Thursday, March 19, 2009

Husker fans unite -- root for Pitt to go down!

OK, I took the plunge for another year of the NCAA Tournament and filled out a bracket, joining some old University of Nebraska friends on the website.

With a wife, three kids that are two years old and under plus a full-time job, I have barely watched college basketball. So this year, I winged it more so than any other year. I picked Louisville to beat UConn for the title.

Like most years, there are a handful of teams that can claim a realistic chance of winning it all. Louisville, UConn, North Carolina, Duke, Michigan State and Pittsburgh just to name a few.

I generally root for the Big 12 but of the teams I mentioned, I don’t have a huge preference on who wins the title. Well, with one exception – and I know I speak for many Husker fans.


I have nothing against Pitt players or coach Jamie Dixon. I really don’t even have anything against Pitt football coach Dave Wannstedt.

It’s just that damn athletic director Steve Pederson, who is Nebraska’s former athletic director. Thankfully, NU chancellor Harvey Perlman gave the arrogant, elitist Pederson the axe in mid-October 2007.

I was talking to a friend from my college years who lives in Lee’s Summit, MO, by phone the other day. This friend of mine has said a few times that Pederson, who is a North Platte, Neb. Native, is to Nebraskans what OJ Simpson is to most of America.

At first, I found the comparison somewhat odd to compare Pederson to a convicted felon but the more I think about it, the more I see it as a fair statement.

Not to rehash old skeletons but Pederson, Bill Callahan and Kevin Cosgrove were the biggest lightning rods for Husker fans. If any of those individuals even as much as passed through the state of Nebraska, none would be welcomed with open arms but I don’t think they would be tarred and feathered either. Pederson, however, would be extremely vilified. Maybe even tarred and feathered. Not only was he a bad AD. He will go down as the man who gutted Husker football of all the things that made the program unique.

Remember when Pederson was hired, he was viewed as the anti-Bill Byrne. He was a native Nebraskan. He was going to make football priority No. 1 whereas Byrne tried to appeal to all sports. Which is fine to a point but football is the bell cow of every athletic program followed closely by men’s basketball.

Heck, I bought into Pederson being the right guy but when he fostered a culture of disconnect Husker Nation might as well have been Husker “alien-Nation.” I had the chance to meet Bryne several times when I was in college working as a reporter for the Daily Nebraskan and production assistant for KLIN (1400 AM) in Lincoln. I didn’t always agree with his decisions as AD but in talking to him I at least felt like he was a good person.

I’ll admit I’ve criticized Callahan and Cosgrove my share of the time and rightfully so. However, I do not think either one are bad people. They just have their shortcomings as coaches. Well, Callahan is a good assistant coach, just a bad head coach. Cosgrove might have been a good defensive coordinator at one time, just not at Nebraska.

As for Pedeyshine, I think us Husker fans should thank our lucky stars that Tom Osborne lost the Nebraska gubernatorial election and wound up as Nebraska’s AD. Think about it, if Osborne won the election, we might still be stuck with Pederson today.

Husker fans unite when watching the NCAA tournament – your favorite team is who ever Pitt’s opponent is!

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