Following a 59-14 loss to Ohio State, the Nebraska football program finally has a new athletic director — Bill Moos — who held the same position at Washington State. While Husker Nation is still learning about Shawn Eichorst’s replacement, all initial signs point to Moos being able to fix the ever-growing fissures in the foundation of Nebraska’s cash cow.
I wasn’t around for the Bob Devaney days or even the early-to-mid Osborne years, but I can easily say that Husker football is the most divisive issue in the state today. Not even the 2016 election incites more rage on different sides.
However, there is one politician who comes to mind when mending fences and moving in a progressive direction. President Theodore Roosevelt took a bullet during a speech on the campaign trail and would later tell reporters that he felt “fit as a bull moose.”
Nebraska athletics — the football program in particular — doesn’t necessarily need as much work as, say, building the Panama Canal required. That said, there are cliques and sharply-defined factions that all want something different.
Fire Mike Riley. Hire Scott Frost. Hire Chip Kelly. Hire Mike Leach. Keep Riley. Make him fire this coach or that coach. We need more walk-ons! More 4- and 5-stars!
That’s just on the surface.
How can Moos take this program by the horns and lead it in the right direction? He must be a uniter. His years of experience — a factor in his hiring that has been decried by some of the aforementioned groups — are his greatest assets.
The most frequent complaints I noticed was that Nebraska had hired another older gentleman (to put it politely) from the Pac-12. If you’re a fan of supporting local business, you may be interested in voicing such displeasure through fine garments such as this.
One of the hottest of takes about Moos within the first two hours of his hiring was that he wouldn’t be able to connect with the people of rural Nebraska, the folks who feed the country all week long but always take the time to live and die by their football team for a few hours per week every fall.
It turns out that Moos did the retirement thing. He wasn’t a fan. However, while he and his wife, Kendra, took some time to themselves, they built a cattle ranch. The sports page was the last item on the morning paper’s agenda at that time according to him. Somehow a cattle rancher is going to be unable to mesh with the hardcore agricultural segment of the Cornhusker State’s population?
As you may have guessed, Washington’s cup runneth over with apples, but the second- and third-most bountiful commodities are milk and cattle according to 2015 receipts. In 2014, Nebraska ranked fourth in the nation in commercial red meat production. Nebraska had 48,700 farms and ranches operating during 2015 with the average land used being around 928 acres. According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, 39,000 farms operate on more than 15 million acres within state lines.
Let’s talk dollars and cents. That’s a major reason why athletic directors are hired, after all. During Moos’ tenure at Washington State, the school’s football revenue more than tripled from $11,000,000 in 2010 to $34,000,000 in 2016. This raised WSU’s rank from 69th-best in the country to 50th. Of course, Pac-12 Network money did give those numbers a boost.
As a point of comparison, Nebraska has about $65,000,000 in the coffers but slipped during that same time span. However, thanks to the Huskers now being fully vested in the Big Ten Conference, those numbers should rebound. Financially, Moos is sitting in a sweet spot if he finds a report with boosters. As of now, his relaxed demeanor and straight-shooting personality should do the trick in that arena.
Finally, let’s focus on Moos’ most recent football hire. You may be rather familiar with him.
Mike Leach was suspended in 2009 while an investigation regarding the alleged inappropriate treatment of Adam James went on. Leach immediately filed an injunction that would let him coach in the 2010 Alamo Bowl. Texas Tech basically said “sod off” and fired Leach for his refusal to apologize to James. That’s the official reason given, at least.
In late 2011, Leach wasn’t radioactive per se, but the court of public opinion dubbed him a risk. Moos wasn’t interested in any of that nonsense, though.
“He has a style, and he has a blueprint of his own that’s followed very closely. Mike is a very strict disciplinarian, and he sticks by that, and he’s a brilliant individual. I was telling the chancellor and president when [Moos and Leach] met, that I wanted to go down and meet with him in Key West when I realized that I was going to make a change,” said Moos during his introductory press conference this past Sunday.
“His style of football, especially the air-raid offense, I felt could entertain our fans. They had been apathetic. We weren’t drawing any people. Again, I had an ambitious schedule of building facilities and such, but that he could entertain the fans while we were building the program, and he’s done a remarkable job.”
Ah ha! A guy who comes out and not only publicly states a desire to entertain fans but is willing to go by his own schedule. Not anyone else’s.
Some Nebraska fans who have paid attention to Leach’s early days in Pullman may feel the Husker program is headed in that direction. Leach went 12-25 during his first three years at Washington State, but he did bring in recruits who believed in the Air Raid.
2015 and 2016 brought more palatable results with 8-5 and 9-4 records, respectively. Currently, the Cougars are experiencing more success than ever under Leach now that his culture has fully settled in. WSU is 6-1 and ranked No. 15.
There’s still plenty to learn about Moos as…well, we barely know him despite all of this research. Of course, you know the old saying. Actions speak louder than words. Moos will officially take the helm next Monday and there’s plenty to review.
It’s a good thing Nebraska has a bye week. There will likely be a few meetings to attend.
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