Nebraska’s Osborne states commitment to basketball

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LINCOLN, NEB. (AP) - A day after an Omaha newspaper columnist criticized Nebraska for a lack of administrative support for men’s basketball, athletic director Tom Osborne said the school is fully committed to making the program successful.

Nebraska hasn’t won a conference championship since 1950 and is among three schools to never have won an NCAA tournament game. The Huskers haven’t played in the tournament since 1998.

Media relations director Keith Mann said Wednesday the timing of Osborne’s statement was “partially” because of a Tuesday column by the Omaha World-Herald’s Lee Barfknecht.

Barfknecht criticized the public-address announcer’s gaffes and the halftime show. He wrote the production was “symbolic of what looks like administrative numbness toward a major revenue-producing sport, which is puzzling at a school that prides itself on excellence.”

The Huskers, who ended a 13-game road losing streak with a 59-58 win at Oklahoma on Wednesday night, are 17-8 overall and tied for sixth in the Big 12 at 5-6. They finished last in the Big 12 last season and have not finished higher than sixth since the 1990s.

The school issued a 700-word release outlining what the athletic department has done and plans to do to enhance recruiting, improve results and increase crowds.

An $18.7 million practice facility is under construction. The team will move in 2013 from the 13,000-seat Devaney Sports Center to a 16,000-seat downtown arena. The Huskers join the Big Ten next season.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and energy and made a significant financial commitment to position basketball for the future,” Osborne said. “Basketball is vital to our athletic program overall, and we would hope our commitment to strengthen the sport is viewed positively. Within the next three years, our basketball facilities will be among the very best in the country.”

Coach Doc Sadler said in the release that Osborne has given his program everything he needs.

“Now, all that needs to be done is for us to win, and that is my responsibility because I have not been denied one request from Coach Osborne as our athletic director,” Sadler said. “We all know that winning is the best resource for building a home court advantage, and that a game-day experience is very important. We are always looking for things to help us achieve this. We are not that far off and will continue to keep working to improve until we have a championship atmosphere that everyone will want to be a part of.”

The release said efforts are being made to increase student attendance and keep ticket prices affordable. Osborne said season-ticket holders will be asked for suggestions on ways to improve the overall fan experience.

Nebraska is seventh in the Big 12 in attendance, averaging 8,950.

Barfknecht, who also is the World-Herald’s Nebraska basketball beat reporter, wrote his column after what he characterized as a “self-inflicted embarrassment” during Saturday’s game against Oklahoma State.

He panned game management personnel for booking a halftime act featuring elderly women dancers. He also criticized the PA announcer for making several errors.

“Think this stuff would fly in football?… Think trailing in facilities as long as Husker hoops has would be acceptable? Not a chance. Yet durable mediocrity too often passes for the norm around NU basketball.”

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