Butch Hug oversees more than 200 Nebraska athletic events annually, including football game days that require more than 3,000 helpers.
By Randy York
Ten days ago, Butch Hug was formally presented an honorary membership in the N-Club, a distinguished group of 7,000 Nebraska male and female athletes who have earned varsity letters. While another Memorial Stadium sellout crowd applauded Hug, I decided not to make a big deal of it. Hug is, after all, the type that keeps the spotlight focused anywhere but on himself, and he’s wary of me, especially after I complimented the way he exhorted a rock star in the 2005 Tommy Lee Goes to College reality TV series.(Check the 65-second “Tommy Lee Running” video on the far left of the second row in the imbedded link. It’s a kick watching Hug launch the race with a starter’s gun and greet the you-know-who last-place finisher with a stern face).
Hug’s appearances on that TV show were out of character for a man that’s worked 30 years behind the scenes in the athletic department. Hug oversees pretty much everything on Nebraska Game Day, yet always manages to operate under the radar for more than 200 annual NU athletic events. All he cares about is making every Big Red event as comfortable and hassle-free as possible. You might be surprised that more than 3,000 people are involved on a typical Husker football game day.
A Viet Nam vet, Hug was the one who managed the logistics for the NU-Rice game in 2001 at Memorial Stadium – a solemn celebration of the 9/11 tragedy. He made sure that military, police and fire participants synched up with the re-enactment of the celebration. Hug times the band, the team and is the timekeeper enabling the jets to fly over the stadium, right on cue. Last Saturday night, on the 10-year anniversary of NU’s tribute to 3,000 victims of 9/11, Husker fans enjoyed another Butch Hug production.
And that brings us to the reason the N-Club honored Nebraska’s associate athletic director in the first place. Hug has been called the Mailman of Nebraska Athletics because nothing can keep him from performing his appointed duties, not even cancer. He had to hit the pause button often so he could work radiation and chemotherapy into his assigned tasks more than a year ago. He now believes his cancer is under control, just like the events he oversees. Today, I asked Butch if he deserved his N-Club honorary membership. “No,” he said, adding that “I didn’t deserve cancer either.” That reply was validation, Butch Hug style. He definitely deserves his honorary membership and the letterman jacket that came with it because he has served Nebraska Athletics well, with integrity and loyalty.
Send a comment or suggest a story to Randy York at firstname.lastname@example.org
Voices from Husker Nation
“Great story on Butch Hug. I was in the Navy ROTC from ‘98-‘02 at UNL and worked with him quite a bit on game days as a part of event security. Butch was always very cordial (stern when necessary) and always had a grasp on seemingly everything. I really liked working for him because he knew how to respond to any situation, need, conflict, etc. He never left any doubt as to who was running the show. Much deserved honor.” Adam Cummins, Milbank, South Dakota
“Great blog. It’s always interesting to learn more about those who labor so hard behind the scenes that make high-profile events a success. Butch Hug is the equivalency of a Mike Elliott. Who’s Mike Elliott? He is the game site technician for the Husker Sports Radio Network. If Mike isn’t pushing all the right buttons and operating audio output at the correct levels, then thousands of Big Red fans are deaf to the notes of Greg Sharpe, Kent Pavelka and the rest of the radio band. A salute to all those who work behind the scenes and help make Husker sports so entertaining.” Kevin Horn, Alliance, Nebraska
Editor’s note: Mike Elliott is on our list and will be featured soon.
Great tribute for a great guy. One thing you forgot – every day, regardless of weather, Butch walks the steps in the stadium at noon. Never misses, ever. I got to know him when I lived in Lincoln and went over there to jog on the soft turf (on nice days). As nice a guy as there is. Thank you for recognizing him. Jim Elworth, Indianapolis, Indiana
Thanks for the story on Butch Hug. My brother, Max Kitzelman, coached football in Auburn, Neb., Butch’s hometown. Butch was Max’s right-hand man in the equipment department of the football team. When Max left to become coach at Midland College, Butch followed him after graduating from high school. Max immediately made Butch his right-hand man again and never regretted a day of it. He was always able to rely on Butch to get things done, and many times Butch did it before he was even asked. I just wanted to say how much Max would have appreciated hearing of Butch’s honorary letter. He would have been the first to say “It’s about time”. Max passed away several years ago, but always went to the Nebraska games until the very end. He would be so proud of Butch. Sharon Kitzelman Kiger, Fremont, Nebraska