Nebraska will suspend its tradition of releasing red balloons after the first touchdown of home games due to a global helium shortage, athletic director Trev Alberts announced on his radio show Monday.
Alberts said Nebraska will not hand out red balloons before home games at Memorial Stadium this fall. The tradition of releasing the balloons after Nebraska’s first touchdown at home began in the 1960s.
The helium shortage and supply-chain issues stem in part from sanctions against Russia, one of the world’s top helium suppliers, following its invasion of Ukraine.
“Acquiring helium in today’s day and age, some of the production of it is really challenged, and it’s been hard to get,” Alberts said. “So we’ve been asked by the university, the helium that we are getting as a university, we need to use for medical purposes at [University of Nebraska Medical Center] in Omaha. And so we are this year not going to be providing the red balloons for the first time at Memorial Stadium.”
Alberts said Nebraska’s marketing department is working on alternate celebrations, including digital renderings. He also acknowledged the environmental concerns some have expressed over the years about the balloon tradition.
In 2016, a Nebraska man filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming the balloons posed a health hazard to young children and wildlife after they return to earth. Nebraska’s student government in November voted to end the tradition, although it doesn’t oversee game-day events.
Alberts, an All-America linebacker at Nebraska who took over as athletic director in July, said he loves the red balloon tradition.
“As we looked into it as an athletic department, it became very clear that with a very limited supply of helium, it was going to be hard to get,” Alberts said.