As the spring semester draws to a close, it’s an exciting time for Maverick athletics. With several teams near the top of the standings or competing in their conference tournaments, it’s been a successful spring, but there’s also been no shortage of action for Omaha Athletic Director Trev Alberts to keep up with.
Alberts joined the Gateway at Tal Anderson Field for two innings of the Mavericks 6-5 victory over BYU on Friday, April 16. The head of the athletic department talked about what this semester has been like for him and discussed a variety of other topics involving Maverick athletics and the NCAA.
Q: What has this semester been like for you?
A: There’s been a lot of work done by a lot of people, but I’m just really proud of our staff, our coaches and all of our student-athletes. We’re not through the pandemic yet obviously, but to think back to not long ago, nobody knew if our athletes were even going to be able to compete. So just to see how hard everyone has worked has been remarkable. We haven’t been able to play every game and we haven’t been able to have as many fans as we would’ve liked, but just look at this weekend and we’re playing baseball, softball, and we’re hosting a women’s soccer conference championship.
Every one of our sports was competing this semester and we were opening new facilities, so it was a little bit of a juggling act, but it was worth it. To see the joy that student-athletes have to be competing again has been really exciting.
Q: Women’s basketball makes their run in the Summit League Tournament… Hockey makes it to an NCAA Regional… Volleyball finishes in the top four in the Summit League… Both soccer programs have had a successful season… How exciting has this semester been for you to watch?
A: It’s been a challenge, but we were determined to make the most of our opportunities. We knew if we could create the path to play, our coaches and players would do the right things. Prior to the pandemic we thought hockey was trending in the right direction and we knew that the Carrie Banks hire was going to pay dividends for us. Evan Porter also had one of the best teams that we’ve ever had prior to the pandemic hitting too, so we just needed to get a chance.
So to see all of them have success plus Tim Walters and Bob Warning with their soccer programs and the volleyball team going to their tournament, they’ve all shown great leadership. I’m just really proud of how they’ve been able to navigate through everything they have this year. We often forget these are student-athletes that are here to get a degree too and they didn’t get that traditional campus experience either, so the fact that our students were able to balance everything this semester and still have success has been extremely impressive.”
Q: It’s been over a month since this place (Tal Anderson Field) opened up… What’s it like for you to sit here tonight and look out at this field?
A: It’s surpassed our wildest dreams. We’ve had some beautiful weather and we’re sitting here in this ideal type of setting overlooking Baxter Arena and Aksarben Village. We know perhaps a lot of these people aren’t perhaps diehard Maverick baseball fans, but they see a beautiful ballpark, nice weather and good baseball at a reasonable price, so we’ve had great crowds and lots of interest. The pandemic has limited how many people we can have here obviously, but I’m really pleased with how well received both the baseball and softball stadiums have been here.
Q: It’s been a hot topic around college sports over the past few weeks and several Omaha athletes have entered it, but what are your thoughts on the transfer portal?
A: I think the transfer portal is being exacerbated right now because of everyone getting that extra year in college athletics. You look at how many players are in the portal in basketball and hockey right now and it’s crazy. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all about the student-athletes having an opportunity and I think the one-time transfer rule is great.
At the end of the day it’s pretty disingenuous for any athletic director or coach to say that a player shouldn’t have the opportunity to transfer without penalty. Especially considering a coach or A.D. can leave for a different job when they’re offered more money or a better situation. There are some good situations that are going to come out of this too and I know our coaches have done it where they tell a kid they’re a great person, but they don’t see an opportunity for playing time. So they want to help them find a situation where they can play.
However, we see other kids that think they had a good year and want to go to the portal and see what’s out there for them, and they end up in a worse situation. I think what’s most concerning about all of this. But like anything else instead of lamenting the issue, we need to focus on supporting these students and try to put everyone in the best situation.”
Q: Being a former athlete yourself, could you imagine playing in times like these? How much appreciation do you have for everything these kids have gone through over the past year?
A: I have so much respect for these kids and everything they’re doing. Not all of these kids are here on a full scholarship where they could rationalize it as ‘this is my work.’ These young men and women have a love for the sport that they play and for their teammates, and they’ve been through a lot. Think about having to get COVID tested every single day and the stress that comes with that. Am I positive or am I not? Do I get to play? How long do I have to sit out?
We’ve had student-athletes that didn’t do anything wrong and had to quarantine in a different dorm, but they stuck with it and persevered. While it’s not fun to go through something like this, I believe in the end there will be a lot of growth for everyone. In a lot of ways, they (student-athletes) are the ones that led the way. They’re the ones that have been resilient, they’re the ones that this means so much to, and they’ve inspired us administrators to not create excuses and find a way to play.”
Q: When you see the open land around this complex, what’s in store for the future of the athletic department?
A: We’re in the middle of updating our master plan and we’ve got several presentations coming up this month with phase three of this project. Obviously we’re extremely grateful for Baxter Arena and this complex (baseball and softball) is a game-changer, but phase three will be even bigger and more impactful I believe. The growth and momentum of our campus is unbelievable, but the core of our Dodge St. campus is academics.
So at some point, we need to all be here and have a central location. We need to have a track for our women’s track and field program, so I think you’ll see us all navigate down here, but we ultimately want to create an athletic district. Also with this field, we have a partnership with the College World Series now and this will be a dedicated practice site for one of the participants. You’ll see high school teams continue to use this complex too. So we’re going to try and continue that theme of Division I athletics, UNO campus rec opportunities, and finally community benefits all coming together.