Bill Moos

Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos makes a point during the Dec. 3, 2017, news conference at Memorial Stadium when he named Scott Frost as Husker head football coach.

Bill Moos apparently isn't afraid to swing a big stick at the negotiating table.

It appears the second-year Nebraska athletic director is on the cusp of a breakthrough hire for the Husker men's basketball program.

It appears Nebraska fans soon will be able to do more than dream of a day when Husker hoops is a legitimate national story -- not just a nice NIT story. I mean, look at three of the fourth-seeded teams in this year's NCAA Tournament bracket: Virginia Tech, Florida State and Kansas State. Heck, look at the No. 3 seeds -- LSU, Texas Tech, Purdue and Houston.

Tell me why Nebraska can't occupy that sort of realm in the near future.

It doesn't have to be a pipe dream, amigos, particularly if Moos reels in Fred Hoiberg as Nebraska's next head coach. Based on what I hear from sources, I'll be surprised if it doesn't happen within a few days of the Huskers' current NIT run ending.

The moment the 46-year-old Hoiberg steps on Nebraska's campus, he would be the most accomplished head coach in the history of the program, having guided Iowa State to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including the Sweet 16 in 2013-14.

Expectations for Nebraska's program would rise dramatically. Granted, that's not saying much. Bottom line, Husker basketball needs to move from a place where its fans are giddy when the team reaches the NCAA Tournament to a place where they're surprised when the team misses out on the Dance.

Hoiberg would change the narrative. You know intuitively he's a game-changer. Those type of coaches typically come with hefty price tags. If Nebraska were to pay Hoiberg an annual salary that's north of $3 million -- I'll be shocked if that's not the case, based on what I'm hearing -- NU would be among only five schools paying at least $5 million annually to a head football coach and $3 million to a men's basketball coach.

As it stands, the others are Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Texas.

Texas pays football coach Tom Herman $5.5 million and basketball coach Shaka Smart $3.2 million. Georgia pays Kirby Smart $6.61 million and Tom Crean $3.2 million. Michigan pays Jim Harbaugh $7.5 million and John Beilein $3.8 million. Look for Hoiberg to be somewhere between Smart/Crean and Beilein. For the sake of comparison, Miles is making $2.4 million this season.

Some would question the optics of Nebraska paying $5 million and $3 million-plus annually to head coaches in its premier sports. But keep in mind NU athletics is in a strong place financially, with no help from outside subsidies or student fees. In fact, NU athletics during the 2018 fiscal year transferred $5.4 million to the university's administration to support academics.

Nebraska athletics benefits from Big Ten Conference revenue sharing, hauling in $47.9 million from the allotment in 2018. Tickets sales were strong and licensing agreements are lucrative. Moos is taking full advantage. And remember, NU paying Frost $5 million opened the door for Moos to up the ante for a men's basketball coach. Mike Riley's base salary in 2019 would've been $3.1 million.

This isn't Duke or Kentucky. You can't pay a basketball coach more than a football coach.

Let's say Nebraska locks in Hoiberg for what Utah pays Larry Krystkowiak ($3,572,500, which ranks 11th nationally).

Would that be a bad look? I don't think so.

My dad long has advised to avoid spending other people's money in my role as columnist. All I'm saying is Moos is wise to tap into resources that are available. In a financial sense, he's doing all he can to give Nebraska the best chance possible to compete with the elite as opposed to spending another March in relative obscurity.

Playing in front of a few thousand fans on Sunday night in Fort Worth, Texas -- as will be the case for Nebraska against TCU in the NIT -- equates to relative obscurity.

Yes, Hoiberg could change the narrative around here in a hurry. It needs to be changed. Think about the narrative next season if Miles were retained. Think how tired it would become. Once Nebraska lost a few games in a row, media and fans would once again discuss whether Miles (52-76 in regular-season Big Ten play) is the right coach to push the program forward. What fun.

The Huskers project as the type of team that could perhaps sneak into the Dance next year in what would be Miles' eighth season. He's made only one Dance previously at NU.

Hoiberg would find few other programs with such high pay coupled with such manageable expectations.

Moos appears set to end the days of Nebraska thinking it was smart enough to comb mid-major conferences for a head coach who would shock everyone by building a consistent NCAA Tournament participant within a power conference. C'mon, there's nothing wrong with being both smart and strong financially. That's the American dream, right?

It seems Moos is thinking big, in part because he can afford to think big.

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


Husker columnist

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

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