for Friday, March 25th in Lincoln.
For the full interview with Trev Alberts and Coach Denney, click here: Web Extras.