Business Insider: Nebraska Fans Rank No. 1 in Loyalty
My first reaction? Well, duh.
I’ll go ahead and admit I am completely and totally biased. I grew up in Nebraska and am a proud graduate of the University of Nebraska. That being said, I’ve lived in several cities since graduation and traveled to some college football-rich environments. But when it comes to fan loyalty, as the song goes, “There is No Place Like Nebraska.”
Let’s get the stat that everyone talks about out of the way first. Nebraska has sold out Memorial Stadium for a record-setting 333 consecutive games. That record far overshadows the competition, and there’s no indication the record is going to end any time soon; this despite the university continuously upgrading and expanding the stadium to what will now be a capacity over 90,000.
Let that soak in for a moment: 333 consecutive games. The last time the Huskers did not play in front of a sold out crowd was 1962. John F. Kennedy was promising we’d send a man to the moon. The Beatles recorded their first ever song. Wilt Chamberlain had his 100-point game. Most of you reading this likely weren’t alive.
But I digress.
The sellout streak is only part of what makes Nebraska’s fan base the most loyal in the country. Another big part is the knowledge of the fans. Talk to anyone from Omaha to Ogallala and they’ll likely be able to give you information on when the season starts, a decent chunk of the two-deep roster and a Husker history lesson – all while you enjoy some Midwest hospitality and (if you’re lucky) a Runza.
Husker football is Nebraska. And it’s not just because the Huskers are the only game in town. Yes, it’s true there are no pro sports within a three-hour drive of anywhere in the state. That’s ok; a lot of people like it that way. The university and its football team reflect the hard-working, down-to-earth culture of this place. The legendary Tom Osborne is a hometown hero. So is Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch. The walk-on program that helped the Huskers win three national championships in the '90s is a point of pride for Nebraska because it gave kids who played eight-man football in tiny Nebraska towns get their shot at the big time. And in some cases (Scott Shanle, Kyle Larson and Joel Makovicka) it meant going from the farm fields to the fields of the NFL.
And if you think the loyalty ends at the state line, you’ve got another thing coming. Nebraska fans are famous for following their Huskers across the country. Bowl games often pick Nebraska because they know tickets will be sold. Red-clad fans turn places like Ames, Iowa, Evanston, Illinois, and West Lafayette, Indiana, into a Huskers’ home away from home.
But it’s not just stadiums where fans don’t gobble up tickets where Husker Nation makes its mark. One of the most famous Husker invasions happened in South Bend, Indiana,When Nebraska traveled to play Notre Dame (which, by the way, is No. 4 on the most loyal fans list) in 2000, there was so much red in Notre Dame Stadium that “Touchdown Jesus” had to hide his eyes.
Simply put, Nebraska fans are everywhere. When my wife and I were dating, we went on a trip that took us to three different airports in three different parts of the country. She didn’t believe in Husker Nation, so I wore some Husker gear on the trip. In all three airports someone (or some people), said “Go Big Red!" or stopped to talk to me about the Huskers, or, in one case, offered to buy me a beer. Safe to say my wife was a believer from that day forward.
There’s another part of “No Place” that says “we all stick together through all kinds of weather.” And that includes “fair weather." Yes, Husker Nation has been spoiled by success in the last 50 years. Five national championships, Heisman Trophy winners, an absurd amount of consecutive bowl appearances (before there were dozens of bowl games), but there have been some lean years. Osborne could “never win the big one," a Bill Callahan-coached team actually had a losing record, and Bo Pelini has had a couple of lean years by Nebraska standards. But Husker Nation remains doggedly loyal.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great fan bases on this list; Alabama is No. 2. I’ve been there during football season and they are unbelievable. Even the gate agent at the airport said “Roll Tide” at the end of every announcement. Ohio State is No. 3. I lived in Columbus, Ohio, and know exactly how much those fans of the poisonous nuts bleed scarlet and grey.
But when you put it all together, Business Insider simply got it right. The sellouts, the traveling, the fact some stores close on game days (and those that don’t have the radio broadcast on)… it all adds up to complete and total fan loyalty.
There is no place like Nebraska. Dear old Nebraska U.