“Nebraska Spirit: Go Big Red,” a new television documentary that digs into the archives to explore how cheerleaders, dancers, mascots and the Cornhusker Marching Band contribute spirit and pride, premieres at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 on NET. It takes viewers from the fields and courts to the sidelines, following the history and legacy of those who get fans on their feet.
The program first focuses on the Cornhusker Marching Band and its evolution from a military drilling corps to a nearly 300-member group of musicians who perform for millions of people each year in person and on television.
Organized cheerleading at the University of Nebraska began in 1903 with only males on the squad, but that all changed in 1917 when Louise Pound added three females — a first for any college in the United States. “Nebraska Spirit: Go Big Red” follows the development of the squad, the addition of tumbling and how the cheerleaders work the crowd.
Cheer is part of Nebraska’s Spirit Squad, which also includes the Scarlet dancers and mascots. Annette Hudson, Nebraska’s first African-American cheerleader, earned a spot on the squad in 1969, after competing with 200 women for just three spots. Today, the Spirit Squad head coach is former Scarlet dancer Erynn Nicholson Butzke, the university’s only African-American head coach for any sport.
“Nebraska Spirit: Go Big Red” journeys through the history of Big Red mascots, beginning with Corncob Man in 1955 and several other incarnations, including Husky the Husker, Harry Husker and Herbie Husker, the university’s longest-reigning mascot. The program includes a segment about those who have stepped into the Lil’ Red costume and how the mascot connects with younger Husker fans.
The documentary repeats on NET at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 1, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 and 8 p.m. Dec. 8. The program will also be available for live streaming at the same dates and times.
A program preview and additional content from program interviews is available here.