Spring game kids

The spring game should be a fun-for-everyone event.

It’s time for Nebraska to finally make a big deal of the spring game.

I know, you think it’s already overcooked. You think it’s borderline insane how much folks will invest (time and money) to watch a football practice. I agree with you. Believe me.

A capacity crowd will descend on Memorial Stadium Saturday starving for a taste of the future under Scott Frost. Here’s the problem. He can’t possibly satisfy them. Sure, he can show glimpses of the new offense. He can introduce the new Blackshirts. But it’s still just a practice. It's not real football.

Which is why Frost should do something different in 2019. He can make his life easier — less hype (and overreaction) on the “game” — while offering fans more bang for their buck. He can honor old legends, inspire new fans and give everyone an experience that will get them through summer.

The Red-White scrimmage doesn’t go away. It should still be the focal point. But it needs to be the culmination of a much larger slate of events. Think of the spring game less like a fall Saturday and more like homecoming or a small-town Fourth of July celebration.

Here’s my proposed itinerary that runs from Friday afternoon until Saturday night.


4-6 p.m.: Autograph sessions at Memorial Stadium. Coaches aren’t crazy about squeezing “fan day” into the preseason calendar, so move it forward four months to a less stressful time.

6-8 p.m.: Alumni 7-on-7 tournament at Memorial Stadium. Short games. Small field. Microphones on selected players and coaches. Let Taylor Martinez make a little magic. Let Eric Crouch reenact Black 41 Flash Reverse.

At breaks in the action, hold skill competitions for current players. Let’s see who's the fastest Husker. Who can bench press 225 pounds the most? Who can throw a medicine ball the farthest? Have a few skits involving athletes across campus. Maybe a talent contest.

8-10 p.m.: Free concert in the stadium, followed by fireworks. Pray for good weather.


Pack the day with so many casual events, catered to so many different audiences in different parts of campus, that a Husker fan wouldn’t dare stay away.

For the kids:

9 a.m.: Punt, pass and kick competitions in the Hawks Center.

10 a.m.: A football-themed parade through the sidewalks of campus. Decorate different areas like different parts of the state.

Noon: Video game tournaments pitting kids against Nebraska athletes.

1 p.m.: A contest where fans, with the help of Adidas reps, design their own alternate uniforms.

2 p.m.: Motivational talks from former Huskers like Ameer Abdullah and Rex Burkhead, describing their underdog roads to the NFL.

For the adults:

9 a.m.: Chalk talk sessions with former players and coaches. Imagine learning Milt Tenopir’s blocking schemes from members of The Pipeline. Better yet, what about Charlie McBride and Erik Chinander on a stage talking defense?

10 a.m.: Replay a classic game with the main characters. Picture Jerry Tagge and Johnny Rodgers in a campus auditorium taking you through the Game of the Century.

11 a.m.: A diversity panel highlighting Nebraska football’s remarkable history as a melting pot.

Noon: A session featuring Husker families like the Ruuds or Makovickas, where siblings or fathers and sons share memories of cheering from the stands. Let them tease each other and take questions.

1 p.m.: Hold a trivia event for fans (or even former players) about Husker history. Let athletes themselves give tours of their locker rooms. Bring in Larry The Cable Guy or other Husker-obsessed celebrities for short performances.

3-4 p.m.: Kickoff.

I could come up with ideas (good and bad) all day. Ferris wheels. Petting zoos. Scavenger hunts. The point is, it’s all available. Tens of thousands of fans are coming to town. By the time they watch the scrimmage Saturday afternoon, their stomachs should already be full.

For years, Nebraska has nibbled around the edges with reunions, autograph sessions, bounce houses, face-painting, etc. They’ve scheduled baseball games and volleyball scrimmages around the spring game. All of that is fine. But it’s not enough.

The spring game is the perfect opportunity to do something unique. Throw a family-friendly bash that extends beyond a few possessions of 1s vs. 1s. Pay homage to NU history and give the next generation access to the university in a fresh, fun way.

Call it Husker Heaven. For April, it’d be pretty darned close.

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Reporter - Sports

Dirk writes stories and columns about Husker football in addition to covering general assignments and enterprise for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @dirkchatelain. Phone: 402-444-1062.

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