In the world of sports, some sports are more popular than others, generating more headlines and fan interest. In the United States, football is king, while sports like basketball and baseball also have solid fan bases.
The same is true at Nebraska, where football garners the most attention and has the largest following, though volleyball isn’t far behind.
One way to measure the size of a fanbase is through its social media following. Husker football has the most Twitter followers of any sport with more than 250,000, and volleyball ranks second with over 120,000 Twitter followers. In terms of Twitter followers, men’s basketball ranks third, followed by baseball. Those four programs are the only ones with at least 75,000 followers. Husker wrestling and softball each have more than 23,000 followers, while women’s basketball has more than 19,000 followers. After that, it’s a steep dropoff.
The women’s gymnastics and track and field teams both have over 7,000 followers, while none of the remaining programs have a social media following of more than 4,000.
Twitter is just one social media site, and the number of followers on one platform doesn’t tell the full story of the fandom. For example, NU women’s gymnastics has more followers on Instagram than NU women’s basketball.
However, the number of Twitter followers does help illustrate a larger trend, one that isn’t unique to Nebraska. Outside of the major sports, there isn’t nearly as much coverage or as large of a following for sports like tennis, golf or gymnastics.
Check the sports page for any news outlet nationally or locally, and the majority of stories will pertain to a sport like football, basketball or baseball.
There’s nothing wrong with a lot of football or basketball coverage, and it’s perfectly fine for those sports to have large fan bases. However, the sports world is more than just the three or four most popular sports. They all matter, and there are quality athletes in every sport.
For proof, look no further than Nebraska Athletics. Outside of Husker volleyball, the next most successful program in the past 20 years has easily been the bowling team. In each season that bowling has been an NCAA-sanctioned sport, exactly one team has made the NCAA Tournament. Take a wild guess as to which program holds that distinction (Hint: It’s Nebraska).
In that time, the Huskers have five national titles, the most recent of which came in 2015. They also reached the championship match each season from 2013-17.
NU is in good shape to qualify again this year in its first season under new head coach Paul Klempa, with four wins and a runner-up finish in eight tournaments so far.
Nebraska women’s gymnastics is another successful program. The Huskers have 25 conference championships and 26 NCAA Championships appearances. As a team, they reached the Super Six 12 times under the previous postseason format and reached the Super Regionals last year in the first season of the new format.
NU’s best showing as a team at the NCAA Championships was a fourth-place finish in 2011. Individually, a Husker has won an NCAA Championship five times.
It’s not just a handful of teams, either. Husker wrestling has 11 individual NCAA champions and has recorded a top-10 team finish at the NCAA Championships 23 times. Nebraska men’s gymnastics has eight team national titles and 42 individual championships.
The track and field program has three national championships and 79 individual titles. Husker soccer has 12 NCAA Tournament appearances with eight Sweet 16 berths and two Elite Eight appearances. Nebraska rifle has three individual NCAA champions, most recently Rachel Martin in 2015 for smallbore. Martin is now the current head coach.
Nebraska football, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball will likely continue to have large followings as long as those sports remain popular nationally. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to remember Nebraska Athletics is more than just a few sports.
They might not get a lot of headlines, but there’s a lot of quality at Nebraska in the form of sports with less popularity. Don’t be someone who only follows a couple of Nebraska sports teams. People who do so are missing out on other successful programs.