LINCOLN (AP) — Nebraska will be the first school in the Big Ten to offer a Spanish-language radio broadcast for a football game when the Cornhuskers play Northwestern on Saturday, and the hope is such broadcasts become a regular part of the team’s media offering in coming seasons.
The state of Nebraska, by percentage, has one of the higher Hispanic populations in the Big Ten footprint, and Husker Sports Network general manager David Witty said affiliates have told him there is demand for a Spanish-language broadcast.
That’s no surprise to coach Scott Frost, who grew up in central Nebraska.
“I think there are a lot of residents in Nebraska where Spanish is their first language,” he said. “Nebraska’s one team, one heartbeat; and one state, one heartbeat. I think it’s great that we are going to broadcast the game so that every Nebraska fan can enjoy it.”
The Associated Press found eight power conference teams that have all or some games carried in Spanish on radio or digital platforms: Kansas, Louisville, LSU, Miami, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M and TCU.
The NFL is extremely popular in Mexico, and about half the league’s teams have Spanish radio broadcasts. More colleges will add the broadcasts as the Hispanic population continues to increase and immigrants and their children embrace football, said Oscar Monterroso, who will call the Nebraska game with Enrique Morales.
Monterroso, the color commentator, and Morales, the play-by-play man, have been calling Kansas City Chiefs games in Spanish since 2011 and have an estimated audience of 13,000 on radio and digital platforms.
“With Nebraska and college football in places like Texas and California, the Hispanic audiences are going to be big,” Monterroso said. “The first generation of (immigrant) parents will work hard to send their kids to college, and they will follow them and want to be a part of what they are a part of.”
Nebraska had an estimated Hispanic population of 216,000 in 2018, according to the Census Bureau, or 11% of the 1.9 million total. The Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska-Omaha estimates the number of Hispanics in Nebraska will double by 2040 and account for 20% of the total.
“The Huskers and the university are saying you matter enough to do this broadcast in Spanish,” said Andy Ruback, CEO of Flood Communications, whose Omaha Spanish-language radio station will carry Saturday’s game. “They know there is massive population change happening in this state, and they always need to be in the business of the future. I think that’s what they’re trying to do here. I think this is partly about football, but this is also just exposure to the university and the university’s brand.”
If games are broadcast in Spanish regularly someday, Nebraska broadcast rights holder Learfield/IMG College and affiliates that carry games in that language will have access to new advertisers, thus a new revenue stream.
“Down the road it will be, definitely,” Witty said.
Nebraska had been looking to do a Spanish broadcast for a year, Witty said, but circumstances didn’t allow it until this week. The timing is good: it’s the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, and Monterroso and Morales are available because the Chiefs’ game is on Sunday night. The hope is to do more.
Morales said he is preparing for the Nebraska game like he would any other, going over statistics and player biographies and studying the styles of the offenses.
“I am very excited because Nebraska has a Hispanic quarterback, Adrian Martinez,” Morales said. “That gives me a lot of motivation.”
Morales said he and Monterroso don’t take themselves too seriously.
“When we open the mic, we are two fans calling a game. We become a part of the game,” Morales said. “We enjoy plays from both teams. We have fun. We joke around. We give a touch of the Hispanic culture. We really enjoy having a good time and get some laughs out of it. And for those who are not familiar with football, we explain what is happening in a very fun way.”
This will be the first time Morales and Monterroso have been to Memorial Stadium. Monterroso said in his mind’s eye, he has a picture of Nebraska fans as portrayed in the 2008 comedy “Yes Man,” which shows star Jim Carrey in the stands with a painted face and wearing a corn head.
“I’m really looking forward to Saturday,” Monterroso said, laughing, “just to see the fans.”
Notes: The Spanish broadcast will be available for free on Huskers.com and the Huskers app and will be carried over the air on Lobo 97.7 FM serving Omaha, Lincoln and eastern Nebraska and Le Grand 93.3 FM serving Grand Island and central Nebraska.