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Trev Alberts emphasizes need to 'modernize' Nebraska's athletic department

Trev Alberts emphasizes need to 'modernize' Nebraska's athletic department

The new Huskers athletic director, Trev Alberts, shares some of his goals with the position.

With about eight minutes left in the Michigan State game, Trev Alberts had seen enough to be impressed.

Nebraska led 20-13, and the athletic director wanted to congratulate the team once it finished off the win. He texted Keith Mann — NU’s associate athletic director for communications — to confirm that it’d be the first victory over a ranked team in the Scott Frost era.

“I walked down to the field, and I think I was down on the field for a (few) minutes when I saw this blur of green,” Alberts said of MSU’s game-tying punt return. “It really is all my fault. I wanted to congratulate the team.

“But there were individual parts within that game, on the road against a ranked team, that I hadn’t seen in a long time. It really encouraged me. We’re making steps.”

The biggest step has already been made, Alberts said to a packed Omaha Marriott ballroom Thursday at The World-Herald’s Big Red Breakfast.

“For a long time here you couldn’t necessarily say we had the will and want-to,” said Alberts, singling out NU’s defense. “To me, in football, that’s the hardest thing to get. That’s the hardest cultural thing to switch, is getting people willing to pay a price bigger than they’d ordinarily want to do on their own.”

Alberts considers that part a unity of purpose. Every person in NU’s athletic department pulls in the same direction for the benefit of the program. When Alberts walked into a senior staff meeting early in his tenure, he could “feel the tension” in the room among “three different camps who don’t like each other.”

“I said, ‘We’re going to have unity of purpose. The question is, do you want to do it the easy way or the hard way?’” said Alberts, drawing applause. “It’s real simple. I believe that’s my job. ... We owe it to our coaches and student-athletes to have an administration that is unified for the collective vision, understands their role and is held accountable every day to that role.”

Alberts said some “uncomfortable” decisions await the athletic department because of changes and a current lack of nimbleness in decision-making. There’s a need to “modernize” many aspects of NU.

That includes Memorial Stadium, where Alberts said some fans can’t afford a ticket and others sit at the 50-yard line without making a mandatory donation because they were grandfathered in more than 25 years ago.

Alberts discussed the fan experience at Memorial Stadium on multiple occasions Thursday. Drawing laughs, he shifted his large frame in a chair to emulate how fans must sit sideways in small seats to fit.

“And it’s 94 degrees,” said Alberts, referencing NU’s steamy win over Buffalo. “We need to make that experience better. We can do that.”

Alberts said he’ll have a group look at a “holistic” plan for overhauling the stadium, which will include an area for former letterwinners to congregate.

“We’re behind in some key areas because we haven’t had the courage to address some of these very sensitive and hard topics,” Alberts said. “I’m preparing to do that because we have to do that if we’re going to position ourselves to have a fan base supporting us in 50 years and a revenue stream that allow us to compete at the highest level.”

More notes from Alberts’ Big Red Breakfast chat:

» Alberts heads to Dallas next week with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock to work through playoff expansion scenarios. Alberts declined to say if he prefers eight or 12 teams in the CFP.

“I love access — the more access, the better,” Alberts said. “I think having matchups that are intriguing are great. In the last however many years, we’ve seen the same four teams. Our ratings on television have shown it.”

» Nebraska athletics’ relationship with Omaha donors and stakeholders is “mediocre and needs to get better.”

“I was the beneficiary of it the last 12 years at UNO, to be totally honest with you,” Alberts said of his UNO partnerships with big-money boosters like the late Walter Scott.

Nebraska “didn’t spend enough time cultivating relationships” in Omaha, Alberts said, in part because TV revenue made it easier to ignore key donors.

“They have opinions,” Alberts said. “Sometimes a university, especially in leadership, would prefer not to deal with that. And so if you have enough resources, you end up giving the Heisman (stiff arm) to people who could change your world. We are going to have to end up having all of them.”

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