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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Collier’s run could be over

Nebraska coach's future undecided, AD says

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— In an attempt to shake some soul into a silent Nebraska locker room, an NU basketball staff member turned the volume knob up on a boombox playing Al Green's classic hit "Love and Happiness."

Didn't work. Not even a feel-good old-school jam could distract from what could be a hectic next week around the Nebraska basketball team.

Following the Huskers' 79-65 loss to Kansas University in American Airlines Center, NU athletic director Steve Pederson spoke softly of basketball coach Barry Collier's job to reporters outside the locker room, saying a decision could be made in the next few days.

"After we sit down and talk, we'll get with you immediately regarding the future of our program," Pederson said. "We would like the time to get back and spend some time with our coach."

No love from Pederson. No happiness, either. That was about as insightful as Collier's boss was Saturday, and the sixth-year coach also stayed close to the vest when asked bluntly if he'd be back next year.

"As far as I am concerned, I am the coach of Nebraska until I hear different," Collier said. "I don't know any more than that. I don't really have much more comment than that."

NU's latest defeat all but assured it no shot at an NCAA Tournament berth. At 19-13, the Huskers needed to win four in a row and snag the automatic bid this weekend or else be content with the NIT.

They won just two. An upset victory over Oklahoma on Friday took all the pixie dust out of Collier's wand. Despite players claiming that energy wasn't the issue, a less-energized Kansas squad had little trouble kicking the Huskers out of Dallas - a three-game sweep for the 2005-06 season.

"These guys are a real athletic, talented team," forward Wes Wilkinson said. "They are a really good defensive team as they have shown, and on offense they can convert."

Now the question Pederson has to answer is, should Nebraska have been more competitive against teams like KU under Collier? He's 89-90 in his six years, including a 35-61 mark in the Big 12. His best Big 12 tournament run just ended Saturday. An NCAA Tournament appearance hasn't happened at NU since Tyronn Lue led the way there in 1998 - when Collier was at Butler.

"You take a look at your whole program as a whole program," Pederson said. "There tends to be an urgency to make quick decisions about things. I don't feel like making any quick decisions about issues like this.

"Ultimately," he added, "you have to do the right things for your program."

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