Husker Volleyball Coach John Cook shares his fourth national championship trophy with Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Diehard Followed Nebraska Volleyball Live in Spain

By Randy York

Huskers Beat Florida, Win Fifth National Title

Cook Delivered Title When Least Expected

Forget fantasy football and favorite finishes. Focus instead on the glitter and the gleam of two diehard Nebraska volleyball fans – a father and his grown daughter. They followed each point and tracked every mistake together in a pair of NCAA Final Four flourishes in Kansas City.

Talk about the ultimate father-daughter get-together via video, audio and distant but live conversations. Their collective interactivity was enjoyable and entertaining for a family that has experienced Husker Volleyball at home and on the road for 2½ decades.

This particular December pageantry, however, was different, creating multiple experiences and unique involvement. Bob Starman, the father, had tickets to the 2017 NCAA Final Four, but gave them up to capitalize on an opportunity to visit Spain.

“That was the first time in more than 10 years that I haven’t been at the Final Four – with or without Nebraska playing in it,” Starman said, acknowledging that his decision was still a positive, meaningful experience following the Huskers. Starman, 54, and his daughter, Kelsey Starman, 25, watched the Huskers’ five-set win over No. 1 seed Penn State in the NCAA Semifinals last Thursday night. They viewed the game simultaneously, him in Spain and her in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she is in optometry school.

Two nights later, this father-daughter tandem shared the excitement of Nebraska’s four-set triumph Saturday night over Florida in the National Championship Game at the Sprint Center. Both watched the action on their iPads. Thursday night’s game began at 1 a.m. in Spain. “What a fantastic hard-fought match that was,” Starman said, indicating that each experienced the same level of goose bumps they have at home.

“Mission Possible” inspired Big Red fans communicating halfway around the world as if they were live and in living color. Father and daughter appreciated sharing their thoughts with each other on a National Championship run.

For both, it seemed like almost any other volleyball experience with one gargantuan exception – neither were inside the building. Starman set last Saturday night’s alarm for 2:30 a.m., so he would be awake to watch and listen to the championship match starting at 3 a.m.

Yes, father and daughter felt fortunate to watch NCAA games via the ESPN app on their iPads. “It was exciting to watch the game and hear a large crowd of red-clad fans in the stands cheering,” Starman said. “Odd as it may sound, we could feel the energy, passion and excitement in the arena coming through the announcers. We also could hear Steve Johnson’s voice calling plays through the overhead loudspeakers.”  

Two volleyball junkies, watching an essential game on their iPads at the same time, loved listening to legendary volleyball players/commentators Karch Kiraly and Paul Sunderland, who “amped up” the experience even more.

“We also have the official Husker radio app on our cell phones so we listen to John Baylor and Lauren Cook call the games,” Starman said. “No one comes through with more passion and excitement than John Baylor in terms of how he describes the game. It’s amazing that we can feel the energy and get ourselves all excited when there's so much tension during close calls and close games, even though we are many time zones away.” 

Despite his daughter beginning college eight years ago, “we continued to keep our passion for the Husker volleyball team alive by watching the games at the same time,” Starman said. “While I’m at the games, she watches on the BTN App or on TV. Throughout the game, we text each other. We constantly talk about strategy, good plays and share our thoughts about who’s doing well.”

During the Penn State match, one text from daughter to dad captured the essence of enjoyment. “I’m sure glad you’re still up watching this game with me because I don’t think I could handle watching it alone,” Kelsey told her dad.

“She gets really excited and stresses when Nebraska doesn’t appear to be doing well,” said Starman (pictured below). “She’s definitely a diehard Husker volleyball fan.”

Through the years, volleyball has been this father’s and daughter’s togetherness. “I started taking Kelsey to games shortly after she was born,” he said. “I’d put her in her bassinet and we’d go down to the Coliseum.  

“The beautiful thing about volleyball at Nebraska is having tickets long enough, so we see the same people that we’ve sat with for literally 25-plus years,” Starman said. “They’ve also been able to watch Kelsey grow up and become a young woman and then go off to college.”

Even though some ticketholders are now well into their ‘70s and ‘80s, “they still enjoy going to the games and sitting with us,” Starman said. “We talk strategy and play games to guess how many sets the match will go. Our fans are as close to family as you will find out there.”

Family members know how fortunate it is to travel extensively over the years. “We tend to wear our Husker gear on these out-of-town trips and it invariably results in somebody we don’t even know approaching us to talk about Nebraska,” Starman said.

“They’ve heard stories about our fan support across all sports. They know how kind and how caring we are," he pointed out. "People talk about how different our fans are from others, and you know what? It's all true.”

Could This Be Cook's Best Coaching Job Ever?

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