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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

Frost vs. UCF

Nebraska coach Tom Osborne discusses strategy with quarterback Scott Frost in the third quarter of a Sept. 14, 1997, game against Central Florida. The way Frost is now designing practice at NU, it's clear he is using the styles and philosophies of his two cornerstone coaching influences: Osborne and Chip Kelly.

Time for a drive, with plenty to discuss.

1. Tom Osborne’s opinions on the subject of sports gambling are well-known.

He’s against it. He thinks it has negative societal consequences, and that those consequences outweigh any economic benefits a state may incur.

You’ve probably heard by now that the U.S. Supreme Court has paved the way for states to legalize betting on sports. Upward of 30 states may have legalized gambling within the next five years, according to experts.

Osborne, the iconic former Nebraska football coach, identified a negative element of sports gambling that should give pause to even the most enthusiastic proponents of legalization.

“Most of the really unpleasant incidents with fans over the years were primarily with someone who lost a bet,” Osborne said Tuesday morning on “Early Break” (93.7 FM) with Jake Sorensen and yours truly. “I’d occasionally have somebody say, ‘Well, you just cost me $1,000.’

“I’d say, ‘I didn’t make the bet.’”

As humans, we tend to fear the unknown. That sentiment largely defines where I stand on the issue of expanded gambling. For instance, I wonder about the potential impact on young people, considering that access to gaming and betting could be as close as their mobile phone.

Maybe there could be ways to regulate gambling via cell phones. But we all know how savvy teens can be with mobile devices.

Osborne mentioned another reality of sports gambling that should be considered in this discussion: Sometimes it’s not just a matter of correctly picking the winner.

“People can bet on all kinds of things,” he said. “It might be how many fumbles you’ll have, how many sacks you’ll give up. So you can have people walk into the stadium, and it’s not about how the team played or an excellent performance or how well the opponent played.”

In other words, a certain amount of purity is further removed.

Note that I say “further.” Gambling already has an effect -- the illegal kind.

There are practical matters that should be noted in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, especially for those that don’t partake in gambling and don’t often consider its potential issues.

“If you’re Scott Frost, and there’s eight minutes left in the game, you’re ahead by 21 points, and you’re favored by 24 -- and you put the second teams (backups) in the game -- there are some people who are going to be really upset because you haven’t beaten the point spread,” Osborne said. “So I never paid any attention to the point spread because I didn’t want to be influenced one way or another as to how I conducted the game and experience for the players.”

In an increasingly angry society, Osborne thinks expanded sports gambling throughout America would give people -- i.e., losing bettors -- one more thing to be enraged about.

Say a kicker shanks an extra point late in a game and costs gamblers large sums. Think about the vitriol that could be directed toward a freshman kicker. Sure, that can happen nowadays. Billions of dollars are wagered on sports in America. But what we’re talking about now is increasing the chances of such situations occurring.

This issue will be debated for months and years to come, the intensity now increasing.

But Osborne won’t budge on his stance.

“I am pleased that it is a state issue, and the state will have a say, because so far Nebraskans for the most part have seen the fact that increased gambling does not improve the quality of life in a state,” Osborne said. “All you have to do is drive through some states where there’s a huge amount of gambling, and it seems to just pull the general culture down.”

(Click here for the podcast of the Osborne interview).

2. Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for a leading gaming and hospitality firm in Las Vegas, provides a viewpoint opposite of Osborne’s.

In fact, Bussmann, a former Husker athletic department employee, has butted heads with Osborne on this topic for years. Bussmann, in a separate appearance Tuesday on “Early Break,” made some excellent points.

“As I’ve been listening this morning to your callers, they’re very intelligent,” he said. “They know that, hey, there’s a bookie down the street in Lincoln or Nebraska City or Omaha or Kearney or wherever else. You also can go online today and bet on an offshore book. Right now, while I respect Coach Osborne and (Gov.) Pete Ricketts for their philosophical positions, their numbers (regarding social costs related of gambling) make absolutely no sense.”

Ricketts say for every dollar in tax revenue from gambling proceeds, a state spends three in societal services to combat the effects of gambling.

“Time and time again, that’s been proven wrong,” Bussmann said, “and it’s time for the state to get some of this revenue and actually regulate it, so you can actually control it, as opposed to having it unregulated in an illegal market.”

(Click here for the podcast of the Bussmann interview).

3. The Supreme Court’s decision obviously sparked widespread discussion. It’s a complex topic with angles galore.

From a media person’s standpoint, expanded gambling in our country could be regarded as good news because it would draw more people into the tent, so to speak. If legalized gambling explodes nationwide, including in Nebraska, many Big Red football fans would pay closer attention to various reports – for instance, injury reports and news on player suspensions. Who’s available for the game and who’s not, who’s playing particularly well and who’s not.

The thirst for information, already intense when it comes to Husker football, would increase.

Entities such as ESPN and FOX must be licking their chops.

What’s more, media won’t have to tiptoe around the subject of point spreads, et al, with as much caution.

I’m not necessarily saying that’s a good thing; just one of many byproducts.

4. Many Nebraska football fans wondered if there would be an unusually heavy amount of roster attrition in Scott Frost’s first spring as boss.

To this point, the number of players who’ve said -- officially or otherwise -- that they’re leaving the program (four) is largely predictable.

In each case, the player’s decision makes sense.

Sophomore quarterback Patrick O’Brien, sophomore offensive lineman Bryan Brokop and senior receiver Keyan Williams were buried on the depth chart.

Redshirt freshman fullback Ben Miles perhaps would’ve been happy with being buried on a depth chart – it would’ve meant his position wasn’t eliminated.

By the Journal Star's count, the Huskers are now right on the 85-man scholarship limit. Although more attrition is possible, it appears the massive roster turnover that many predicted upon Frost’s hiring won’t happen.

Players had a high level of buy-in this spring. No surprise there.

5. O'Brien said Tuesday he'll visit Florida International (Butch Davis) this weekend, then Colorado State (Mike Bobo) next weekend. He may consider other programs.

"There's no real timetable,” he said. “But I don't want to wait forever. I want to be in with a school pretty soon."

O’Brien will become a starter somewhere by the end of his eligibility.

He's handled his situation with class.

6. Former Nebraska great Justine Wong-Orantes, now a member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, mentioned something you might watch this week if you attend the FIVB Volleyball Nations League event at the Devaney Sports Center.

The ball used in the international game can float with the movement of a Phil Niekro knuckler.

“It tends to move a ton,” she said.

She said the ball is a little lighter.

Which perhaps means kills are hammered with more velocity, as if ex-Huskers Jordan Larson and Kelsey Robinson, also national team members, needed any help.

Enjoy the action.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or


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