Nebraska volleyball stadium event could draw 90,000-plus and set women’s world attendance record

by Michael Nguyen
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Record-breaking volleyball event

The University of Nebraska is gearing up for a monumental volleyball stadium event that could potentially shatter attendance records on a global scale. This upcoming Wednesday night, the university will host a momentous celebration of volleyball at Memorial Stadium, a venue typically associated with football. The occasion promises an exhibition match between in-state Division II powerhouses Nebraska-Kearney and Wayne State, followed by a riveting regular-season clash pitting Omaha against the formidable fourth-ranked Cornhuskers. The entertainment extravaganza will conclude with a performance by the country artist Scotty McCreery.

Setting their sights on a remarkable achievement, Nebraska’s athletic department officials are aiming to surpass the current women’s sporting event attendance record, which stands at an impressive 91,648 spectators. This record was established during a Champions League soccer match that witnessed Barcelona’s victory over Real Madrid with a score of 5-2, held at the illustrious Camp Nou Stadium in 2022.

Confident in their pursuit, the sentiment echoes among participants and enthusiasts alike. Harper Murray, a freshman outside hitter for the Huskers, remarked, “If any place can do it, it’s Nebraska.” Despite Memorial Stadium’s official capacity resting slightly above 85,000 for football, the potential for elevated attendance for this event arises from the provision of seating on the field itself. Positioned at the stadium’s north end, the volleyball court occupies the home turf of the Huskers’ football team.

While the 91,648 figure has been widely recognized as the pinnacle of women’s sports attendance, historical accounts indicate that an unofficial match during the 1971 Women’s World Cup in Mexico City purportedly attracted a staggering 110,000 attendees. The United States holds the American record for women’s sporting event attendance, with a turnout of 90,185 spectators for the 1999 World Cup soccer final. This monumental match unfolded between the United States and China at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl in California, where Brandi Chastain’s iconic penalty shot secured the U.S. victory, followed by her celebrated shirt-off moment.

Though the NCAA doesn’t comprehensively track attendance across all sports, Jeff Williams, the associate director of media coordination and statistics, affirmed that a gathering of over 90,000 attendees would undoubtedly rank among the largest for a non-football event. Reflecting on past successes, a precedent was set in 2010 when an outdoor hockey clash between Michigan and Michigan State drew an astounding crowd of over 113,000 fans at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

While awaiting confirmation from Guinness World Records officials, the event’s significance is undeniably clear. This gathering not only commemorates women’s sports but particularly emphasizes the prominence of volleyball. Nebraska has sustained a remarkable legacy, selling out 306 consecutive regular-season matches—an ongoing streak that will remain intact despite the current event not being hosted at the team’s usual Devaney Center court.

Leading the nation in attendance since 2013, the Huskers’ volleyball program stands out as a shining example of success, having clinched five national championships and achieving financial profitability—a notable feat, with last year’s earnings reportedly reaching $1 million, according to Doug Ewald, the athletic department’s CFO.

At its core, this event embodies the spirit of Title IX, a transformative legislation that has significantly contributed to the advancement of women’s sports. The sentiment was aptly summarized by Troy Pfannenstiel, an Omaha resident and fan, who lauded the event as a statement on Title IX’s impact. The occasion also serves as a platform for prominent figures to show their support, with the cancellation of classes for the day, the presence of NCAA President Charlie Baker and Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti, and the gathering of Husker volleyball players from various generations.

Notably, Nebraska has earned a distinguished place in the realm of volleyball, producing a remarkable pool of talent. The state boasts 75 women on Division I volleyball rosters this season, trailing only Hawaii in per capita production of Division I players. In Nebraska, volleyball’s dominance reigns supreme, having even eclipsed basketball as the primary girls’ high school team sport across the United States.

The journey of volleyball’s rise to prominence in Nebraska dates back to the early 1900s, evolving from humble beginnings to a sanctioned sport in 1972. The sport’s ascent gained momentum in the late 1970s when iconic coach Terry Pettit extended his expertise to high school coaches, thus sowing the seeds for Nebraska’s vibrant volleyball community.

The event’s significance is accentuated by the presence of passionate young fans like Ella Beck and Neveah Kehr, both aged 10, who traveled from different corners of the region to experience their first college volleyball match. Their presence reflects the enduring impact of sports, transcending generations and fostering connections that span across time and geography. This event not only commemorates Nebraska’s storied volleyball history but also exemplifies the enduring power of sports to unite communities and inspire the next generation of athletes and enthusiasts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Record-breaking volleyball event

What is the main event taking place at Memorial Stadium in Nebraska?

The main event at Memorial Stadium is a celebration of volleyball, featuring an exhibition match between Nebraska-Kearney and Wayne State, followed by a regular-season clash between Omaha and the fourth-ranked Cornhuskers. Country artist Scotty McCreery will perform after the matches.

What record is Nebraska aiming to break with this event?

Nebraska’s athletic department aims to break the current women’s sporting event attendance record of 91,648, set during a Champions League soccer match at the Camp Nou Stadium in 2022.

How does the seating arrangement contribute to the expected attendance?

Memorial Stadium, with a capacity of over 85,000 for football, will accommodate even more attendees due to field seating. The volleyball court is placed at the stadium’s north end, the Huskers’ football team’s home turf.

Has Nebraska been successful in volleyball attendance in the past?

Yes, Nebraska’s volleyball program holds a remarkable legacy, selling out 306 consecutive regular-season matches and leading the nation in attendance since 2013.

How significant is this event for women’s sports and volleyball?

This event is a celebration of both women’s sports and volleyball, commemorating the achievements of Nebraska’s volleyball program and highlighting the importance of women’s athletics.

What role does the event play in promoting Title IX?

The event underscores the impact of Title IX on women’s sports, with the cancellation of classes for the day and prominent figures like NCAA President Charlie Baker showing support.

How has Nebraska’s volleyball history evolved over the years?

Volleyball’s journey in Nebraska began in the early 1900s and gained momentum when coach Terry Pettit engaged high school coaches in the late 1970s, leading to its growth as a sanctioned sport in 1972.

How does the event resonate with young fans?

Young fans like Ella Beck and Neveah Kehr, aged 10, represent the event’s enduring appeal, as they traveled to witness their first college volleyball match and connect with Nebraska’s vibrant sports culture.

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