ESPN Grapples with UNO Wrestling


You want to get ESPN’s Outside the Lines to visit Nebraska? Wrestling is the key. The program, let’s call it 30-minutes of “60 Minutes”-style stories for sports, was back in Omaha for a story that debuted last weekend on the downfall of UNO wrestling and football. The last time OTL visited was for “Naked in Nebraska,” the story of the two UNL wrestlers who were booted from the team after appearing on a gay porn site. This time the story was called “Wrestling with the Truth” and ESPN definitely wrestled with it. Did they find it? That would have been difficult, considering Athletic Director Trev Alberts and Chancellor John Christiansen declined to be interviewed. The football staff was prohibited from doing so by the terms of their severance package. So what did ESPN uncover? A bunch of emotion, naturally. Tearful wrestling coach Mike Denney played the phone message he received hours after UNO had won its seventh national title. Alberts said he had “very difficult news.” Senior-to-be Esai Dominguez also spoke. He’s hanging around UNO to complete his degree next year rather than looking to wrestle elsewhere. The human element remains difficult to watch but we’ve already seen that locally. On the financial side, OTL didn’t go into great detail other than to say UNO’s claim that the football program was losing $1.3 million was based on factoring in the student fees needed to support the sport. Without those fees, football was only $50,000 in the red last year while wrestling, as Alberts admitted the day of the announcement, makes money. Add it all up and what we have is a difficult decision, with unfortunate consequences for a number of student athletes, that was as much about boosting UNO’s profile as it was about the money. I thought we already knew that. –The Omaha Vipers are switching leagues under the team’s new majority owner, Warren Ferris. Ferris, who told the World-Herald the club lost nearly $1 million last year, will move the Vipers to the Professional Arena Soccer League next season. The PASL is home to 16 teams, including clubs from Canada and Mexico. The good news for local soccer fans is that there will be professional soccer next year. The bad news? Mayor Suttle’s continued mentions of an outdoor team look a lot less viable given the Vipers struggles.


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