The University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium becomes the state’s third largest city every home football game. In 2017, that will be seven times. It surpasses Bellevue and Grand Island, each with more than 50,000 residents. It trails only Omaha (largest) and Lincoln.
As stoked as most fans get when they hear it or mention it, nothing beats being one of the 85,000+ packing in the bleachers on game day. An ongoing NCAA record of nearly 360 consecutive sold out games appears safe in 2017. An electric atmosphere provides fans a great time regardless of the outcome on the field (Huskers rarely lose at home).
What happens if you can’t get a golden ticket to the game? The university’s athletic department offers a tour for fans. Guided tours are conducted on specific days, but self-guided tours are available any non-game day. I took a self-guided tour.
The tour consists of 11 attractions, if you count the team store. Possibly, the best part of the tour is the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium. You can walk into the stadium and look around a mostly empty stadium. You may see school tours or the like going on during a weekday. The field always appears game-ready, with Nebraska and Huskers painted in the end zone, Tom Osborne Field in red on the white sideline border. The red “N” at midfield. I’m ready for the game now!
Hall of Fame coaches
Attractions around the outside of the stadium energize you with memories of the glory days of coaches Bob Devaney and Osborne. Devaney was the man who first fed the animal of the modern Husker fan. The coach came to Lincoln in 1962 and started winning games immediately. In 11 seasons, Devaney’s Huskers won 136 games, including two national championships. After finishing his NU career at 136-30-7, he turned the program over to his 33-year-old offensive coordinator Osborne. Devaney was later inducted into the college football Hall of Fame.
Osborne, a Hastings native and former NFL wide receiver, not only proved to be a great hire, he surpassed his former boss, winning 255 games and three national championships. Osborne had multiple teams that competed for college football’s championship, but always came up short until the 1994 season. Osborne finished his college football Hall of Fame career with a record of 255-49-3. His wins rate as 25th all-time among college coaches. Osborne retired following the 1997 season and his third national title.
Four coaches sought to be the next “great” Nebraska coach since Osborne’s retirement. Three struggled in his shadow. We’ll see how the fourth – Mike Riley – does over the next few seasons.
The Legacy statue near the East Stadium celebrates the Huskers’ five national championships. It features the famed Nebraska Blackshirts defense corralling a running back.
In addition to the outstanding views around Memorial Stadium, perhaps the best part of a tour includes the Osborne Athletic Complex, home to the football program’s museum. You can take in so much football history. The national championship trophies greet visitors near the entrance. Bowl trophies and programs fill showcases from floor to ceiling. Helmet styles from previous decades when the Huskers wore NU on the side before giving way to the iconic Bold “N” in the late 1960s.
A film featuring Nebraska’s three Heisman Trophy winners warrants a stop at the complex. A Heisman Trophy extends out of the screen as the movie starts. Seeing former Huskers Johnny Rodgers, Mike Rozier and Eric Crouch named as the best player in college football for their seasons remains a special moment for Husker fans.
Perhaps, one of the most poignant memorials to the Husker program is a little more than a year old. Following the untimely death of punter Sam Foltz, the university created a memorial to honor the punter. The senior died in a car accident in Wisconsin a few weeks before the 2016 season. Michigan State kicker Mike Sadler also died in the accident, while LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye was injured.
So, as you bathe in Husker history during a tour of Memorial Stadium, you may want to head down to the Haymarket area a few blocks away and visit Vintage Red Sports Gallery. The owner is a diehard Husker fan and memorabilia collector. A visit there is a true walk through history.
I recommend taking a tour of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. You will not be disappointed. For more information on the stadium tour, please visit www.huskers.com.