Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame

There Can’t be Greatness Without a Strong Foundation

In the summer of 1990, after a weekly Gothenburg Rotary Club meeting, outside the Swede Café one of the members said, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a high school sports hall of fame?” Happily, the Nebraska School Activities Association (N.S.A.A.) Board of Control had the same idea, resulting in what is now the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Why a Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame? Truthfully, when we think of athletics in Nebraska, the first thing that comes to mind is Husker football. But there is so much more, especially in high school athletics. It spans the entire state and deserves both respect and appreciation. It was with this in mind that the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation was created. Located near Haymarket Park at 500 Charleston St., Ste. 3, this non-profit organization has operated for more than 20 years to preserve the history of high school sports.

The purpose of the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, however, is not just to honor athletes with outstanding high school careers, but to honor those who have played an essential role in high school sports. This includes administrators, coaches, officials and community members who have made significant contributions to high school athletics. In addition, athletes who have had a significant impact in their chosen field or in society following the completion of their high school careers are also honored, thus demonstrating how lessons learned in high school athletics serve you well in life.

The Hall of Fame is definitely worth visiting and will exceed your expectations. In the words of Chuck Johnston, Executive Director of the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame, “This is so much more than a Hall of Fame, and especially more than a museum. It’s an exhibit hall that combines interactive activities with meaningful learning experiences…devoted entirely to preserving the rich history of high school athletics (not NU) in our state!”

At the Hall of Fame you can see Nebraska high school stars from recent times and long ago. Learn how Nebraska values, work ethic and commitment lead to success in sports, how achievements in almost any walk of life can be traced back to the habits learned in high school sports. 

When visiting the Hall of Fame, you’ll begin your visit in the Wally McNaught Theater. Wally was involved in high school education and athletics for 45 years. He is best associated with his tenure at Lincoln Southeast as boys basketball coach and later the Athletic Director from 1985-1993.

Wally is remembered for his character and caring personality. He was respected and admired by everyone he worked with. His legacy is evident in his dedication to high school athletics through his service to the Nebraska Coaches Association, the Nebraska State Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association and the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation. A testament to Wally’s impact and character is the fact that the main funding for the theater was from an anonymous donor—a friend of Wally McNaught. The High School Sports Hall of Fame is deeply indebted to his foresight and leadership in helping make the current exhibit hall possible.

From there you can move on to interactive displays where you can see how you measure up against State record holders and perhaps even end up on the medal stand! At the same time you can learn about some of the greatest athletes Nebraska has ever known, such as Tom Osborne, Allison Weston, Eric Crouch, Johnny Rodgers, Maurtice Ivy and many more.

There’s nostalgia communicated through interactive exhibits. You’ll learn about records, great performances, and the values of strong work ethic, sportsmanship and commitment that put great athletes in positions to succeed. You can find out who the best athletes are from any era, from the small Nebraska towns to the large cities in the State. You can also discover the most popular mascots in Nebraska, stand beside the uniforms of the biggest names in Nebraska high school sports and develop and develop a deep appreciation for the Nebraska’s athletic heritage. Learn about the makeshift arenas, difficult hardships and lifelong relationships developed through high school sports.

Apart from the actual High School Sports Hall of Fame, they also hold an annual awards program that has become a popular event for more than two decades when the year’s inductees and award winners are brought together to be honored. Events are announced in late summer and tickets are sold through the Nebraska Sports Council.

So what are you waiting for? It’s definitely worth visiting the Hall of Fame and perhaps even contributing. Their goal is worthwhile. Honoring the past to inspire the future! According to Mike Rasmussen, Assistant Executive Director of the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, “I have been involved with the High School Sports Hall of Fame since we opened our doors to the public in January of 2014. To be a part of the growth and development from the exhibit hall’s inception has been a great opportunity. The ongoing challenge to honor and to preserve the rich history of athletics in the state is a humbling and rewarding experience.” 

Get ready to visit, participate and enjoy! Visit their website at nebhalloffame.org and find out when the hall is open, arrange group tours, sign up for their newsletter and learn how you can contribute. It’s interactive, educational and admission free. 

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