This is going to be one special Holiday visit to Pasadena, as far as Gail Herstead is concerned.
Of course, it will be a chance to visit and see some familiar sights and a chance to see a football game visit with family.
Nebraska football family, that is, because Herstead, president of the Northern Nevadans for Nebraska (NN4N), will be part of a contingent of 71 club members making the trek to Pasadena for the BCS national championship game between Nebraska and Miami on Thursday, Jan. 3.
"A number of us are returning to our old stomping grounds. The Berglans (Ron and Carolee) lived in La Canada and I moved here almost three years ago from Pasadena, so we're returning to visit friends and we're just thrilled," said Herstead, a 1971 Nebraska graduate.
Just look for them on ABC television that day. They will be among the perhaps as many as 80,000 who will be wearing red in the Rose Bowl.
"The university was officially allotted right under 22,000 tickets to the Rose Bowl, but we're well represented in the western states, and the latest count we heard was that there may be well be 80,000 Nebraskans there."
Northern Nevadans for Nebraska -- known as NN4N -- includes members from the Carson City and Douglas County area, as well as Lake Tahoe, Fallon and Reno/Sparks. These fans get together on Saturdays to watch the Cornhuskers play on television -- Bully's Sports Bar & Grill in Carson City serves as the official site for Game Watches -- in addition to such functions as a summer picnic.
"The first year, we had about 50 members. Last year we had about 100 and this year we had about 120, so we are growing and it really is catching on," said Ray Pallesen, NN4N's treasurer and a 1949 graduate of Nebraska.
"If you come down here to Bully's for a Game Watch on a Saturday and there's Nebraska all over the place -- 50 to 75 of us and there's no mistaking us -- we're all wearing red and cheering."
The group is not limited to Nebraska alumni. Anyone can join in on the fun.
"About half of our members are non-alum or never even attended the university. They're what we call N.U. friends," explained Pallesen, who was involved with Lanny Lemburg in organizing the club in 1999.
"I have three loves in my life," he said. "The first is my family. The second love is playing golf. And the third love is Nebraska football."
He won't be able to make the Pasadena trip, which wasn't an easy decision.
"I will be in the Phoenix area visiting family," said Pallesen, who watched the Cornhuskers play in the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years back. "It was a tough call whether to go to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl this year or not, but family obligations were more important."
Pallesen, 78, a Reno resident, says he still carries a 14 handicap with his golf game. He shot his age just two years ago -- a round of 76 at Reno's Brookside Golf Course at age 76.
Golf doesn't always come second on that list of priorities, Shell Lemburg pointed out.
"He says he puts golf above Nebraska football, but he's also said if Nebraska played football every Saturday, he'd never go out and play on that day," Lemburg said with a laugh.
"He has got one of the cutest 1-and-3/4 year old babies I have ever seen and she already knows how to say -- 'Go Big Red,'" Pallesen said, returning the compliment to Lemburg.
Lemburg was himself a standout running back who helped tiny Whittell High School advance to the 1991 3A state championship game against Boulder City at the Silver Bowl in Las Vegas.
Lemburg graduated from Whittell in 1992 and went on to attend the University of Nevada. That doesn't deter from his support of the Cornhuskers for Lemburg now works for the state of Nevada as a computer technician and is web master for NN4N.
"The reason I'm a Nebraska fan -- Growing up, I had no choice because my parents were such big fans," said Lemburg, who was born in Lincoln. "The first game I can remember watching and caring about was 1983 when we played Miami in the Orange Bowl. Osborne wanted the win instead of the tie, so he went for 2, and of course we missed it and ended up losing the game. Ever since then, I've got to make sure I'm somewhere I can watch the game."
Football is the main theme for the NN4N, but not the only one.
"We've had three game watch seasons and our annual summer picnic," Herstead said. "And we're looking to put together our first dinner, moneys of which could come back to the club for such things as our new scholarship fund -- the 2002 and 2003 school year will be the first year that, through the University of Nebraska Foundation, a NN4N Scholarship will be awarded."
The idea for a scholarship was introduced by another Nebraska alum, Margorie Dewey from Gardnerville.
"Margorie gave up a scholarship challenge this fall and said she would donate $100 on her behalf and $100 in honor of her late sister to kick off the scholarship fund," Herstead said. "Our group matched her $200, I went ahead and donated $100 in honor of my grandmother, Margaret Tourtelot Ellis, who graduated from Nebraska in 1920.
"We're just thrilled that this year that we could move beyond the game watch, picnic dates and get into the academic." she added that the NN4N Scholarship available to all Northern Nevada students, with the recipient to be determined by the Nebraska Foundation.
The Rose Bowl trip will include a pep rally to be held the day before that will include members of the original Nebraska team that played Stanford in the 1941 Rose Bowl -- the Cornhuskers last postseason football appearance in Pasadena. And on game day, there's the Husker Huddle, which is the official alumni tailgate party that will be held immediately outside the stadium gates.
So, who's going to win the game?
"I'll certainly be rooting for Nebraska, but I understand we're 10-point underdogs. I still can't figure out what happened in that Colorado game," Pallesen said. "We did have 11 wins in a row and we beat every team by at least 10 points. They were all good, solid, quality wins, and they were all against good, quality teams like TCU, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Kansas State."
Win or lose, the game will certainly be worth watching.
"We are a very, very good football team and I'm sure we we're going to give Miami a whale of good football game," Pallesen said.
The 88th Rose Bowl, Presented by AT&T
No. 4/4/2 Nebraska (11-1, 7-1, Big 12 North, tie-First)
vs. No. 1/1/1 Miami (11-0, 7-0 Big East, First)
DATE: Thursday, Jan. 3, 2002
TIME: 5 p.m.
SITE: Pasadena, Calif
STADIUM: Rose Bowl
NATIONAL TV: ABC (Keith Jackson-PBP; Tim Brant-Color; Lynn Swann and Todd
NATIONAL RADIO: ESPN Radio (Ron Franklin-PBP; Mike Gottfried-Color; Adrian
"I've been following Nebraska football for over 50 years ... and there's been
many articles written over the years that Nebraska has the greatest fans in
the world, and I believe it. When they do get beat, which is rarely, but when
they get beat by a team that is equal to them or better, they applaud the
other team. They don't throw beer bottles or try to pour beer on them ... the
things that happened in the pro football game the other day.
Handicap of about 14. Played Sierra Sage, shot 86 on Wednesday.
I'm 78 years old. I have shot my age a couple of times. Shot 76 at age 76 at
Brookside Golf Course in Reno. Worked for federal government. Lived in Nevada
in 1967 through 1973, then moved to Portland. Three years ago moved back.
Helped Lanny organize club.
Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry ... the game they had back in 1971, they still call
that the game of the century when Nebraska won 35-31.
"I think we are. There is a lot of flak going on about that, and you know,
Nebraska itself had nothing to do with the formula. The formula was set and
approved. Nebraska had nothing to do with it, other than they stuck all of
the stuff into the formula and we came out by what, five-hundredths of a
point ahead of Colorado, so we feel good.
"It's been a very intense rivalry between Colorado and Nebraska down through
the years, and for us to beat them out by five-hundredths of a point, just
sort of added fuel to the fire that has burned.
"Nebraska. We're the under dogs in this one and I trust we can rise to the occasion," Herstead said, smiling.