The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Football: A Metaphorical, Symbolic and Ritualistic Community Event


  • James W. Satterfield Clemson University
  • Michael Gary Godfrey Clemson University



University of Nebraska, football, symbolism, community, phenomenology


The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of the social dynamics surrounding the University of Nebraska-Lincoln football program on the community at large. The following research questions helped guide the research study: 1. What are the sociological effects of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln football on the community? and 2. How is commitment displayed to University of Nebraska football by members of the community? Six focus group interviews were conducted, each with five to seven participants. Through phenomenological analysis, it became clear that the sociological nature of University of Nebraska-Lincoln football is steeped in tradition, and the ritualistic nature that surrounds this phenomenon extends well into communities. This study illuminates three themes that emerged through data collection and analysis: 1. Harvest, 2. United we stand, and 3. Farm values. The Harvest theme represents the similarities of the agricultural lifestyle to a football season and how the entire year is dedicated towards performance. United we stand emerged as a visual, social and emotional sense of pride for the state of Nebraska residents towards the University and Nebraska and its football team. The connection between the university and the state begins early in life and grows as the years pass to become a social symbol of pride and togetherness as small towns shut down to gather and watch football games. Farm values emerged as the final theme and represented the importance of the farming value structure on the many small communities and towns in the state of Nebraska. For many small towns, a great sense of pride was generated when a local athlete was able to play for the University of Nebraska. This pride served as a means of legitimacy and hope in many struggling families that create Nebraska's farming communities. URN:


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Author Biographies

James W. Satterfield, Clemson University

James SATTERFIELD is a faculty and coordinator of the PhD in higher education in the Eugene T. Moore School of Education at Clemson University. His research agenda focuses on the social and political context of intercollegiate athletics.

Michael Gary Godfrey, Clemson University

Michael GODFREY is an employee of Clemson University's Athletic Leadership minor degree program. His teaching responsibilities include Exercise Science, Theory and Prevention of Athletic Injuries, Sport Psychology, and Organization and Administration of Athletic programs. His research interest include athletics, intercollegiate football, student athlete experiences, and exercise science.




How to Cite

Satterfield, J. W., & Godfrey, M. G. (2010). The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Football: A Metaphorical, Symbolic and Ritualistic Community Event. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1).