The winningest tunnel at Nebraska since 1962 is...
Nebraska has entered the field utilizing two out of its four tunnels so far: the northwest and the southwest. Which has proven to be the most successful for the Huskers?
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Nebraska debuted its Tunnel Walk for the first time on Sept. 17, 1994. That means Matt Rhule’s first Tunnel Walk as the Huskers’ head coach — we’re not counting the spring game — will be one day shy of its 29th anniversary.
There’s a lot of history surrounding Nebraska’s entrance, and it all began thanks to the simple fact that Nebraska was the first college-only stadium to install video boards. In doing so, it required the Huskers to re-think how the Tunnel Walk was managed and configured.
“Tradition-wise, we already had the Tunnel Walk. We just didn’t see the players,” Kirk Hartman, assistant athletic director of HuskerVision, said in an interview with Big Ten Network in 2021. “By bringing them to a big screen format inside the stadium really lengthened that period of time of the players entering the field.”
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For as much as it has evolved since then — a number of Lincoln residents called the Lincoln police in 2014 after the Huskers revamped the Tunnel Walk to include more fireworks — it has also stayed the same. ‘Sirius,’ for example, remains the song Nebraska walks out to. We can ignore the Mikey Bo remix that debuted in 2007 before disappearing into the abyss after Steve Pederson was fired.
That’s not what this is about though. When Rhule and Nebraska take the field on Saturday against Northern Illinois, they will do so in a way that hasn’t been done since at least 1962:
The Huskers will enter from the northeast tunnel.
With Nebraska moving into its locker rooms within the new $165 million football complex, the route of the Tunnel Walk had to change. The Huskers shifted their entrance1 from the northwest tunnel to the northeast, with construction beginning on the new entrance in early August.
Being the first, Rhule and Nebraska have a clean slate ahead of them. After Saturday, the Huskers will have utilized three out of the four tunnels within Memorial Stadium since 1962, with the southeast corner as the only one untouched to date.2
As Nebraska turns the page on a new tunnel, there’s only one question to ask:
Which tunnel — southwest or northwest — was the winningest since 1962?
Let’s find out.
Five head coaches entered through the northwest tunnel: Bob Devaney, Bill Callahan, Bo Pelini, Mike Riley and Scott Frost3. Three entered from the southwest: Tom Osborne, Frank Solich and Callahan.
Here’s how it shakes down:
Northwest Tunnel (182 total games)
Nebraska scored 5,640 points out of this tunnel and allowed 3,176 points to its opponents. The Huskers averaged 31 points per game, and allowed 17.5 points per game.
More than 13.6 million fans watched Nebraska enter through the northwest tunnel, with an average attendance of 75,093 per game. Devaney’s first game at Memorial Stadium was a 53-0 win over South Dakota. There were 26,953 fans in attendance. Nebraska’s final game out of the northwest tunnel in 2022 was a 15-14 loss to Wisconsin, with 86,068 on hand for the mid-November matchup.
Southwest Tunnel (216 total games)
Over 32 years, Nebraska scored 8,511 points and allowed 2,898 points out of the southwest tunnel. On average, Nebraska scored 39.4 points per game and only allowed 13.4 during this timeframe.
More than 16.5 million fans watched Nebraska enter through the southwest tunnel, with an average attendance of 76,429. The first game out of the southwest tunnel was Nebraska’s matchup with UCLA on Sept. 8, 1973. It was also Osborne’s first year as head coach.4 The final game out of the southwest tunnel was Nov. 12, 2005. The Callahan-led team defeated Kansas State, 27-25.
Of the two tunnels utilized, the winningest tunnel is . . .
The southwest tunnel at 89%, in comparison to the northwest tunnel at 71%.5
Nebraska’s entrances extend further back than 1962, of course, and there is still plenty unknown to its full history.
It might actually be better to say it’s just not fully documented. The first game was played in Memorial Stadium on Oct. 13, 1923, which means nearly 40 years of entrances are out there waiting to be studied. The first television broadcasts of Nebraska football didn’t come until 1949, which limits documentation to photos only.
At some point in 1927, for example, Nebraska entered through a door on the side of the stadium.
Nebraska won all of its home games in 1927, so this entrance appears — in a very limited data pull — to be fairly successful.
For now though, Nebraska’s southwest stadium is its winningest. The northwest has its history, but it likely needs a rest at this point. It was officially retired by the Husker volleyball team during Volleyball Day in Nebraska on Aug. 30, and that feels like a successful way for that tunnel’s chapter to conclude.
Next up: the northeast tunnel. What does the future have in store?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Nebraska’s previous locker room was situated in the North Stadium facility, just through a set of doors that led directly to the middle of the concourse. The team turned right when it came out of the doors, walking down a red carpet toward the northwest tunnel. The new path will take the team from the locker rooms within the new football complex, and straight down a new red carpet under the northeast corner and onto the field.
A seating section in Nebraska’s south end zone — just above the southeast tunnel — collapsed shortly before 9 a.m. on a Monday in May 1993. No injuries were reported, but it affected 189 seats from rows 6 through 13 in Section 14. Engineers reviewed the structure and gave it a “clean bill of health” at the time. It was repaired, alongside other portions of the stadium.
You could also list this as six coaches, with Mickey Joseph included for nine games in 2022. He was named Nebraska’s interim head coach in place of Frost, who was fired Sept. 11. Joseph went 3-6 in his nine games leading the Huskers, with only one win at home.
Nebraska completed its new (at the time) athletic offices and football locker room located within South Stadium prior to the 1973, which is why Osborne’s first season shifted the tunnel entrance from Devaney’s last. The locker room in South Stadium is now utilized for visiting teams.
The southwest tunnel also saw three national titles (1994, 1995, 1997) to the northwest’s two (1970, 1971).