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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (April 22, 1999)
NU ASSISTANT COACH Jim Howard has been with
the Nebraska program for 25 years and compet
ed for the Huskers in the mid-1960s.
Before he was about to be honored by
hundreds of who’s who in college
gymnastics Wednesday, Nebraska
Assistant Coach Jim Howard stood
where he usually does and prefers to
- away from the big crowd.
His gymnasts came up to him in
packs as he handed to them their tickets to the
Nissen Award banquet.
The banquet, held at the Comhusker Hotel,
honored the top gymnasts, coaches and contribu
tors to gymnastics as part of the NCAA Men’s
Gymnastics Championship week.
While Husker Jim Koziol was nominated for
the Nissen Award for outstanding senior gymnast,
the “Heisman Trophy” of gymnastics, Howard
was to be honored as the Honor Coach of the Year
by the NCAA and the National Association of
College Gymnastics Coaches for his 25 years of
coaching and commitment to the sport.
Jim has been an integral part ot this pro
gram,” said Head Coach Francis Allen, who with
Howard, has coached eight NU teams to the
national championship since 1976.
“He’s coached every All-American except one
(154) that I’ve had. He deserves all the credit he
gets for this.”
Allen was 10 feet away from Howard, directing
the masses - schmoozing, laughing, handling the
media. He is the one that usually gets the awards
and attention that comes with having one of the
most successful athletic programs in the history of
But behind every Sherlock Holmes like Allen
is his right-hand man, Watson. Jim Howard has
been that man at Nebraska.
And before he was about to receive the recog
nition many believe he so rightfully ^deserves,
Howard was doing what he does best - taking care
of his gymnasts.
After he handed out the tickets to his 1999
members, an old pupil of his, Wes Suiter, the 1985
national all-around champion and Nissen winner,
excitedly greeted his old coach, and thanked him
for everything Howard had done for him.
“I’m not much for banquets like this,” Howard
said. “I prefer the low-profile, low-key role.”
“Jim likes not being in the spotlight,” said NU
sophomore Jason Hardabura, who’s a likely candi
date to be Allen and Howard’s 39th NCAA cham
“He’s just there to coach because he loves it,
because he cares about his gymnasts. He will do
anything for us. My gymnastics have improved
200 percent since I got here because of him.”
Howard loves coaching and loves his gymnasts
because he remembers what it meant to be one
back in the early 1960s. He and Allen grew up and
competed together in Lincoln and were high
The two then joined an up-and-coming
Nebraska gymnastics program and led the team to
back-to-back conference titles in 1963-64. They
co-captained legendary coach Jack Grier’s 1965
team to a 7-2-1 record and built the early founda
tion for success in the program.
“We worked very hard together and were very
dedicated to what we were doing,” Howard said.
“When we were captains our senior year, we
brought a different attitude to the gym. We decid
ed to start having seven days a week workout pro
grams in the summer, to no longer make it a sport
for just four to five months of the year. No one had
thought about that before and we got that instilled
in everybody. We wanted to produce a higher qual
That kind of hard work and commitment led
Grier to hire Allen as a graduate assistant in 1965
and head coach in 1969. Meanwhile, Howard had
graduated and taken the head coaching position at
Wisconsin-La Crosse. From 1966-76, Howard
compiled a 123-19 record and won three NAIA
national championships. But his best years of
coaching were ahead of him - as an assistant under
“Francis and I more or less grew up together,
so we knew each other pretty well before I came
back and we like coaching together,” Howard said.
“But I think one of the strong things about
Francis and I are that we don’t always see eye to
eye,” Howard said.
Said Hardabura: “Francis is the motivator, run
ning the floor. Jim’s the behind-the-scenes guy,
perfecting our routines. They’re a perfect coaching
Which would explain their immense success
together. Not only have they coached individual
and team national champions for 24 seasons at
NU, Allen has coached two USA Olympic teams
(1980 and 1992) and* Howard has been the head
coach for the Pan American Games team (1991)
and World University Games team (1983). He,
like Allen, has received numerous coaching
That poses the question: Why did Howard give
up head coaching in 1976 to come back to
Nebraska as an assistant? He gave the answer both
in a low-key interview before the banquet and dur
ing his acceptance speech.
“There are two things in life that stand between
you and success,” Howard said. “One is the air.
The other is opportunities. I’m very grateful that
I’ve had the opportupities I’ve gotten at Nebraska.
You have to take them when they’re given to you.”
Story by Mr Gaskins
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The last time the Michigan men’s gymnastics team was in the NCAA
IH Hi Championships, Michigan Coach Kurt Golder was a freshman gymnast at Michigan.
That was 24 years ago. This year Golder returns with the top-ranked team in the country.
On paper the Wolverines should win, but championships are won on the floor and Michigan is ready
to defend its top ranking.
“We have been waiting for this all year,” Bryan Pascoe, a junior all-arounder, said. “We are
approaching this meet like it is another day at work. We wiirgo out and do our jobs.”
Depth is one reason the Wolverines are 19-3 this season. Coach Kurt Golder said he would use 11
gymnasts in the team competition. The specialists have helped Golder’S team overcome injuries.
Tim Dehr, Brad Kenna and Kevin Roulston missed meets earlier in the season with injuries. Pascoe
had shoulder surgery earlier in the year, but has returned.
The injuries have been somewhat of blessing in disguise as the specialists have emerged to play
“Even though we have had a lot of injuries, the specialists have been able to fill in and we haven’t
been hurt too badly as a team.”
The Wolverines are led in the all-around by Daniel Diaz-Lurong, LaLo Haro and Scott Vetere. Justin
Toman also is ranked fourth on the floor exercise and first on parallel bars.
1<A BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS
The Brigham Young men’s team is trying to finish the season on an emotional high
after learning two weeks ago that its program would be discontinued after next sea*
Consistently one of the top programs in the country, BYU gymnasts and coaches said they had no
idea the decision was coming.
“It was really hard at first,” Olympic hopeful Guard Young said. “The athletic director, his assis
tant and the university president came into the gym and toid us. They didn’t give us any solid answers.
We were shocked.”
Coach Mako Sakamoto thought the athletic director was coming to root on the team at Reglonals
and Nationals. After learning of their fate, the Cougar gymnasts banded Itigether to finish second at
the West Regional on April 10 behind Nebraska.
The Cougars’ best chance at an individual champion appears to be junior Cortney Bramwell on the
still rings. His 9.917 average ranks him as the top gymnast in that event. Bramwell scored a perfect on
the still rings March 19.
As a team, No. 11 BYU is one of two teams that competed at the NCAA Championships last year. The
Cougars finished fifth last year and Sakamoto is hoping for better results this year.
“I think we will do better this year than we did last year at nationals,” Sakamoto said. “We will be
better mentally prepared. Cortney has a good chance to win on rings and we expect to go far as a team
PENN STATE NITTANY UONS
Penn State Coach Randy Jepson doesn’t have fond memories of the last time his
Nittany Lion team competed in Lincoln for an NCAA Championship.
All Jepson remembered was waiting 30 minutes for a train to cross the railroad
tracks, while other teams were warming up at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
“We know the train schedules now,” Jepson said.
Penn State also is familiar with the Devaney Center and the competition. The fourth-ranked Nittany
Lions competed in the Big Ten Conference with Ohio State and Michigan and also faced Nebraska in a
dual earlier this year.
For Penn State, who missed out on the NCAA Championships last year, this year’s Championships
are a chance at redemption, two-time All-American Ron Roeder said.
“I don’t think you ever saw a happier third-place team at Regionals,” said Roeder about Penn
State’s finish at this year's East Regional.
Junior Brandon Stefanlak is the favorite to win the pommel horse and Roeder is ranked in the Top 8
on the floor exercise, still rings and parallel bars.
Jepson said his team would be as healthy as they have been in some time for tonight’s competition.
Seeing how the even competition and numerous story lines unfold were things Jepson would be fol
lowing in the three-day meet.
“Every team has a story to tell,” Jepson said. “We hope we have the most positive story to tell at
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
For years Ohio State and Michigan have had a great football rivalry, but this year
the men’s gymnastics teams’ battles have also become highly contested.
Second-ranked Ohio State defeated top-ranked Michigan on Jan. 23 and most
recently in the East Region Championships. The Wolverines victory over coach Miles
Avery’S team came at the Big Ten meet.
“We’ve been building to get to this point all season,” Avery said. “It should be a close, tight cham
The Buckeyes are ranked in the Top 3 nationally on five of the six events. And Avery said he has four
all-arounders, Jamie Natalie, Doug Stibel, Tim Eisner and Jay Nardelli, who should be in the running
for the all-around title. Natalie comes into the meet ranked second, behind Nebraska’s Jason
The demands of three days of competition are a worry to some teams, but not the Buckeyes, said
senior captain Peter Landry.
“We are definitely prepared mentally and physically for three days of competition,” Landry said. “I
think we’ve trained properly.”
Stanford comes into the NCAA Championship with the lowest team score average, but
Coach Sadao Hamada is not worried.
“I don’t want my teams to peak too early,” said Hamada, who is in his 27th year of
coaching. “We are probably three or four points behind everyone coming into the meet,
but within the last two weeks (of practice) we have made up at least two points. So we are ready.”
At the West Regionals on April 10, the Cardinal scored 226.90, which was more than two points bet
ter than the previous best Score. From the first meet of the year Jan. 8., the Cardinals have improved
15 points. '
The oply Stanford gymnast in the Top 20 nationally is Jason Katsampes. He Is tied for seventh on
the pommel horse.
Hamada hopes some of his other gymnasts can step up and surprise a few teams.
Compiled by Darren Ivy
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