REALLY BIG GAME ISN’T UNTIL NEXT YEAR

Local

college

football fans obsessing over this

year’s game of the century – Ohio State vs. Wisconsin at Camp

Randall on Saturday – may be interested to know there is one group

of fans in Madison that already is obsessing over next year’s game

of the century.

“We should have a ticker counting it down on our website,”

Stewart Price said this week.

It would be counting down to Oct. 1, 2011, when the

University of Nebraska Cornhuskers

come to Camp Randall to play the Badgers in what will be Nebraska’s

first

football game as a member of the Big

Ten Conference.

Price, 49, a product line manager with Dean Health Plan, is

president of the Mad City Huskers, a

University of Nebraska athletics

booster club based in Madison.

“If you cut my veins,” Price said, “corn syrup will come

out.”

The club formed four years ago when Price moved to Madison from

Louisville, Ky., where he also was president of the local Husker

club.

But it was the announcement earlier this year that Nebraska will

the Big Ten – effective July 1, 2011 – and that the Cornhuskers’

first conference game will be at Camp Randall, that sent the Mad

City Huskers into a tizzy.

“Everyone’s excited,” Price said.

I first heard about the club in September 2007, when I received,

at home, a letter that began:

“Dear Fellow Husker fan: Are you one of the zillions of Nebraska

Cornhusker followers across the country? Do you wish you could be

at all the games in Lincoln on

football Saturday? Would you like to

watch the NU games with other Husker fans right here in

Madison?”

I thought it a little strange, since I have never been a

Nebraska fan, and in fact have been a Badger

football fan long enough to have

suffered through two Dark Ages, one in the 1960s (under John

Coatta) and one in the 1980s (Don Morton).

When I examined the letter, it turned out it was addressed to my

mother, who did attend the

University of Nebraska. Still, by

2007 she was dead seven years, and didn’t really care for

football anyway.

I briefly thought about joining, because while I have never been

a Nebraska fan, I am a connoisseur of unusual athletic nicknames

and love the fact that from 1890 to 1900 Nebraska was not known as

the Cornhuskers. They were the

University of Nebraska

Bugeaters.

I think the Nebraska Bugeaters is second only to the

University of California-Santa Cruz

Banana Slugs.

There is even throwback Bugeater gear that is popular among

Nebraska fans.

“I have a Bugeater hat,” Price said.

Price grew up in Omaha, Neb., and graduated from the

University of Nebraska in 1985. He

said there are more than 60 chapters of Husker Nation around the

country.

When Price landed here in 2006, he said one of the first things

he did was scope out sports bars to see if there were any pockets

of Cornhusker fans waiting to be organized.

He heard there were some at Babe’s on Schroeder Road, but had

the most luck at the Sports Pub on Bartillion Drive. The club – a

dozen or so people that first year – started meeting there on game

days to watch the Cornhuskers on satellite. Now the number can be

as many as 100. Price said there are some 350 Nebraska alumni

within 50 miles of Madison. He’s expecting a good turnout at the

Sports Pub for Saturday’s big game against Texas.

Of course, it will pale against the hysteria sure to be present

a year from now when it’s Nebraska and Wisconsin at Camp

Randall.

“Can you imagine the amount of red that’s going to be in that

stadium?” Price said.

His club will help with a pre-game Husker Huddle, which he said

could draw as many as 2,000 Nebraska fans.

Asked for an early prediction on the score, Price grinned.

“Nebraska 27, Wisconsin 24.”He reached into his pocket and handed

over a red “N” decal.”A sticker for your bumper,” he said. “It

detaches easily. In case you feel the need to tear it off.”

Contact Doug Moe at 608-252-6446 or dmoe@madison.com