Big Red football is about to unleash the Saint Bernards — along with Ronnie and Jane, painted-up fanatics, grandparents, cornstalks, cheerleaders, Waldo and a nation-leading expanse of Academic All-Americans.
As the Huskers take to the Memorial Stadium turf Nov. 14 for their first home game of the 2020 football season, they’ll be greeted by a few hundred cheering family members and more than 6,000 corrugated plastic cutout fans.
The cutouts are part of the Huskers’ “Sea of Red Sellout,” a campaign that allows fans to purchase a seat in Nebraska’s famed Memorial Stadium and have their likeness — or an image of choice — “attend” home games when access is limited due to the global pandemic.
“It’s been an incredible campaign with Husker fans showing that they are the greatest fans in college football,” said Brandon Meier, Nebraska’s senior associate athletic director for marketing and multimedia. “We’ve more than doubled our goal and during the game, you are going to see Husker fans represented in the cutouts from the Tunnel Walk to in the stands.”
The cutouts are procured through the Omaha office of Ricoh USA and printed at Lincoln’s Eagle Printing and Sign. Similar designs are appearing by the thousands in pro and college sport venues nationwide. And, according to reports from Ricoh, which has provided cutouts for 11 Big Ten institutions and the University of Texas, Nebraska is a national leader with its 6,000+ total.
Around 180 full-body cutouts — including university leaders Ronnie Green and his wife, Jane, and Ted Carter and his wife, Lynda — line the Tunnel Walk carpet in North Stadium. And, in the stands thousands of torso cutouts (all secured with specialized brackets) showcase the joy and passion of Husker Nation.
“We have honored family members, children, pets, fans, some corn — just about anything you can imagine seeing on a game day in Nebraska,” Meier said. “There’s even a group of 25 Saint Bernards all wearing tiny barrels around their necks.”
Those dogs were purchased by Applied Underwriters, an Omaha-based company of nearly 500 employees. Company leaders Zach Brightweiser and Howard Moon purchased the seats and selected the dogs as a sort of “I Spy” game for their employees — who are mostly working at home due to the global pandemic.
“Everyone is super excited to se them during the games,” Brightweiser and Moon wrote in an email about the project. “We’ll be cheering all season long behind the screen for the Huskers and our furry friends, and we’ll definitely be back next year to cheer even harder in person.”
There are also four sponsored sections from First National Bank, Hy-Vee, Ameritas and US Bank. And, in Section 10 — near seats normally occupied by the Cornhusker Marching Band — sits 96 Husker All-Americans.
While the printed fans are silent, they do add ambiance and motion to what is mostly an empty stadium, Meier said.
“We didn’t plan this, but when the wind blows they kind of move and sway,” Meier said. “It’s almost like they’re trying to do the wave.”
Stories behind some of the cutouts are being features in Nebraska Athletics’ “Sea of Red” video series. The stories launched in October with a story about a Waldo caricature that sits in the stands. They’ll also be shown throughout the Athletic Department’s “Second Screen” virtual game day experience.
Many fans have paid extra to keep their cutouts at the end of the season. Those not claimed will be sent to a local recycling facility.
Meier said fans still have time to purchase and have cutouts attend home games this season. Details on how to join the “Sea of Red” are available here.
“This campaign has been some needed fun in this unprecedented year we’ve all experienced,” Meier said. “Our fans mean the world to us and they always show up in force.
“We can’t wait for Saturday when everyone is going to see that Big Red passion displayed in these cutouts. It’s an incredible sight and really makes an impact when you are standing on the field.”