Before tipoff, behind-the-scenes workers spend hours bringing Devaney Center to life

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Video, story and photo by Ryne Stefankiewicz, NewsNetNebraska

When Nebraska basketball moved from the NU Coliseum to the Bob Devaney Sports Center in 1976, Gary Burk made the move too.

Burk has been an usher, ticket-taker and locker room attendant for Nebraska athletics for 39 years. He is one of hundreds who make game days run smoothly. But he is one of the few who have been doing it for more than 30 years.

Dan Dilla, left, and Gary Burk have worked a combined 66 years at Nebraska athletic events.

“Our event staff mean the world to me,” said Butch Hug, associate athletic director for events and facilities. “A lot of them have given a lot of years of service to the university, and their familiarity with how we run things make game days enjoyable for everyone else.”

Burk, 77, still visits the Coliseum when he works volleyball games. He also works soccer, baseball and indoor track.

Burk’s friend and coworker Dan Dilla has been working Nebraska athletic events for 27 years.

“I enjoy Nebraska sports in general,” Dilla said. “It’s great to be around the great players we’ve had. The fans are great, too.”

The two men are more than event staff workers — they’re fans. Dilla, 82, has gone to nearly every bowl game in the past 40 years with his wife. Burk also has trekked to numerous bowls in the past four decades.

Dilla enjoys bowl games because he spends his fall Saturdays at Memorial Stadium working.

“For football, I get there five hours before kickoff to check the staff in,” said Dilla, who officiated high school and small college football and basketball games for 40 years. “I get to know the people and they make it worth it.”

Unlike Dilla, Burk doesn’t work football games. He has season tickets. The section 18 tickets have been in his family since 1962, when Bob Devaney became Nebraska’s head coach.

“I enjoy going to football games,” Burk said. “My dad bought tickets when Coach Bob Devaney came in ’62. He bought two that year, then two the next year, so I have four now.”

As much as Burk and Dilla love football, they love getting to know the players and coaches more.

“Quite often we get to know the athletes,” Dilla said. “We get to see them coming and going and talk to them from time to time. My favorite player was Eric Crouch. He was the most rounded player, who could do just about anything.”

Burk enjoyed watching Bobby Reynolds, who was an All-American halfback in 1950, and Johnny Rodgers.

“Those two were great athletes and fun to watch,” Burk said.

Burk saw Nebraska leave the NU Coliseum in 1976, and he’ll be around to watch it leave the Devaney Center, too, when Husker basketball moves to Pinnacle Bank Arena in 2013. Arenas, athletes and coaches have come and gone, but Burk and Dilla have remained. They don’t plan on stopping anytime soon, either.

“We’ll be here,” they said, “as long as the good Lord lets us.”