SPORTSTAKE: The Devaney, really?

By Ryan Pritchard

I walked into the Coliseum and struggled to get to my seat. There was no room to walk in front of the fans who were in their seats and, when I got to mine, all I could see was a little white number painted onto the red bench. I shimmied my way into my space, what little there was, in preparation for the Husker women’s volleyball match against Penn State. As soon as I was seated, the court was invisible and all I could see was the flowing locks of another fan sitting in front of me, back pressed against my knees because there was nowhere else to go.

Ryan Pritchard/Sports Columnist

Now, this sounds miserable, but the atmosphere is unbelievable. The sound of the crowd cannot be described when the Huskers rally to a point. Even though it was impossible to see the court, all that didn’t matter because as soon as the game started, we were all on our feet screaming like a bunch of baboons because a ball hit the ground on Penn State’s side of the court.

Now, the University wants to move the volleyball team to the Devaney. What? I understand that they want more money and all of that, but why would they want to get rid of another Husker tradition? We have already moved to the Big 10, we have added 10,000 seats to Memorial Stadium and now we are moving the volleyball team? Most teams that have ever played against Nebraska in the Coliseum know what the atmosphere can do.

In high school, I played men’s volleyball, a very female-oriented sport in the Midwestern states. That being said, there was usually only about 100 people in the stands at all of our games with about 98 of those being parents for the players. That is, until we played the state game. At that game, practically our whole school, and our opponents school, showed up along with parents and players of other teams in the tournament. The gym was packed. We could barely hear each other talk on the court because of the noise, but we played our best game ever and walked away with a state championship.

The reverse is bound to happen to the Huskers when they go to the Devaney. Right now, the atmosphere is insane in the Coliseum because everybody is rubbing shoulders and cheering for the Huskers. In the Devaney, there are thousands more seats available and the way they are laid out is like a traditional stadium where the people in the nosebleeds are really far away from the action. As it is now, the people in the “nosebleeds” in the Coliseum are only about 30 yards away from the action.

Of course there is a need for expansion if the University ever wants to capitalize on the popularity of the Husker women’s volleyball team, but all they are doing is moving across the street to a place where the walls do not hold volleyball history as the red bricks of the Coliseum do. There are plans to completely revamp the seemingly non-existent student section at Devaney. This is definitely a smart idea, but when the student section is 80 yards away from the court, it does not accomplish the same goal.

When a prospective volleyball player looks at places to go for college, no doubt one thing on the front part of her mind is the Coliseum. It is a renowned and prestigious place to play volleyball and should be kept that way. Even though there would be more money involved when switching to Devaney, the tradition of the dominating presence of a Nebraska volleyball team and crowd will be lost.

So, let’s enjoy the last few games of kicking each other in the back walking to our seats because next year we can look forward to resting our feet on an empty row of wooden bleachers, watching a team not only struggling to score, but struggling to hear the crowd.

 

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