By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc, CSCS, SDL (He/Him)
92,003 fans filled up Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska on Wednesday, August 29th to watch the Nebraska Huskers, five-time NCAA champions women’s volleyball team take on their rivals, the Omaha Mavericks in what was dubbed “Volleyball Day in Nebraska.”
The stadium itself was washed in red with fans adorning the official Husker colors who cheered wildly at the announcement of the world record during a break following the first two sets, won by the Huskers of course. The previous record, 91,648 was set on April 22nd, 2022, during a Champions League match between FC Barcelona and Wolfsburg. To break it was the culmination of months of planning for the Huskers’ program and among being in a state known for its loyal and enthusiastic college sport fans.
“It’s incredible. I don’t have enough words to describe it,” Nebraska middle blocker Andi Jackson said to ESPN. “We were walking out of the tunnel after the second set, and we heard on the speaker we had just broken the world record. Everyone was trying to stay locked in, but we were also so excited. I can’t describe how grateful I am to be a part of it.”
Coming off the heels of the biggest and most successful Women’s World Cup, which generated a record setting $AU900 million in revenue with more than two million tickets sold. According to FIFA president Gianna Infantino, the 2023 World Cup is the second “highest income generated” from any global sporting event, coming in only behind the 2022 Men’s World Cup held last year in Qatar.
The previous attendance record set for a women’s sports event was in 1999 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California during the final match of the Women’s World Cup when Team USA went up against China. That game served as a pivotal moment for women’s sport in the USA when Team USA beat China via penalty kick from player, Brandi Chastain.
“I remember that like it was yesterday,” Nebraska coach John Cook said of that World Cup match. “It was so impactful seeing those women compete and their celebration afterward. It made a mark on women’s sports in this country. They showed what could be done.”
That game in itself inspired generations of girls and women to be more involved in sports and encouraged more inclusion of women and girls in sport programs from the youth level up to college level, even Olympic and professional sports which have grown immensely since then. With events like this showing how supportive and involved fans could be, it is highlighting the potential of women’s sports to further invest and develop.
“There’s a great business case and strategy around women’s athletics long term that maybe college athletics hasn’t embraced,” Nebraska athletic director and former Huskers football star Trev Alberts said. “And we think here in Nebraska, long before I became the athletic director, we’ve significantly invested in women’s athletics, and you’re seeing the result of that by seeing the success of the volleyball program and the fan base surrounding it.”