This year's game will take place at UNO's Caniglia Field on Sunday, Aug. 13.
The South Omaha Classic: Growing Every Year
When the South Omaha Classic began five years ago, men’s soccer coach Jason Mims had to use some of his connections to secure a big name opponent.
Now, in its fifth year, Coach Mims doesn’t have to do any cold calling. Coaches are calling him.
"I got a call from the Notre Dame coach, and he said ‘Hey, we’d like to come down and play you guys,’" Mims said.
Notre Dame’s head coach, Bobby Clark, is the father of Jamie Clark, head coach of the University of Washington Huskies. The Huskies came to Omaha to participate in the 2015 edition of the South Omaha Classic. The younger Clark and his team were so impressed with the experience that he called up his dad and told him to check it out.
"I think he’s the best coach in college soccer, bar none," Mims said of Bobby Clark.
So when Clark called and asked to play Mims’ squad, he wasted no time.
"Let me check our schedule. Yep, we’re open!" Mims said.
The South Omaha Classic started as an exhibition soccer game at Omaha South High’s Collins Field. Penn State and UNO faced off in the event’s first year. The team gave away a bunch of tickets as a way to engage with the South Omaha community, which happens to be very passionate about soccer.
"It started out as just a game, but now we’re adding something every year," Mims said.
The next year the University of Washington came to town. The two teams worked together to put on a free youth soccer clinic for over 300 kids. A UNO player and a Washington player partnered up and ran drills with groups of 20, and it was huge success.
This year’s added feature is a dinner and auction at one of South Omaha’s most iconic institutions, Lo Sole Mio. The teams will enjoy a spaghetti dinner together while raising money for the Omaha Salvation Army Kroc Center.
Students from UNO’s Scott Campus are also going to be shuttled up for the game, which looks to be the biggest one yet.
Mims said groups from all over campus have stepped up to make the event a success. In past years, Student Involvement, Dual Enrollment, Admissions and others have worked to make sure the soccer clinic participants from South Omaha are bused to UNO’s campus.
"It’s kind of neat when you’re sitting in a room with 22 people all for this game. It’s not just athletics, everyone is involved," he said. "The big picture goal is to get the people of South Omaha on UNO’s campus."
"By the time they (the youth players) get to high school, they will have been on a college campus 10 or 15 times."
This type of programming has already made an impact at Omaha South High School, particularly on the soccer team. The Packers have been regular participants in the Nebraska State Championship, and some of that is due to the level of accountability that the clinic instills in the players.
"It helps them understand what it takes to be a Division I athlete," Mims said. "You have to look at your grades, your nutrition, etc."
Junior forward Noor Hamadi, a graduate of Omaha South, is one of the players showing the next generation how to make it.
He was a senior in high school when he saw the posters for the first Omaha South Classic. He told himself he wanted to be on that poster one day, and this year that dream came true.
"When I first played in the game, it was a different feeling," he said. "So many people from South Omaha were there. There is so much support from both sides."
Hamadi grew up in South Omaha. He would have been one of the kids at the youth clinics had they been around at the time. Instead, he gets to be one of the Division I athletes at the camp.
"That’s really what it’s all about," Hamadi said. "Doing all of this shows that UNO wants to be a part about the community."
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