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First downs and second guesses:

Bill Moos has a prediction. It’s just short of a guarantee, because when it comes to the Big Ten brain trust, the only guarantee is confusion.

Moos told his staff last week they plan to have fans at the Red-White Spring Game on May 1 — and “lots of them.”

And, “If we are back to normal next fall, we are back to continuing the sellout streak.”

That leads us to Moos’ prediction: Football fans will be back in Big Ten stadiums next fall. And not just a couple thousand.

Moos says there is a push to have Big Ten schools use local health officials as their guide in opening venues to the public. A flexible approach to the issue, as opposed to the Big Ten approach now.

For instance: The NCAA will allow up to 25% capacity for its men's basketball tournament games in March, which are being played in and around Indianapolis.

You know, that city smack in the Big Ten footprint.

Moos’ reasoning is one the Big Ten poobahs know all too well: Money.

He says athletic directors are going to have a heart-to-heart with their bosses. The Husker A.D. is leading the charge to get fans back in seats as soon as this spring.

“I think the Big Ten will let local health officials decide it,” Moos said. “The presidents were so concerned about the pandemic and the health of students, and rightfully so.

“But now they are going to have athletic departments going broke. They know what that means to the big picture of the universities themselves.”

How many fans? As Moos said, it will depend on the vaccine and the number of cases in each campus town.

NU athletics has survived the best it could thanks to television money and an estimated $60 million in a reserve fund. The hit to the athletic budget was around $40 million — considerably less than the projected $100 million had there been no football season.

Moos said all 51 athletic department workers who were furloughed are back to work with a 10% salary reduction. 

The reserve fund did what it was set up to do — save the day in an emergency. But Moos doesn’t want to touch it again.

“It’s a little bit deceiving,” Moos said. “We have a large reserve, but half of it you can’t touch, it’s tied to endowments. We would be hard-pressed to do it again.”


» The state of Husker football and basketball has some fans going batty. For instance, there are some who blame it on Moos for hiring the wrong coaches.

Blame whom you want. Yes, it's been slow. But at the time, Scott Frost and Fred Hoiberg were seen — universally — as incredible, genius hires.

That kind of thinking is driving Moos to finish the last two years of his contract, rather than go find a Yellowstone ranch to hang out on.

“It’s kind of like when I blew my knee my junior year (at Washington State),” Moos said. “I want to come back and have a better year than ever. We got too much unfinished business.

“When I was (A.D.) at Montana we had a great run. I leave in July and that fall they win their first national championship.

“I go to Oregon and have a hell of a run there. I leave and the next year they go to the Rose Bowl.

“I go back to Washington State and we have a train wreck and we get that back up. I leave and the next year (Mike) Leach wins 11 games and has them in the top 10.

“Heck, I want to stay here until we get back.”

I told Moos that some Husker fans might read that and want him to go ahead and leave.

He laughed.

» I’ve been totally impressed by the way Hoiberg has handled the obstacle course that is this season.

First, his team had a three-week COVID-19 pause. Then the Big Ten piles on the makeup games, leaving the Huskers thoroughly exhausted with no time to practice.

Hoiberg has handled it with class and maturity. Whenever asked about the overload, he’s embraced it, turned it into a positive, made it about player development.

I went after the Big Ten for its hypocrisy, but kudos to Hoiberg for not joining in.

Players always follow their coach’s lead. The message here was no excuses, deal with adversity and use it to get better.

I have to believe Husker Hoops will do just that.


» I’m old enough to remember when Creighton women’s basketball played some games at local high school gyms.

This Thursday, Geno Auriemma and his legendary UConn basketball program invade Omaha for a 5 p.m. game with the Jays.

Because of the pandemic and limited fan attendance, the game will be played at Sokol Arena. Creighton A.D. Bruce Rasmussen said Monday that in the future, CU will look to play the UConn game at CHI Health Center.

The No. 1-ranked Huskies are so good for the game of basketball. I’m looking forward to the first of their annual appearances here — perhaps more than Jays coach Jim Flanery.

» When John Cook said “Minnesota knocked us down and we got up and fought back,” he wasn’t talking about his excellent setter, Nicklin Hames. But he could have been.

Hames embodied the team’s toughness in one play.

Late in the Minnesota match Sunday, Hames took a volleyball shot to her head. She stayed in the game for one more play and set up Lauren Stivrins on a kill.

It was a scary moment. Even scarier when you consider the average speed of a volleyball spike is 50-70 miles per hour.

Nebraska plays beautiful volleyball. But there’s no lack of toughness or grit. It can be a most dangerous game.

» One more and I’m outta here: Finally, a football story.

You may not believe this, but once upon a time, I was the Aaron Donald of the Kansas City media scene.

This was back in the 1980s, when the media in KC got together for weekly Thursday touch football games in a public park in Leawood, Kansas.

There were newspaper scribes and TV talking heads and radio golden throats, plus PR types from the Royals, Chiefs, NCAA and Big Eight offices.

We'd choose sides and everybody would line up and go out for passes. Well, everybody except two big guys.

That was me and this guy who worked in the Royals' PR office. He was a burly dude who wore a black Pittsburgh Steelers jersey and yellow Steeler pants. Yes, the pants too.

While Denny Mathews and Co. were out wide going deep, this chap and I went one-on-one in the trenches, taking turns blocking and rushing the passer.

When the game was over, and the beers came out of the brown bags, I got to know the guy. He told Royals stories. He would run errands for the players.

I always remembered his first name because we used to “rush” the passer against each other. I never knew his last name.

Several years later, I was living in friendly Omaha and somewhere the radio was on. I recognized a voice.

It sounded like the Steelers guy.

I asked someone and they said, “That’s Rush Limbaugh. He’s the biggest thing on radio.”

My response was, “I used to block that guy.”

Last week when Limbaugh passed, the reactions were varied and strong, typical of someone who spent a career as a lightning rod.

All I could think of was those fall Thursday afternoons and the dude in yellow pants who might have beat me once. Or twice.