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There is no place like Nebraska on a football game day, but some alumni have found a close alternative. Across the country, more than 130 watch sites have been organized by previous graduates and friends of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Director of Alumni Outreach  Maria Muhlbach said there are more than 60 alumni chapters around the country. Each chapter is developed by alumni interest in various geographical areas. These chapters are then guided with help of the Alumni Association.

To join these groups, members aren’t required to be UNL alumni and can simply get connected by supporting the university. Members can choose to pay fees annually or become a lifetime member through a one-time payment.

Through the alumni chapters and unaffiliated groups, watch sites have popped up across the country to connect Husker fans and bring new friends together.

Nashville Huskers

The Nashville Huskers were founded in 2009 and currently have over a hundred members. Tim DeBuse, the current chapter president, said they’ve had over 200 people attend their watch parties. 

DeBuse said for the past seven years, the Nashville Huskers have gathered at Tin Roof 2, a rustic shack bar in Franklin, Tennessee. DeBuse said this pub plays the Husker game on every television and opens their doors early for 11 a.m. gamedays.

DeBuse grew up around Millard, attending Husker games and listening on the radio. After graduating with his Master’s in architecture in 1989, he continued to cheer on the Huskers with the same pride as when he was a student.

“It just brings back such great memories of being around people who are cheering for the Huskers and watching them,” DeBuse said.

Tin Roof 2 accommodates the Husker fans with special drink offers such as Red Beer and Elk Creek Water, a Lincoln-bar special. Although it’s not exactly like Memorial Stadium, DeBuse said they blast the Nebraska Fight Song after every touchdown as the fans cheer along. 

Finding the perfect bar for games didn’t come easily for the Nashville Huskers. DeBuse said they bounced around for quite some time, struggling to find a permanent home.

“It was hard to find a place that would understand that if we told Nebraska fans where to go, that we would fill it,” DeBuse said. 

The watch parties are open to everyone, but a membership option is also available for $25 a year. DeBuse said members receive a new Nashville Husker shirt each year, along with a members-only raffle ticket for various Husker prizes.

Each watch party also sells additional raffle tickets to help raise money for the general scholarships fund by the University of Nebraska Foundation. DeBuse said the Nashville Huskers typically give around $2,000 to $3,000 each year.

In addition to opening their arms to all Husker fans, DeBuse said they’ve joined with opposing teams for a good watch party rivalry. This year, Oklahoma alumni and fans were invited to join in the festivities. 

“They were super nice,” DeBuse said. “We had a good time, and it was just really fun to meet people from other places and see other fan bases.”

Win or lose, the Nashville Huskers will be cheering on the Huskers no matter what they may be facing. DeBuse said part of being a Husker is staying loyal to the team.

“True to the fight song, we all stick together in all kinds of weather, and we’ve certainly had all kinds of weather here in the last four years,” DeBuse said.

San Diego Huskers

On the other side of the country, the San Diego Huskers can be found cheering on the Big Red at two different watch sites. Chapter President Randy De George from Omaha isn’t a UNL alumnus himself, but has been a lifetime member of the Alumni Association for some time. 

The San Diego Huskers have been at The Duck Dive for a while, and Huskers never fail to fill the bar. De George estimates over 75% of the bar is cheering on Nebraska. He said The Duck Dive has even gone above and beyond to sell specialty items such as their own version of a Runza sandwich. 

Each time the Huskers get a touchdown, De George said the bar is filled with claps, cheers and the Cornhusker fight song.

“Watch sites are great because we get to enjoy people from Nebraska watching with us,” De George said. “If they like having a good time with other people from Nebraska and cheer on the Huskers win or lose, they get to make new friends.” 

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the regulations have recently been updated at The Duck Dive. In addition to masks, De George said reservations are required for the tables in durations of an hour and 45 minutes. However, guests are welcomed to continue watching the game by standing in the area.

The chapter also introduced a second location this year at the East Village Tavern+Bowl, which typically has around 30 fans each game.

Alumni and friends of UNL can choose different lengths of memberships that include discounts on food and drinks at the bar. 

De George said they also send weekly newsletters updating members on raffle prizes, watch site information and other social aspects such as member updates and leadership opportunities. Each game also includes raffles including prizes such as an autographed Husker football, with the donations benefiting the scholarship fund.

Austin Husker Bar

In the south, an unofficial watch group called Austin Husker Bar has been meeting for the past few years in Austin. Lincoln native and UNL graduate Erik Person said he knew a few other alumni who lived close to downtown Austin who were looking to create their own small watch group. The group isn’t an official chapter with the Alumni Association yet, but Person says that he is hoping to join the Capital of Texas Nebraskans soon.

Last year, the group began working with Shiner’s Saloon to accommodate around 20 to 60 fans. Person said Shiner’s Saloon put up Husker flags and rings a bell behind the bar each touchdown. Throughout the game, the group finds fun ways to engage the group.

“Every halftime we like to do a tippy cup tournament just to get everyone really excited and ready for the second half,” Person said.

Person said his favorite part is seeing and meeting new people each time. He said they have been trying their best to spread the message about the watch site.

“It gets harder and harder every year, as you get older, to make friends, so finding ways to stay in touch with new people is really great,” Person said.

In addition to football, the Austin Husker Bar group has also gathered to watch a few volleyball and basketball games.

No matter if the Huskers are winning, Person said he just enjoys the opportunity to get together with new and old friends.

“We can find joy in it even when we’re losing,” Person said. “I think now that we’ve all kind of gotten it out of our day-to-day system, it’s a lot easier to handle when things don’t go so well. We can still have fun and enjoy our time with friends.”

Gateway Huskers

Down in St. Louis, the Gateway Huskers met for over 30 years before becoming an official chapter within the Alumni Association about eight years ago, according to Kevin Brockman, president of Gateway Huskers and UNL alumnus.

Brockman said there are about 250 alumni, friends and fans on their mailing list. The group meets at Johnny’s West Sports Bar and Grill, which is filled with about 15 televisions tuned to the Husker game, complete with a cowbell for touchdowns and a member walking around with a bluetooth speaker blaring the fight songs on a gameday.

Brockman said the chapter sometimes travels in groups to Illinois when Nebraska faces them to cheer on the Huskers in person. Otherwise, they can be found in Johnny’s inviting anyone and everyone into their own sea of red.

“We share stories, we talk about hometowns and we talk about families that are still back in Nebraska,” Brockman said. “Occasionally, you’ll hear some stories about what it was like when I went to school at Nebraska and all that, but it’s just a general support of the university.” 

One of Brockman’s favorite parts is finding out how many people he has mutual friends with within the group. Brockman said the manager has become a good friend of the group and is currently discussing a new menu with Husker food specialty items.

“There’s a lot of pride in the university,” Brockman said. “It’s where I went to school, I had my four years there and a lot of friends there. It’s part of the culture we grew up in.”

Coloradans for Nebraska

To the west of Husker nation is the growing Coloradans for Nebraska with multiple watch sites. Daniel Spencer, president of the Coloradans for Nebraska, said each location has a different board member working the watch sites, but he personally attends at Reeds Southside Tavern in Lone Tree, Colorado. 

Spencer said for every watch site, there are raffles and auctions. The chapter also provides eight local seniors a $2,000 scholarship to attend UNL. 

At each event, Spencer said that new people are always becoming members and meeting new people from their own hometowns.

“It’s just good to be around Nebraska people, and people who have things in common with you,” Spencer said

The most popular location is Old Chicago in Colorado Springs that hosts around 150 fans at a time.

“All those watch sites, you have to get there early, or you don’t get a seat. That’s how crazy it is,” Spencer said. “All of the watch sites play our game on all of their TVs, so there isn’t a bad seat in the house.”

culture@dailynebraskan.com