Mar 252012
 
Authors: Cris Tiller

There’s something you have to understand about the Midwest and the people who call it home.

Midwest people are blue collar, hard working and they love their sports. It’s this mentality which bonds the region’s inhabitants with the Big Ten Conference unlike any other conference and its fan base. It’s a connection that lasts a lifetime.

Tim Miles grew up in Doland, S.D., the Midwest in his blood, and after 45 years the lure to return to the Big Ten was too great.

Miles’ decision to leave CSU had almost nothing to do with doubling his yearly salary, but more to do with pursuing a dream.

“I grew up in Big Ten country, watching Nebraska football,” said Miles in his introductory press conference. “I was 10-years-old and coaching the Super Jocks at Doland High for my fifth-grade team… probably about that time (I wanted to coach in the Big Ten).

“I don’t know what else you wish for. I wanted to be a college basketball coach, and this is one of the finest institutions and athletic departments in the country, in the premier league in the country.”

Nebraska, from the exterior, doesn’t seem like a desirable destination considering the football dominated university hasn’t won a conference title in 61 years or an NCAA Tournament game in the school’s history.

But plunge deeper and see a program with untapped potential.

Nebraska plays in one of the best top to bottom conferences in all of college basketball. This season saw six Big Ten schools earn berths into the NCAA Tournament. Miles wants to win NCAA Tournament games, and if he can turn the program around, he’ll have a better chance at winning.

Every coach needs resources, and Nebraska has one of the most lucrative athletic programs in the country. Nebraska built an 84,000-square foot practice facility costing $18.7 million in addition to a brand new $179 million downtown arena set to open in 2013.

Facilities attract top level talent, which Miles will need to become a consistent participant in the Big Dance. Miles already has strong recruiting ties within the state, pulling four key contributors for CSU from the state. Miles will likely take assistant Ronald Coleman with him to Nebraska to help recruiting in talent-rich Chicago.

All this money was thrown at a program with no history of success, and like it or not, CSU could never match what Nebraska has to offer. But something else CSU couldn’t match was a strong relationship.

It’s no secret Miles was good friends with former athletic director Paul Kowalczyk, and why not? Kowalczyk gave him his shot at coaching Division I basketball.

Kowalczyk’s departure may not have directly resulted in Miles leaving, but there’s no arguing strong ties of loyalty were severed.

While new athletic director Jack Graham and Miles never expressed dislike for each other, it’s clear a strong bond was never formed. In fact, Graham wasn’t in Louisville, Ky. for the Rams’ first NCAA Tournament game since 2003 (allegedly due to hip surgery nearly a month earlier).

Enter Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne. Osborne and Miles instantly hit it off during his visit to Lincoln, and their mutual admiration for each other swayed Miles to leave CSU.

Graham and CSU “bent over backwards” according to Miles in attempt to keep him, but money wasn’t the issue.

“It really comes down to this, I want to come through for Dr. Osborne, and I want a crack at the Big Ten,” Miles said.

So whether you feel angry Miles jumped ship, or depressed he left despite having a top-25 caliber team remember this: Miles in a Midwest guy, and the call home is the hardest to resist.

Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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