Despite a second straight losing season in baseball, Tom Osborne has given Mike Anderson a vote of confidence; he'll return in 2010. It's easy to be discouraged about the current state of Husker baseball; they likely will miss the Big XII tournament for the second time. An NCAA tournament bid is merely a dream...and hosting a regional? Fughedaboutit. Fans are discouraged, and rightfully so. Nobody likes a loser.
But does Osborne's vote of confidence mean that Osborne doesn't care or that he's unwilling to make the tough decision? Hardly. Blame George Steinbrenner for the "win or your fired" mentality that permeates athletics today, whether it's right or wrong. Say what you will about Anderson, but he is the only Nebraska coach to win a College World Series game. Two years ago, Nebraska worked it's way back into national prominence only to crash and burn in a home regional. Now, we'd be happy just to get back to a 40 win season.
It's not that Osborne's faith is completely baseless. The Husker roster is young - really young. Twenty first year players on a 36-man roster. Many of those players came from a recruiting class that Collegiate Baseball rated 13th in the nation. Injuries hurt this season, such as Mike Nesseth's season-ending elbow injury. All those young pitchers have been inconsistent, but there have been flashes of brilliance. Freshman Tom Lemke shutout Texas A&M on Sunday. Fellow freshman Tyler Niederklein shut out Wichita State last month.
Is Osborne just trying to "kick the can" down the road, hoping to retire before having to fire Anderson? Hardly. Does anybody really think Tom Osborne is ready to retire? He wasn't ready to retire in 1997; after a few months off, he was considering other coaching jobs (Michigan State and Houston) before deciding to run for Congress. Then, it was back to the classroom. Frankly, I don't think Osborne will ever willingly retire as athletic director. Either someone above him (a Chancellor or Board of Regents), or his doctor will have to pry him out of his office. Osborne simply isn't going anywhere.
Is Osborne able to fire a coach? Well, he fired Bill Callahan...but that was an easy call. He replaced assistant coaches on his staff. Last year, when Francis Allen retired as men's gymnastics coach, Osborne only gave new head coach Chuck Chmelka one year to show progress. From my perspective, Osborne isn't quick to fire coaches, but will do it if necessary. Osborne knows that change doesn't ensure that things will be better, just different. He watched other schools fire coaches and develop a cycle of mediocrity as they churned through staffs.
So what's your take? Does Osborne care about baseball? Does anybody still care about Husker baseball anymore? Does a young Husker baseball team deserve more time to meld, or is this just another excuse?