Gerry DiNardo: ‘I don’t mean to be disrespectful’ to Nebraska’s Blackshirts tradition

Gerry DiNardo didn’t mean to tug on Superman’s cape. The longtime Big Ten Network analyst wasn’t trying to spit into the wind. Or pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger. He just felt he owed Nebraska fans a clarification, so he tweeted this:

The next thing you knew, DiNardo’s Twitter feed went off like sticks of TNT in a Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoon:

DiNardo told Land of 10 he had taken the matter to social media in the first place to expand on a point he had made at the tail end of broadcast on BTN over the weekend, when the discussion had turned to former Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley. The latter was fired Saturday morning after his third season at the helm had ended with a 4-8 mark — the most losses in a Big Red season since 1957.

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful,” DiNardo continued. “That’s what I said, [and] this thing blows up Twitter. So here is my point. My point is, that the new coach should decide if he wants to call his defensive starters the Blackshirts.

“Now,  not doing it probably would be a mistake, OK? But if you want to attract the best coach in the country, you have to at least let them feel like they get to make the football decisions.

“Well, this is what they’ve told me on Twitter, that the new coach needs to know before he takes the job, that you can’t call your first-team defense anything but the Blackshirts. But some coaches don’t want to be told that. Some coaches don’t want to be in a culture that’s inflexible when it comes to the team.”

Like red balloons, sellouts and Black Friday games, the Blackshirts are one of the most beloved traditions of Nebraska football, one first believed to have been instituted by iconic coach Bob Devaney in the 1964 season to differentiate defensive players at practice once the NCAA allowed for a return to 2-platoon football. Over the decades, it’s become a sacred badge of honor for Big Red defenders, a fraternal order within the program that binds generations.

It’s also been used colloquially by the media and within the athletic department for the years as an informal moniker for the Nebraska defense as a whole. It even developed its own logo, with the Blackshirts’ skull and crossbones embraced by former players and Huskers faithful alike.

Although those bones have seen better days: first-year coordinator Bob Diaco’s defense ranked last in the Big Ten in total defense (436.2 yards allowed per game) and sacks (1.2 per game), and next-to-last in scoring defense (36.4 points allowed per contest) and rush defense (214.8 yards per game).

“My overall statement is, the next coach ought to decide whether he wants to call his first team defense the Blackshirts or not,” DiNardo said. “Not me, or anybody else.

“But the fans don’t see it that way. The ex-players don’t see it that way.”

One ex-player in particular, former Nebraska and NFL defensive end Adam Carriker, posts video commentaries with and made DiNardo’s tweet the center of his Tuesday take.

“While we’re getting rid of traditions, why don’t we get rid of the stripe off of Michigan’s helmet?” Carriker pondered. “What about the stickers on Ohio State’s helmet? Why don’t we get rid of the U off of Miami’s helmet?”

That hissing sound you heard coming out of Lincoln was that of a fuse that just got seriously lit.

“I got all these crazy comments,” DiNardo said. “The one rational comment — [Jason] Peter, the ex-player, I understand him. It’s heartfelt. It’s tradition.”

He understands Peter. He understands Carriker.

He just doesn’t happen to agree with either of ‘em.

“At some point, though, what you call the first-team starters is not more important than the team,” DiNardo said. “It’s not more important that the new coach’s philosophy.

“I worry about some cultures within teams, and that can divide a team. I just think the coach ought to make that decision. And maybe it would be foolish not to buy into it. But my goodness. Is it a museum, or is this a football program?”

The post Gerry DiNardo: ‘I don’t mean to be disrespectful’ to Nebraska’s Blackshirts tradition appeared first on Land of 10.

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