By Lincoln Arneal
First, Nebraska volleyball set the attendance record at Memorial Stadium. Now, they are outdrawing the football team on television.
After hosting a venue-record 92,003 fans for Volleyball Day in Nebraska, the Huskers’ thrilling five-set win over then-top ranked Wisconsin on Saturday night drew an estimated 612,000 viewers.
Hours earlier, also on BTN, 560,000 people watched the Nebraska-Northwestern football game.
“Did we ever think that day would happen? Probably not,” NU coach John Cook said. “This whole year for volleyball has kind of gone crazy with fans and viewership. … It’s great to see and I’m sure the Big Ten is very happy.”
Not only did the Huskers outdraw the football team on television, but they attracted the largest audience to watch a regular-season volleyball match.
The previous record was also between the Huskers and Badgers. More than 587,000 viewers tuned in to BTN on Black Friday – Nov. 25, 2022 – to watch Wisconsin clinch its fourth straight Big Ten title.
Husker volleyball games are drawing lots of eyeballs to television screens. For the season, Nebraska is averaging a viewership of 344,909 on 11 cable broadcasts – 10 BTN and one on ESPN.
Earlier this year 466,000 viewers tuned in for Nebraska-Stanford on ESPN on Tuesday, Sept. 12, for that network’s largest regular season audience. An estimated 518,000 people watched Volleyball Day in Nebraska on BTN, which is the third-largest TV audience for regular season volleyball.
BTN volleyball broadcasts are up 13% this year to 142,000 per match. NU has averaged 332,800 on the network. Its smallest audience was 181,000 on a Sunday night against Kentucky.
Cook said the big ratings are a credit to the work of Sue Maryott, who worked for Nebraska Public Media for 20 years before joining BTN as a senior coordinating producer in 2015.
The network highlighted the showdown between No. 1 Wisconsin and No. 2 Nebraska during its morning football show and ran previews for the match almost every commercial break during the NU football game.
“I’m not surprised. They did a great job of promoting that match,” Cook said. “The biggest thing is the match delivered. It was a great match and people are still fascinated by it and still talking about it.”
The TV record for any volleyball match was the 2021 national championship match between Nebraska and Wisconsin which drew 1,188,000 viewers.
Wisconsin and Minnesota could put up big TV numbers this weekend as the border rivals will play on Sunday on FOX network following the NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings.
Ohio State and Michigan also play on FOX Sunday. Since the network has a single NFL window, the two games will be shown in the time slot opposite football in regionalized markets.
2023 Nebraska TV Broadcast Viewership
Wed., Aug. 30 — Omaha, 518,000
Wed., Sept. 6 — Creighton, 236,000
Tues., Sept. 12 — Stanford, 466,000*
Sun., Sept. 17 — Kentucky, 181,000
Fri., Sept. 22 — Ohio State, 265,000
Sun., Sept. 24 — Minnesota, 347,000
Fri., Sept. 29 — Purdue, 265,000
Sat., Sept. 30 — Indiana, 328,000
Sat. Oct. 7 — Michigan, 229,000
Sat., Oct. 14 — Penn State, 347,000
Sat., Oct. 21 — Wisconsin, 612,000
Merritt Beason was named the AVCA/GameChanger Women’s Division I Player of the Week on Tuesday, a day after she earned the Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
The junior opposite recorded 34 kills (4.25 per set) to go with 14 digs, five blocks and two aces in wins over Northwestern and Wisconsin. Beason put up 21 kills in NU’s five-set win over the No. 1 Badgers.
It is the first time a Nebraska player has received the national award since Annika Albrecht did so on Sept. 26, 2017. Beason won the Big Ten award for the third time this season.
Also, Bergen Reilly earned her third Big Ten Setter of the Week award this season on Monday. The NU freshman averaged 11.0 assists and 2.88 digs per set last week. She had 50 assists and a career-high 17 digs against Wisconsin. She also recorded six kills, three blocks and three aces over the two matches.
On Top Again
After defeating Wisconsin, the Huskers moved to the top of the rankings this week. NU earned 63 of 64 first-place votes in the AVCA coaches poll and all of 12 in the VolleyballMag’s media poll. The Huskers also sit atop the RPI standing, which is used to help determine postseason seedings.
Wisconsin fell to No. 2 followed by Stanford, Louisville and Texas.
With the move to No. 1, Nebraska has reached the top of the polls a nation-leading 103 times. The Huskers have reached No. 1 in 14 of John Cook’s 24 years at NU, including six of the past nine seasons.
Cook said Lindsay Krause’s ankle injury she suffered last week was not season ending.
“She’ll be back,” he said.
Krause began walking on a treadmill and doing exercises in the pool this past weekend.
The junior outside hitter was injured on Tuesday during practice and missed NU’s matches against Northwestern and Wisconsin.
During Nebraska’s 10-match losing streak to Wisconsin, the two teams played 10 sets that were decided by two points. The Huskers won only one of those – the fourth set in the 2021 title game.
On Saturday, the Huskers prevailed twice by a pair of points: 26-24 in the fourth and then 15-13 in the fifth.
Cook said this team understands how to win those close games and they are not afraid to try to make plays.
“They’ve got the confidence and the belief to do it,” he said. “Every game comes down right to the end, and those guys believe they’re gonna win.”