The Huskers have a new athletic director. Big news, although I am guessing you know that by now. Maybe you’ve heard about this cowboy hero who rode in and saved the day with the most popular coaching hire in school history.
I have only talked to the man for 30 minutes, but during that recent conversation, I learned a lot about Bill Moos and came away with a takeaway or three.
Take-charge guy. History buff. People person.
The third one is a biggie, because many Big Red fans will tell you it’s exactly what the university needed, along with a new football coach. Moos took over as A.D. in October, at age 66, and it didn’t take long for folks to realize this is not his first rodeo.
He wanted Scott Frost as his football coach. He got Scott Frost as his football coach.
We visited by phone on a snowy Monday, when schools were closed and much of Lincoln had gone into shutdown mode because of a blizzard warning – not to be confused with the Frost advisory, a daily occurrence expected to peak in severity Sept. 1.
Moos was in the office, but he told his staff to stay home that day if they thought it was too unsafe to get to work. So add “caring boss” to my first-impression list.
Moos left home and a good job to take the Nebraska job. He had been the athletic director at his alma mater, Washington State, for seven years prior to answering the call here last fall.
“Life was good,” he said. “But I always had an aspiration, if an opportunity was there, to take a run at the A.D. job at Nebraska.”
A move keeping with two of his mottos:
At any given time, you should be able to give up what you are to become what you can be.
Don’t be a gee-if-er.
“Look at the windows in your life,” Moos said. “Because when they close, and you move on to the next one, don’t say ‘Gee, if I had done this, or gee, if I had done that.’
“Our (five) children are all out of the nest. The timing was right.”
So here they are, Bill and Kendra Moos, off the ranch and enjoying their new chapter in Lincoln.
“We’ve been hitting that Haymarket pretty good,” he said.
Moos has another motto that goes like this:
Honor the past. Live the present. Create the future.
So let’s start with the past. Moos grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in Edwall, Washington, about 30 miles from Spokane. His education started in a four-room country schoolhouse with seven classmates.
“My experience growing up was wonderful,” he said. “We did live in a small, rural town. My father was a wheat and cattle rancher and a World War II combat veteran. He was really driven to serve, because he felt that need after surviving and so many that he was with didn’t. Of course, that whole generation was amazing.”
Donald Moos went from state legislator to director of Washington’s Department of Agriculture, which meant a move to Olympia and a new, much bigger school at age 14 for Bill. Here is where we see the early development of Bill’s people skills.
“Olympia High was the second-largest high school in the state,” he said. “I didn’t know one person. That was a challenge and made me better. In the end, it was a fabulous experience. I got a great education, had great coaches. But going into it, that was a challenge, and I have to say that’s one of those things that I look back on that was a character builder for me.”
Moos was a history major at Washington State, where he was a standout lineman and team captain. He loves to read about the past when he gets the chance. “I’ll read some Western books because I do have some cowboy in me,” he said.
One of his favorites is Stephen Ambrose’s “Undaunted Courage,” an in-depth look at Lewis and Clark and the “opening of the American West.”
Moos was undaunted by the thought of playing football at a major college. He played from 1969 to 1972 and earned the role of co-captain as a senior.
“It was a challenge immediately, because everyone is good and most people are great,” he said. “The challenge there was to try to rise to the top.”
And that leads us to the present, because that’s when the Nebraska Cornhuskers caught his eye.
“I always had a great respect and admiration for Nebraska, primarily based on its football program,” he said. “As I got older and played major college football, it was again during the Devaney era, and it mirrored my college career. I was well aware that they were one of the top-notch programs in the college game.”
And now he is here, in his 26th year as a Division I athletic director (with other stops at Montana and Oregon along the way). Heck, he already has a national championship under his belt at NU.
How ‘bout that Husker volleyball team, Bill? Ever seen anything like it?
“No, I haven’t,” he said. “And what I told them is that they are the poster child for what I hope we can build here at Nebraska.
“You’ve gotten there. You’ve stayed there. You’ve handed down the legacies to next generations. And because of that, look around this (Devaney) building at all the championship banners and All-America recognition.
“To be here a very short time, and to see us win a piece of the Big Ten championship and then go on and win a national championship, which really wasn’t expected by the experts, really gave me a tremendous sensation of what Nebraska’s all about, and really excited me with regards to where many of our programs can go.”
Regarding the future of college athletics, if he has a major concern, it’s talk of athletes being paid to participate.
“That is concerning for me,” he said. “Somewhere, people tend to forget the value of the education. With the exception of room and board monies and books and cost of attendance and all of that, the value of that education should never be lost.”
Not lost on Moos is the value of his partnership with Kendra, the love of his life.
“Great partner. Tremendous mother,” he said. “As hard-working and dedicated as anyone I’ve ever known. Resilient. Tough. But also very loving.
“She and I are thrilled to have the opportunity to be here in Lincoln and enjoy the adventures of this next chapter of our lives.”