It’s August, and it’s time for Mike Riley to call his first timeout.
Look, good, well-meaning men do stupid things. I’m at the front of that line.
What to do with Keith Williams, the Nebraska receivers coach who pleaded not guilty to .08 DUI and careless driving charges on Monday? It’s not an easy call.
Fortunately, Riley the head coach will make it in a huddle that will include Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst and university leadership. There’s a bigger picture for the school in these situations. It’s always risky to put it solely in the hands of the head coach.
My sense of Riley is that he is a loyal guy who will not throw a coach or player to the wolves. Now, defensive line coach Hank Hughes was fired after one season last year. But Riley clearly thought Hughes couldn’t help him.
Williams did not play or coach for Riley until he came to NU in 2015, but of all the coaches on Riley’s staff, no one has made better use of Nebraska’s stature. Williams, whose Division I experience includes Fresno State and Tulane, has made himself a rock star at NU. He’s very popular with recruits. He’s made himself valuable.
Now, balance that against Eichorst, who has fired Bo Pelini (largely in part for image problems) while Connie Yori, a highly successful women’s basketball coach, resigned under investigation.
There are so many questions about this that may not get answered for a while. Williams had two prior DUIs since 2004. If convicted, Williams could serve jail time and lose his license for an extended time. If he pleads down and continues to coach, how would the university be liable if there’s another incident?
Williams pleaded not guilty, and that typically is to open the door for a plea deal and also extends the process. Williams is not expected back in court until Oct. 24. By then, there are only five games left, and the process could take into next year.
Here’s my sense: There’s no hurry for Williams to come back. Give him a timeout. Sit him down until Oct. 24, or for the entire season.
Don’t throw him to the wolves. Try to help him. This incident happened during training camp, with a star recruit in town. That shows a lack of focus. Get that focus back. Get help if needed.
Then, with that help, Williams comes back better than ever and his message to kids is stronger than ever.
Meanwhile, you stood by a man you deemed worthy of keeping. Let him reward that faith.
And if there’s ever another incident, well, everyone understands the consequences.
Williams’ presence alone is not going to alter the course of this season. But there’s a bigger picture here than that. What does NU want to stand for?
A timeout will serve everyone well here.
» Wow, Jack Sock. Congrats to the Lincoln kid and 11th native Nebraskan to win Olympic Gold. That’s some karma for Sock, who traveled to Rio despite having walking pneumonia because he wanted to be part of the experience.
» I was absolutely wrong about golf in the Olympics. It was fantastic. The emotions were so real. It added something that the majors and the Ryder Cup don’t have. What makes this better is that, unlike the Ryder Cup, golfers represent individual countries, and it’s not just Europe. All the big names will try to make the 2020 teams. So let’s add a team event, like gymnastics. Can you imagine golfers trying to win a gold for their country as a team, too? More, more, more, please.
» Steve Pivovar’s funeral was lovely and classy and full of family and meaning. And it left with me a thought in my head.
Who’s out there now?
Is he or she out there, in south or north or west or central Omaha?
Is there someone who is going to grow up with a passion so big for their hometown?
And is that someone going to shine it on their favorite thing, perhaps a sport like baseball or an event like the College World Series?
And is that kid going to use journalism as an outlet, not just to share that passion with the world, but also to try and change that world, day by day, story by story?
Is there a passion out there so deep that they would pour all of their being into it, show up for work each and every day, with the same mindset — to do a job right?
And would that person make that the priority, and not web hits or Twitter followers or the spotlight on them?
And would this person do that thing for the rest of their lives, and touch so many lives, just by being there, every day, rain, shine or snow?
And when their time was up, would that person have a visitation and funeral that would draw hundreds, including colleagues, coaches, players and sports officials that they covered?
On a Monday at St. Gerald’s Church in Omaha, we saw what a difference one man can make.
Half of the Creighton athletic department was on hand for the funeral. Two former Jays, Doug McDermott and Jahenns Manigat, were in attendance. Martie Cordaro, Don Leahy, Jack Payne, Jack Diesing Jr., Steve Rosenblatt and others came by to pay their respects.
CU men’s basketball coach Greg McDermott delivered a eulogy, with personal stories and great words. It was perfect.
A coach giving a eulogy at a sports writer’s funeral? It was totally appropriate. And totally Piv.
The McDermott-Pivovar relationship was out of the old school, and a rarity these days. With the influx of bloggers and social media, it’s harder for a media man to have a relationship with a coach or a team.
Not when you’re with a team and a game, every day, forever.
I ran into Jesse Cuevas, the legendary Rosenblatt Stadium groundskeeper, at the visitation on Sunday night. Cuevas and Piv were like brothers: South Omaha boys, guardians of all things Rosenblatt and College World Series.
When they went to tear down the old stadium, I half-expected Piv and Jesse to stand in front of the wrecking ball.
Anyway, Cuevas says to me, “Piv never cheated the game of baseball.” No matter the weather or the crowd or the standings, Cuevas said, Piv poured everything into every story.
Is there someone coming up, growing up, who will do the same? Piv was pure Omaha, a blue-collar, honest day’s work kind of town. But in today’s world of quick fix social media, is there another Piv out there willing to go the distance every day, for love of game and event and city?
I hope so. But those shoes, and that old Texas cap, will be hard to fill.