Nebraska’s Keith Zimmer addresses 4,300 middle schoolers at PBA pep rally.
By Randy York
Monday is a milestone day for the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame (NHSSHF). The foundation for the organization will unveil its Hall of Honor that recognizes nearly 400 Nebraska Hall-of-Fame inductees. Kiosks that chronicle state prep sports history will be introduced at the private viewing, and a 75-seat theater inside a familiar building near the West Haymarket Area will show a 17-minute video about Nebraska’s rich high school sports heritage and why Nebraska is such a special place.
“It’s taken us 20 years to get to this point, and even though we still have several milestones ahead of us, we’re excited to showcase what we have now,” said Dick Beechner, President of the NHSSHF. “We want to attract sports fans across the state, and once they see the way we’re honoring great athletes and great coaches and celebrating great sportsmanship, we expect to be one the feature tour stops in Lincoln – right along with Morrill Hall, the State Capitol and the UNL campus that’s home to Memorial Stadium.”
The Hall of Fame Foundation will occupy 7,000 square feet of space in the same building that houses the Nebraska School Activities Association and the Nebraska Coaches Association. “Our goal is to add a new presence to Lincoln’s burgeoning sports scene and to become the home for the key value that differentiates Nebraska from others – sportsmanship,” said Larry Munksgaard, the Hall of Fame’s executive director.
PBA Pep Rally Showcases Sportsmanship, Life Skills
“We not only want to honor the past, but inspire the future,” said Munksgaard, a former athletic director at Lincoln Southeast High School and Executive Director of the National High School Athletic Directors Association. “The neatest event I’ve ever seen in my 40 years of Nebraska sports and national athletic administration was the pep rally/sportsmanship event we co-hosted with the Nebraska Athletic Department and the Life Skills Department headed by Keith Zimmer,” Munksgaard said. “I’ve been to a lot of events, but none quite like those 75 minutes before Nebraska played their first two basketball games at Pinnacle Bank Arena. We had 4,300 middle school-aged children from all over Southeast Nebraska sitting in the stands, and you could have heard a pin drop while watching them listen to their University of Nebraska heroes.”
Working collaboratively and cooperatively with the High School Hall of Fame group, Zimmer put together a Life Skills-related program that became a joint pep rally – 1) for Nebraska’s first men’s and women’s games in the new arena; and 2) to create the new standard for Nebraska Athletics’ partnership to inspire middle-school-aged kids about sportsmanship. “Our kids were impacted by the messages Nebraska coaches and student-athletes shared,” Munksgaard said. “Nebraska did a great job to help us promote our education mission of character and sportsmanship.”
That message is also featured in the Hall-of-Fame-commissioned film produced by Nebraska Educational Television. The public opening for the Hall-of-Fame video, the exhibition wall and the kiosks will be in January. For Monday’s special viewing of the film, the Hall of Fame Executive Committee invited members of the Nebraska Schools Activities Association, the Nebraska Coaches Association, the Nebraska State Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, and the Nebraska High School Society, Inc., a group of seven researchers who provided voluminous prep-related content for the kiosks. “Everyone knows the Tom Osborne story after high school,” Munksgaard said. “When you tap into our kiosks, you will see what Coach Osborne did in high school. We think that’s pretty neat and will include a lot of household Nebraska names, as well as all the lesser known names that led their respective teams to state championships in a variety of sports.”
Documenting, Preserving Individual, Team Legacies
The Hall of Fame is documenting and preserving the legacy of individuals, programs and communities that have played major roles in the storied history of Nebraska high school athletics. The Hall of Fame will be a permanent place to recognize an Olympic Gold Medalist like Jim Hartung and Olympic volleyball player like Allison Weston.
Football will be prominent and showcase the prep careers of such Huskers as Ahman Green, Bobby Reynolds, Ed Weir, Dave Rimington, Pat Fischer, Mick Tingelhoff, Dean Steinkuhler, Guy Chamberlain, Tom Rathman and Kent McCloughan.
“The greatest feature of this facility is the way we are honoring all high schools across the state and showcasing the student-athletes who have been legends for decades,” Munksgaard said. “The State Historical Society has high school information from 1854 to 1994 and we’re still collecting information from 1995 to the present and integrating that information into the kiosks. Thousands of Nebraskans visit Lincoln for Husker and high school sports events every year, and we think what we have fits nicely into future plans for development of youth sports facilities and programs in the West Haymarket Area.”
Kugler-Narrated Video: Why It’s Good to Be a Nebraskan
The video, narrated by Kevin Kugler, carries the theme of “Why it’s good to be a Nebraskan,” Munksgaard said. “When you watch it, you’ll get an even keener appreciation about why people want to live here, raise a family here and embrace the values we have. It’s a dream come true for us to get this off the launching pad. We’re working hard on our plan to set the stage for main exhibit space that will feature interactive experiences and timelines in a variety of other sports. We want this to be a place that the whole state of Nebraska is proud of.”
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