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Steven M. Sipple: Moos wrestles myriad issues; NU donors hold firm; and cardboard fans?
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Steven M. Sipple: Moos wrestles myriad issues; NU donors hold firm; and cardboard fans?

From the A look at Steven M. Sipple's latest stories series
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Football Facility, 9.27

Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos (left) and head football coach Scott Frost attended the announcement of the Huskers' new athletic facility last September at the East Stadium Plaza.

Things I know, and things I think I know: 

One can only imagine the nature of complicated issues that find their way to Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos' desk these days.

We're all trying to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. Challenging conversations will continue until there's a vaccine, and probably even after there's a vaccine. Who knows when that'll happen?

Moos has another question.

"Is all this going to change the landscape of college athletics altogether?" Moos asked last week. "There are going to be some (athletic) programs — if they can't have fans in football stadiums or if the television revenue decreases because the inventory isn't there — it's maybe going to be tough to stay in business. All of us depend on that football revenue.

"There are just so many unanswered questions," he continued. "How many fans can we put in Memorial Stadium? If we can only be half full, we're going to lose $6 million per home game." 

Moos said decisions on the 2020 college football season — what it will look like, if there's one at all — need to be made by the third week of July. In other words, those daily Big Ten athletic director Zoom meetings likely are going to get awfully intense in the next few weeks. They've already been intense enough.

Listening to Moos, it's easy to imagine football schedules perhaps being altered not long before the season is set to begin, or even altered during the season. In Nebraska's case, the opener is Sept. 5 against Purdue. 

Moos hopes for a smooth ride. His words suggest he's preparing his department for something else. Better to be safe. …

"You've got to understand, you might have programs all over America needing to cancel charter flights or re-book charter flights," he said. "You may have hotel issues to figure out. And then there's the whole topic of (COVID-19) testing. We've got to be comfortable and every school has to be comfortable with the school coming in (to play) having followed the same or at least similar protocols so we're not making ourselves vulnerable."

It's questionable whether schools in lower divisions can even afford to test. Nebraska is scheduled to play FCS foe South Dakota State on Sept. 19 in Lincoln.

"We have not been testing for coronavirus," SDSU athletic director Justin Sell told Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports. "That hasn't been part of our deal. If testing is needing to be part of that ability to play, we've got to work within our state … and figure out the financial impacts of that." 

Money, money, money. The pandemic is causing financial headaches for athletic departments all over the country. 

"What has happened is we've inflated the industry to a point where we're so dependent on big money to keep the doors open," said Moos, noting that nobody could've anticipated a time when crowds in stadiums may be cut in half, if people are allowed inside at all.

"Wait a minute!" said Moos, his voice rising for emphasis. "We have to pay the mortgage!"

Yeah, it all feels a bit uncomfortable ... 

* On a brighter note, Moos was pleased to report Nebraska's season-ticket renewal rate for football this year was 93.3%, just slightly lower than a typical offseason.

"And I would bet that if the season was canceled tomorrow, a large percentage of those people wouldn't ask for a refund," Moos said. 

I don't necessarily think he was hinting that the season is in serious jeopardy. Note to self: Be open-minded, not paranoid.

"I'm just speculating because I feel like I know what Husker fans are about," said Moos, adding that fund-raising for the $155 million football training facility remains strong even though groundbreaking for the structure, originally set for June, has been delayed indefinitely. "There are some really big gifts there, and nobody at all has talked like, 'Hey, I'm not sure I can fulfill this pledge or this commitment.'"

Steven M. Sipple: If Nebraska's Class of 2019 steps up big, perhaps Frost's sleep will improve

* Speaking of money issues, the Big Ten has a cost-containment committee that may be getting close to finalizing decisions on whether certain postseason conference tournaments are held in 2021 and beyond. It's possible you could at the very least see a reduction in the number of tourney participants. I imagine Omaha officials are watching the situation closely.

The Big Ten baseball tournament, held annually since 1981, is scheduled to be played in late May at TD Ameritrade Park in 2021 and 2022. It's been an eight-team event since 2014. Stay tuned.

* As expected, a lot of Nebraska football fans had strong reactions to Moos telling the Journal Star that he would regard six wins as a successful 2020 season for Scott Frost's crew. A few people pointed out that this season could be an anomaly because of COVID-19 and the significant impact it might have on rosters week to week. Will we ultimately be able to judge programs fairly? It's a good question. It might be a season that is wildly unpredictable.

Through all the speculation, I keep thinking about the players. This is their time. They work year-round to play in a dozen games. I'm hoping we'll see a season that looks and feels normal, or somewhat normal. So, for now, I try to keep the conversation close to normal.  

* Here's a (bad) idea for Moos.

The San Francisco Giants will play games at Oracle Park without fans due to the pandemic, but the team informed season ticket holders in an email that fans can submit photos of themselves that will then be turned into large cardboard cutouts and displayed in empty seats during games.

Things aren't getting weird at all. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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