An inside look at the NFL career
of UNO Professor Darryll Lewis
by Noelle Lynn Blood, College of Business Administration
Darryll Lewis, associate professor of law at UNO, first was motivated to pursue a position in the National Football League in the mid-1960s.
But it wasn’t as a player.
Lewis was watching his family’s small black and white television when he saw Burl Toler, the NFL’s first black referee, officiating a Chicago Bears game.
“I ran upstairs to my parents and said, ‘Hey! There’s a colored guy on TV!,’” Lewis says.
With Toler as his inspiration, Lewis wrote to the NFL and received a rulebook. From that point on, he was determined to follow Toler’s lead in the NFL.
He started small, acting as a line judge at the North Omaha Boys Club. The volunteer position was a “labor of love,” Lewis says, but it earned him a club award as Boy of the Year. He went on to ref at high school and college levels. Finally, in 1997, he got the call he’d been waiting on for nearly 30 years.
“After the Alamo Bowl in ’96, I got a call from the NFL telling me I was one of their finalists,” he says. “They have a system where they scout officials they want to come into the league, then the applicants go through a process involving background checks and psychological interviews.”
He traveled to New York, where he was subjected to a battery of questions from a variety of specialists, including a psychologist. “I never did find out if I passed that exam or not,” he says with a grin.
He made the cut and reffed 244 games in the NFL since then, 210 on the field as a line judge and 34 as a replay official.
A faculty member for the College of Business Administration’s Finance, Banking & Real Estate Office department, Lewis says skills he learns on the field transfer to the classroom.
“I’ll try anything that works,” he says, but his main challenge is staying calm under pressure. It’s necessary because “as an official, you’re only liked half the time … unless you’re a replacement, when you’re not liked any time,” he says.
The next skill, compassion, ties directly to common sense, which Lewis says is the ability to discern and apply the intent of a rule, rather than following it to the letter. He says too many people have been fired because the rulebook is too technical.
“You have to know the intent,” he says, “because it takes a long time to get where you want to go [in the league] and there’s no guarantees.”
This lack of enduring promises led to the league locking its officials out for about seven weeks at the start of this season as labor disputes including compensation, pensions and job security were hashed out. The final agreement, which will last for eight years, calls for a continuation of the pension plan, compensation for lost wages during the lockout, and the hiring of some younger officials.
“We didn’t get what we deserved, we got what we negotiated,” Lewis says. “During the lockout, the officials missed doing what we enjoy the most — officiating.”
Keeping a pension plan is important, Lewis says, because 82 of 117 total officials are older than 50 — including Lewis.
“We were informed at the end of last season that we should be prepared to sit out the entire season if necessary to assert the importance of not removing our pensions,” he says. “I’m 59, so I have many more years behind me than in front of me in regards to working.”
How many more years? For Lewis, that’s to be determined. “I would like to officiate as long as the body, enjoyment and good spirit hold out,” he says.
Rounding the Bases
UNO Professor Dave Ogden is a big hit
when it comes to researching baseball
His father was a Cardinals fan, his mother a Cubs fan.
Somehow, Dave Ogden’s parents made their marriage work, raising a son in the proverbial heart of baseball country in Lewiston, Ill.
“It made for a dysfunctional household, but you couldn't escape baseball in that area of the country in the 1950s, when I was in grade school,” Ogden says.
To be safe, Ogden grew up a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. He also played the game through junior high, though not without some challenges.
“I was slow, skinny, short, and couldn’t hit a fastball — or curveball for that matter,” Ogden says. “And my fielding was worse.”
Today, though, he might be UNO’s best hit when it comes to studying baseball. He’s written extensively on baseball history and culture, researching topics ranging from myth-making to anti-spit tobacco campaigns to the Negro Leagues. He has presented his research numerous times at the Cooperstown Conference on Baseball and Culture, sponsored annually by the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ogden has been at it since his days as a student, making baseball the subject of his UNO master’s thesis and UNL dissertation. Among the areas he’s studied most is youth baseball, an interest sparked when his son played on traveling select teams.
“It surprised me how few African-American youths were on those teams,” Ogden says. “I started observing other select teams and have found over the years that my initial observation was substantiated.”
Ogden found that less than 4 percent of players on the more than 750 teams from 28 states he observed were black.
“It's a stark contrast to the history of involvement of African-Americans in baseball,” he says, “especially when you compare what's happening today to the earliest days of the Negro Leagues.”
Ogden also has partnered with UNO adjunct professor Kevin Warneke to study how youth select baseball has changed major league ball.
“Nine out of 10 players have played select baseball, so almost two-thirds of those drafted by the big leagues during the June draft are veterans of select baseball,”
Ogden currently is on sabbatical, but he’s staying busy. He and Warneke are teaming with Iowa Western Community College Professor John Shorey to survey those who attend Omaha Storm Chasers and Iowa Cubs games to determine what they pay attention to at minor league games (Baseball? Fellow fans? On-field promos?). He and Warneke also are writing a journal article exploring how umpires view attempts by baseball coaches to dispute calls. And Ogden on his own is writing a chapter on Negro League baseball at Rosenblatt Stadium. That book, on Rosenblatt, is to be published by McFarland Press.
— Sarah Casey, University Relations
A few other things Ogden has unearthed in his baseball studies:
• Stacking by Race
Research has shown for years that black players in the major leagues usually play outfield. Very few become pitchers (though that’s slowly changing) or catchers (there wasn’t a single black catcher in MLB in 2001 or 2012). Stacking, though, doesn’t start in the Bigs: “I'm finding evidence of that at the youth select level, where last year I found that most of the black players on select teams that I saw played the outfield,” Ogden says.
• Local is Better
“There are some very creative ways to interest inner city kids in baseball, and most of them have come from locally started programs,” Ogden says, “not national ones like Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities. Around here (Omaha), the Memorial Park League is a good example.”
• Baseball or Bust
The national survey of college players Ogden performed with Warneke found that more than 40 percent played nothing but baseball as kids. “We also found in that survey that college players tended to play the same positions they did in select ball, especially shortstops, catchers and pitchers.”
By Lori Rice
They may not have NCAA varsity status, fancy team duffel bags or even a coach, but student-initiated and student-led sports clubs at UNO have become a Maverick tradition now in a fifth decade.
Club sports got their start at UNO in the late 1970s with offerings such as soccer and martial arts. Hockey even was a club sport at UNO. The nationally ranked varsity program’s first coach, Mike Kemp, first led the university’s club team in 1976.
Today the university offers 13 recognized sports clubs involving more than 150 students. That includes equestrian, badminton, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee and, yes, even bass fishing.
“Students come in with these ideas and we'll take them and see how far we can push them,” says Lisa Medina, assistant director of sports clubs and youth programs at UNO. “I can't make the club for them, but we are here to help every step of the way.”
Unlike hockey and other varsity sports, club sports operate without the funding of varsity athletics. There are no athletic scholarships and very limited university funding. Members mostly rely on fundraising to help offset out-of-pocket expenses for training, traveling and competitions.
The clubs, offered through the Office of Campus Recreation, range from recreational to highly competitive teams that travel and compete against club teams from other universities.
“We have a growing student enrollment and a lot of them had been athletes in high school and want to have some sort of competition, or even just surround themselves with people that had been competitive at some point and have that desire for being active,” Medina says.
UNO student Ben Seiker, for instance, had been trapshooting for 12 years prior to coming to UNO. He joined the UNO trap and skeet club three years ago. It’s one of the more competitive clubs on campus. Members travel to several competitions each semester and every fall host one of the largest collegiate trapshooting competitions in the country. Money raised from the competition goes toward helping club members pay for travel costs to attend the National ACUI Trap Shooting Collegiate Championship in Texas each spring.
“We meet a lot of fun guys and form a lot of friendships,” says Seiker, a junior and former president of the club who now serves as an advisor. “I still end up traveling and hanging out with different friends I met at different colleges.”
Senior Alix Wayne found her niche as a member of the Quidditch club, which takes the Harry Potter magical flying broomstick game to the ground in an amalgam of soccer, dodge ball and rugby.
“You don't have to be the best athlete in the world to play,” Wayne says. “It's a great social thing … and it's just a fun game to play.”
Medina says sports clubs provide an opportunity to live a balanced life academically, athletically and socially. They offer a happy medium between intramural sports and varsity athletics.
“Unlike an athletic department, where your life kind of starts with athletics and you piece things around it,” Medina says.
Students in club sports, she says, “are able to still be competitive, still be active, but have it balanced out a little between work and school — because a lot of students here at UNO work full time.”
In tennis it’s known as “the grunt.”
Some of the best tennis players in the world grunt — Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and others. While some view it as a trademark representing intensity and effort, others see it as an unnecessary annoyance.
So when discussions began to ban grunting at Wimbledon for women’s tennis, Emily Callison decided to explore grunting in depth.
“We wanted to look at how grunting affects players on the court in their ball velocity and in their VO2 (maximum oxygen uptake),” Callison says. “With all the controversy going around we thought it would be a fun topic to do and explore the results.”
Callison knows grunting firsthand — she played tennis for the University of North Dakota from 2005 to 2009 and helped coach UNO’s team last year. And, yes, she was a grunter. “But not a loud one,” she says.
Now she’s a graduate student for Professor Kris Berg in the Exercise Physiology Laboratory and Fitness Center.
Callison thought a real-world application of her thesis would be useful to athletes and other tennis players of all levels.
Using players from the UNO men’s and women’s tennis team, Callison and Berg devised a series of tests with different equipment to measure results.
“We measured ball velocity with a standard radar gun. The players were also hooked up to a portable metabolic device so they were able to hit a series of shots while getting their oxygen measured,” Callison says.
Players went through five two-minute periods during which they hit for two minutes while grunting then took a short break before hitting another two minutes without grunting. At the end of each hitting series results were given in ball velocity and how hard each player was working. Results were aggregated with men and women.
The findings? Grunting works.
“By the end of it we found that there was a 4 percent increase in ball velocity when they grunted compared to when they didn’t grunt,” Callison says.
Plus, players didn’t expend extra energy when grunting.
“We didn’t see any change in VO2,” Callison says, “so you don’t necessarily work harder when you grunt.”
In a sport where decisions and reactions need to be made in a split-second, does a 4 percent increase in ball velocity have an effect on players? “I personally think it does, and I’m sure some of the more competitive players would say the same,” Callison says.
So what’s her research mean for those who want to ban grunting? Should grunting be banned if it’s going to adversely affect a player’s performance?
Some argue that tennis has always been a game of elegance and appropriate mannerisms, similar to golf. Grunting, they say, can be a distraction for not only the opponent but also for spectators.
It’s not been banned yet. But people are talking — and research like Callison’s gives them something even more to discuss.
“It’s in the back of my mind every time I play so I’ll be interested to see what happens in the future with grunting” Callison says.
— Mark Joekel, assistant director marketing and external relations, Campus Recreation
UNO is among the nation’s leaders in preparing athletic trainers
If you’ve ever seen a player get injured during a sporting event, chances are you’ve also seen someone running from the bench to help her.
Most of the time, that’s an athletic trainer — those folks responsible for the health and well-being of athletes from little leaguers to Olympians.
And few universities do a better job of educating them than UNO.
UNO has offered courses in athletic training for three decades in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER). The university’s athletic training program prepares students to earn certification so they can move directly from school into a job.
“We’re the leaders in developing this route to certification,” says Melanie McGrath, associate professor and athletic training program director. “We actually just went through reaccreditation and were granted another 10 years, which is the maximum length. That basically means we’ve met every single standard and met it well.”
McGrath points to at least 23 UNO alumni working as high school athletic trainers in the Omaha metropolitan area. Of those, 13 received their athletic training degrees from UNO and the other 10 received master’s degrees in related fields. At least three athletic trainers in Lincoln Public Schools also are UNO alumni. No other athletic training education program is represented as heavily in eastern Nebraska.
Even more impressive is that UNO’s program is one of only five in the country that offers entry-level degrees for both undergraduates and graduates. In fact, UNO was the first institution anywhere to offer a graduate-level professional degree for athletic training. Today, 25 other institutions do the same.
Jessica O’Neel, an alumna of the athletic training program, graduated in 2003 and earned her accreditation soon after. She is now a credentialing specialist for the Board of Certification for the Athletic Trainer, located in Omaha. It’s the only accredited certification program in the United States.
“Growing up, I was always interested in service and health care professions,” O’Neel says. “Athletic training was a natural fit for me when I had the opportunity to blend service and health care together as an athletic training student aide.”
O’Neel chose UNO based on the recommendation of Lincoln Southeast High School’s then-assistant athletic trainer Cindy Barker Benda, also a UNO grad.
“While at UNO, I was fortunate to have many experiences with a variety of sports. Working at Millard South High School was one of my favorite rotations,” she says. “I transitioned into graduate school … with confidence because of my academic and clinical education at UNO.”
Advancing the Field
Athletic training, O’Neel says, didn’t get its start until 1950, when there were about 200 athletic trainers. Today, she says, 41,000 athletic trainers are certified in the United States.
UNO began its program in the 1980s. Just since then the profession has made significant advancements. For example, McGrath says, “Our management of concussions and head injuries is dramatically different.” (See “Head Games” on Page 44).
“Back when I was in school we were taught that if an athlete had a head injury but didn’t show any symptoms in 15 minutes then they could go back out to a practice or game, or whatever it was,” McGrath says. “We know better now — we really know better.”
And they know more about more.
At UNO, students are required to dedicate 20 hours a week doing applied clinical work at UNO, Creighton University and 11 area high schools every semester in the program. That’s on top of coursework, tests and research papers.
“I don’t think that people really recognize how well educated athletic trainers are,” McGrath says. “By the time a student graduates from UNO they have 1,200 to 1,800 hours of clinical experience.
“UNO's athletic training program has a major impact
on the lives of thousands of student-athletes in the Omaha Metro.”
The UNO program also holds regular events for local high school students interested in the profession, including a high school “athletic training day” every December. That usually attracts from 25 to 45 students.
All of it is time well spent, O’Neel says.
“Ask yourself, who is taking care of your kids?” she says. “Athletic trainers take responsibility and reduce risk and liability. Athletic trainers save lives. Everybody’s body deserves an athletic trainer.”
— Charley Reed, University Relations
Hate Soccer? Maybe You're a Conservative
UNO professor researches the links
among the world’s most popular sport,
globalization and culture wars
Forget the familiar election map that shows America divided into red states and blue states.
One UNO professor has found a more reliable way to determine a person’s stance on controversial issues associated with this country’s “culture wars.”
Don’t ask about political leanings … ask if they watched the World Cup.
“We tried to get some measure about how people feel about globalization,” says Daniel Hawkins, a UNO sociology professor. “Soccer might feed into that. People see it as a European sport.”
Hawkins and Andrew Lindner, from Concordia College in Minnesota, published “Globalization, Culture Wars and Attitudes Toward Soccer in America: An Empirical Assessment of How Soccer Explains the World.” The idea for the study, published in the Sociological Quarterly, came after Hawkins read the book, “How Soccer Explains the World.”
“The book said Americans are kind of scared about globalization and the world influence on us,” Hawkins says. “We thought we could test that.”
The authors surveyed Nebraskans and found that attitudes about soccer closely parallel views on globalization — more so than political affiliation or social class. Someone who supports immigration likely is to take a favorable view of soccer, the most popular sport in the world. Conversely, someone who dislikes soccer — even viewing the sport as “un-American” — is likely to see international courts as a threat to American sovereignty.
“Conservatives were more likely to be against globalization and have anti-soccer attitudes,” says Hawkins, a professed sports fan whose research touches other sports (see “Court Savvy” on Page 42).
Overall, though, many surveyed were moderate in their views on globalization and ambivalent about soccer. Only 8 percent of respondents truly hate soccer.
“The language of a culture war conjures up images of hostility, strife and marked polarization,” the authors wrote. “Our research indicates that most of the public is not engaged in a highly polarized culture war.”
The Flying Mavs: UNO's Aviation Athletes
For the past four years, not even the sky has been the limit for UNO’s Aviation Institute and its competitive flight team, the Flying Mavs.
Early in 2012 the institute received the Loening Trophy for being named top program in the nation, while the Flying Mavs placed 11th in the country at the annual SAFECON competition, organized annually by the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA).
Scott Vlasek, director of the Aviation Institute, calls the Loening Trophy “the Stanley Cup” of aviation, having been handled by aviation greats like Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.
The institute, founded in 1992, has won first in its regional competition in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
“Three years in a row was a great feat for us,” Vlasek says.
This past October UNO placed third in the regional competition, qualifying for nationals, which will be held in May 2013 in Columbus, Ohio.
Consisting of up to a dozen events that assess students’ abilities on the ground, in a simulator and in flight, the regional and national competitions are mentally taxing for students. Training for each event requires seven hours of practice a week beyond whatever other time might be spent on research.
“It is definitely a time commitment,” says James Slabaugh, a graduate assistant for the Aviation Institute and former member of the Flying Mavs. “That is one thing I tell [new students]. It’s not like an organization where you just join and check a box to put it on your resume.”
Slabaugh and Vlasek say the effort put into training and competing is worth it.
“Networking is extremely important in the aviation industry,” Slabaugh says. “And flight team is a really good way for these kids to network.”
Vlasek agrees, adding that many students on the team go into careers in the aviation field, including becoming pilots and air-traffic controllers. However, the program has helped UNO, as well.
“Our recent successes have gotten UNO’s name out to people who otherwise probably wouldn’t have known we even existed,” Vlasek says.
And while people may not consider aviation to be physically demanding like athletics, there are more similarities than differences.
“You are going up against other students from other programs to showcase your skills and talents,” Vlasek says. “That competition is there.”
— Charley Reed, University Relations
UNO’s Missouri Valley History Conference
to get athletic at its 2013 gathering
For 56 years, the Missouri Valley History Conference (MVHC) has been an annual rite of spring for the midwestern historical community. Founded and organized by the UNO history department, the conference is the longest-standing professional gathering of historians in the region.
In 2013, the MVHC turns its focus to fun and games with a theme of “Life Must Be Lived as Play: Competition, Sport and Leisure in Human History.”
The conference runs March 7-9 at the Embassy Suites Downtown/Old Market.
Dr. W. Lindsay Adams from the University of Utah and president of the Association of Ancient Historians will deliver the March 8 keynote address: “The Olympics: Ancient and Modern.”
Seven theme panels, meanwhile, will touch on topics such as Jim Thorpe, Title IX and women athletes, “Basketball, the American Indian Sport,” and “Super(man) Athlete: From Phidippides to Muhammad Ali.”
MVCH is open to history professionals and faculty with doctorates in history or related fields, but also to graduate and undergraduate students. It offers several prizes for the best student papers.
“Roughly half the papers are presented by students —mostly grad students but the occasional promising undergrad,” says MVHC Coordinator Jeanne Reames, UNO associate professor of history. “The number of presenters and participants each year for the past 10 or 15 has been well over 100, and we often see far more participants by way of our audiences.”
For more information on MVHC, or to register, visit unomaha.edu/mvhc