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Pierce says walk-ons hold key to Husker success

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Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013 12:00 am

YORK – In the 2013 Nebraska Football Media Guide, Jack Pierce is listed under the athletic staff as a fundraiser.

Pierce was in York on Monday to address the York Optimist Club, sharing a little bit about what he is doing now and a few stories about Nebraska football and recruiting from the past that had the group in attendance holding their sides.

“ I have to tell you this story. I have worked some in radio in the business as play-by-play man. One day I was asked if I would fill in at a radio station doing the East-Fremont game and I said sure. Well I got to work on Monday morning and here comes Tom (Osborne) walking down the hall and he looks up and says, “Jack you need to go talk to the compliance department.”

I asked why. He said, “Dagummitt, Jack you can’t do play-by-play on the radio when you work for the athletic department.”

I just looked at Tom and kept on walking, thinking he was joking. Two hours later here comes Tom again, and he says, “Jack have you talked to the compliance department yet?”

I told him that I hadn’t thinking he was going to eventually tell me it was a joke. He goes on to explain that I still needed to do that. I looked at Tom and said, well who turned me in? Tom looked up and said, ‘Well, I did Jack.’”

At the present time Pierce is going across Nebraska shaking hands of people who continue to donate grain through the Cornhusker Cooperative Program. “I am going down I-80 from Iowa to Colorado thanking people for their donations,” said Pierce. “We are not a state funded athletic program. This is how we make our program work.”

Pierce talked about the recruiting base here in Nebraska and how we don’t have the same luxuries as schools in the south. He went on to say the key to our success is in the walk-on program and that we have to do a better job in that area.

“For us to compete, we have to develop the walk-on program. UNO does not even have football anymore, so we should be taking every one of those 55 kids who played football and putting them into our walk-on program. In two years when those kids are juniors and seniors they will be ready to play football at Nebraska.”

Pierce also talked about the facilities at Nebraska and said the new East Stadium seats are the best in the house.

“They did it right. Those seats are straight up and down. You feel you’re right over the top of the play and you can watch the play develop. There is a big scoreboard, six concession stands, 18 restrooms … but the biggest addition in the new East Stadium is the Concussion Reaction Center which will be able to monitor the pressure in the helmets and help us to get ahead in dealing with concussions. Just a great new facility and addition to the program.

“We sold out volleyball in two weeks going from 4,500 season tickets to 7,950. They are talking about standing room only for volleyball. The Pinnacle Arena is just beautiful and the Men’s Basketball season tickets are all sold out. We don’t have to compete with anyone when it comes to what we have to offer,” Pierce said.

He also shared several stories about when he was on the recruiting trail for the Huskers and how even back then Tom was a stickler for the rules. “For three years in a row we took the No. 1 offensive player and the No. 1 defensive player out of the state of Louisiana,” explained Pierce.

“We were in a recruiting battle with Notre Dame and Clemson for this kid and we got word that Notre Dame had violated their allowed number of visits. Back then Clemson was not as big as they are now and we knew that if we turned Notre Dame in we would probably get this kid. So I went to Tom and told him and he said, ‘I don’t know Jack, I don’t know if I want to do that.’

But then Tom said if we were to give Clemson a call and let them know what was going on, they could make that call. So that’s what we did and of course that took Notre Dame right out of the picture and Clemson didn’t have much of a shot anyway. Back then Lou Holtz (Notre Dame head coach) would cheat if he could,” adding emphatically, “and that is for print.”

Pierce said that while Osborne was very much by the rules, that he (Jack) would always look for different ways to get around things and make them work without actually breaking the rules.

“We had one more public visit left with a kid who wanted to sign with us. He told me that he wanted to sign in front of his schoolmates at the school, but I told him that we couldn’t do that because it would be a violation if we were at the school when he signed. I told Tom what was going on and he said,

“Daggummitt, Jack we can’t do that. We can’t go to the school.’ So I asked one of the school officials about the land on the other side of the fence just outside the school and who owned it. He said it was public ground and so I got this idea. I asked if we could remove the fence and how difficult that might be.

So the next day Tom and I are driving and he asked where we were going and I said to the school to sign this kid. He said, ‘I am not going in and neither are you.’  I told him I have it taken care of. When we got to the school the fence was down and they had placed tables where the fence was. The kid sat on the school side and Tom and I sat on the public side and the whole school was out there to watch the kid sign. We didn’t violate any rules that way.”

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