Here's an unusual news flash for every Nebraska football fan planning to travel to Madison for Nebraska's first-ever Big Ten Conference football game against the Wisconsin Badgers in Camp Randall Stadium: Pack your black and warm up your lungs for a nationally televised game at a classic venue.
In this case, fan support is merely an extension of team support. "We want our players and coaches to be able to visualize the support of Husker fans up in Madison," said Michael Stephens, Nebraska's assistant athletic director for marketing and licensing. Before Big Red traditionalists think about objecting to the decision that's already in motion, Stephens offers one more important point. "I don't really see any other scenarios where we would ask our fans to wear black," he said. "But in this case, as a road game in a venue that traditionally wears the exact same red as we do, we think this is a good solution for an historic game, and we're looking forward to our fans having a big impact in our visit to Camp Randall."
Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne sent a note Thursday to fans who have purchased tickets from the Athletic Department for the Wisconsin game, encouraging them to support the team. "We love our tradition of a Husker Sea of Red wherever we go, but in order for us to stand out amongst the Badgers and be visible to our team, I ask that you join me in celebrating our Blackshirts' tradition by wearing black to the game," Osborne said. "Simply choose your favorite Husker blackshirt item from your closet or visit your local Husker store to purchase something new. You are also welcome to check out our Blackshirts selection on Huskers.com by visiting http://shop.huskers.com. I look forward to seeing you in black in Madison!"
Memories from Six Members of '71 National Champions
Two weekends ago, when 56 Huskers returned to Lincoln to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their 1971 national championship, several shared their favorite memories for the N-Sider. Read them, and you'll see two obvious themes - how close-knit this team was and how competitive the Huskers were. You don't have to read between the lines with these six guys:
Bill Kosch: "The defense didn't like the offense except on game day. If close-knit means being competitive, then we were all melted together in one pot. The mold was red steel and cast into a champion."
Carl Johnson: "We had Coach Devaney's spunk, Coach Osborne's dedication and commitment and Coach Kiffin's nastiness. Earning a role on this team was not easy. When I showed up for my first spring practice as a sophomore JC transfer, I was placed as the No. 3 right offensive tackle. My best friend, Keith Wortman, another JC transfer, was placed as the No. 3 right guard. I noticed that I was not the tallest or the biggest lineman here the way I was at Phoenix College. Everybody was as big as me! I looked around and noticed that each position on the line was 5 to 8-deep with players. That's when I knew I had hit the "big time". From the one-on-one fighting in the "stick drill" to the weight lifting to the scrimmages in spring ball, it was always "all out" Through all of that we developed a confidence and trust in each other that never was shaken."
Larry Jacobson: "Many of us learned about high expectations from the 1969 and 1970 seasons, and we developed a lot of poise by doing what we knew how to do through the whole 1971 season. We just wanted to prove we were the best team in the nation. In fact, I read an article recently that included a quote by Dan Jenkins, who had written the OU-NU preview article for Sports Illustrated, 'This Year's Game of the Decade'. I guess, when he visited Lincoln a few weeks before the game, he remembered the look in my eyes. He said, "You could almost look at his face and know 'If you're going to beat us, you're gonna have to kill us.'"
Joe Blahak: "Coach Osborne stepped in one time and ran a pattern against me. It was a 3-yard out pattern, and the offense completed it. The week before the Game of the Century, Johnny Pitts broke his finger, but he still played in the game."
Randy Borg: "A constant theme throughout the year came from a player who did not play one second. Rex Lowe was an end from Milwaukee who became ill the spring before and spent the season in the Mayo Clinic with his own battle. Jerry Tagge and Jim Anderson, our captains, mentioned Rex often and no one wanted to let Rex down. We were practicing in Miami when at the end of a session at Dade Junior College, an ambulance pulled up. Rex had made it to Miami. That was the first time I had seen him on the stretcher smiling. Rex also was one of the last people to speak in the locker room before we took the field to beat the Bear and Alabama. He thanked us for letting him be part of the team. I remember how I thought we should thank him for being such an inspiration to us."
Alan Austin: "It's difficult to put a moment or an event on that season. The feeling I had was that we were a team, and even though there were individuals that were standouts and leaders, we were all in it together. No one wanted to let down for a second."
Bid on First Vintage Helmet Signed by '71 Players
The Sporting News anointed Nebraska's 1971 national championship team as "College Football's Best Ever". That honor came when the fabled '71 Husker team celebrated its 40th anniversary reunion in Lincoln. Among the 56 players who returned for the festivities were captains Jerry Tagge and Jim Anderson, plus All-Americans Willie Harper, Larry Jacobson, Jeff Kinney and Johnny Rodgers.