Top 15 Husker Stories of 2023-24 (2024)

Nebraska Athletics celebrated one of its best seasons in several years.

The Huskers notched five conference championships, upset top teams, had multiple NCAA Tournament runs, and earned All-Conference and All-American honors. New faces came to Lincoln while some decided to leave. Following the College World Series, Nebraska will have one of its best finishes in the LEARFIELD Directors' Cup for quite some time.

Here are the top 15 Husker stories of 2023-24.

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Nebraska football's defensive coordinator had opportunities to go be a head coach elsewhere. His own head coach was advocating for programs to go after him. But after the coaching carousel dust settled, Tony White decided to continue running the Blackshirts.

14. Women's Basketball Notches NCAA Tournament Win

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Nebraska women's basketball had made three previous trips to the NCAA Tournament without a win. That wouldn't seem like a long time if the team made the Big Dance every year but those three appearances came over a nine year stretch.

Led by the All-Big Ten tandem of Jaz Shelley and Alexis Markowski and Big Ten Freshman of the Year (coaches) Natalie Potts, NU earned a No. 6 seed into March Madness. Against Texas A&M, the Huskers got a major contribution from Logan Nissley with 16 points to help Nebraska get its first NCAA Tournament win since 2014.

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Last summer, the Nebraska Board of Regents (BOR) decided to change the administrative structure of Husker Athletics. Instead of the order going BOR > NU System President > UNL Chancellor > UNL AD, the BOR elected to cut out the chancellor from the chain of command. That meant the president, then Ted Carter, had much more influence over the Huskers, and so did the BOR.

But just two months later, Carter announced he would be leaving for the same post at Ohio State. For the next seven months, the system, and Huskers Athletics, were led by a combination of Carter an interim president Chris Kabourek. It wasn't until after another major shift in Husker leadership did urgency seem to pick up in naming a permanent replacement: Dr. Jeffrey Gold.

12. Track Takes B1G Men's Outdoor Title, Multiple National Champions

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Since joining the Big Ten Conference in 2011-12, there is an argument to be made that the men's track and field team is the most accomplished Husker men's team. That group added another conference title this year, running away with the men's outdoor championship.

Just weeks later at the NCAA National Champions in Eugene, Oregon, a pair of Huskers earned top marks and won national titles.

Rhema Otabor won the women's javelin for the second year in a row, this time breaking the collegiate record, NCAA Championship meet record, school record and the Bahamian record.

A couple days after Otabor's title, Darius Luff became the first 110m Hurdles Champion in school history. The Lincoln native's time of 13.19 is tied for ninth in collegiate history.

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When the only way to make comparisons for how high level of a transfer this was is to create hypotheticals, you know it is a big deal. Last summer, Jordy Bahl, the two-time First Team All-American, 2023 Big 12 Pitcher of the Year, and 2023 Most Outstanding Player of the Women's College World Series decided to leave Oklahoma after a pair of national titles. The excitement in Husker Nation hit levels not seen for a spring sport in decades.

The week of Bahl's announcement, requests for season tickets went through the roof. Nebraska elected to expand Bowlin Stadium. The Huskers showed up on preseason rankings with expectations for hosting a regional.

But just as quickly as the season started, it came to a close for Bahl. After pitching just 2.1 innings of the season-opener, Bahl left with an injury. The ceiling was lowered for NU, who just missed an NCAA Tournament bid despite making a run to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals and having Billie Andres earn her second All-America honor.

10. Baseball Conference Tournament Championship

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Some early season success mixed with national rankings had Husker baseball looking like a team that could host a regional in Lincoln for the first time since the mid-2000s. But struggles in the midweek and never putting the hammer down to sweep conference opponents saw Nebraska slide in the national conversation.

Enter the Big Ten Conference Tournament.

After an opening game loss, a "here we go again" feeling hit. But over the next five days, the Huskers beat Purdue, Ohio State, Indiana twice, and then Penn State to win the programs first Big Ten Tournament title. At a place where fans hope to get back to winning regionals, a title of any sort can never be taken away.

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A season that included a raucous home court atmosphere, multiple upsets (more on those later) and big time playmaking from multiple players culminated in Nebraska men's basketball hearing their name on Selection Sunday for the first time in a decade. The Huskers made the NCAA Tournament, and though they didn't get the program's first March Madness win, the foundation has been set for the Fred Hoiberg era as they look to take the next step.

8. Soccer's Conference Championship, NCAA Tournament Run

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Nebraska soccer flew somewhat under the radar for a bit this past fall, but then the wins kept piling up and Eleanor Dale kept scoring goals. The Huskers did not lose once over their final seven regular-season games, all Big Ten Conference matchups, clinching the league title.

That success helped NU punch its ticket for the NCAA Tournament, where wins over South Dakota State, Tennessee, and UC Irvine had Big Red in the Elite Eight for only the third time in program history.

Dale was named NCAA First-Team All-American, Top Drawer Soccer All-American, and Big Ten Forward of the Year, among her honors for the season. She led the nation in goals and ranks third in Big Ten history in single-season goals.

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When someone hasn't had much individual success and the team has struggled in midweek games, you'd be hard pressed to expect much of a Wednesday night tilt against a Big 12 opponent. But Jackson Brockett thought otherwise.

In his first start of the season, Brockett allowed no hits across nine frames in an 8-0 win over Kansas State. It was the sixth individual no-hitter in Nebraska baseball history, and the first nine-inning no-hitter since 1954. Even cooler, Brockett got to meet with that 1954 pitcher, Richard Geier, and exchange stories.

6. Keisei-Mania

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Was he on one every night? No. Was he the most electric player in college basketball when he was going? Absolutely.

Keisei Tominaga averaged just 15.1 points a game in his final year in Lincoln. But nobody, sans maybe Caitlin Clark, could put a crowd more into a frenzy with a single make. And not just the shooting ability, but the attitude of letting everyone know how much joy is being had. It is a surprise that Tominaga didn't end up with more technical fouls for walking off the court and interacting with fans after big shots or fouls.

Tominaga took over the national spotlight leading up to the NCAA Tournament game, with a backwards half court shot. Then, after the season, he delighted the world with his shot making and showmanship at the collegiate 3-Point Championship.

Before we get into the top five, let's note a couple honorable mention stories for the year.

Multiple Husker football players contributed to other sports. Nash "Polar Bear" Hutmacher got back into wrestling while Jeremiah Charles and Jaylen Lloyd helped out the track and field team. And the men's gymnastics team won the Big Ten regular-season for the first time in program history before finishing fourth at the NCAA Championships.

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On the morning of March 13, the state of Nebraska was stunned by a report from the Houston Chronicle saying NU's athletic director Trev Alberts was not only being targeted for Texas A&M's open AD post, but that Alberts was "expected to take the job". Hours later, Alberts alerted Huskers Athletics staff via email that he would be heading south.

The stunning departure left many wondering why. In his email and in the days following, Alberts repeatedly talked about a "unity of vision" and "leadership", leading to speculation about the Board of Regents and their NU System President search. Governor Jim Pillen outright blamed the BOR.

Not long after, the BOR announced their selection for president, and interim president Chris Kabourek quickly replaced Alberts with Washington AD Troy Dannen.

4. Dylan Raiola Chooses Nebraska

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Nebraska was completely out and then back in and then out and then, seemingly by magic at the last second, in again. Five-star quarterback Dylan Raiola had an iffy recruitment by Scott Frost. Things warmed back up under Matt Rhule but the former Ohio State commit had not only committed to Georgia, he has moved to the state to play his final season of high school football.

And then, Raiola decided to give Nebraska another chance. The Huskers flipped the legacy and days later signed him. The entire feel around the program has been different since December, especially now that the Nebraska's potential starting QB isn't a one-off rental hoping for more Casey Thompson and less Jeff Sims.

A big part of that is feeling like the quarterback room, which also added Elite 11 Finalist Daniel Kaelin and NAIA Player of the Year Jalyn Gramstad, is in a place of stability for the next couple years with plenty of talent elsewhere on the roster.

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The best place to be in college basketball in 2023-24 was not Chapel Hill or Lawrence or somewhere with traditional success in the sport. Lincoln, Nebraska was the place to be.

Three times Nebraska hosted top 10 teams at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Three times those opponents fell to unranked Huskers before fans stormed the court ("Storm that puppy!" as both Kent Pavelka and Matt Coatney of the Husker Radio Network said).

In front of a holiday crowd with students still on break, the Husker men took down No. 1 Purdue 88-72. A few weeks later, No. 6 Wisconsin was turned away 80-72 in overtime. Barely a week and a half after that, the Husker women upended Caitlin Clark and No. 2 Iowa 82-79.

2. Volleyball's Run to the National Championship Match

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The last remaining undefeated team on the season, an insane Bob Devaney Sports Center for a 1-vs-2 matchup with Wisconsin, and a Big Ten Conference title. Oh, and a world record. The 2024 Nebraska volleyball season came up a single piece from being legend. But the saying goes that its the journey and not the destination, and this particular group of Huskers went on one hell of a journey to the NCAA Final.

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Was there ever any doubt at what would be here at No. 1? On a perfect August night, Nebraska broke the NCAA regular-season record (16,833), NCAA match record (18,755), American women’s sporting event record (90,185), and world-record attendance for any women’s sporting event (91,648) with a Memorial Stadium crowd of 92,003.

The match was a formality, a sweep over Omaha. But the lasting impression on thousands of girls in the stadium, watching at home, and learning about the event across the country and world is one that will impact generations. As someone who was in the stadium that night, it was undoubtedly the best live sporting event I've been to.

They made the impossible possible.

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Top 15 Husker Stories of 2023-24 (2024)


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