A Letter to the Nebraska-Omaha Football Players Suing UNO; It’s Not Worth Your Trouble


To the Nebraska-Omaha football recruiting class of 2011 and those former football players who had their careers curtailed because of the school’s decision to cut football – I feel your pain. Really, I do. I’ve suffered through the whole cancelled-football program thing.

In December 2008, my football team had just won the Dixie Rotary Bowl, capping a stellar 6-5 season. At the beginning of January, right as I was starting offseason workouts in preparation for my senior season, Western Washington University announcing its plans to cut football, a program with a history that dated back more than 100 years, because of budget problems. You all remember Western right? Well maybe not, since you weren’t in school then. We were the school that joined you in the North Central Conference for two years. That D-II power conference that included eventual two-time national champion Minnesota Duluth and current D-I programs North and South Dakota.

Now, a little more than a year after your school announced plans to cut the football and wrestling programs in order to financially support a move up to Division I, you all are suing the school. It’s been a year and you are still looking for answers; making attempts to get back at the school that ended your careers and hurt you in a way you never imagined. I understand the feeling, you want nothing more than to return to the football field.

I’m sorry UNO would-be football players, get a grasp on reality. The football program isn’t coming back. You think there might be documents that exist that prove the administration knew it was going to cancel the program before you all signed on to play football there. You’ve tried to get the university to turn over all the documents related the cancellation of the program and they haven’t complied. They say they want $10,000 before they’ll turn over the files. You have representation from the Husch-Blackwell law firm who has now filed a lawsuit trying to get records about why and how the school cut its football program in 2011.

Tiras Bolton is one of the 13 players whose lives were altered the day UNO dropped football. Football was his life, he said. At Wednesday’s press conference he told reporters his love for the game will never stop. “If there ever was a shot, I would go anywhere just to play,” he said.

“Tiras and the rest of the athletes we represent are still looking for answers,” Attorney Mike Degan said during Wednesday morning’s press conference.

I understand you want answers. In fact, I’d like some answers myself, the questions are a just little different.

  • What do you hope to accomplish with this lawsuit?
  • Do you want money for your troubles?
  • Do you really think that you can find some loophole to make the school overturn its decision more than a year later?
  • If you are so incensed at UNO why are you still going to school there?
  • I didn’t choose my college until May. Why, Bolton, if you also had an offer to play football at North Dakota State, did you decide to still attend UNO when they cancelled the program a month after you committed.
  • Why haven’t you transferred yet?

At the time Western cancelled our program I was livid. I felt betrayed by the school I chose to attend primarily because of its football program. At one point I urged all my Facebook friends to boycott all Western athletics, to show the school that we wouldn’t stand for this sort of injustice. As time went on and I mourned the loss of the football program like the loss of a loved one my rage subsided. I was one year from graduation and was able to put my focus into my journalism and communication studies. My rage toward Western was replaced with rational thought.

The football program, regardless of wins or losses, was an expensive sport for the university. Based on research done during the time immediately following the program’s cancellation, when boosters, alumni and players were trying to figure out a way to save WWU football, I discovered that the football program cost Western more than $300,000 per year. And while the program normally accounted for those expenses in revenue from each season, the fact of the matter is that football is and was a very expensive sport that, without proper long-term planning, can wreak havoc on an athletic department with a very-limited budget.

In our case, Western would have been hard-pressed to keep the football program and adequetly fund the other sports, regardless of how much money the other sports did or did not generate. So, as much as we wanted to “fight the power,” there was little we could have done legally to force Western to keep football. The same could be said now for UNO. The decision to drop football and wrestling was not necessarily one about budget cuts but rather a decision to stabilize the financial future of the athletic department as a whole. Cutting the program at Western was a worst-case-scenario solution to save other sports, at UNO it was about bettering the other sports.

The majority of the Western football players chose to remain on campus and finish out their studies. Some chose to transfer, whether moving down or up divisions, and most who left took advantage of the unique position they were in. We had a defensive end transfer to Washington State where he eventually worked his way into the starting rotation. We had a lineback transfer to Nevada where he was a special teams player on a team that went to the Hawaii Bowl. We even had a senior kicker transfer to West Virginia where he became the kickoff specialist for a big time BCS program. Even one of our freshman defensive backs who burned his redshirt during that last year of Western football worked hard during the past couple of years and last season he played for Utah State.

All these opportunities would never have been available had Western not cancelled the football program. The majority of us chose to better our futures instead of continually trying to rewrite the past

If all you UNO football players were so deadset on continuing a career playing Division II football (if D-II football is “your life” you might want to pick a new major) why not transfer out. I know that when Western cut its program NCAA rules allowed players to transfer to another school, regardless of division, and not have to sit out a year. Why aren’t you UNO football players doing the same.

I know exactly how much it hurt to find out your football team has been cut. I know all about the frustration after the fact trying to get answers. But what I’m about to tell you is for your own good: get over it, move one, stop fighting. The worst thing you can do is to tarnish the reputation of the UNO football program by whining for years after the fact.

Trust me, I know. I’ve lived it before.