Husker basketball fans: "Maybe next year."

Ever since I discovered cable TV back in the mid-80s (Yes, it was when I moved into a town of more than six people), I became a Cub fan. It was either that or the Braves, but back then, both teams were bad, so I was picking what I thought was the lesser of two evils. Ok, bad choice there, but I'm stuck. Well, as a Cub fan, I am used to the mantra "Wait until next year." It seems Nebraska basketball has taken notes.

It certainly doesn't take six years.

Well, that's about where you are at with the Nebraska men's basketball team and it would seem that mantra has been year after year "wait until they get some real talent in here and then you will see what they can do."

Real talent?

Granted, Barry Collier hasn't had any NBA type talent, the likes of which his predecessor Danny Nee could recruit quite well. Is that Collier's fault? Well, yeah, it would have to be. So, he brings in Scott Spinelli, who does have a flare for recruiting and it would seem Nebraska came into this year with potentially its best team since Collier arrived.

And that netted them a team that rampaged its way into the oh-so-wonderful N.I.T., better known as the Not In the Tournament-tournament.


This is where you probably figure out what you expect not just of this Nebraska basketball team, but all of them. What are people willing to do to make this team a true success?

If you say wait, give it yet another year, you are either enormously patient or you really don't care all that much. And I have never met an enormously patient sports fan in my life.

Let me ask you something, though:

If the Nebraska football team were to miss a bowl this year and next year and the year after, and make the bowl the year after that, would that be ok to you? Is one decent post-season appearance and effort in five years or more good enough to get another year at the helm?

Well, in five years, the Nebraska basketball team has only made the NIT once, will make it again this year and so many voices are coming out, ready with the excuses for why there should be another year for Collier to show he can do his stuff.

Let's face it, people may care as Husker fans, but there is no rabid obsession about the success of the men's basketball team. There is no real passion across enough of the fan base, that real change was demanded or even forced.

Point of fact, you have a coach that hasn't made the college basketball equivalent of a mid-tier bowl game in the entire time he's been with the program.

To say fans are happy with that is like saying the football fans are happy with annual trips to Shreveport.

But this isn't football, so it's not real high on the list of things Husker fans care about as to its success. Sure, if it is successful, they will rally around it, support it, sell the place out and pat each other on the back for being the most loyal in all the land. But if it's not, no biggie, they just won't show up, pretend that it doesn't matter, because every sport can't be successful and after all, look at women's bowling. That's a program you can follow.

I suppose there is a little hesitance in the athletic department to get rid of Collier, because the A.D. is still getting lambasted for the handling of Frank Solich. Firing a 9-3 coach is ridiculous…….I guess.

So, maybe they are a little gun shy in pulling the plug on Collier, because if Collier goes, chances are Spinelli does as well and that means some of these coveted recruits could say "seeya later Lincoln."

And there you are, starting all over again.

Nobody wants to do that, but I'm curious as to whether or not fans would go back and get rid of Bill Callahan if they could. Would they erase last year, just so they could erase the year before and go back to the man he replaced?

In comparison, Callahan's job of reconfiguring his team with the talent he had was much more daunting than the one Collier had in front of him. Heck, Callahan's first class was what he was given from the previous staff and what he could get in three weeks, which is what he had in time before signing day.

His offense wasn't just different from the one before, but completely different. And just the immense change all these kids had in going to a completely different staff, all those kids, all the new ones coming in, plus you had an entire team pretty much just sick and tired of change.

So, it's not just offense you have to change, defense you have to adjust and recruiting you have to do, but you have to heal all the mental wounds, which you had nothing to do with in the first place.

Two years later Nebraska is beating Michigan in the Alamo Bowl.

Six years later the Nebraska basketball team is doing almost the same thing the Nebraska basketball team was doing in year one of the Collier era.

Again, though, this isn't football, so expectations aren't as high:

You can go under .500 your first year and people wouldn't even blink.

Under .500 your second year? No problem.

Under .500 your third year with zero wins on the road? Hey, wins aren't everything.

Over .500 your fourth year and an NIT bid. YEAH, that's what we're talking about! We're cooking now!

Exactly .500 ball in your fifth year, missing the post-season four times in five tries? Well, Rome wasn't built in a day.

And here in year six, it's back above .500 and another NIT bid, but give Collier and company credit, because they finally won not just their first game ever in Big 12 tournament play under Collier, but they won two.

Heck, sounds like a coaching extension to me.

As it is, from what we hear ala the rumor mill, Collier was going to get another year at the helm, even before this conference tournament began.

If John Cook were to go on that kind of run in volleyball, I doubt he would be here any longer. Heck, he probably wouldn't have made it to year four and this is a guy who has a national title already and his team is consistently one of the top five teams in the nation.

And you can forget Bill Callahan getting that kind of lead way. If his Cornhuskers missed a bowl next year, only to make the Independence Bowl the year after that, I don't know where it would be, but there's a tarmac with a jet on it sporting Nebraska's colors looking for another head coach.

I have heard the argument plenty of times that this is basketball, not football and the two are completely different. One is an established tradition and the other is trying to be.

Ok, I will buy that. So it's easier to come back from a losing season if you are the football team than it is if you are the basketball team, correct?

Evidently that's the case, even though you don't have near as many players to replace as the football team does and in football, it doesn't matter how good you are, even a couple of star players can't beat a team. And it's far easier to support the basketball program than it is the one that has to play inside an 80,000 seat stadium.

Oh yeah, the fans.

That's why they say the football program will never die. It's the fans and those fans would never let that happen and nothing attests to that statement more than the sellouts they have had dating back to the 60s. How many sellouts has the basketball team had?

You see what I am getting at here? We have a chicken and an egg. Will the fans show up in droves to support the team, so that they could feed off that support and better themselves overall? Or will the team have to better themselves first before fans decide to actually fill the Devaney Center even halfway to its almost 15 thousand person capacity?

You know the answer to that.

Nobody is going to show up to the games outside of the diehards that are showing up now. .And some of them have even stopped showing up. First, nobody wants to watch bad basketball. Second, nobody wants to watch basketball that would be boring even if it was good.

There is no huge pool of boosters waiting to buy out Barry Collier's contract, because the state of the program is in jeopardy. There's nobody saying that they will buy whatever, build whatever and help fund whatever, as long as he's not the head coach next year.

Nobody cares enough about the basketball program to actually do that, so they sit back, think that everything will be ok eventually, but if it isn't, it's a good thing I am only five years away from qualifying for my season tickets to see the football team play.

That's a team that knows how to win.

A little over a year ago, even the football team didn't really know how to win. In fact, they knew how to lose more than they won. There were some grumblings, certainly, because no Nebraska football team goes on to have a losing season. That's impossible, but if it is possible, it isn't going to last for long, because all be damned if the Husker fans are going to watch the very pride of Nebraska go down the drain for good.

When it comes to the basketball team, though, well, it depends on how deep the drain is.

Maybe it will take a leap of courage by the athletic department to just can Collier and start over fresh, taking their lumps with recruiting and anyone currently on the team, who feels the need to leave. Or maybe the fans can take the lead, show up in droves throw money around for new facilities and get this program going in what is presumably the right direction.

But we all know the latter part of that isn't going to happen. Not now and even if Collier was around, not in three years just to do it out of desperation. The basketball team will have to win before the fans will show back up. And that attendance has steadily decreased every year Collier has been the head coach.

It doesn't take a statistician to figure out that this trend isn't going to change.

So, do you keep Collier another year, give him yet another chance and risk going through yet another season of frustration and humiliation for the Huskers? Or do you start over fresh?

It's hard to say and nobody knows the answer to that question, but the eventual or maybe inevitable answer figures to have fans almost interested. There's not a lot of interest right now. It's that kind of interest you get when you drive by a car wreck or watch one of Mike Tyson's I-should-have-quit-ten-years-ago fights. It's a morbid curiosity, which fans do truly want to become a rabid obsession, but it would seem that the fight to achieve that has only gotten harder as the seasons have gone by.

They want to be interested. Heck, they want to be obsessed. They want to be the basketball equivalent of those that head to Memorial on Saturdays in the fall.

They want to be.

But they're not.

Maybe next year.

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