LINCOLN — Athletic director Trev Alberts understands the risk of keeping Fred Hoiberg as Nebraska’s basketball coach. In the short term, NU may lose fan support in terms of attendance, subscription purchases and donations.
“I think it’s already there,” Alberts said in a Friday morning interview with The World-Herald. “I’m not naive about that.”
But Alberts wants to offer Hoiberg — whose teams have lost 20 games in each of his first three seasons — a chance to right the ship for reasons other than the $18.5 million buyout he would have cost the Nebraska to fire Hoiberg now.
“Within reason, it will be a place that supports coaches – period,” Alberts said, seven months into his tenure as NU DA. “It’s not just the right thing to do, but we’ve talked about it before: What’s in the long-term best interests of the University of Nebraska? It needs to be a place where coaches know they have the opportunity to execute a vision.
“You can’t say Fred didn’t get the chance, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is: this is important for us and for our future.”
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The Nebraska Athletic Administration must also hold itself accountable, Alberts said. This echoes his comments during the Big Ten football media days last July and November when he opted to retain football coach Scott Frost. Alberts has repeatedly said the athletic department has as much to sort out as the two biggest men’s teams.
Alberts has met with Hoiberg weekly and said the coach is fine with changes that may make him “uncomfortable”. Hoiberg is “upset” by the difficulties of his first three years, Alberts said, and is ready to adapt to fierce Big Ten competition.
“There are no mandates for his coaching staff – I think he has some ideas there – but, at the end of the day, we play basketball in the Big Ten conference, we play in the baseball in the Big Ten Conference, we play football in the Big Ten Conference,” Alberts said. “That’s how it is. And being smart enough and strategic enough to create a vision that gives you a meaningful opportunity to succeed in the Big Ten is the wisest thing to do.
Outside of a written statement, Hoiberg had not discussed staying for a fourth season until Friday night’s home game against Iowa.
Breaking down the Huskers’ struggles in 2021-22, Alberts pointed to the loss of Dalano Banton — drafted by the Toronto Raptors in the second round of the NBA draft — and early-season injuries to Trey McGowens and Wilhelm Breidenbach as factors. contributors in a season that left NU in the basement of the Big Ten. While McGowens returned from a broken foot, Breidenbach was lost for the season.
“Losing Dalano late in the process was not something they were prepared for, and I think that had an impact on things,” Alberts said of Banton, who was replaced by the transfer from the Arizona State Alonzo Verge. “And every team has sort of tough guys on the team that help build a culture, and the early injuries of those two had a bit of an impact.”
Hoiberg will return with a restructured contract that reduces his salary to $3.25 million next season and his overall buyout to $11 million after next season. Hoiberg’s buyout, which had been $18.5 million after this season, was fueled in part by two staycation bonuses after the 2024 and 2025 seasons and a one-year contract extension granted to him from months after the start of the pandemic and months after a 7-25 2020.
“There were certain commitments and things done before we arrived that are realities that we have to sort through,” Alberts said. “I’m not making excuses or blaming anyone else. The reality is this: we have a problem with men’s basketball. There are solutions. These are not miracle solutions. There are a lot of things that come into play.
“No one is suggesting that we don’t enjoy basketball or that we plan on doing it in perpetuity. I want to work with Fred to make changes, to see if we can get on the right path.”