Fan-favorite 'Blackshort' court debuts to rave reviews, here's how John Cook helped make it happen

LINCOLN — Husker fans love online polls.

So when NU's volleyball account asked fans to help pick the Devaney Center's new court design in May 2018, fans voted en masse.

But the court with the most votes didn’t become the Huskers' new Teraflex playing surface. Instead, Nebraska went with a more traditional faux-wood court with a red border.

However, the fan-favorite design — similar to the regular court but with a black border — debuted Friday and is likely the only alternate court in college volleyball.

“The most important thing is I didn’t want that survey to go to waste and our fans, they picked it,” coach John Cook said. “So I feel good today that we listened to them and were able to deliver. So I think that’s pretty cool.”

Initially, Cook tried to get the black floor as the team’s primary court but received some pushback from the athletic department administration, which favored of a red court — the school's primary color.

But Cook began to formulate a plan. He pitched the idea of an alternate court to Athletic Director Bill Moos, and that gained traction.

Cook then went back to Gerflor USA and negotiated the purchase of two courts — at a discounted rate.

“We are all about the fan experience. I don’t know how many things we can do to create a better fan experience, but that’s one of the things we can do,” Cook said. “It creates a buzz and it’s something different. The fact that it didn’t cost it any more money, it was a no-brainer.”

The red court arrived just before the 2018 season while the alternate court was delivered this spring. The Huskers waited for the right moment to unveil the black court.

The school's social media account teased the announcement Wednesday before the reveal Thursday afternoon. The court promoted the defensive-minded slogan #blackshorts, a play on the Husker football Blackshirts.

Cook said he received texts from other coaches saying they liked the new court, and asking how he pulled it off.

In the first match Friday against High Point — a sweep for NU — the Huskers wore their black jerseys.

“I loved it,” junior outside hitter Lexi Sun said. “I think that coach gets a little nervous when we mix things up sometimes but I think it was awesome. It looked cool out there.”

The reaction from fans was positive, too. Lincoln resident Caitie Schrotberger said she heard about the new court from her husband, who saw the posts on social media.

“We like it,” Schrotberger said with her 10-year-old daughter, Faye. “It a nice change and provides a good color contrast.”

Lincoln Shafer, one of the lead volleyball organizers for the student group Iron N, said the court pops more with the black outline and gives the students more opportunities for themed nights.

“Everything I’ve heard from students is super positive,” Shafer said. “As a student section, it gives us a lot of options so we can coordinate the shirts with the court. We saw the court design and our first thought was blackout (for the match Wednesday against No. 1) Stanford.”

Cook was appreciative that even though administration turned down the design at first, they were willing to work with him and help to find new ways to give the program an edge.

“We’ll come up with ideas and it’s cool when they say ‘Let’s find a way to make it happen,’ and we did,” he said.

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