Husker Hot Takes – Offseason Edition

29 Aug

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Hello again! Real, live football is almost back – and there is a lot to discuss on what should be a pivotal season for the Huskers.  But before we move forward, let’s take a quick look back at some noteworthy things you may have missed during the offseason.

Adidas channels their inner Makovicka for the annual alternate uniform.

Since Nebraska and Adidas have been producing alternate uniforms, I’ve been posting a head to toe critique of the latest abomination to be spawned from the depth of design hell.  But this year Adidas did something to make my old-school heart happy – they looked back to 1997 championship team for inspiration.  The biggest change between this jersey and the current look is the numbers are printed in a font that looks like the mesh jerseys the team wore in 1997.

If you’re even remotely familiar with my previous looks at Nebraska alternates, it will come as no shock that I love these.  They are simple.  Clean.  Different from the current look, but enough on-brand that it is recognizable as Nebraska.

I’m not sure these should be called “throwback” uniforms, as that implies a fairly precise recreation of the original version.  There are enough differences – both big and minuscule – that would I consider these a “faux-back” jersey, i.e. a new uniform heavily inspired by an old look.

Semantics aside, I’m very happy with Adidas going this route.  As much as I’ve criticized adidas over the years, some of their best design work for Nebraska have been “faux back” looks for baseball and basketball.  Considering that Nebraska’s uniforms have been largely static for 30+ years*, adidas did a great job of creating something that looks like it is from a different era.**

*Ignoring tweaks like the addition/removal of a stripe on the pants or jersey.  And repressing the traumatic memories of the 2002 eye sores.

**Good Lord, did I just refer to my senior year of college as “a different era”?  Sheesh I’m old.

My biggest criticism of these uniforms can be summed up in a question:  “Why now?”  Yes, I know the obvious answer that 2017 is the 20th anniversary of the 1997 National Championship team*.  But why hasn’t Adidas done this before?  If you were to rank Nebraska’s five championship teams, I’m guessing the 1997 team would finish fourth or fifth.  That’s not intended as a slight against 1997, but to illustrate that adidas has had two other recent opportunities to honor a championship team.  Instead, I present the train wrecks Nebraska wore in 2014 and 2015.  In fairness, Nebraska’s 1994 jerseys were made by Russell Athletic / Apex, so I can partially understand not doing a throwback then.  But 1995?

  • In 1995, Nebraska was wearing Adidas gear on and off the field. Check.
  • The 1995 team is widely considered the greatest team of all time.  Check.
  • 2015 was the first year that schools were limited to selling jerseys with the number 1 and the current year – 15 in that case.  Can you image how many throwback #15 jerseys Adidas could have sold in 2015?  Check, Cash, and Credit Card.

* One more aside – how B1G of a scheduling failure is it that the 20th anniversary of the 1997 season will go by without Nebraska and Michigan meeting on the field?  That would have been the perfect time to wear these uniforms – or a road version, since using the old Legends division rotation, Nebraska could have been going to Ann Arbor this fall.  Curse you, Rutgers and Maryland!

For the first time in the alternate uniform era, Adidas has addressed every complaint:

  • Honors Nebraska’s history.
  • Different, yet recognizable.
  • I expect to be able to see/read the numbers from row 47.
  • Something unique to Nebraska, instead of being the NU version of the current Adidas template

This makes me very happy to be living the “3 Stripe Life” with Nebraska and Adidas…

Nebraska signs an 11 year, $128 million contract extension with Adidas.

Before this news broke, I had done a rough draft on a column opining that the 2017 was a big year for both Nebraska and Adidas.  If NU wanted a raise, they needed to produce, and if Adidas wanted to keep NU, they needed to continue to step up their game.  Well, scrap that.

The raw numbers – a nearly 50/50 split between cash and apparel – are impressive, and nearly triple what Nebraska had been receiving.  Nebraska’s contract came up at an ideal time for the athletic department:  Between a revitalized brand boosting revenue, and Adidas losing big name schools Notre Dame, Michigan, UCLA, and Tennessee over the last few years, I’m not sure if Nebraska could have renewed at a better time.

A few days later, Louisville announces a 10 year, $160 million contract with Adidas.

Okay, so maybe not all of the stars were aligned for Nebraska to renew their apparel contract…

This news definitely raised some eyebrows.  It is Adidas’s richest contract, and is the fourth highest in college sports (UCLA, Ohio State, and Texas are 1 – 3).  So should Husker fans feel slighted by this?

I don’t think so.  We could debate the current status versus historic strengths of the NU and Louisville football programs.  Or we can acknowledge three simple facts:

  1. Adidas makes pretty good money selling basketball shoes.
  2. Louisville is one of the top basketball programs in the country.
  3. Nebraska continues to offer men’s basketball as an inter-collegiate sport.

If the disparity between the two deals still concerns you, take comfort in this:  Nebraska’s deal has two “look-in” periods where Nebraska can get out of the contract if they are “not an elite Adidas program”.

HuskerVision is getting some new toys.

Over the summer, the HuskerVision screens were replaced and upgraded to an even higher definition.  The existing ribbon boards on the East and West Stadiums were also upgraded, with a new 476 foot long ribbon board added in East.

But for me – a resident of North Stadium – the highlight will be the new wrap-around screens on the northwest and northeast towers that should greatly reduce the need to look over my shoulder for a replay.

I’m really excited to see what the HuskerVision crew – one of the best in the nation – has planned to show off their new toys.

Eight Huskers in the College Football Hall of Fame will have their jerseys retired.

In a move that is long overdue, eight legendary Husker players who have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame will have their jerseys retired and earn a permanent place of honor on the North Stadium facade.  The eight players are: Forrest Behm, Guy Chamberlin, Sam Francis, Wayne Meylan, Bobby Reynolds, George Sauer, Clarence Swanson, and Ed Weir.

As a reminder, at Nebraska there is a distinction between a “retired jersey” and a “retired number”:

A retired jersey is what is being done here, and has been done previously for major award winners (Suh, Wistrom, Rimington, Rozier, Frazier, etc.). The numbers on those jerseys remain in circulation.  Otherwise, Nebraska’s many Outland Trophy winners would have most of the 70’s on the shelf.

Nebraska has only retired three numbers:  Johnny Rodgers’ 20, Tom Novak’s 60, and Bob Brown’s 64.  Those three numbers are no longer issued.

No Friday Night Lights in Memorial Stadium?

The new Big Ten TV contract calls for six Friday night games a year, for six years, starting this season. Nebraska will participate when they play at Illinois on Friday, September 29.  But will it be their last Friday appearance outside of their annual Black Friday game?

When the news of the Friday games broke last November, a person within the Athletic Department told me NU would host a Friday game once every three years.  This was confirmed by Shawn Eichorst in a May meeting with the UNL Faculty Senate.

But this month, Chancellor Ronnie Green told the Board of Regents that “we have been talking with the conference, and it’s our expectation that we will not play any home football games on Friday night here in Lincoln.”  Additionally, Chancellor Green said NU is “presuming we wouldn’t have another (Friday night road game) during (the six year contract), and we’re working with the conference with that expectation.”

This will certainly be welcome news to high school football programs, players, and fans – as well as Mike Riley, who said at Big Ten Media Days that Friday games interrupt his preparation routine.

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