Nebraska Cornhuskers football suspends red balloon imitation due to helium shortage

Athletic director Trev Alberts announced on his radio show Monday that Nebraska will suspend its red balloon tradition after the first games touchdown due to a global helium shortage.

Alberts said Nebraska will not be handing out red balloons before games at Memorial Stadium this fall. The tradition of launching balloons began after Nebraska’s first home landing in the 1960s.

Helium shortages and supply chain issues stem in part from sanctions imposed on Russia, one of the world’s largest suppliers of helium, after its invasion of Ukraine.

“Obtaining helium in our day and age, some of its production is a real challenge, and it has been difficult to obtain,” Alberts said. “So the university asked us, the helium we get as a university, we need to use for medical purposes in [University of Nebraska Medical Center] in Omaha. And so we won’t be introducing red balloons this year for the first time at Memorial Stadium.”

Alberts said the Nebraska marketing department is working on alternative ceremonies, including digital shows. He also acknowledged the environmental concerns some have expressed over the years about balloon imitation.

In 2016, a Nebraska man sued the university, claiming that balloons pose a health risk to young children and wildlife after they return to land. Nebraska’s student government voted in November to end the tradition, though it does not oversee Game Day events.

Alberts, the Nebraska All-American player who took over as athletic director in July, said he loves the red balloon tradition.

“When we looked at it as an athletic department, it became very clear that with a very limited supply of helium, it would be hard to get,” Alberts said.

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