Hiring a 66-year-old as your new athletics director certainly turned a few heads around the college athletics world. Fans and media have wondered just how much newly minted Nebraska Cornhuskers athletics director Bill Moos has in the tank.
Rightfully so, given the track record this school has had in making hires not normally associated with Nebraska athletics.
For the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, age is just a number though, and they clearly saw a past full of visionary work in Moos.
That work is badly needed for a football program and athletic department trying to hang on to 1990’s glory and failing miserably at it.
While the Huskers seem stuck in the past, Moos’ past shows plenty of forward thinking. It is his vision of Oregon as a national brand in the late 1990’s that made the Ducks exactly who they are today.
Phil Knight’s play-thing didn’t become Phil Knight’s play-thing until Moos decided to get serious about branding Oregon athletics. It’s now iconic simple ‘O’ symbol and the coolness of Oregon doesn’t happen without Moos recognizing the gold mine that could be in a relationship with Oregon alumni like Knight.
Now look at where the Ducks are. They are easily in the top 10 of most recognizable college athletics brands. He made one of the most undesirable jobs and athletics programs in to one of the best brands West of the Mississippi at the very least.
Moos also showed that Washington State could be a powerhouse in football once again. He had the vision to know that the ostracized Mike Leach could flourish in the environment in Pullman, Washington. He’s also hired some guy by the name of Mike Belloti at Oregon, who hired some guy by the name of Chip Kelly, who took a growing program in to a national title contender on a nearly annual basis.
It’s that vision that should be and likely was most attractive to Huskers brass this time around. This is a program that doesn’t need massive monetary rebuilds. Rather, the Huskers need a refresh from the bottom up, and Moos is a guy who gets that.
“Once you do find success, it’s important that there’s a reinvestment in that success, because it’s far different being the hunted than it is being the hunter,” Moos said. “And Nebraska for years, and I’m talking about the sport of football, was the hunted, and we’re not right now.
“We need to get back into that position where everybody’s circling Nebraska on the schedule and [saying] ‘That’s going to be one tough game, whether we’re going to Lincoln or they’re going to our place,’ and I believe that’s the Huskers’ rightful place and we’re going to see what we can do to get back there.”
Moos is also someone who is fully aware of the today’s college athletics landscape, not to say that Shaw Eichorst wasn’t, but for someone who is having his age questioned, he’s clearly got his ear to the ground of today and what needs to be done for the future success of wherever he is at.
“The landscape of college football has changed,” Moss said. “It’s evolved through the years, and there’s a couple reasons for that.
“One is scholarship limitations back decades ago, a couple decades, which really started to level the playing field. The other one was equal television revenue distributions. So, the so-called ‘have-nots’ of the old days now can compete a little more with the ‘haves.’”
His biggest strength is in knowing what the school he is at needs and going out and changing what needs to be changed. Obstacles are more like excuses and he doesn’t deal in that realm all that often. He also has set clear and early expectations for the coaches on staff at Nebraska today.
“So, I told the coaches earlier and the staff that my expectation in first brush, is that we should be in a position in every sport to compete for championships,” said Moos. “Certainly, that will be our goal and that will be a big part of the blueprint that I referred to.”
One look at the Huskers football program and it is hard to see how this is a team in a position to compete for a West division title, let alone a Big Ten or national championship. Sure, all of the intangibles like the training tables, locker room amenities and all the support staff needed are all in place. But, on the field this is a team failing downward when it should be on the rise.
Naturally, the big question was about evaluating Mike Riley’s future. To that end, Moos was smart in allowing this season to play out, get himself a firm grasp of where things stand internally as well as on the W-L columns and look at everything after the season.
“I really haven’t talked much to Mike since he made that move (from Oregon to Washington State, via retirement),” said Moos. “But, as we speak right now, he’s my football coach, and I’m going to support him. I certainly hope for some victories here towards the latter part of the season. I’m eager to sit down and have a chance to visit with him.”
There will be time to figure this stuff out in the coming weeks.
How will Moos go about hiring a coach? He’s had plenty of experience doing it at both Oregon and Washington State. Again, it was more plain-speech from Moos in answering that question.
“I’ve hired 11 head coaches at Washington State, and did that in the first five years,” Moos said on Sunday. “What I replaced them with were quality, proven winners. Most of them at this level who saw Washington State as a destination and not a stepping stone.”
He went even deeper, but continued to speak plainly as to what he expects in any coach.
“First and foremost, when I’m looking for a coach, are they a good teacher?” said Moos. “Are they a good individual? Ethically, are they above board and clean? What are their records and what are their ambitions, where they want to go? And do they fit in the community? Not every community is the same. A head coach at USC may not work at Oregon State, so that’s a big part of it, too.”
There has also been some damage done to the image externally, and part of Moos’ gameplan is to get those fans back. It’s also a genuine effort and something he’s always done since his days at Oregon.
“Well, with the fans, and may I point out the media as well, I like to make myself accessible,” he said on Monday. “I think the fans and the media, and the fans through the media, need to fully understand what our blueprint is, what our mission is, how we’re gauging our process. That needs to get out, and I’m always eager to do that.”
Will Moos’s plain-speech equal the long-awaited success on the football field? Only time will tell, but judging by Moos’ previous stops, success seems to follow. After all, just look at where Washington State is today.
Now, let the Mike Leach to Nebraska rumors begin to fly. It should be a fun next couple of months.
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