LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) — The University of Nebraska set the world record for the largest attendance at a women’s sports event at Memorial Stadium with a crowd of 92,003 Wednesday night during the Cornhuskers’ volleyball game against Omaha.
The university was aiming for the record last spring when it announced it was hosting an all-day celebration honoring a sport that’s hugely popular in this state of less than two million people.
The event began with a duel between Division II powers Nebraska-Kearney and Wayne State, followed by the Huskers’ regular-season game. Country artist Scotty McCreery was then scheduled to perform.
the previous one The attendance record was 91,648, set during a Champions League soccer match when Barcelona beat Real Madrid 5-2 at the Camp Nou stadium in 2022.
The official capacity of Memorial Stadium for football is just over 85,000 spectators, but this number was higher for this event because there was seating and standing room on the field. The square was at the north end of the stadium.
Fans in red and white began their tailgate parties outside the stadium just hours before the first serve of a show Wayne State won in three sets. The stadium was a quarter full at the start of the game and gradually filled as the Omaha and Nebraska players warmed up.
There was an overflight during the national anthem and minutes before the first serve, coach John Cook led his Huskers into the stadium for the Tunnel Walk, the football team’s longstanding tradition. Synchronized chants of “Go Big Red!” could be heard everywhere.
Conditions were near perfect: 83 degrees, clear skies and a 4 mph southerly wind at pitch level and gusting.
Although 91,648 was generally considered the record attendance for women’s sports, at least one game was unofficial The 1971 Women’s World Cup in Mexico City was reportedly attended by 110,000 people.
The American attendance record for a women’s sporting event was 90,185 at the 1999 Soccer World Cup Final between the United States and China at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California Brandi Chastain tore her shirt off after taking the decisive penalty for the US victory.
The NCAA doesn’t track attendances for all sports, but Jeff Williams, assistant director for media coordination and statistics, said an attendance of over 90,000 is by far the highest for any non-football game. A 2010 outdoors The hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor attracted more than 113,000 fans.
A message seeking comment from officials at Guinness World Records was not returned immediately.
“The women’s team here is a national contender almost every year and women’s volleyball is booming,” NCAA President Charlie Baker said in an interview with The Associated Press at the stadium, “when you put all of these things together, it’s a landmark event.” It is a great moment.”
Nebraska has sold out 306 straight games in the regular season (Wednesday’s event does not count towards the series as it is not played on the team’s Devaney Center Court). The Huskers have led the nation in attendance every season since 2013, and eight of the top nine attendances in NCAA volleyball history are games involving Nebraska.
“I just keep remembering the US soccer team playing the Rose Bowl,” Cook said. “It was a big moment for women’s sport and football has really taken off. I think this is another great opportunity for that in volleyball.”
Nebraska has won five national championships in volleyball and its program is one of the few in Division I women’s sports to make a profit — $1 million last year, according to Athletic Division CFO Doug Ewald.
“That’s a statement of Title IX, and having two daughters, it’s tremendous what Title IX has done for women’s sports,” said Omaha fan Troy Pfannenstiel ahead of the games.
Chancellor Rodney Bennett has canceled classes for the day. Big Ten Commissioner Tony Petitti was there, as was Governor Jim Pillen. So are the Husker volleyball players, who have been part of legendary coach Terry Pettit’s teams for over four decades. High school teams from a state that stretches 430 miles from one border to the other were barred from classes.
There are 75 women from the state of Nebraska who are on the Division I volleyball roster this season. According to volleyball statistician and historian Rich Kern, the state’s 44 players per million population ranks behind only Hawaii (67 per million) in Division I players produced per capita RichKern.com.
In the United States, volleyball has overtaken basketball as the premier high school team sport for girls. It has long been #1 in Nebraska.
About 7,000 girls play high school volleyball in the state. Volleyball has been played in various forms in Nebraska since the early 1900s. For many years, girls’ volleyball games were warm-ups for boys’ basketball games. Volleyball became a sanctioned sport in 1972 and experienced a resurgence in the late 1970s when Pettit invited many of the state’s high school coaches to work at his Lincoln camps.
Pettit also ran so-called “satellite” clinics in small towns across the state. In a place where boys grow up dreaming of becoming Cornhusker football players, many girls are just as passionate about one day playing volleyball for a Nebraska team that ranks among the nation’s elite every year.
Ella Beck, 10, came with a group from little Pierce to watch her first varsity volleyball game and to cheer on her favorite player, setter Lexi Rodriguez.
Neveah Kehr, 10, came from Bismarck, North Dakota with her mother, Nicki, to attend the event. Nicki graduated from Nebraska and raised her daughter by watching the Huskers on TV.
Neveah wore middle blocker Bekka Allick’s No. 5 jersey at a pre-game pep rally and, to the cheers of more than 1,000 fans, was invited to the players and introduced to the woman she called her idol.
Neveah burst into tears and Bekka hugged her.