In today's Omaha World-Herald, UNL alum Neal Hawks took out a full page ad on page 6-C of the Sports section, titled "An Open Letter to Tom Shatel, Lee Barfknecht, Steve Sipple, and Nebraska Basketball Fans Everywhere..." in support of Doc Sadler. His point is that Doc can only do so much, but rather questions Nebraska's commitment to men's basketball.
In 2010, Nebraska ranked dead-last in the Big Ten in spending on men's basketball. Northwestern spent over $10 million that year. Nebraska spent $4.1 million, ranking 67th in the country. Michigan State spent double that ($8.25 million) to rank 8th nationally.
Creighton spent over $5 million, ranking 48th nationally. Yes, that's right. Creighton spent more money on basketball than Nebraska in 2010.
That's who we're competing against in basketball. And it's not pretty. After last night's blowout at Michigan State, Nebraska's strength of schedule is 4th in the country according to Jeff Sagarin. And yes, as he points out, we're doing it with a huge injury situation in the middle. Brian Jorge Diaz is out indefinitely, if not longer, with a chronic foot problem. Andre Almeida is redshirting this year, recovering from offseason surgery. Christopher Niemann has only played 125 minutes this season after multiple knee surgeries.I've given Doc Sadler a pass in years past for issues about the roster. He came in late, and had some recruiting flubs outside his control (Roburt Sallie, anyone?). But in his sixth season, that's becoming an old excuse. At a certain point, Sadler has to deliver.
But does Sadler have everything he needs? Hawks makes a compelling case that he hasn't had the resources that Husker basketball really needs. No matter whether Sadler is retained or not, Nebraska does need to invest in assistant coaches who can help get players to Lincoln. Otherwise, all we're doing is repeating the same mistakes that have been made in Lincoln the last 15 years in basketball. Oh, and spending $3.4 million to buy out Sadler's contract without addressing the core issues.
And that, in the end, is a lack of players. These guys usually play hard, but it's kind of like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Nebraska is outmanned on a nightly basis, and there is nothing to look forward to on the horizon in my opinion. Firing Sadler will only help if Nebraska finds guys who can bring in players, and with the current budget, that's not exactly certain.
Spending doesn't ensure winning. Northwestern's investment has only gotten them on the NCAA tournament's bubble. And Ohio State is currently ranked eighth in the AP poll (#2 in Sagarin's rankings currently) despite ranking 54th in spending. But it's unlikely that Nebraska can pull themselves out of the basement in basketball given the current level of investment.
We've seen an improvement in facilities. People rave about the new Henrdicks practice facility, and the new Haymarket Arena certainly shows some commitment...but now it's time to put resources behind the people.
I can see both sides on Sadler at this point; my number one issue with Nebraska basketball is the lack of players, and whether Sadler stays or goes, that has to change. Absolutely has to change. That means hiring assistant coaches who can bring in players. There's no reason why if Kansas State can do it in basketball, Nebraska can't do it either.