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March 9, 2012The day that many Nebraska basketball fans had assumed was inevitable finally came on Friday, as multiple media outlets are reporting that head coach Doc Sadler was officially fired after six seasons in Lincoln.
Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne announced on Friday that he intends to make a change in the leadership of the Husker men's basketball program.
Osborne announced that Doc Sadler would not be retained for the 2012-13 campaign after six seasons as the Huskers' head coach.
"I appreciate all of the efforts of Doc Sadler and his coaching staff," Osborne said. "Doc has worked hard, has great integrity and has been nothing but positive through a difficult season. Doc and I both felt this season could be his best with an experienced team returning, and with new facilities we could start moving into a brighter era for Nebraska basketball. However, injuries, a difficult schedule and competing in a new conference has made the season even more difficult.
"Unfortunately, I feel the program has lost momentum which makes recruiting and fan support more problematic, thus the change.
"Having been a coach, I realize more than most how difficult coaching can be. I consider Doc to be a good friend and a good coach, and he has been a great representative of the University of Nebraska. Since I am ultimately responsible for the athletic department, there is no need to look further than me to assign blame for a disappointing season. I wish for everyone's sake, we weren't making this announcement today."
The announcement doesn't come as much of a surprise to most, as Sadler had been on the hot seat for much of the season despite receiving a two-year contract extension through June of 2016 and a $100,000 pay raise to $900,000 just last March.
The extension also doubled Sadler's buyout to $3.4 million, which Nebraska now owes him for firing him "without any legal or moral cause."
With Thursday night's loss to Purdue in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, Nebraska (12-18 overall and 4-15 in conference) wrapped up its second losing record in the past three years.
Since he took over in the summer of 2006, Sadler went 101-89 with three trips to the National Invitation Tournament, only making it past the first round once in 2007-08, and never making it to the NCAA Tournament.
Nebraska's road record in conference games in his six years was just 9-40 (22.4 percent), with only four of those victories coming against teams that finished the season above .500.
While his teams had shown flashes of turning the corner several times throughout his tenure, one of the biggest knocks on Sadler and his staff was the obvious gap in talent between Nebraska's roster and those of the upper halves of the Big Ten and Big 12.
Including his latest 2012 class, Sadler never signed higher than a three-star recruit or any prospect rated in the Rivals Top-150.
Then there was the issue of the seemingly constant roster turnover that happened after every season.
Of the 29 scholarship players Sadler recruited to Nebraska the past six seasons, 14 were transfers from either juco or non-juco levels and generally only had two seasons of eligibility.
In all, 38 percent of Sadler's recruits at Nebraska did not finish their careers in Lincoln.
Despite returning six of their top seven scorers and more than 65 percent of their scoring and rebounding overall this season, the Huskers finished in a tie with Penn State for last place in the Big Ten - their second last-place conference finish in the past three years - and ended the regular season ranked 150th in final RPI rankings.
Injuries certainly didn't help Nebraska's cause, though. After losing senior center Andre Almeida for the year with a knee injury before even playing a game, the Huskers also saw junior center Jorge Brian Diaz miss the final month of the season with chronic foot problems.
Diaz also missed five games earlier in the year with the same foot issues, including NU's first three Big Ten games. Overall, the Huskers were just 3-11 with Diaz out of the lineup this season.
On top of that, junior guard Dylan Talley was hampered most of the year and even missed five games while dealing with a deep thigh bruise.
Whoever replaces Sadler will certainly have his hands full, as Nebraska loses four senior starters to graduation next season, and the status of Diaz coming back for his senior year is still in doubt.
Should Diaz not return, the Huskers will lose five of their top six scorers and return just two players - Talley and junior forward Brandon Ubel - who started more than one game this season.
On the recruiting front, Nebraska's next coach will also have to decide what to do with the Huskers' 2012 recruiting class, which features only two incoming freshmen in Kansas guards Shavon Shields and Benny Parker and three junior college transfers in McLennan (Texas) wing Jerran Young, former Southeastern (Iowa) center Fahro Alihodzic and Western (Iowa) forward Keith Coleman.