It’s game day in Lincoln on Oct. 5, 2019, and nearly 90,000 fans fill Memorial Stadium for the homecoming game against Northwestern. As the Cornhusker Marching Band makes its way back to the stands after the halftime performance, 20 nervous seniors await the announcement of this year’s homecoming royalty. The stadium erupts in cheers as the next king and queen are crowned for their accomplishments.
This year’s homecoming royalty finalists won’t get to hear the cheers of 90,000 people or the opportunity to engage with their fellow classmates in a week of homecoming events. Nevertheless, this year’s class will continue to represent the diverse students of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Marketing major and royalty nominee Brennan Splichal said he is proud to not only be a Husker, but to represent students who don’t normally get to be in the spotlight.
“As a four-year commuter student, a first-generation student and a gay student, I think it’s really important that the student body gets to see somebody like me not only have positions, but excel spearheaded positions of importance and prominence on campus,” Splichal said.
Students can apply for homecoming royalty in the spring of their junior year in three different categories: involvement, academics or sports. Splichal chose to apply in the involvement category for his wide variety of activities both on and off campus.
The application process includes three essays, recommendation letters and an interview. The applications are divided by king and queen candidates to go through a panel of judges to be individually reviewed and scored. The panels are made up of four judges: two UNL administrative employees, one outgoing ASUN executive member and the previous king and queen.
The applicants that score in the top group are passed on to the interview portion. Like the essays and recommendation letters, the interviews are scored similarly to determine the top 10 candidates for each position.
If he’s crowned king, Splichal said it would go to show how his personal experiences in diverse communities and the connections he’s formed has impacted him and made him the person he is today.
“I’ve taken a little piece of them, but more importantly, I’ve taken a little piece of each person within those communities,” Splichal said.
Management major Luke Bogus from Columbus struggled when he began his college career with a computer science minor and little technical knowledge. After graduating this spring, he plans to move to Seattle to work full-time at Microsoft, but it wasn’t easy getting there.
“Coming into school, I hadn’t written a line of code in my life,” Bogus said. “The first couple semesters were super rough from the perspective of I had no idea what I was doing. I was super confused. I was kind of frustrated, and I didn’t know what’s going on.”
Bogus said he relied on his friends to push him along and peers from the Jeffrey S. Raikes School of Computer Science and Management to help him succeed in his classes. With the accomplishment as a homecoming finalist, Bogus bids his achievement to those he encountered through college.
“I’m not who I am today if it wasn’t for the groups that I’m in and the people that mentored me,” Bogus said. “I think it’s very much an accomplishment that recognizes the tons of people that have poured their time into mentoring me and making me better as a person.”
After taking part in a variety of clubs, joining Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and playing in the Cornhusker Marching Band’s drumline, Bogus chose to apply for this year’s homecoming royalty through the involvement category.
Bogus said the inspiration for his essays, specifically the school spirit essay, came from the notion of giving back to the students and the community. He’s impressed with not only the alumni network that UNL holds, but also the upperclassmen mentors who guided him throughout college.
“I think it’s a really cool part of school spirit that you’re a Husker for life; you’re not just a Husker for the four years that you’re on campus,” Bogus said. “That was definitely kind of one of the motivating factors for me to want to apply for homecoming court as to represent the university and represent these mass alumni networks that have so much school spirit for what we do here.”
Bogus said he recalls attending football games with his dad since middle school and watching the homecoming royalty during halftime represent the university’s senior class.
“I was always blown away by what they were involved in and the impact they made on campus and the student section, cheering for the people that they knew,” Bogus said. “Even from a young age, I was always just kind of mesmerized by the homecoming court.”
After receiving notice that he was selected as one of the homecoming finalists, Bogus said he was grateful to have the opportunity to represent Nebraska and those he has looked up to. He also said he’s been given another opportunity to meet students who are dedicated to their education and extracurricular activities.
Although it might not look like the candidates expected, Bogus said the university still wants to give this group of seniors a special recognition. Like previous years, this year’s finalists will have a luncheon with Chancellor Ronnie Green. They were also able to visit Memorial Stadium to videotape their walk onto the field and waves to the virtual crowd.
“The university is trying really hard to make it a memorable experience, and it’s been fun to meet other people while still experiencing homecoming week, even if it’s mostly virtual,” Bogus said.
Criminology and criminal justice major Emma Mantel also looked up to the homecoming candidates. Being an out-of-state student from Kansas, Mantel said the candidates were the first group of people who stood out to her as succeeding academically and being immensely involved.
“I thought it was a great way to represent that diverse group of students that are all working hard,” Mantel said. “We’re kind of a representation of the best things about Nebraska, and I really am honored to be part of that.”
As she sat on her couch this summer late at night, she opened an email that announced her finalist position for homecoming royalty.
“I had to reread it a couple of times because I was like, no way, no way. I just was shocked but honored at the same time. I felt really proud to be chosen to represent the university, and I still do. I’m just as grateful as I was the first time I read the email,” Mantel said.
Unlike Splichal and Bogus, Mantel didn’t always have her heart set on UNL. After her first tour of campus, she said she really didn’t like it and was set to attend college elsewhere.
“I know I didn’t want to stay in-state for college just because I wanted to push myself to branch out and meet new people and just kind of see what else is out there,” Mantel said.
She eventually returned to campus a second time, and said she fell in love with the downtown campus and the program for her major.
After beginning college, she has continued to join many diverse clubs and embark on different opportunities. Her advice for college freshmen is to get involved, even if it’s the advice everyone might give.
“I would not be who I am today if I had not put myself out there and joined clubs and groups and organizations without knowing a single person … You have to put yourself out there, because if you want to glide by, you can glide by here,” Mantel said. “But if you want to get the most out of it, you have to put yourself out there, you have to get involved. You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone because it’s going to do awesome things for you, and it’s going to open up more doors than you ever even know are out there.”