Published Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 11:33 am
More than winning; Lots of building, too

Six months into his term as Nebraska's athletic director, Tom Osborne offered one of his usual, matter-of-fact answers when asked about plans for new facilities.

“I'd like to get some things done while I'm here that have long-term value,'' he said.

Consider that mission accomplished by many multiples.

Through Osborne's work, those employed in the athletic department, the student-athletes who compete for NU and the fans who cheer for it will enjoy $120 million in new and upgraded facilities.

That doesn't include $179 million for Pinnacle Bank Arena, a project with the City of Lincoln that will house NU men's and women's basketball.

Nebraska officials said fundraising at the school has grown 25 percent during Osborne's tenure, largely because of the facilities boom.

As NU's football coach from 1973 through 1997, Osborne never obsessed about having the best and biggest facilities. The Husker football locker room for a long time was considered spartan compared with others.

But he always stayed abreast of the arms race in college athletics and knew upon his return to campus after a 10-year absence that keeping pace with peer schools was a necessary part of being able to compete for championships.

The project closest to Osborne's heart was the $8.7†million Dick and Peg Herman Family Student Life Complex.

Nebraska has long been on the front end of creating access to an academic center for athletes. Seed money for the first one at NU was the $500,000 check for playing Penn State in the 1983 Kickoff Classic.

Osborne, upon becoming A.D., made expansion and upgrade of the academic/life skills center a priority.

Perhaps the biggest eye-opener among facilities has been the $18.7 million Hendricks Training Complex for basketball and wrestling, though that needed a late boost from donors Howard and Neal Hawks to become a showpiece that NBA teams have come to eyeball.

The Hawkses said they thought NU was building “an average practice facility.'' So the family donated more money for premium add-ons and upscale accoutrements for the locker room and players lounge.

The most expensive project under Osborne has been the $63.5 million expansion to the east side of Memorial Stadium. Among the more intriguing will be the remodeling of the Devaney Center into a volleyball arena, which could put that sport in position to become a money-maker.

— Lee Barfknecht



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