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Nebraska ending balloon release after 1st TD

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch

Nebraska Cornhuskers fans release balloons after their team scored first during Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb., on November 6, 2021. Osu21neb Bjp 57a

Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska’s gameday tradition of fans releasing helium-filled red balloons to celebrate the Cornhuskers’ first touchdown is ending.

Balloons have been handed out to fans near the stadium entrance before games since the early 1960s. Athletic director Trev Alberts said on his radio show a global shortage of helium led to the decision to end the practice.

Russia is one of the top helium suppliers, and Alberts said U.S. sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine have caused a shortage. Alberts said university leaders want the helium that would have been used in the balloons to go to the University of Nebraska Medical Center for medical use.

The release of balloons at football games has drawn criticism for at least a decade because of environmental concerns. A lawsuit filed in 2016 claimed the balloons were a health hazard to birds and other wildlife when they return to the ground. The university’s student government, in a symbolic move, voted in November to end the tradition.

The Huskers’ home opener is Sept. 3 against North Dakota.