The Associated Press
LINCOLN - Nebraska is committed to Doc Sadler even though the Cornhuskers are mired in last place in the Big 12 in his fourth season as coach.
Marc Boehm, the associate athletic director in charge of men’s and women’s basketball, said Sadler’s job is safe even if the Huskers don’t win another game this season.
“Doc is the right guy to get this thing done,” Boehm said.
Sadler’s contract pays him a base salary of $800,000 a year and runs through the 2013-14 season.
The Huskers (13-14, 1-11 Big 12) are having their worst conference season since 1962-63. Last season, Nebraska won 18 games and finished eighth in the Big 12 with an 8-8 record.
Nebraska’s only Big 12 win this season was against Oklahoma on Jan. 30. The Huskers have lost at home to 11th-place Iowa State and dropped a 40-point game at Texas.
But they played right with top-ranked Kansas on the road until the final minutes of what was an 11-point loss, and they took then-No. 7 Kansas State to the last seconds before losing 91-87 on the road last week. Then they turned around and lost by 15 points at home to Missouri on Saturday.
Athletic director Tom Osborne said on his radio show last week that Sadler’s job status is a non-issue and that he sees potential.
“Coach Osborne and the administration has been tremendous and they’ve given total support,” Sadler said Monday. “Nebraska has paid me to win basketball games here and run a basketball program, and I think our program is going in the right direction. We just have to win some games and all that will take care of itself.”
Boehm said the goals are for Nebraska to regularly appear in the Top 25 and play in the NCAA tournament - and to achieve them with high-character players.
“There is a little bit of leeway to do it the right way,” Boehm said. “We can have a quick fix if we want to go that way, but there are no quick fixes in this program. In the fifth year you can gauge where you’re at. Right now he has young kids, some injuries. It happens to be a down year right now.”
Sadler has been hit by season-ending injuries to projected starters Christopher Niemann and Toney McCray. The Huskers often have four freshmen in the court.
Nebraska has scant basketball tradition. The men haven’t won a conference championship since sharing the Big Seven title in 1949-50 and are winless in six NCAA tournament appearances. The Huskers haven’t been to the national tournament since 1998 or in the Top 25 since 1995.
Sadler in 2006 took over what Boehm called an “unhealthy” program, and his first roster was out of balance, with nine freshmen or sophomores, one junior and two seniors. A former student manager even got minutes.
Recruiting has been hit and miss. He signed eight players in his first class, and only one is still on the team. Sadler’s records of 17-14, 20-13 and 18-13 were bolstered by wins over undistinguished non-conference opponents, but he did get the Huskers to the NIT the past two seasons.
Nebraska’s basketball budget of $3.6 million ranks among the top six in the Big 12, Boehm said, and ground will be broken in May on a practice facility.
Sadler’s worst season comes alongside the best season ever for the women’s team, which is 25-0 and ranked No. 3 nationally.
Boehm uses the women’s team as an example of how quickly a program can turn around. Coach Connie Yori’s women were 1-8 in conference play in February last year, but with a healthy lineup they are moving toward their first league title since 1988 and a possible No. 1 NCAA seed.
“I wouldn’t be surprised with the men next year if we’re seeing maybe not something like this,” Boehm said, referring to the women, “but drastic improvement with Doc only being in his fifth year.”