The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, January 26, 2001, Page 10, Image 10

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    Sports Wee ke nd
Sanderford sales job working for Nebraska
■ NU women's basketball team
has seen increases in both the
stands and television appearances
Paul Sanderford had a most
unusual way to promote his Nebraska
women’s basketball team before they
were to play their first game under
him in November 1997.
The stocky good ol' southern boy
appeared inaTV commercial in all his
bowl-cut glory. In a leisure suit.
Wearing sunglasses. "Rapping” in a
funk band. Under die name “Heavy R”
telling fans to catch women’s basket
ball action because it was “groovy,
Since then, billboards and T-shirts
have made a basketball topped with
Sanderford’s hairdo as the unofficial
logo of the program, and there are bill
boards claiming him to be “Pat Rileys
... without die mousse.”
Ridiculous? Maybe. But
Sanderford doesn’t mind.
Such promotions have been a part
of Sanderford’s plan since day one to
not only build a national powerhouse,
but also to get Nebraska women’s bas
ketball out of the shell it had been in.
"I’m trying to generate interest,”
While they aren't exactly Eddie
Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in “Trading
Places,” Nebraska swimmers Shandra
Johnson and Beth Karaica have expe
rienced their own switch-a-roo.
Last season, Johnson helped lead
the women’s team while Karaica was
sidelined. Now the roles have been
reversed as Johnson is relegated to
the pool deck while Karaica is leading
from within the water.
The two co-captains and best
friends see the humor in the unfortu
nate way they’ve traded places.
"It is kind of fitting because ever
since she (Johnson) came (to the uni
versity) we did everything together,"
Karaica said. “I guess it’s kind of funny
it happened that way. I guess it's sur
prising that it didn’t happen in the
same year."
Destination: Athens.
“I’ve been dreaming about it
since I was in elementary school,”
said Nebraska freshman Frank Tolen.
“Hopefully, I’ll get there.”
For Tolen, the 2004 Olympics in
Athens, Greece, are the ultimate goal.
In the mean time, Tolen will try to
make his mark as a Husker.
So far, so good. At Tolen’s first col
legiate meet Jan. 13 at the Wildcat
Invitational in Manhattan, Kansas,
the Husker newcomer won the long
jump with a leap of 24' 1/4”. Tolen,
from Manassas, Va., didn’t waste any
time impressing Nebraska Coach
Gary Pepin.
“I’ve had an opportunity to coach
some great long jumpers... guys that
were the best in the world at the
* » •>
Sanderford said. "And when I came
here, women’s basketball was way,
way, way down on a lot of people’s
"If I’ve got to be the clown, or if I’ve
got to be somebody who people are
going to laugh at and say, ‘That guy’s
crazy, let’s go see them play,’ that does
n’t bother me. (Coaches) have to put
people in the stands and create inter
est in the program. If not, why do we
have a program?”
Even though the NU women are
not Tennessee or Connecticut yet -
winning national titles, selling out are
nas and appearing on national TV sev
eral times a year - Sanderford has lit a
Before he came, a good night at
the Devaney Center was a full lower
level set of bleachers. Since he came,
NU has averaged more than 4,000 fans
per game and has seen the top three
seasons and games in attendance,
including a record-breaking near-sell
out of more than 13,226 in last sea
son's finale.
Before Sanderford arrived, Husker
fans were lucky to see five NU games
on TV in a season - and they were all
on Nebraska Educational Television, a
statewide network. By the end of this
season, the Huskers will have been on
the tube about 30 times the last two
years - with at least 12 games on Fox
Sports Net and ESPN2.
“I’m excited about the exposure,”
Sanderford said. MI think its good for
our program. It’s great exposure for
our kids, great exposure for the youth
of Nebraska. The people in western
Nebraska can see a Steph Jones or a
Shannon Howell or a Shahidrah
Roberts play. That’s big. Maybe they all
won’t be volleyball players.”
NETV, which is affiliated with the
University of Nebraska, is still the
most active carrier of women’s basket
ball. Sports Director Steve Alvis said
the statewide public network began
covering two to five home games a
year since the mid-1980s.
But in the past two years, 17 games
have been on NETV, in addition to
several women’s volleyball, softball
and soccer contests.
“Part of our mission is to take the
finest things that happen in this state
and provide it to our viewers,” Alvis
said, “and women's athletics is one of
the finer things that happens, and I
think we need to continue that serv
Marketing, as well as television,
has also played a major role in gaining
interest. Rich Claussen, a vice presi
dent at Bailey- Lauerman ad agency
the agency behind most zany bill
Derek lippincott/DN
While Beth Itaraka (left) is ranked eighth in the nation in the 50-yard freestyle, her co-captain Shandra Johnson is redshirting this season while recovering from back surgery. Last season, Kariaca was
forced to sit out while Johnson earned AB-American honors m three events.
Friends reverse roles, help out teammates
“It is kind of fitting
because ever since she
(Johnson) came (to the
university) we did
everything together,”
Beth Karaica
NU swimmer
her for nearly a season and a half, dat
ing back to the second half of her
sophomore season.
Both Johnson and Karaica said
while their support of each other was
important, the team also played a
part in the road to recovery.
“Whenever you are out with an
injury, you are able to feed off the
team,” Karaica said. “Even though
you can't be in there swimming, you
can be a motivator on the deck.”
And as one served her time out of
the pool, helping with practices and
supporting the team, the other has
enjoyed success in the water.
Last season, Johnson claimed her
seventh, eighth and ninth All
American honors in the 200,400 and
800-meter freestyles. She also took
home her seventh and eighth confer
ence titles at the Big 12 champi
onships winning the 500-yard
freestyle and 200-yard backstroke.
As for Karaica, she currently is
ranked eighth in the nation in the 50
yard freestyle with a time of23.06 sec
onds. She also has earned upwards of
10 individual titles this season along
with numerous other top-three fin
ishes. These accomplishments are
with the Big 12 championship and
Nationals yet to come.
Yet, a friend’s success and victo
ries don’t lessen the agony of sitting
out a season. Both Johnson and
Karaica agree sitting out is difficult,
especially seeing swimmers they
knowjthey could beat winning their
“Even now that my back is better,
and I am starting to train a little bit, I
still don’t want those people to beat
me,” Johnson said. “I’m starting
Please see SWIM on 9
Karaica, a fifth-year senior and
nine-time All-American, redshirted
last season while she recovered from
Epstein-Barr infection, a rare virus
that results in extreme fatigue and
and dizziness. At one point last year,
Karaica lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks.
Back surgery shelved Johnson for
the current season. The two-time
conference swimmer of the year had
a fractured vertebrae, which hindered
Versatility, great attitude key for NU freshman
time,” Pepin said.
“But I’ve never
had a high
| schooler come in
and jump 24
especially after
Pepin studied
triple jump at the 2000 Virginia 3A
High School Indoor Championships.
He qualified to compete in five
events at the meet.
"I was kind of the man who did
everything/' saidTolen.
Tolen's versatility is what first
attracted Pepin.
“When we recruited him, he
exhibited qualities as an all-around
athlete,” Pepin said. “We didn't really
know what his event would be.”
Right now, that event appears to
be the long jump. But Tolen’s athleti
cism makes other possibilities
appealing, including the hurdles,
sprints and even the decathlon,
according to Pepin.
Though curious as to what other
events Tolen can excel in, Pepin said
that it was important to specialize in
a specific event.
“We don’t want to put him in too
much so that he doesn’t do really well
in anything,” Pepin said. “You have
to be careful not to have him bite off
more than he can chew.”
Tolen’s expectations for this sea
son include qualifying for the NCAA
in the long jump. You won’t find
many doubters at this point.
“If he wants to become really
good, the athletic ability is there,”
Pepin said. “And he has a phenome
nal attitude.”
Tolen’s potential road to excel
lence takes a pit stop in Cedar Falls,
Iowa, on Saturday. The 16th ranked
Huskers will compete in the
Northern Iowa Invitational.
Nebraska’s first home meet is at the
Big 12 Indoor Championships on
Feb. 23-24.
Tolen Tolen s jumps
from the meet on
“Breaking it down, his technique
wasn't very good," Pepin said, “which
says something about his potential.”
At first glance, Tolen’s unassum
ing smile and lanky frame don’t
scream world-class athlete, but the
freshman’s confidence is difficult to
disguise. Though he missed most of
the 2000 outdoor season due to a
hamstring injury, Tolen won the
boards and commercials for women’s
hoops and all other NU sports - said a
lot of that has had to do with
For one, Sanderford already had a
proven track record - 15 NCAA
Tournament teams and three Final
Four teams in 18 years at Western
Kentucky. Combine that with an
attractive personality and self-willing
ness to strut it, and Claussen struck
“The day Bill Byrne hired Paul
Sanderford, we knew this thing would
really take off,” Claussen said. “You
could tell he was a winner. He will do
anything to sell tickets. He’s a great
client to have.”
Claussen remembered
Sanderford's first year when the coach
wanted his team’s identity to be tough.
One team poster showed the women
standing dramatically, all of them
glaring into the camera, with the slo
gan reading, “Bad news for opponents
who had problems with last year’s
team: This Year’s Team.”
"From that moment on, I think
that convinced the players and their
opponents that Nebraska is going to
play hard and give 100 percent every
Please see SANDERFORD on 9
DM File Photo
Nebraska Coach Paul Sanderford has had a big hand in the
dramatic rising of both attendance and television appear
ances for the Nebraska women's basketball team.
Win against OU
could strengthen
postseason hopes
Cookie Belcher remembers the scenario well.
Belcher’s 1998-99 Nebraska team was 10-7 and
hanging onto the last thread of its postseason
tournament hopes.
NU then went to Oklahoma and proceeded to
beat the 12-4 Sooners by 15 points. Including its
win the week before at Baylor, the team would go
on to win 10 of its last 15.
On the other hand, the Sooners would finish 7
7 in their last 14 games and lose three of their last
Belcher and his 19-12 team would gather at
Coach Danny Nee’s house to hear of their fate from
the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
"I thought we had a great chance to make it,”
he said. “We knew we were going to get five teams
in from the Big 12, and the television stations list
ed us and Oklahoma as bubble teams.”
The Huskers would be denied and settled for
an NIT bid.
But the Sooners were in, despite having a lower
RPI (47 to 49), a lower strength of schedule (48 to
80) and a head-to-head loss to NU.
And when Nebraska (9-9, 2-3) and (14-4,3-3)
Oklahoma meet again this Saturday at 12:45 p.m.
Please see SOONERS on 9
Husker women
to take on Mizzou
The ninth-ranked Nebraska women’s gymnas
tic team plans to continue their early season suc
cess when they face Big 12 foe Missouri on Sunday
at Columbia, Mo.
“It’s another meet, another step on the ladder
to try to improve on the things we did last meet,”
Nebraska Coach Dan Kendig said.
The Comhuskers will be making their second
consecutive Big 12 road meet in back-to-back
The Huskers weathered the Cyclones of Iowa
State last week in a very competitive 195.50 to
195.075 dual.
Freshman standout Alecia Ingram paced
Nebraska in the contest. Ingram won the all
around with a 39.25 score.
Senior All-American Amy Ringo captured her
best performance of the season against ISU.
Ringo finished in the top three in each of the
three events she competed in, including a first
place showing on the floor exercise with a 9.90.
Kendig is looking forward to matching up
against another conference opponent.
“After this weekend and next weekend, we will
have seen all the teams in the Big 12,” Kendig said.
“It will give us an idea what the conference will be
The dual against the Tigers also will serve as a
testing ground for injured Huskers, junior Bree
Dority O’Callaghan and sophomore A.J. Lamb.
O’Callaghan is slated to compete in the floor
exercise Sunday. She has seen limited action this
season after sustaining a knee injury at the season
opener in Maui, Hawaii.
Lamb might see some action on the balance
beam for NU. She has been sidelined by a nagging
back injury, which occurred during the preseason.
With the two gymnasts returning to the lineup
and the maturation of the freshman class, Kendig
feels Nebraska should compete well.
“The bottom line is, if we go down there and hit
our routines and do what we are capable of, I think
it will be a good day for the Huskers,” Kendig said.
The meet is schedule to begin at 2 p.m. on