From the Omaha World Herald
What had been an assumption for days became official Monday: The Nebraska spring football game won’t go on as scheduled.
In fact, Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said, it “most probably will not occur at all.”
Speaking for an hour on “Sports Nightly,” which airs on KCNI radio, Moos touched on a wide range of topics related to the coronavirus pandemic, hours after federal health officials recommended against any gatherings of 10 people or more for the next eight weeks to help slow the spread of infection.
One certainty is that the annual Red-White scrimmage, which drew almost 86,000 last year, won’t occur on the original April 18 date.
“I hate to say that,” Moos said, noting that many other major programs had already scuttled their spring games. But it is also the right decision, he added, given health concerns for student-athletes, staff and the general population.
Nebraska, which has conducted just two of its 15 allowed spring practices, will aim to make up the other 13 workouts at some point, Moos said. He suggested June as a possibility if, in a “perfect world,” the virus fades and people feel safe by then.
Because other schools held 15 bowl practices in the winter and made it through most of their spring practices — some began them weeks ago — Moos said NU will be motivated to “recoup” some lost time on the field.
In the meantime, the A.D. said, Nebraska is prioritizing the welfare of its student-athletes and staff.
About half of the university’s athletes remain on campus. Moos said the decision was made Monday evening to transition the cafeteria to a grab-and-go format in an effort to prevent people from congregating. In the longer term, NU officials are in “caring mode” for those in winter sports who weren’t able to finish their postseasons and others in spring sports who had their seasons cut short as well.
Nebraska and every other Big Ten Conference school will gather compliance personnel and program representatives Tuesday for a discussion on eligibility for future years. Moos noted that there will be a financial cost involved with the likely addition of scholarships for a year, particularly in partial-scholarship sports like baseball and softball.
Nebraska wrestling coach Mark Manning, whose team had qualified all 10 starters for a national tournament that now won’t happen, is interested in exploring how some of those wrestlers could come back for another season, Moos said.
Communication among staff is also key, Moos said. That’s especially true as University of Nebraska President Ted Carter has encouraged supervisors to allows employees to work from home if they feel the need. Many of them have young children who can’t be in school or day care.
“Our athletic department is running,” Moos said. “We’ve got decisions not only in this very important topic but others that have to do with financial pieces and all kinds of things that have to be addressed on a day-by-day basis.”
Other items of note from Moos’ radio show:
>> Moos called the leadership of Carter, UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green and Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren during the last week “exceptional.” The virus situation is “pretty much 100% of what we’re focused on right now.”
>> Nebraska’s “Ready Now” program, which it bills as the first of its kind in educating and equipping student-athletes to build their individual brands on social media, has been on the school’s radar for some time, Moos said. Securing Lincoln-based Opendorse as the partner, he said, was important as name, image and likeness bills sprout up in states across the country.
“This is inevitably going to happen,” Moos said. “Nebraska wants to be out front.”
The Husker fan base can be a valuable recruiting tool in that regard, Moos said. Memorial Stadium sellouts mean that there is a market for athletes to brand themselves.
The education piece will also be important as student-athletes discover what they should and should not do. One of the first steps is learning what will help their individual image and Nebraska’s — and what won’t.
“I’m not saying that we have a lot of that,” Moos said. “But if we do — and we do have some — let’ s clean that up. And let’s start focusing on things and areas that are going to enhance that student-athlete’s own brand and also the wonderful brand that we have at the University of Nebraska.”