Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst (top in tie) watches staffers bury a time capsule.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Buried Husker Treasures Taking 50-Year Nap

By NU Athletic Communications

Randy York’s N-Sider

The Nebraska Athletic Department buried 200 time capsules at the East Stadium historic Gate 20 entrance Thursday, giving media members in hard hats the opportunity to record the event and chronicle historical markers for one of college football’s most storied programs. The East Stadium commemorative time capsules represent 50 years of Nebraska football sellouts and will remain there until 2062 – the target year for what could become 100 consecutive years of Nebraska football home-game sellouts.

The idea is to give the next generation of Husker fans the opportunity to compare where we are with the way we were. Fans entering Memorial Stadium through the expanded East Stadium will have a walkway lined with Husker history this fall. A vault of 100 time capsules is now buried on each side of the entrance, and that’s just part of the drama. Maggi Thorne, Nebraska’s assistant director for Capital Planning and Construction, said fans also will see a very large graphic timeline depiction of Memorial Stadium’s history once they’re inside the door. “We’ve been planning all of this for a long time,” she said, “and we can’t wait to see how our fans embrace some of the other surprises that will go with all of that.”

While everyone waits for life to take us back to the future, The N-Sider thought Big Red fans might enjoy some of the “treasures” that were buried Thursday. UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, for instance, contributed memorable photos, a shirt, an Orange Bowl watch and some personal notes for the 2062 UNL leader to read and analyze. Shawn Eichorst, in his first year as Nebraska’s athletic director, buried field passes, photos and personal notes in his time capsule. Nebraska Athletic Director Emeritus Tom Osborne filled his time capsule with a towel, a pennant and various books he thought Husker fans might enjoy reading 50 years from now. Some enterprising contributors wanted future fans to compare technology 50 years apart, so Andy Wendstrand, who works in Husker Athletic Marketing, buried an iPhone 1 with a charger, plus some creative personal notes. Juan Rico, who works in IT, donated an Android phone with a charger, so future technologists can judge which phone was superior.  

Historic HuskerVision Lighting Element Buried

One intriguing piece of history buried in a time capsule Thursday was a lighting element donated by Shot Kleen, the assistant athletic director for HuskerVision. This wasn’t just any lighting element. It was the first one used when Nebraska introduced big screens to college football in general and Memorial Stadium in particular. If you think that seems like ancient history now, imagine how that pivotal point of leadership might seem in 50 years. Husker Marketing buried hundreds of donated personal treasures, and we’re protecting the privacy of the contributors. We can say, however, that all the photos and posters and magazines and giveaways were genuinely appreciated. Those who will see in 2062 what we don’t know now includes several hundred youngsters who filled out this Time Capsule Kids Sheet to share their views of Nebraska football's future. If you think you're overly optimistic about Nebraska football, you should see their great expectations. One predicted 50 straight national championships in the next half century. We could tell that was one kid who operated without parental supervision.

The Omaha World-Herald sent us a neat packet that included a T-shirt of Warren Buffett delivering newspapers on a bike (you do know that his Berkshire Hathaway Company now owns Nebraska’s biggest newspapers, don’t you?). I enjoyed flipping and skimming the World-Herald’s special football sections and its personal photos of sportswriters, especially the one that shows Lee Barfknecht, the award-winning scribe who often types his stories from home with his Havanese dog, Tara, sitting on his desk. The Lincoln Journal-Star did not disappoint either, sending all kinds of mementos from past Nebraska football games my way, plus an historic set of playing cards featuring Nebraska football legends and an absolutely wonderful flash drive with photos that future generations can’t help but enjoy. One of Barfknecth's beats is Nebraska men's basketball, and Tim Miles made sure that his sport was represented in the time capsule burial because the Huskers are hoping to make history, too. A sold-out 2013-14 season is the first in Nebraska history, and the anticipation to play in one of America's best arenas is already yielding recruiting benefits.

Nebraska Life Skills leader Keith Zimmer supplied a flash drive of photos showing Husker student-athletes making a difference as community volunteers. His staff also submitted a booklet and various wristbands that symbolized their thoughts and causes. Nebraska Academics leader Dennis Leblanc submitted a banquet program, a desk plaque and 300 Academic All-America pins for burial to remind everyone that Nebraska reached that NCAA milestone first. Nebraska Compliance leader Jamie Vaughn offered up the 2012-13 NCAA Manual, which should be highly entertaining reading, even 50 years from now. The same thoughts apply to the Nebraska Student-Athlete Advisory Committee's donation of issues and notes and various papers to describe the top priorities of a student-athlete’s daily life. 

Workers Bury Tom Osborne Retirement Coins

Huskers Athletic Fund leader Paul Meyers contributed Tom Osborne retirement coins, 32-ounce commemorative cups and card stunts for the next generation to discuss. Training Table leader Dale Kruse showcased photos of how student-athletes are taken care of now, and Nutrition leaders Scott Trausch and Lindsey Remmers buried miscellaneous wrappers and drink containers to compare 2012-13 data with what will be infinitely more detailed statistics in the future, thanks to Nebraska's national leadership in that category. Nebraska Equipment leader Jay Terry offered a football jersey, a helmet sticker, a Taylor Martinez nameplate and an equipment truck model and name badge. Concessions leaders Janell Hall and Rox Rusmussen donated signs, a vendor smock and commemorative cups and wrappers.

Nebraska volleyball leader John Cook donated a medallion for time capsule burial to represent the most successful Husker women’s sports program over the last half century (with all due respect to Nebraska women's track and field, softball, gymnastics and basketball). Husker men’s gymnastics leader Chuck Chmelka sealed an envelope for the next generation to appreciate Nebraska’s NCAA championship performances and Olympic gold medalists. Annette Werschke, who supports Nebraska’s Olympic sports, donated an envelope for her grandkids to open in 2062. Lonna Kliment, a director in Marketing, donated miscellaneous items for her “future offspring” to open. Meg Lauerman’s UNL Communications staff buried all kinds of publications that will help the future understand the university’s story about the past. Hail Varsity, the newest publication showcasing Husker Athletics, contributed a small arsenal of magazines, photos, notes and a black towel that represents one of Nebraska’s greatest traditions – the Blackshirts. 

By now, you might ask, what did yours truly offer up for posterity? The answer, unfortunately, isn’t all that creative. The N-Sider donated some publications that I considered historic, including David Max’s book entitled 50 Years of Husker Memories, written by the co-founder of the Husker website that carries his name. David is a good friend and a Husker loyalist who has dedicated much of his adult life to enriching the Nebraska athletic experience for Big Red fans.

Helping Write ‘Devaney’ Was Opportunity of Lifetime

Thanks to Nebraska football historian Mike Babcock, I also included the front and back covers of the book, Devaney by Bob Devaney and Friends. That book went through five printings, and Mike and I still talk about how fun it was to collaborate with the man who rewrote Nebraska football history almost from the moment he arrived in Lincoln. Babcock and I worked with Coach Devaney and his legendary SID, Don Bryant, along with Lincoln Journal-Star Sports Editor Virgil Parker, our late boss.

Going to Devaney’s home one night a week was precious time for all of us. We would ask the Hall-of-Fame coach questions that dated back to his early childhood, and he was more than willing to describe his decision to elevate Tom Osborne to the head coaching position over all the other great assistants he’d hired, many of whom went on to become head coaches at the same Division I level. Hearing Devaney explain his experiences, thoughts and philosophies helped all of us understand why he became one of America’s greatest football coaches. It was indeed a fascinating journey of leadership, loyalty and unshakeable faith in each other.

Life was much different in 1962 when Devaney arrived in Nebraska, and it will be even more diverse in 2062. That’s what makes all the treasures that construction workers buried Thursday so important. The time capsules housed in two vaults over the next 50 years will tell a legendary story that will help the next generation of Big Red fans remember the past and recognize the present. That will motivate them to do their level best to keep one of most amazing achievements in sports alive – selling every seat in one of the nation’s largest stadiums for an entire century, regardless of wind, rain, sleet or snow. Whether the Huskers win or lose is not the overriding question to keep Memorial Stadium full for the next 50 years. The achievement revolves around our famous tagline – There is No Place Like Nebraska. Think about it. Nebraska is the only place in the world that wins even when it loses, and that's because Husker passion goes well beyond the scoreboard. It’s part of our mental makeup and reflects who we are and what we stand for. Every true-blooded Big Red fan seems to get all that, year after year, decade after decade, and yes, perhaps even century after century.

The Question: Would You Bet Against Husker Fans?

Odds are not high for Nebraska fans to turn 50 years of sellouts into 100 years of sellouts, but here's the question: Would you bet against Husker fans when they’re already halfway down the golden road paved with red brick? Big Red fans everywhere know how sacred the sellout streak is, and they've shown they can band together through the most uncomfortable of circumstances.

I see Nebraska fans shooting for the moon one autumn after another after another. When you think about it, isn’t that what separates Nebraska fans from all others? While many might look back at the last 50 years and be totally satisfied, the leaders of America's most loyal fan base are looking ahead to the next 50 years and planning to do everything humanly possible to make sure that the greatest sellout streak in all of sport continues.

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