Maybe it was the warm spring air. Maybe it was the aura of new possibilities that a new season brings. Or maybe it was the injection of frivolity that comes from watching linemen return punts.
But something about last weekend’s Red-White Game allowed my mind to wander from the action on the field to the significance of the new expansion in Memorial Stadium’s east wing.
As the construction inches nearer to completion and fans get a clearer glimpse at how the new and improved home of the Cornhuskers will look, it becomes more and more apparent that Nebraska’s Mecca of football and state pride is undergoing its most momentous expansion in years.
Adding seats in the end zones? Great, more people get to see the Big Red in person. Revamped video screens and scoreboards? Wonderful, the old ones were starting to look a bit shabby. But adding boxes and another deck of bleacher seating in the east stadium? This change will catapult Nebraska’s “good-sized” and “nice” stadium into the elite class of jaw-dropping cathedrals of college football that already dot the Big Ten landscape in places like Ann Arbor and Columbus.
Yet as I sat there, grinning at how much better my parents’ seats on the east stadium balcony will seem now that there will be thousands more spectators above them, another thought crossed my mind: Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium is still missing something.
And that something is the uniqueness and the rather intangible personality that comes with the Big Ten’s other top venues and is encapsulated in its nickname.
Hearing The Horseshoe, The Big House, Happy Valley or Camp Randall immediately elucidate emotions and memories from every college football fan. And Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium needs an iconic title that does just that.
Memorial Stadium is a fine name and nothing should be taken away from the valor and patriotism it honors. But a nickname certainly would not hurt. It should be one that strikes fear into the hearts of teams that remember their last visit, and one that warms the hearts of Husker fans who are reminded of Eric Crouch’s Heisman-clinching touchdown catch against Oklahoma or Roy Helu Jr.’s record-setting day against Missouri at the mere mention of its name.
It could be something simple like The Memorial, or maybe something a little more creative and light-hearted like The Corn Palace (although just reading that aloud assures me that “The Corn Palace” is a terrible suggestion).
No matter what it is, a nickname for the home of the Cornhuskers is the last piece. The stadium has the size, the visual intimidation and the extraordinary fanbase to fill it.
Now it just needs a unique title to solidify its place among the country’s elite college football venues.