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Published Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Pederson brings back red pants, Herbie

Cheerleader stunts return and season ticket prices fall

Last modified at 5:25 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, 2003

photo: news
AP Photo
Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson is seen during a news conference Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2003, in Lincoln, with a new version of Herbie Husker.

By Eric Olson
The Associated Press

LINCOLN -- Less than two months on the job, Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson revealed plans to restore or strengthen traditions that were sacked under Bill Byrne.

In addition to lowering football season ticket prices, Pederson announced that the Cornhuskers would return to wearing red pants for road games, restrictions on cheerleader stunts would be eased, and a new and improved Herbie Husker mascot will be unveiled in August.

Pederson announced the changes Tuesday as he proclaimed 2003 "A Year for the Fans."

"I don't think we should ever take fans for granted," Pederson said.

Byrne, who left to become athletic director at Texas A&M, was criticized by some for being anything but fan friendly during his 10 years at Nebraska. He rankled some Husker fans last year with a comment that indicated he paid attention only to "boosters of substance."

The return to red pants for road games will satisfy vocal traditionalists who decried last season's all-white road uniforms.

Pederson said the Huskers would return to the uniforms they wore in 2001 -- meaning there will be no wide stripes down the sides of the road pants and tops and no narrow striping on the home jerseys.

The all-white road uniforms were approved by a player vote last summer.

Some fans complained that coach Frank Solich should not have let one team reverse the tradition dating back to the 1960s of wearing red pants on the road.

Pederson said he and Solich recently discussed the uniforms and decided to go back to white tops and red pants.

"We did not lose seven games last year because of the uniforms," Pederson said, "but one of the things we believe is important is that we maintain focus. We really don't need distractions, and the uniform issue became somewhat of a distraction."

Byrne tried to phase out Herbie Husker as the team's mascot shortly after arriving in 1992. He argued that the overall-wearing mascot portrayed a negative image of Nebraskans, particularly farmers.

But fans loved Herbie and resisted the proposed change.

Pederson said Herbie will stay, but not without a makeover. He said the pot-bellied mascot will be reshaped in coming months, and a more toned version will be unveiled at the start of football season.

Pederson said light-heartedly that Herbie would begin a rigorous exercise regimen under the direction of NU athletic performance director Boyd Epley.

"This conditioning plan will update Herbie's physical appearance," Pederson said, smiling, "so that he will be a mascot that fits the Nebraska image of strength and power."

Pederson's announcement on cheerleader stunts eases restrictions placed on them since last year, when Byrne banned flips, pyramids, handsprings and other stunts.

Byrne's decision came after the university settled a lawsuit for $2.1 million with a cheerleader who was paralyzed after breaking her neck doing a handspring.

Pederson said he would allow low-risk stunts, ones where cheerleaders maintain contact or are stacked one-high. He said cheerleaders will have to meet a set of physical requirements in order to participate in certain stunts. They also will have to participate in ongoing strength and conditioning exercises, he said.

"It's very important we make a great game atmosphere," Pederson said, "and cheerleaders have been an important part of that since the beginning of Nebraska athletics."

For more on this story, see tomorrow's Grand Island Independent or theIndependent.com.

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