To talk to Matt Davidson is to hear a chorus.
Cell phones pinging, email notifications dinging, and the sounds of a busy office provided the backdrop as Nebraska’s associate athletic director for event management talked about getting ready to put on a football game for several thousand fans for the first time since 2019.
“Part of our enjoyment is all the work that we put in behind the scenes to host these events so we can have fans. So it feels a little bit better when gameday rolls around and we start seeing the fruits of our labor, so to speak,” Davidson said.
“So this last season was just odd. In a lot of respects we put in just as much work to put on these home events with very limited, player pass list-only type situations, and it was just awkward.”
Saturday’s Red-White Spring Game won’t mark a full return to normal, of course, but with more than 30,000 fans expected to attend, it’s a big step toward having a full Memorial Stadium come fall.
Davidson and his staff, which oversees everything from security to concessions to medical personnel to a litany of other areas on Husker gamedays, are more than ready to take that step.
“We’ve got a lot of individuals who don’t do very good just sitting,” Davidson said, noting that NU is hosting the Big Ten men’s tennis tournament this weekend as well as home series for baseball and softball to go along with the football game. “We’re busting at the seams, which is how we like it.”
The gem of course is the spring game, Nebraska’s first in more than two years, and the first event in Memorial Stadium with more than a few dozen in attendance since Nov. 29, 2019.
It comes a couple weeks after the Huskers held an open practice that saw a few thousand attend. Even that was enough to get the juices flowing for some.
“That practice where we had the fans was great. It was amazing to me to see the energy the guys had just from a few thousand people up in the stands yelling and chanting. We’ve been missing that,” NU coach Scott Frost said this week. “I know we won’t be full on Saturday, but it’s going to be great to have some people back in there again and the home field advantage we get at Memorial Stadium is significant when we have people there, so it’s great to see the start of that.”
While the majority of the eyes will be focused on what happens on the field, Davidson and his team will take care of all the things that happen behind the scenes to pull off a successful game day.
“We’ve been meeting for the spring game specifically for probably over three months,” Davidson said. “Just to batten down the hatches and turn over every stone and make sure we’ve got everything covered.”
Normally, that would involve more than 3,000 workers. Last year, that number was far smaller as the NU event staff, with several staffers furloughed, operated with a skeleton crew.
As only family members of players and coaches could attend in 2020, there was still a need to get the games off without a hitch. That led to plenty of silver linings in a rough season, Davidson said.
“It’s been a year like none other, obviously. I would say we built better bridges. We’ve forged stronger relationships across different departments, within athletics, even. Relationships that have always existed, but we’ve had to work a lot closer together,” Davidson said. “So the uniqueness kind of filled the void a little bit for what was otherwise an awkward year.”
Just like senior tight end Austin Allen, who said who won’t experience much in the way of nerves when Saturday arrives, Davidson he and his staff will be ready to go when the Memorial Stadium gates open.
“It’s just like picking up that golf club, that favorite iron that you like to hit, and you always know you can pick it up and hit it well,” Davidson said. “So we are firing on all cylinders, and and we’re just excited. This is standard operating procedure as we see it.”
Check out these updated renderings of Nebraska’s new football facility
New facility lobby
New facility weight room
New facility athlete entry
New facility practice field
New facility lobby
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.