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Is Omaha a Problem for the Nebraska Athletic Department?

Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

This morning, Nebraska basketball head coach Tim Miles confirmed that guard Deverell Biggs has been dismissed from the Nebraska basketball program in this statement:

"I’ve made the very difficult decision that Deverell Biggs will no longer be a part of our basketball program. We have consistently emphasized accountability for our student-athletes on the court, off the court and in the classroom. Individual accountability affects the entire group. As a basketball program, we are moving forward and perhaps a fresh start for Deverell may be beneficial to him as well.

Deverell will still have access to all of our academic resources to maintain his eligibility and progress toward graduation.  Deverell is good young man.  My hope is that he remains at Nebraska and finishes his classes this spring and finds another program where he can flourish.  We wish him all the best."

Note the statement about finding "another program where he can flourish." KOZN radio (1620 AM, Omaha) host Damon Benning talked about the Biggs situation this morning and started to draw some analogies to a bigger, more serious problem in Omaha.

Biggs is a graduate of Omaha Central and the proximity between Omaha and Lincoln has it's advantages for Nebraska. It means that it's a short drive for family and friends to connect with athletes who play for Nebraska.

Usually that's a positive. But that proximity means that Omaha's problems are also a short distance away. On Monday, the International Business Times reported that Omaha is the "most dangerous place in America to be black." On a per-capita basis, the black homicide rate in Nebraska is the highest in America.  With 27 of the 30 black homicides occurring in Omaha, clearly the problem resides in Omaha's urban core.  The homicide rate is a symptom of a larger problem in Omaha, where the poverty of the black neighborhoods stands in stark contrast to the relative "good life" elsewhere in the city and state.

I live in West Omaha, and I don't feel the threat personally. It's not in my backyard. But clearly, a problem exists in Omaha's poor neighborhoods, and that leads to crime. And for athletes in Omaha, it's obviously difficult to leave behind the problems that their family and friends face back home. In the end, each person is ultimately responsible for their own actions. Biggs is being held accountable for what he has done.

But that being said, is the bigger problem of poverty in Omaha a real problem for Nebraska athletics?

The unspoken answer has to be yes. If an athlete from a poor area of Omaha chooses to attend Nebraska-Lincoln, can they really leave behind all of the baggage of their environment? Does that give Nebraska's coaches pause?  Some people wonder why Nebraska doesn't pursue junior college players from Iowa Western in Council Bluffs; is this an unspoken factor that nobody wants to publicly say?

I'll plead ignorance to the degree of the problems in Omaha. It doesn't affect me directly, so I can't speak to it. But they evidence is becoming increasingly difficult to brush aside. I don't know what the answers are. I don't even know if I understand the problem completely.

I do see that there is a clear problem there for the city of Omaha, and in fact the state of Nebraska to address. We shouldn't address it because it affects Husker sports; we need to address it because it's the right thing to do.

Maybe sports opens our eyes to the problems that we either can't see or choose not to see.