LINCOLN, Neb. — "There is no place like Nebraska,” rings the first line of Dear Old Nebraska U., the Cornhusker alma mater. Ain’t it the truth?
Generations of players, coaches and fans have learned what will be on display tonight at Memorial Stadium, where the Huskers host Oklahoma. Class. Hospitality. Courtesy to all. "Every Cajun fan felt like a guest,” Louisiana-Lafayette radio announcer Jay Walker blogged after the ULL-Nebraska game in September. "That’s right. A guest. Not the opposition...not the enemy...a guest.” From the welcomes at the airport to the friendliness at hotels and restaurants, from the lack of boos when opposing players take the field to the fan-formed paths they journey to exiting applause, Nebraska is different from any place in college football. "People take pride in how we treat other people,” said Bob Knowles, past president of the Nebraska Touchdown Club. "The culture and values here, you look out for your neighbor. You treat people the way you’d want to be treated.” Oklahoma’s Barry Switzer era experienced such hospitality. "Pretty classy at the stadium, at the hotel, wherever you encounter them,” said Merv Johnson, OU’s assistant head coach from 1979-94 and now the Sooner radio analyst. Johnson recalled the 1986 OU-NU game, when the Sooners won 20-17 with a stirring rally. "They were totally stunned,” Johnson said of the Husker fans. "They stayed in the stands. But still, they were complimentary and kind. Nobody said anything about being lucky.” The Bob Stoops era is no different. "The more you play up there, the more you understand they appreciate good football,” said Stoops, who has been coming to Lincoln for 20 years with either Kansas State or OU. "Even 2005, when we won, there were people applauding you. That’s their culture. That’s how they do things. It’s pretty neat.” Stoops is right. Class indeed is part of the Nebraska culture. "It’s something we’re very proud of,” said Randy York, director of husker.com. "It’s not perfection, but it is sincere and it is overwhelming.” Why can’t everywhere be like Lincoln? Well, hard to put the knucklehead back in the bottle. Make no mistake, Nebraska has its share of goobers. But its fans seem to self-police.