Jerry Solomon and the NU Sports Improvement Program

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jerry Solomon, of Lincoln -- formerly of Culbertson, is a fellow who loves basketball. He has been a regular at the Cornhusker basketball games for many years, thrilling at the victories (all too few), and agonizing at the more frequent defeats.

Jerry Solomon grew up on a dairy farm one mile west of Culbertson in the '30s and '40s. When he was quite young he longed for a bicycle of his own. There were two older brothers, Jack and Gene, and the father could not afford to buy three bicycles. But he could afford to buy a basketball, which all three boys could use. He rigged up a basket and lights in the hay mow of the barn, which the boys were allowed to use -- after their chores and school home work were done for the night -- and use it they did.

Jerry fondly remembers the fun it was for him and his fifth grade Culbertson buddies to compete against the McCook boys at the old YMCA, in front of a large crowd -- and cheer leaders! Afterward they were rewarded with a trip to the Loos & Smith Pool Hall for "a huge malted milk and two hamburgers, all for 25 cents."

Occasionally, they might attend the "beautiful" Fox Theater, for a show and a bag of mixed chocolates from the candy shop next door. 'What a thrill!"

Those years of having to compete against two older brothers, plus some of the Eisenhart boys (all stand-out Culbertson athletes) made Jerry decidedly competitive at an early age -- a trait that probably served him well later, in his Life Insurance business and on the golf course. Even after he moved to Lincoln Jerry continued to play basketball on various club teams until his late 30s. (Another passion for Jerry was the piano. He had a natural aptitude for that instrument and as an adult he became an accomplished jazz pianist, playing with various small groups in the capital city. He has been an active member of the Nebraska Jazz Orchestra (the premier orchestra of its kind in the Midwest), and has appeared many times with various musicians from that group around the region, including a memorable New Year's Eve concert with standout trumpet player, Mac McCune at the Bieroc Café.)

In Lincoln it was natural for Jerry to become a Cornhusker fan, especially Cornhusker Basketball.

He has been a regular at the games and over time has become acquainted with, and become friends with the coaches and players on the Husker teams. He was one of the founders of the University of Nebraska Basketball Hall of Fame. For many years he has contributed to the athletic program (modestly) for facilities and programs that University officials have promised would make the basketball program more competitive. But all the time he has held out the promise of a major donation if those officials could offer real help to the athletic program in 1. Protecting athletes from injury, 2. Making the athletes' performances better, and 3. Helping in the recruitment of top-notch young basketball players.

Recently, the University did come up with a grand plan, one which Jerry believes will go a long way in accomplishing what he has thought important, and a program in which he would be comfortable in supporting in a major way. The Nebraska Athletic Performance Laboratory (NAPL) and the Center for Brain , Biology, and Behavior (CB3) have joined forces to form a new model for health and performance research, the first of its kind in the United States. The program has received unprecedented cooperation from the University's research and athletic departments, plus unbelievable backing from wealthy fans and backers of both departments.

Beginning in 2013 a 50,000 square foot expansion inside Nebraska's East Memorial Stadium has brought together standout athletic and academic researchers from all over the nation, under one roof, to study human behavior and performance. The collaboration is a testament to the University's commitment to student athlete performance, safety, and long term well-being -- drawing together researchers with diverse areas of expertise, including biomechanics, computer sciences, endocrinology, engineering, ergonomics, exercise physiology, nutrition, physical rehabilitation, psychology, sports science, and vision. Researchers collaborate with University Athletic coaches and staff, as well as colleagues from around the world to address areas that are critical to athletes and society. Specific goals include helping student athletes perform optimally, while reducing risk of injuries, not only while they compete at the University, but also after they graduate, for their whole lives.

Concussion research is the cornerstone of the CB3 and the major focus of its collaboration with the NAPL. Student athletes will participate in this research and have access to it, sharing in this life-changing research. State of the art equipment will help to clear up the mystery of brain functioning, how it impacts health, and how it affects human behavior. Research machines will have the capacity to capture high resolution brain images, before and after a concussion, which is expected to yield better ways to assess brain injury, boost safety, and help student athletes to return safely to their studies and to their sport.

The new program is already getting unbelievable results from this advanced technology. Athletes are monitored in action and the experts find a wide range of results. For example: One athlete is detected with a bad habit of landing on one leg from a jump, and the damage he is doing to his body and performance is great. He is shown how his performance and efficiency can go up by changing his jump. Athletes are shown how even small changes can relieve pressure on the heart and other organs, and at the same time improve their performance on the field or court.

All this is good news for anxious parents, who welcome advancements in the prevention of concussions and other injuries, the same way they appreciate the NU athletes' academic programs, and the weight and strengthening programs -- second to none in America.

Prospects for the new program are so appealing that it brought the renowned former NU strength and conditioning coach, Boyd Epley, out of retirement to help run the program. According to Jerry, "Boyd has never been more excited for anything than what this program will accomplish."

Just recently, in 2015, the University unveiled and dedicated the new basketball court, which is a key part of the new testing laboratory, the "Jerry and Barbara Court." This is just the visible portion of the Solomons' $1 million donation to the new testing center.

Jerry is pleased with the new testing center. He is sure that the program, unique in the country, will be widely copied by other Universities. It will make competing in sports safer. It will improve all athletes' performances, across the board. That is all to the good of the game. In the meantime, he hopes that NU's new center will give the Huskers a big jump start. He hopes it will be enough to bring the Huskers a National Championship in basketball while he is still around to appreciate it.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: