Bailey shows confidence in Diesel

05/30/02 Kearney Cyberhub
Tri-City Diesel owner Bruce Bailey is confident the ship is headed in the right direction.

He proved it by awarding head coach Leland Skeen with a five-year contract extension near the end of last season. And although the Diesel are a long shot to make the NIFL playoffs for the second-straight year, Bailey wants everyone to know that he made the right decision.

"Very honestly we want people to know this is a long-term deal," Bailey said. "I am reemphasizing that my confidence is still with Leland Skeen. … We have certainly improved from last year, as has the quality of the NIFL.

"It was important from my perspective. I wanted him to know that I respect what he has done."

The NIFL, a league that seems to be in a constant state of flux, has gained credibility in Nebraska this season with the addition of the Lincoln Capitols and Omaha Beef.

The two teams have made the Pacific North division — which includes Tri-City, Sioux City, and La Crosse — one of the league's strongest in terms of attendance and fan support.

The Pacific North division also ranks atop the NIFL in terms of competitiveness, which helps explain the Diesel's lukewarm 10-14 record over the past two seasons.

"This erases any doubt and proves that the Diesel is alive," Skeen said of his contract extension.  "I knew it would take time to build a program from scratch, and this extension guarantees that the time will be available."

But there are also plenty of teams around the NIFL that are struggling to stay afloat.

Even the Capitols, who sport a 6-3 record and are in the midst of a strong playoff run, have failed to draw steady crowds to Pershing Auditorium

"I know that from the outside the perception may not be very strong," Bailey said of the NIFL. "But from the inside we feel like we are getting stronger every day.

"When any league starts up there are going to be a few years when you are trying to cover all the bases."

According to Bailey, those "bases" will be discussed at a Pacific North Division meeting during the first week of June.

Bailey said a major topic of discussion would be scheduling for next season. He said the NIFL hopes to become a "bus league" as soon as possible to cut down on costs and create local rivalries.

Bailey cited Omaha's weekend trip to Lake Charles, La. as an example of what is wrong with the NIFL's current scheduling system.

"That is too darn far," he said. "We encourage our players to hold other jobs away from football. This helps them stay out of trouble and be members of the community.

"If you have to take two days off from work as a part-time employee, it is hard on an employer."

Bailey would like the Diesel to play more teams hailing from cities that are within reasonable traveling distance for Tri-City fans.

After all, fans are what keep the NIFL wheel spinning at the end of the day.

Tri-City has attracted just 2,563 fans per home game this season, but Bailey said he is happy with the support the second-year team has enjoyed this season.

"We have proved that we are going to be around," Bailey said. "And I appreciate the community support was have had.

"I look at our apparel sales and the number of Diesel shirts I see people wearing around the Tri-City area, and I am starting to see some pride."


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