Football is a 125 year tradition at the University of Nebraska. Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium will again become the state’s third largest city on home game days. The University of Nebraska began playing football in 1890, but they were not known as the Cornhuskers at the start. The team began play as the “Old Gold Knights” and then the “Nebraska Bugeaters” for a time. They eventually settled in as the Cornhuskers, a name that today instills pride across the state.
Football at Nebraska has always been rather impressive. The Cornhuskers went twenty-eight years with only one losing season. That was 1899, when the team went 1-7-1. The coach was fired at the end of the season. The 1902 team not only went undefeated, but not a single opponent scored a point during the entire season. From 1911 to 1915, the Cornhuskers won 34 straight games without a single loss.
In 1915 the Cornhuskers could have played in the Rose Bowl, but the athletic department board voted not to spend the money to send the team to California. Nebraska football coach, Ewald Stiehm, may have quit over that and the fact that the school refused to raise his annual salary to $4,250 even though he handled duties as football coach, basketball coach and athletic director.
Bob Devaney coached the team from 1962 to 1972, earning two national championships during that time. He moved into the Athletic Director position and his assistant head coach/offensive coordinator, Tom Osborne, stepped into the coaching slot. Osborne’s teams won three national championships. The 1994 and 1995 teams enjoyed a 25 game unbeaten streak, and averaged 53 points per game while on their way to two consecutive national championships.
Osborne retired in 1997 and handed the reins over to his long-time assistant, Frank Solich, who compiled a 58-18 winning record during his tenure from 1998 to 2003. After several embarrassing seasons, the Cornhuskers hired Bo Pelini, defensive coordinator at Louisiana State, and a one-time assistant at Nebraska. As the Nebraska football program is celebrating a 125 year tradition this season, fans would love a championship to cap off the year.
Pelini is in his seventh year as coach and has endured his moments on the hot seat for failing to win any championships although he has compiled a winning record. The Associated Press reported earlier this week that second year Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst told the AP that the Cornhusker program is “stable” and is coached by a someone “who has won a bunch of games.” Nebraska finished the 2013 season with a bowl win over the University of Georgia.
In 2011 the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten Conference and plays in the West Division, along with Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern and Purdue. This season the Cornhuskers will host the University of Miami at home, but will face two of the division’s toughest teams, Michigan State and Wisconsin, while on the road.
Cornhusker football is one of the most entertaining game experiences according to sports enthusiasts from far and wide. The football program holds the NCAA record for consecutive sellouts, and going into 2014 the record stands at 333–every game since 1962 has been a sellout. Fall practice is in full swing and one promising player, Leroy Alexander, has been suspended for the season. Nebraska’s 2014 football season will begin as the Huskers host Florida Atlantic University at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, August 30. For Cornhusker fans, Nebraska football is not just a 125 year tradition, but a way of life.
Commentary by Jim Hanemaayer