Into the Tunnel: The Osborne Years (1994 to 1997)

Eric Francis

The Tunnel Walk is an honored tradition at Nebraska that got its start in 1994.

Editor's Note: This is part ONE of a four part mini-series put together by one of your fellow community members, kungfusquirrel (@kungfusquirrel). Please enjoy!

This Saturday, the 2013 Cornhuskers will take the field in their season opener against Wyoming. Before they do, they'll walk in the footsteps of decades of Nebraska tradition as they wind through the "tunnel" under the stadium before emerging to the largest crowd ever in Memorial Stadium's long and storied history.

Since 1994, Nebraska has made that entrance by way of the "Tunnel Walk," in which the Huskers enter Memorial Stadium to the Alan Parsons Project's "Sirius." This was a lucky convergence of technological advancement and high quality football – in a world where the 1994 Huskers laid an egg, or adequate video technology wasn't invented until 2004, we might only speak of the Tunnel Walk in the way we talk of white pants on the road or the 2002 uniform stripe which, as unfortunate luck would have it, also featured white pants on the road.

The 2013 Tunnel Walk will be the 20th edition, making this as good a time as any to look back at the history and evolution of the series. Which year's offering is the best? Which is the worst? Can a good Tunnel Walk help the team win games? Did Steve Pederson ruin this tradition, too? What completely meaningless patterns and trends can be found over the last 19 years? How desperate have I been driven by the offseason that I find it perfectly normal to write this many words on this topic? Let's find out!

1994

  • Debut: Sept. 17, 1994 (UCLA)
  • Record: 6-0

Nebraska introduced the Tunnel Walk video September 17th, 1994, as Nebraska played host to the UCLA Bruins. Off-season renovations added twin video screens in the northwest and southeast corners of Memorial Stadium, and some smart person somewhere said, "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if we could use the magic of technology to actually watch the team enter the field?" Someone else probably said, "Hey, those Chicago Bulls, they use this totally sweet song for their intros and they win all the championships, too!" So began a tradition that would become, at times, one of the best in college football.

Sadly, no good video of the 1994 Tunnel Walk appears to exist on the internet. But even without video reference, the `94 edition gets an automatic A for starting the tradition and revving the crowd for Nebraska's first national championship season since 1971.

Grade: A

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1995

1995 Huskers tunnel walk (via mrdonigan)

  • Debut: Sept. 16, 1995 (Arizona State)
  • Record: 7-0

The 1995 Tunnel Walk marks the debut of 3D graphics to the Tunnel Walk, and pretty solid graphics by 1995 standards. After igniting the crowd with the opening tone and signature white flashes, the camera pans up past the west stadium's historic "In the deed the glory" inscription and over the field as the Sears Trophy bursts from the 50 yard line. "1994 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS" appears over the trophy before a series of "The More You Know"-esque stars reveal the players exiting the tunnel. There's an elegance in its simplicity – the `95 team said all that needed to be said on the field.

Notes:
  • This Tunnel Walk marks the first appearance of the Sears Trophy, which will appear in 10 of 19 intros.
Grade: A

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1996

Nebraska Cornhuskers 1996 tunnel walk (via Mike Kelly)

  • Debut: Sept. 7, 1996 (Michigan State)
  • Record: 6-0

1996 opens as the camera descends through the clouds and over the north stadium scoreboard and its freshly updated championship tally. We zoom across the field as "DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPS" rises from the turf in somewhat less destructive fashion than last year. Both Sears trophies land behind "CHAMPS" and the camera pushes between the trophies and into the stadium itself, gliding over the red brick path and revealing the team as the locker room doors open.

Technically speaking, the camera work and composition is solid, but the 3D text comes up just short – an apt metaphor for Nebraska's 1996 season.

Notes:
  • This is the first time the camera flies into the tunnel, a sequence that will be used in almost every subsequent Tunnel Walk.
  • Despite a third straight undefeated season at home, the 1996 Tunnel Walk is the first to fail to bring home a national championship.
Grade: B+

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1997

1997 Huskers Tunnel Walk (via mrdonigan)

  • Debut: Aug. 30, 1997 (Akron)
  • Record: 6-0

For the third straight year, the Tunnel Walk opens with the rotating white flashes, then reveals Memorial Stadium against the backdrop of a deep red sky, which we'll read as symbolic of the sunset of a legendary coaching career. As the camera rises past the press box, it glides past a series of floating TV screens over the field, each displaying footage highlighting Nebraska football's rich history. After circling the field, the camera pushes into the video screen itself (the first ever Tunnel Walkception), where we wind through the tunnel and reveal the team.

1997's focus on nostalgia was the perfect choice for what would be Coach Osborne's final season, but lacks some of the energy and pacing of better versions. The highlights are a great addition, but get so little screen time that it's difficult to focus on them or inspire any crowd reaction. A good entry, no doubt, but we'll see better versions of the same ideas in the future.

Notes:
  • This year's entry is the first to (slightly) vary weekly, displaying both the visiting team's helmet and the current sellout streak on the CG HuskerVision screen.
  • Tom Osborne would end his 25-year coaching career with a perfect 25-0 Tunnel Walk record.
Grade: B
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