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Into the Tunnel: The Solich Years (1998 to 2003)

Frank Solich took the helm in 1998. We know what happened to Solich - what happened to the Tunnel Walk?

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



1998 Huskers tunnel walk (via mrdonigan)

Debut: Aug. 29, 1998 (Louisiana Tech)

Record: 6-1

For the first time in 25 years, a new head coach led Nebraska onto the field. Frank Solich took over from Tom Osborne, and had one hell of an act to follow. His first Tunnel Walk lives up to that hype.

We enter the south stadium from the interior, facing north as the `94 and `95 Sears Trophies rocket overhead, then pull up over the stadium, cutting their "engines" high above the clouds. One falls behind the press box, the other behind the east stands, then the sky goes dark as blinding beam of light shoots from each crystal football, merging in a glowing vortex over midfield. From the maelstrom emerges the 1997 Sears trophy, which fires another beam of light that scorches "TOM OSBORNE FIELD" onto the sideline. The beam ricochets through the tunnel, over a fresh "1997 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS" plaque, and etches "DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPIONS" before the door bursts open with a blinding glow to reveal the 1998 team.

Other than the introduction of flying trophies, the most notable introduction in 1998 is that of production value. This was a noticeable quality jump over the first 4 entries - while some of the particle effects are weak by today's standards, the reveal of the third trophy showed the type of creative vision, polish, and detail you should expect from a big time production for a big time football team. Let me emphasize that again, because it will come up again. A big time production for big time football.

  • Nebraska's Halloween loss to Texas marks the Tunnel Walk's first loss, breaking a 47-game home winning streak dating to 1991 and a 30-game win streak since the Tunnel Walk's inception in 1994.
  • In addition to displaying "Tom Osborne Field," this edition also highlights the newly-installed permanent lights over the east stadium.
Grade: A



Nebraska Cornhuskers 1999 tunnel walk (via Mike Kelly)

  • Debut: Sept. 11, 1999 (California)
  • Record: 6-0

1999 opens in space as a strangely-formed craft made up of the 94, 95, and 97 Sears Trophies approaches Earth. After descending through the clouds to Memorial Stadium, we see the new west stadium facade and press box rise over the stadium, then the camera zips around the State Capitol where the Golden Sower makes the Desmond Howard Heisman pose. From the capitol, the camera swoops in from the east over the Husker Legacy statue (featuring a "BEAT [OPPONENT]" banner customized for each game), then the USS Awkward Trophy Ship flies overhead and lands on the 50 yard line. The camera enters the tunnel, with the team being revealed behind the "1999 HUSKERS" door.

While the rising press box is a nice nod to the stadium's renovation, the rest of the Tunnel Walk falls a bit flat. The flying trophies seem to exist solely because "Hey, remember that cool thing we did last year?" and what potential they had was destroyed by gluing them together into a weird looking box. The Sower's Heisman pose saves this installment from a lower grade.

  • This is the Golden Sower's debut appearance; he will become a recurring Tunnel Walk character over the next few years.
Grade: B



2000 tunnel walk (via Nate Gibilisco)

  • Debut: Sept. 2, 2000 (San Jose State)
  • Record: 6-0

The 2000 Tunnel Walk marks a stylistic departure from previous years, beginning with a 2D Lincoln skyline silhouetted by Nebraska's five national championship trophies – the 1970-71 Grantland Rice and 1994-95 and 1997 Sears Trophies. We pan across each trophy, projecting a historic highlight from that season over the plaque. After playing the highlight for 1997, the camera pans to the Golden Sower, making his second consecutive Heisman pose. This time, he fires a giant football towards the stadium, where it destroys the visiting team's helmet in a hilarious fireball. We enter the stadium and tunnel, revealing the "2000 HUSKERS" door. The entire south stadium is detonated in another hilarious explosion and we fade to Coach Solich leading the Huskers to the field.

Where 1997's highlight clips were too short, the 2000 video sticks with each highlight long enough to generate proper crowd reactions – this is important! These clips are among the loudest crowd reactions during any given Tunnel Walk. This is the history we've lived as Nebraskans, or learned about from our parents and/or grandparents. Any opportunity to see these moments, relive them, and share them with (at the time) 76,000+ friends is priceless.

The Golden Sower's pass is pure cheese, as is the exploding helmet, but it manages to be a fun cheese. This all combines into another solid intro, but fails to elevate itself any further.

  • The 2000 Tunnel Walk is the first to marry video and audio for the classic highlights.
  • This is the first appearance of pyrotechnics used to destroy opposing helmets and those pesky doors to the locker room.
Grade: B



Nebraska Football Tunnel Walk 2001 - ND Game (via HuskerGlory)

  • Debut: Aug. 20th, 2001 (TCU)
  • Record: 8-0

Where the first Tunnel Walks focused on Memorial Stadium, the 2001 Tunnel Walk represents the entire state of Nebraska and is the most complex Tunnel Walk to date. After the signature opening flash, the camera zips through a corn field where a pair of red combines have harvested "THIS IS NEBRASKA" into the corn. We circle Chimney Rock, where "GO BIG RED" has been carved into its base (don't try this at home, kids). Even the hideous Great Platte River Road Archway gets screen time, where a large "BEAT [OPPOSING TEAM]" banner waves over a wall of red vehicles making the pilgrimage east towards Lincoln. Even a flock of sandhill cranes gets in on the action, forming into an N overhead.

We then miss our exit for Lincoln and enter Omaha, where a large Blackshirts flag flies atop the Henry Doorly Zoo. Finally, we zip back west to Lincoln and arrive over the Capitol, dropping from the clouds to see the Golden Sower raise the roof in his third consecutive Tunnel Walk appearance. The camera flies over the east stadium and focuses on the west skyboxes. The visiting team's helmet sits atop the skyboxes as the national championship trophies start to fall, looking up nervously as the 1997 Sears trophy smashes it in explosive fashion. We then enter the tunnel and reveal the team behind the "2001 HUSKERS" door.

This particular Tunnel Walk is a love letter to the state of Nebraska, but by showing so much, it also has a hard time sustaining its energy. This intro runs a solid 1:12 before the team even appears, continuing a trend of longer videos. For comparison, 1995 and 1996 ran in the neighborhood of 30 seconds. 1997 clocks in at 40, 1998-99 get the job done in 50, and 2000 comes in at just about 60 seconds.

On a personal note, I had the incredible fortune to join the Cornhusker Marching Band as a member of the Nebraska Drumline for the 2001 season, and from 01-03 was always a member of the on-field Tunnel Walk contingent. No experience will ever compare to it, especially not in a season where the Huskers played host to Notre Dame and Oklahoma – and especially not in a season that also featured the most emotional single Tunnel Walk in Nebraska's history.

2001 Alternate

Nebraska Tunnel Walk 9-11 (via TheBlackshirt)

  • Debut: Sept 20th, 2001 (Rice)

As a result of the 9/11 attacks, Nebraska's game vs. Rice was rescheduled from Saturday, September 15to Thursday, September 20. An updated Tunnel Walk ran before the game, replacing the "BEAT [OPPOSING TEAM]" banner on the I-80 arch with "UNITED WE STAND" and swapping the Blackshirts flag atop the Henry Doorly Zoo's Desert Dome for a United States flag at half-mast. Additionally, the update removed the visiting team's helmet and all pyrotechnics from the video, a change that would stick for the rest of the season.

As part of the ceremony honoring 9/11 victims, both teams entered the field during a moment of silence – instead of the team waiting behind the "2001 HUSKERS" door, fans were greeted by a military color guard followed by a firefighter and 5 police/state patrol officers.

While this version was without question a top-notch tribute, in the effort to review the entire series I do have to criticize keeping the "raising the roof" Golden Sower animation. With other changes already requiring the video to be re-rendered, it would have been worth the time and effort to revisit this animation and replace it with something more tonally appropriate.

  • The 9/11 tribute for the Rice game marks the first mid-season introduction of an alternate Tunnel Walk.
  • Nebraska's thrilling victory over Oklahoma on Oct. 27 would mark the Tunnel Walk's 50th victory.
Grade: B+



Nebraska Tunnel Walk 2012 (via CornhuskersFootball)

  • Debut: Aug. 24th, 2002 (Arizona State)
  • Record: 6-2

2002 brings some changes to the Tunnel Walk template, opening with the first-ever live action Tunnel Walk shot as fans make their way to the stadium in front of the Husker Legacy Statue. The statue then slides back to reveal a secret passage. The camera drops under the stadium to a door marked "THE PILLARS OF NEBRASKA FOOTBALL." Inside, we see a shrine to Nebraska lore with trophies lining the walls and retired jerseys hanging from the ceiling. Classic Husker highlights are projected onto the literal pillars in each corner with titles like "POWER," "LEADERSHIP," "PRIDE," and "TRADITION." The camera then zips to the back of the room, where the five national championship trophies and two Heisman trophies sit in front of a replica of the east stadium's signature Gate 20. A third Heisman, Eric Crouch's 2001 award, rises into place among the others. The camera exits the underground shrine via a winding vent, and we find ourselves in the north end zone as two Nebraska helmets crush/detonate the visiting team's helmet at midfield. The camera enters the tunnel and reveals the team behind the "2002 HUSKERS" door.

This Tunnel Walk has moments of quality (and from a technical perspective the underground tunnel beneath the Husker Legacy statue is the best-quality CG to date), but falls short in ways that I'd blame on Steve Pederson if he hadn't started his tenure after this video was produced. Literally being presented with a "PILLARS OF NEBRASKA FOOTBALL" room is kind of silly, and at best reminiscent of a knockoff of the "Character Counts" program from my high school. There's a fine line in using words that generate excitement and words that sound like marketing buzzwords. The projection of highlights on the pillars is distorted around the curve and oddly blended, and misses the classic radio calls that have made other highlight reels such a success. Like 2001, the 2002 entry runs over a minute before revealing the team.

  • Arizona State earns the distinction of being the first opponent to debut a new Tunnel Walk twice, opening the season in Lincoln in both 1995 and 2002.
  • This is the first Tunnel Walk appearance of the Heisman trophy.
  • Texas is the Tunnel Walk's first and second loss, ending a 26-game home win streak on Nov. 2.
Grade: C



Nebraska Tunnel Walk 2003 (via CornhuskersFootball)

  • Debut: Aug. 30th, 2003 (Oklahoma State)
  • Record: 6-1

Steve Pederson took the reigns of the Nebraska Athletic Department in December 2002. With him came many changes, including an overhaul to the Tunnel Walk. Was he involved in the 2003 edition? We may never know – but I suspect he may have written and directed it.

We open with an officer in some command-ish center on a red bat-phone. "Yes sir," he says, and hangs up. "We have a Red Alert. Husker Nation, report!" We cut to the front of the lecture hall- I mean, command center, where we see "RED ALERT" and "HUSKER NATION REPORT" framing a map of North America. Short cuts of Nebraska flags and fans in Husker attire show us "reports" from various locales around the country.

In between "reports" aka "footage we shot in Lincoln in an afternoon," we cut back to a slow push into the map from the control room as small N logos pop up around the country. Over radio, we hear "[VISITING TEAM'S CITY], you have a problem" as the logos fade from the map and the "Husker Nation" logo covers the United States. We then transition from the screen via cloud fade to the "actual" Earth, where Nebraska is marked as "Husker Nation Headquarters." Another cloud fade drops us over the SAC Museum, where a Blacksh- er, what? Sorry, "HUSKER NATION DEFENSE" banner drops over the atrium. Another flash and we're behind the visiting team's helmet zooming over Lincoln until it's clotheslined by a Nebraska flag-toting Golden Sower – that was actually excellent. Well done.

From the Capitol to campus we go, entering the stadium and focusing on the northeast scoreboard (complete with real advertisements) which displays, "Home of Husker Nation – Population 78,000+." Then, into the tunnel we go, where live-action Nebraska fans have been composited along the path at horrendous and hilarious scale. They wave their arms, pump their fists, shake pom-poms, wear giant foam fingers and sombreros, and I'm pretty sure the last guy on the left is actually holding a feather duster. Good job. The "2003 HUSKERS" door opens, revealing the team.

Hoo boy. It's a Tunnel Walk for marketers, by marketers, with actual marketing. Husker Nation. Husker Nation. Husker Nation. Oh yeah, did I mention Husker Nation? Husker Nation the Defense, Husker Nation the T-Shirts, Husker Nation the Toilet Paper. No. We're Nebraska. Making up a stupid name and sticking it in a video SIX TIMES does not a tradition make. Guess what - it's terrible. Don't ever say it.

Another thing that's terrible – live action fans in the tunnel. Here's the thing about crowds at sporting events: they're amazing because everyone is reacting. We absolutely do silly and dumb things out of genuine energy and passion. When you tell people to cheer in a canned studio setting in front of a green screen, no one knows what the hell they're doing. This is how you get people pumping their arms like it's Arsenio Hall time and waving feather dusters. It looks like bad crowd simulation from a video game. If you're going to show a crowd, show the real deal, or don't show it at all.

Mercifully, this Tunnel Walk only clocks in at about a minute, breaking the trend of longer and longer intros over the preceding few years. We should have seen this disaster as a sign of what was coming.


  • For the first time in its existence, the Tunnel Walk opens without the rotating white flash.
  • 2002 marks the first appearance of live-action fans while the camera flies through the tunnel.
  • The opening note of Sirius is held longer than usual,only starting the main theme following "You have a problem."
Grade: D