After more than 45 years of 4 p.m. kickoffs, Brownell-Talbot School last August played its first night-time football game under rented portable lights.
Now the private school off Happy Hollow Boulevard is about to get its own permanent Friday Night Lights.
School officials' main concern with the early kickoffs was players' safety, given the high daytime heat indexes common early in the season. But they also hope that playing under lights will provide a little extra thrill for players, parents and fans.
“It was just a really neat experience for the kids,” Jeff Rohrig, activities director, said of last year's night game.
The family of the late Dr. Chester “Chet” Paul gave the school $150,000 to purchase and install permanent lights at the football stadium. The lights are scheduled for installation by beginning Aug. 1 and should be ready to light up the Raiders' home opener Sept. 13 against Yutan. The school, the oldest in the state, will mark its 150th birthday at homecoming on Sept. 20.
Paul, who died in December at age 70 after a brief bout with leukemia, served as director of the burn center at St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln from 1994 until his retirement in 2010. A surgeon, he is remembered for his pioneering role in trauma medicine.
But Dr. Cindy Paul, an Omaha psychiatrist, said her father was also an athlete and an avid sportsman.
Chet Paul spoke many times about how sports kept him on track through high school and college. “He always believed that the discipline, dedication and pursuit of excellence he learned from sports made him the successful doctor that he was,” Cindy Paul said.
Chet Paul played on Lincoln High School's back-to-back state championship basketball teams in 1958 and 1959. He received a scholarship and played basketball his freshman year at the University of Nebraska. He then transferred to Nebraska Wesleyan and became one of the university's all-time leading scorers.
Cindy Paul's two sons, Jack and Wyatt Smith, attend Brownell-Talbot. Jack is a starting defensive lineman on the football team. Wyatt plays basketball. Even when her father was ill, she said, he went to every football game.
The night before he died, he watched Wyatt's basketball games, which were posted on YouTube.
She said her parents talked before his death about donating field lights. “We thought about lighting the way ... and just to have the benefit of having night games,” she said.
One of those benefits is creating the kind of “Friday Night Lights” culture found elsewhere in Nebraska, she said. The later starting time — 7 p.m. — should allow more parents, alumni and others to attend games.
Rohrig said the school had heard from alumni in particular that they had a hard time leaving work early enough to make games. The later start will also mean more time in the classroom for football players. They had been getting out at 12:30 p.m. to prepare for games.