SOUTH OMAHA Sports
What were the various social and cultural aspects of sports in South Omaha?
Reflecting Heritage, Uniting Community
Research compiled by: Pablo B., Lizbeth C. and Nancy C.
Before the field at 23rd and L became known as Collin Field, the community called it “The Hole”. The field was named after Conrad Collin, a coach and teacher for Omaha South High School from 1936 to 1972. He coached basketball, football, and baseball and was responsible for the most State Championships in the school’s history. He was also the first person inducted into the South High Packer Sports Greats Hall Of Fame. Collin Field officially opened in August of 2009. It is 75 yards wide, and 120 yards long. It has soccer and football fields, and a four lane track. It also contains 3,200 seats, press box, scoreboard, 2 team meeting rooms, concessions, restrooms, and a parking lot. This field is beautiful and amazing but it was not always this way. Private donors from the Omaha South community donated $6.5 million to help renovate the field. Companies and State Institutions such as the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) also gave large amounts, over $146,000, in grant money to the renovation process. Donors like James R. Young said, “This is about a community coming together”. He believed that making the field a nicer place could bring the people of Omaha South together.
South Omaha has a strong history in football. Dave Rimington is a star that made history and is still being remembered today. The Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the best center in college football, is named after him. He was also chosen during the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengels. He was a two time All-American from 1981-1982 and one of two players to win three Outland/Lombardi awards. Rimington was born in Omaha, Nebraska and attended South High where he became famous for his sports skills. Rimington won the Outland Trophy in 1981 and 1982, and is its only two time winner. Rimington was introducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997. Rimington retired from football in 1989. Another South Omaha football player is Marlin Briscoe. During his four seasons playing for the Denver Broncos, Briscoe was the first African-American starting quarterback in the NFL. He later became a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, where he was a member of the only undefeated team in NFL history. In addition to these football players, there were many more who went on to play college and professional football. All of the players received a lot of support from the community.
South Omaha is well known for producing some of the best gymnasts in the nation. Two Olympic gymnasts, Jim Hartung and Phil Cahoy, were members of Sokol, a South Omaha gym. Dr. Miroslav Tyrs founded the original Sokol gym in Czechoslovakia in 1862. The word sokol means “falcon” in the Czech language. The name symbolizes independence and strength. Sokols were organizations dedicated to the physical, mental, and cultural well being. It was based on the theory that only physical fit, mentally alert and culturally well-developed citizens come from a healthy and strong nation.
Jim Hartung was one of the best male college gymnasts in history and an eight-time U.S. national team member. While a student at South High, he won eighteen gold medals and three state championships. In 1978, he was the Omaha World Herald’s “athlete of the year” and a high school All-American. He went to the University of Nebraska and won seven NCAA titles, eleven NCAA gold medals, twenty two NCAA all-American rankings and made the U.S. Olympic teams in 1980 and 1984. In the 1984 Olympics he helped the U.S. team win its first and only men’s gymnastics team gold medal.
While Phil Cahoy was a student at Omaha South High he also accomplished a lot of things. In high school he won ten gold medals, three state titles, and was a high school All -American in 1977, 1978, and 1979. Cahoy also went to the University of Nebraska. He won four NCAA titles, ten all American ranking, fifteen big eight medals, two big eight individual titles and was a member of the U.S. world championship team and the Olympic team in 1980. Neither Hartung nor Cahoy were able to compete in the 1980 Olympics however, because the Olympics were in Moscow and the United States refused to partake in the Olympic games due to the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan.
During Margert Krakowski’s time at South High School, women were not given the opportunity to play sports. In her time Krakowski became a pioneer, participating in sports outside of South High by playing softball at Falstaff fields. She later became a successful business women and moved to Los Angeles California. She died at the age of eighty-eight leaving most of her estate, $300,000, to the South High Alumni Association.
One of the most important sports experiences for Latino immigrants in South Omaha was the Mexican Basketball Tournament, which began in the 1940s and continues today. The first team was composed of Mexican American veterans from World War II who competed against other Mexican teams from the Midwest. While the teams competed in intense games, the tournament itself was a way for the Mexican immigrant community to come together and socialize as well as raise funds. Other institutions such as the Catholic Church have helped promote sports in South Omaha.
On December 6th, 1890 at South Omaha’s Old Germania hall, two boxers, Dan Daly and Tommy White battled for 91 rounds. This bareknuckle brawl lasted five hours and fifty six minutes, and broke the hands of both boxers. Boxing remains popular in South Omaha today. Many boxers from multiple ethnic groups compete for various clubs in the Omaha area.
Erickson, D. (2000) E Pluribus Omaha: Immigrants All. Omaha, NE: Historical Society of Omaha and Lamplighter Press.
Douglas County Historical Society ; Omaha World Herald clippings and Photos
Durham Museum photo archives
Dave Rimmington; oral history
Mike Mancuso; oral history
Mike Lemek; oral history
Pablo Rangel; oral history