LINCOLN — Chipotle. Lots of Chipotle.
Lindsey Remmers knew she was onto a good idea for how to help feed Husker athletes well before last week. But the Nebraska director for sports nutrition saw it confirmed in the smiles of NU athletes, the impromptu chants and, perhaps most notably, her Twitter feed.
The new “Husker Bucks” system — in which NU athletes get a card and $10 per day on Saturday and Sunday at a handful of downtown restaurants — is a hit. The snack program started last weekend for all Husker athletes, about 90 percent of whom have picked up their cards, Remmers said.
“They love it,” Remmers said Thursday. “When we sent out the email to come in and pick up the cards, they came in chanting, ‘Husker Bucks! Husker Bucks!’ They were so excited about it. And from the reports we got from each restaurant, I think everybody took advantage of it.”
For now, six restaurants — Chipotle Mexican Grill, Noodles & Company, Wahoo Fish Taco, Pickelman’s Gourmet Cafe, Jersey Mike’s Subs and Firehouse Subs — are on the menu. Nebraska is one of the few schools nationally with the program, she said; Arkansas and Maryland are also exploring a similar system.
“I foresee more schools doing something like this as they get the funding for it,” Remmers said.
Husker Bucks is part of Nebraska’s response to an NCAA rule change that allows a major expansion in athletic department food programs. Remmers said she wanted some kind of “voucher system” for the weekends that wouldn’t necessarily require athletes to hit up fueling stations at Memorial Stadium or the Hendricks Training Complex.
Steve Waterfield, senior associate athletic director for performance and strategic research, pointed Remmers to a “Red Card” program the University of Wisconsin uses as part of its off-campus meal plans for all students. In Madison, where Waterfield worked with current Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst, more than 80 area restaurants and a grocery store participate in the program.
Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah said the Husker Bucks program will be especially helpful on Sundays after games — when players often put in a 12-hour day at North Stadium.
“It’s very convenient because sometimes you don’t have time to cook at home on Sundays, when you’re spending all your time getting treatment, doing yoga, watching film and watching film of the next opponent,” Abdullah said. “By the time that’s done, it’s 8 p.m. So now, you can get out and grab a bite to eat instead of going home and preparing a meal that might take another 45 minutes.”
Said defensive tackle Vincent Valentine: “You don’t have to spend your own money. Some guys don’t have that money.”
Remmers said NU’s expansion of breakfast snacks has been similarly successful. Snacks can include fruit, granola bars, yogurt and other items.
“We have 180 to 200 kids getting morning snacks,” she said. “They love it and I love seeing them get good morning snacks. It makes them buy into breakfast a lot more because they can come in here and get snacks. It makes meal planning a lot easier.”
As for Husker Bucks, Remmers said she’s fielding more suggestions from athletes and gauging if any other restaurants are interested. Chipotle, she said, is at the top of the list of Husker haunts.
“That’s my first pick,” Valentine said. Well, he wouldn’t mind another downtown joint, either, but he doubts Nebraska will put that eatery on the list.
“(Raising) Cane's isn’t one of them,” Valentine said. “They wouldn’t give us Cane's!”
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Video: Pelini after practice Thursday
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