LINCOLN — Nebraska men’s basketball, 0-6 to start Big Ten play, faces difficult prospects of victory over the next several weeks with games against NCAA tournament contenders Purdue, Ohio State and Indiana.
Given the start of coach Fred Hoiberg’s tenure — and multiple large-margin losses this season — a big-picture question emerges: If Hoiberg can’t turn around his third year, what would it take for the Huskers to move on from him?
The answer: A lot.
Even if Hoiberg can’t get more Big Ten wins, Nebraska may not be in an easy financial position to consider other coaching options because it would owe him an approximately $18.5 million buyout.
That includes two $500,000 stay bonuses he would earn in 2024 and 2025, plus five years of salary at Hoiberg’s current annual rate of $3.5 million.
Hoiberg signed a seven-year contract upon arriving at NU in 2019, but former Athletic Director Bill Moos granted him a one-year contract extension in 2020 that was not announced by the university. That addendum to his original contract can now be found on NU’s website.
People are also reading…
According to a source, Moos approached Hoiberg with the extension idea and the coach accepted. It was one of many extensions Moos offered to his hand-picked coaches and staff members during his time as athletic director, a source indicated, which surprised the new administration of Trev Alberts upon its arrival.
Moos and Hoiberg signed it June 9, 2020 — three months after a 7-25 season to start the Hoiberg era, and three months into the COVID pandemic. Hoiberg’s contract now runs through the 2026-27 season — one year longer than that of women’s basketball coach Amy Williams, who signed a five-year deal in September 2021.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green declined to comment on Hoiberg’s contract Tuesday.
Hoiberg’s extension is similar to the one NU leaders gave to football coach Scott Frost in November 2019, when Frost — despite owning a losing record — received two more years on his contract through the 2026 season. Frost and Alberts agreed to a reworked contract after this past season that reduced Frost’s salary by $1 million and his buyout by millions more.
One difference: Nebraska brass made a big deal of Frost’s extension in 2019, announcing it hours before the Huskers played Wisconsin. No announcement was made of Hoiberg’s extension in June 2020.
Hoiberg’s buyout would dwarf that of former basketball coaches Tim Miles ($2.52 million) and Doc Sadler ($3.4 million), and former football coaches Mike Riley ($6.2 million), Bo Pelini ($6.54 million) and Bill Callahan ($3.14 million).
On Friday, before NU’s 93-65 loss at Rutgers, Hoiberg declined to comment on his contract, but he did indicate the rebuild of the program was significant in the wake of Miles’ firing. He’s also said that on multiple occasions to fan groups and at Big Ten media days.
“We basically started from the ground up with our first two seasons,” Hoiberg said in October. “We took over a big rebuilding project in a league where we were really the only team that was going through a rebuild, which has created some very difficult moments.”
The hard times haven’t stopped. After last year’s COVID-hampered season — when the Huskers finished 7-20 and played their final 15 games over 33 days — the spotlight shifted toward Year 3, Hoiberg’s first with an incumbent core. Nebraska merged Trey McGowens, Derrick Walker, Lat Mayen, Eduardo Andre and Trevor Lakes with the highest-rated recruiting class in school history. Players like Bryce McGowens, Wilhelm Breidenbach and Alonzo Verge were signed to revive NU’s dormant basketball program.
Instead the Huskers stood at 6-10 entering Tuesday. They hadn’t won a Big Ten game or beaten a power-conference opponent. Last month NU suffered 30-point losses in consecutive games for the first time in school history.
Hoiberg said Friday that every rotation player besides Keisei Tominaga was hampered by a viral infection during that period. One player stopped a practice to puke into a trash can. Another arrived late because of a “debilitating headache.”
“It was just a crazy time,” Hoiberg said. “And I just don’t want those two games to define who we are, who we’ve been because we really have competed now. We haven’t shot the ball well, we haven’t always played our best, but those two games specifically, we were not right, and that showed on the scoreboard.
“I think unfortunately that’s a lot of the feeling about what this team is. We’re trying to put that one week behind us, and I think we have and just continue to go out and compete, try to get one of these games.”
That was the lowlight of NU’s season until Saturday, when the Huskers lost at Rutgers. Hoiberg said Friday he thought Nebraska looked like a “much better team” last week than it did a month ago. He was pleased with the new offense and the resilience NU showed against Ohio State and Michigan State.
“But you’re defined by your wins and losses,” Hoiberg said, acknowledging that Nebraska’s record hasn’t been good enough. He never set a timeline for Nebraska’s turnaround, but he wants it to come “as quickly as possible.” And though the Huskers are struggling for the third straight season, Hoiberg still believes he can orchestrate it.
“Regardless of what’s happened to us, we are where we are,” Hoiberg said. “I love our recruiting class next year, and I love some of the young pieces that we have on our team. I’m excited to see where we go. I still think that we do have a bright future here.”