Final take: The checkbook is open at Nebraska
If we’ve learned anything over the last 15 months at Nebraska under Bill Moos, the checkbook is open.
On Saturday NU announced that new basketball coach Fred Hoiberg would make $25 million over seven seasons, good for third in the Big Ten Conference only behind Michigan's John Beilein and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
To take things another step, Moos also announced on Tuesday that Hoiberg’s assistant coach salary pool would be right at $1 million in 2019-20 – good for third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State ($1.02 million) and Michigan State ($1.005 million).
Before this year, the Huskers paid their three basketball assistants $766,000, which ranked eighth in the conference.
“It’s pretty competitive,” Moos said of the staff’s salary. “It’s a million dollars for the three assistants. That’s certainly in the top two or three in the Big Ten.”
That’s more than Illinois ($900,000), Indiana ($890,000), Michigan ($880,000), Maryland ($825,000), Iowa ($700,000), Wisconsin ($660,000) and Purdue ($630,000) pay their three basketball assistants.
Nebraska's commitment to basketball is clear. NU wants to win, and they are willing to pay top dollar not only for a head coach, but also a staff.
“Through my experience, you have to have the best staff,” Moos said. “We’ve got assistant pools in other sports. By in large they are your boots on the ground recruiting. You can have the best X’s and O’s coaches in the country, but if you don’t have arms and legs, it isn’t going to matter. You have to have top assistants, and that’s certainly what we plan to do.”
The $50-plus million Nebraska makes annually now from the Big Ten also doesn’t hurt either. But in 2017-18, the men’s basketball program generated a revenue of $19.54 million with expenses of $7.98 million to show a profit of $11.56 million. The 2018-19 numbers should be similar, if not higher.
The Huskers ranked 11th nationally in attendance this year at 15,492 per game. Everything is here right now for a commitment like this to happen. You couldn’t have said this before the Big Ten Conference when NU played its games at The Bob Devaney Sports Center, which offered limited premium booster seating and the average attendance in the final season for basketball was just 10,019.
“The myth that we can’t be successful, I’ve never bought in on it,” Moos said. “We paid top dollar, and we did it in football, too. We can afford to do that. My feeling all along was to get the very best we have to go after them. These coaches I have are by in large are Midwesterners, they have a great work ethic, and a little bit of snow doesn’t bother them, and they are hard workers.”
Private jet not an issue for Hoiberg and staff
With Nebraska's new "Husker Air Fleet" program, usage of private aircraft will not be an issue for Hoiberg and his staff to recruit.
Moos told HuskerOnline the basketball staff will have access to private planes whenever it's necessary.
“A lot,” Moos said when asked how much private plane access Hoiberg and his staff will have. “Fred never asked for it. I offered it.”
The new Husker Air Fleet is a donor based program put into place this past year to help offset the $971,000 NU spent on air travel - $700,000 of it private.
“We are pushing for about a million dollars a year so our coaches in football, volleyball and both basketball programs can get to the talent pools,” Moos said.
“We’ve put together this air fleet, and (Hoiberg) is going to be on it tomorrow. He was on it today, he and Carol on the way down from Chicago. That’s a difference maker; it really is.”
New facility talk
There has been a lot of talk about facility upgrades at Nebraska in the coming months.
Moos addressed that on Tuesday and said a new $15 million golf facility on Innovation Campus appears to be high up the priority list.
“We are in discussion,” Moos said about possible new facilities. “I will have another (meeting) Thursday with the Chancellor. I really want to get the golf one going. We are really in desperate need of that. I don’t want to say ‘only,’ but that is only $15 million. Now that this over with I can turn my focus full speed on the facility piece.”
So what about football? The Huskers currently rank in the bottom half in the conference in that category, and there have been discussions about upgrades being announced sooner rather than later.
Moos downplayed that on Tuesday.
“It’s on the conversation list,” Moos said of a new football facility. “I think down the road it’s a possibility. I don’t think it’s an immediate, urgent need, but I’m always trying to look five to 10 years down the road. I honestly believe within five years I think it would be beneficial to have something like that just to compete in the conference for the top talent.”
We will see if that timeline holds. I would suspect the football coaching staff is expecting movement on this much sooner than five years.