One of the longest-standing traditions in college football won’t occur this fall.
Since the 1940s, Nebraska fans at Memorial Stadium have released red balloons after the Huskers score their first touchdown of a game. The tradition will not continue during the 2022 season, Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts announced Monday.
Alberts explained during a radio interview that a global helium shortage is the main reason the red balloons will not be handed out before games. Alberts also cited supply-chain issues and explained that Russia is a major supplier of helium and the sanctions stemming from the invasion of Ukraine have impacted this situation.
"Some of the production of it is really challenged, and it's hard to get," Alberts said, per the Omaha World-Herald. "So we've been asked by the university, the helium we are getting as a university, we need to use for medical purposes at [University of Nebraska Medical Center] in Omaha. And so we are this year not going to be providing the red balloons."
Alberts, an All-American linebacker at Nebraska in the early 90s, said the athletic department — especially its marketing team — is looking into alternatives, including potential digital graphics on the stadium’s video boards to keep the tradition alive.
The tradition has been the subject of environmental concerns for years. In 2016, one man sued the university to halt the balloon release, saying it violated federal laws related to waste. The man argued that the balloons and attached ribbons presented a “serious threat” to wildlife. Last year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student government voted to end the tradition altogether.
Alberts acknowledged that the environmental impact of the tradition has been the subject of discussions at the school. Nonetheless, it’s a very popular part of the gameday experience for Nebraska fans. One fan even argued that Alberts should lose his job for the decision.