At 1:00 p.m., the scheduled start time, fans filed into the stadium ready for the spring game after taking cover in the concourses of Memorial Stadium. At about 1:05 a PA announcement stated that the spring game was canceled. Shortly after, NU athletic director Tom Osborne came on the big screen apologizing to the fans for the cancellation, even though the skies were partly cloudy and there was little to no precipitation at the time.
“There was a little window,” said Butch Hug, NU associate athletic director for facilities and events. “And (The National Weather Service) said you may have 45 minutes.”
But that simply wasn’t enough time for the Huskers to play a full or abbreviated game or even evacuate NU fans if need be. Nebraska had academic buildings prepared for evacuees of the stadium if need be, Hug said.
Plus, if there was lightning within six miles the game would’ve been delayed for a half hour, eliminating the window of playing time.
As for NU coach Bo Pelini, he wasn’t happy that the spring game had to be canceled, but agreed with Hug’s decision.
“It’s disappointing for the players who I know look forward to this day,” Pelini said. “It’s disappointing for the fans. But I mean I think they made the right call. You’ve gotta think about everybody’s safety.”
In Osborne’s short announcement on the HuskerVision screen after the announced cancellation, he said a Sunday reschedule would be a possibility, weather permitting. Pelini confirmed that the spring game wouldn’t be rescheduled speaking to a group of reporters later in the afternoon.
“When we met with the team, there’s a lot of issues that come with playing tomorrow,” Pelini said. “I had a show of hands of guys who had an issue with playing tomorrow and talking about group projects, academic things … there’s a banquet coming up tomorrow night. There’s logistical issues with their families. In the end, it’s just not gonna work.”
And it’s not just the players who would’ve had a hard time fitting a game into their schedules.
It would be nearly impossible to get the people working behind the scenes ready for the game, according to Hug.
“(We would have been) awful short staffed,” Hug said. “There are a lot of conflicts tomorrow … staffingwise, concessionwise. We don’t have supplies now for tomorrow. We don’t have any pizza. We don’t have any hot dogs. All we would have is popcorn and pop. We’re limited on concessions staff. We’re limited on event staff. We’re limited on security. We’re limited on medical so our numbers are drastically reduced.”
Because of the game’s cancellation, the athletic department stands to lose money, NU athletic director Tom Osborne said, and it made the decision a difficult one.
“It’ll be fairly substantial,” Osborne said. “Everything we stand to lose is around $400,000, so it’s a fairly big deal. It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. But on the other hand if you have somebody hurt badly or get hit by lightning then you probably saved yourself a lot of grief.”
Tickets won’t be refunded, but fans will be able to use their spring game ticket for general admission entry to a Nebraska baseball or softball game later this season.
As for what Nebraska football will do with its final spring practice allowed by the NCAA, Pelini isn’t going to worry about it.
“I think we’re just gonna move on and go to the next step,” Pelini said. “We have plans for them liftingwise and getting back into their offseason conditioning. I think that’s the route we’re gonna go.”
“I don’t wanna disrupt everything we have scheduled heading into the next phase of our offseason heading into this portion of the offseason.”