The UNO Mavericks hockey team made their first Frozen Four appearance. UNO Men’s soccer tied for a regular season Summit League championship. UNO baseball won a pair of regular season Summit League championships. UNO volleyball has improved their record each season in the transition period. UNO softball can compete with just about any team in the NCAA. UNO men’s and women’s basketball are both still growing and gearing up to be at the top of the Summit League. A brand new arena in Aksarben is being built to be the centerpiece of a strong foundation of the UNO athletics program. Also, a few of the UNO teams are competing nationally with ranking their teams with some of the highest team GPAs in the NCAA. With all of this, there are still people who claim they will never support UNO athletics as long as Trev Alberts is involved.
The transition to a higher status in athletics came with a great price, the price of UNO’s football and wrestling programs, and this did not sit well with many Omahans and it still does not sit well with many. Much of the controversy surrounds around the fact that he cut the wrestling program after three straight national championships, and I totally agree that one is a hard one to still process. Still, the overall decision to make the transition to division one came with several mixed emotions.
The feelings of the Omaha community thinking that the Mavericks should go division one started long ago. When I was in high school we would always talk about it. Imagine if they did it, what would it be like? The basketball team could play in the Civic (we were so young and naive). The baseball team could definitely take recruits away from Nebraska and Creighton, those guys that want to play right away would come to UNO. How fun would it be to add a third team to the instate rivalry? Oh, and what if Kear…never mind. We were high school kids, we just thought of the positives if it were to happen, we never thought of the negative consequences.
The same thing happened while I was in college. My friends and I would ask ourselves, will they ever become division one? The Mavericks certainly have the resources to do it. Obviously though we were not looking at any of the financial aspects of it, we were mainly looking at it in terms of a fine sports culture in the Omaha metro. If the North Dakota and South Dakota schools could make the transition, then why could the Mavericks not do it? Those were the questions we really sat around and debated as young college studs. I mean young college students…students. My sophomore year I was in an English course, and one of the assignments was an argumentative paper that you would eventually have to present to the class. There were two softball players that wrote about the possibility of UNO becoming division one and what impacts that would have on the university. Those girls knew that it would mean UNO would have to sacrifice post season play, and they were completely for it. It was a five page paper, so it is not like those girls put together a bunch of financial charts and did as much investigation as a professional staff would have put together, so they did not really think that cutting a program or two would have been a part of the conversation.
After the university lost an Athletic Director, who you could sum up his tenure at UNO as “did not give a shit” after trying to get the program back in the green after a scandal that embarrassed the athletics department, the search for a new person in charge started. There were some names thrown around, nothing really all that exciting, but how exciting could a Division 2 Athletic Director search get? When Husker legend Trev Alberts’ name came up as a possibility, interest grew around that.
Alberts is a bit of a household name in the state of Nebraska, he is kind of a big deal. When he took interest in being the Athletic Director at UNO, the people around here listened, and they thought he was trying to gear up to be the next Athletic Director at Nebraska. From what I heard from other employees at UNO, Alberts was the only one who actually got an official interview for the job, it was just his if he wanted it from the second he took interest. When he officially took the job at UNO, there was buzz around the athletics department for the first time in a long time.
When Alberts made the announcement that the Mavericks were headed to division one, some were in shock and others thought it was about freaking time. When those people heard that the football program and the back to back to back championship wrestling program would be cut though, more came to be in shock than anything. Many of positive feelings for Alberts turned negative. How dare he? Where does he get off? Who does he think he is? Not only were people critical of the decision to cut wrestling and football, when people heard the programs were being cut they automatically tried to turn him into the emperor and claim he must have forced Mike Kemp out. Basically, Trev could do no right in the eyes of some. If you think Trev was a just a prick 24/7, he is not. He engages with students when he has the time, he engages with fans and boosters, which is something you will see from any Athletic Director. He has a little fun with all the negative things people say about him too. When there was a career fair for student employees in the newly renovated HPER building, he jokingly came in and asked for an application because he may be out of a job soon.
There were some people that wanted Trev’s head. They claimed he always had it out for wrestling, that he had an agenda from the second he walked on campus, and he does not actually care about the UNO Mavericks, he just cares about his giant ego. That concept of being upset with someone for that should irritate you. Of course Trev had an agenda, but just because he cut two programs does not mean that was his intention from day one. His agenda was to be a successful Athletic Director and to have an athletic department that the university could be proud of for their on the field achievements as well as their off the field achievements. If you ever take a business class at UNO, one of the first things a professor will ask is “what is the number one goal of a business?” Many students throw out an easy answer of “to make money.” But the answer is to survive.
Trev took over an Athletic Department that was in trouble thanks to the past. Other than hockey, there was little support from the community. People just genuinely did not care a great deal about the UNO Mavericks. In his first year, when the Mavericks were still in division two, I was on Student Government, Trev came and asked us all for our opinions on a few matters. He never once asked how to get the Omaha community behind the Mavericks, he wanted to know how to get the student population to come out to UNO games. He spoke of how when the university would try to recruit a professional to be a member of the administration, they would take the recruit to a sporting event, and the professionals would ask where the students were. He talked about in his first meeting with the UNO athletics department staff that he asked the staff how many Division 2 national championships the program had, and no one knew the answer. Even people in the athletic department were not completely engaged. Now from what I have heard, everyone is engaged, and they appear to be proud members of the Maverick family (from the sound of it at least).
I remember walking to class before a football game, and Trev hosted a mini pep rally outside the student center and trying to promote a football game for the upcoming week. Students walked by him like he was one of the crazy people on campus telling you…well crazy things. That is just a couple of examples, about a total of 30 minutes that I viewed in my last year at UNO. Do you really think he did not care about the UNO Mavericks and it was just all about him? Or do you think he was doing what many adult professionals fail to do, he was actually trying to do his job.
It was difficult to lose the football and the wrestling programs, I agree. I knew a few guys from each of the teams. Some of them were genuinely nice guys, and some others were absolute dicks, but that is probably something that you could say about any social group of dudes. I always felt awkward about the football program. Pat Berhens was kind of a weird guy to begin with, but aside from that, the scheduling was always weird in my opinion. A decent number of their games always seemed to mix right in with a Husker game, so you know those games would have a low turnout. I remember one year they tried to have their spring game the exact same day as the Huskers’ spring game. I was there for the start of it for an event that took place before the game, and I can tell you that literally no one showed up. The wrestling program was a big shock, and pretty much why there was and still is so much animosity toward Trev. Mike Denney was and is a great solid guy, he brought some impressive guys to UNO, and his accomplishments were obviously extraordinary.
Even with the great accomplishments of the wrestling program, the program was not greatly contributing to the longevity of the athletic department’s survival. Even growing up for several years around rumors that UNO would make the jump to division one, there were, at some points, also many rumors that UNO would just cut a few athletic programs or even the entire thing. If you get into a conversation with anyone who claims to have loved the UNO wrestling program, you will learn that they did not actually have a dying love for the UNO wrestling program. They liked wrestling, and successful wrestling, but they did not actually like UNO so much to where they supported it by going to matches or keeping up with it unless they heard the UNO name in the national championship. They regularly cannot name one wrestler, or clearly identify what years the program won a championship. Yet, these are the same people who say they will never support UNO athletics as long as Trev Alberts is involved.
How freaking dumb is that? So if he stepped down today, you will all of a sudden support the program again? You are going to take your hate of Trev Alberts out on student athletes involved in the UNO athletics program? It is not like the current athletes at UNO banned together as underclassmen in high school and held a gun against Trev’s head until he made them go division one.
Consider this you rummy… Downtown Omaha became a vibrant atmosphere after the city of Omaha was able to build the CenturyLink Center from the popularity of the Creighton men’s basketball program. That little area where TD Ameritrade Park is was once a step above a ghetto. I do not know the appropriate unit of measure to use for the number of restaurants and bars that have moved in near the CenturyLink and TD Ameritrade Park since the two have been introduced to Omaha. I will just say a crap ton. Real estate in downtown has become more valuable, the recreation in downtown has become more attractive. The rest of the state benefits off of purchases from the two arenas to build more arenas and recreation where it is suitable. Much of downtown’s success could be contributed to Creighton basketball, as much as some people would hate to admit that, it is true.
Now look at the Aksarben area. In 2010, the area was basically empty, it was an area that had UNO faithful asking what the hell was ever going to happen with the area. A few things were being put up, but nothing anyone was bragging about. Now look at it, the area is becoming a hot commodity. You could probably contribute about 90% of that off of what UNO as a whole and what UNO athletics has brought to the area, and Aksarben is just getting started (again). So in turn, because much of that area has been reborn thanks to the future of UNO athletics, are you going to not support Aksarben? Or are you too proud to say you do not like Trev just because of his unsuccessful NFL career and it embarrasses you somehow as a Husker fan? By the way, I never hear anyone whine about UNO cutting football. Everyone seems okay with it. They want to cry about how it was such a travesty to take away the opportunities for the wrestlers to wrestle and get an education, but then they easily forget that UNO had a football program.
The athletics program may have cut football and wrestling, but it is not like Trev got up on a microphone on a stage and pulled a Half Baked moment and pointed at Wrestling and said “F you” then pointed at football and said “F you” and then pointed at basketball and said “you’re cool.” The athletics program and the university helped the student athletes move on, find new colleges, or finish their education at UNO. By the way, I am pretty sure Northwest Missouri State and UNK bitch the least about UNO cutting the programs.
Look around as we are finally nearing the end of this transition. Look at how many students and Mav fans made it to Boston for the Frozen Four. Look at how the attendances are gradually rising each year for all sports. Do you see how many UNO students actually care about athletics right now, and we are not even at a status of being fully division one yet? Look at the facilities that have been renovated and the ones that are about to come, and the ones that are still being imagined. You may dislike Trev for whatever reason, but are you going to sit there and say he does a poor job?