Husker football started in 1890, though the first team originally claimed the name of The Bugeaters (Geyer). Students had wanted intercollegiate football for a long time in order to boost student spirit, and the sport already had a fan base when it was in its early years. The first game was a win against the Omaha YMCA, and in the spring of 1891, the team beat Doane only to lose to them in the fall of 91 (Knoll 29). By 1893, the University hired the first coach Frank Crawford, and 1895 brought in a different coach, Charles Thomas. 1896 saw E.N. Robinson as coach, and 1897 brought in Fielding H. Yost. In 1895, five student members and five faculty members formed the University Board of Athletics which laid out rules for all athletics at the University. Baseball is the earliest sport played at the University, and several excellent baseball teams played during the 1890s. Men and Women's Basketball was first introduced by Dr. Clark in 1895, and Men's Track was also offered at the University during the 1890s.

By the 1890s, Greek life thrived on the University campus. According to Alvin Johnson, the majority of students disliked fraternities, and all non-Greek students dubbed themselves “Barbs,” short for barbarians (Johnson 90). The fraternities in 1892 included Phi Delta Theta, Beta Theta Pi, and Sigma Chi. Kappa Kappa Gamma and Delta Gamma comprised the two sororities at the University (1892 Sombrero 118-141). By 1899, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Delta Tau Delta, Delta Delta Delta, Alpha Theta Chi, Pi Beta Phi, Phi Kappa Psi, Kappa Alpha Theta, Kappa Sigma, Phi Gamma Delta, Alpha Tau Omega, Delta Upsilon, and Phi Delta Phi, were added to the list of fraternities and sororities on campus (1898 Sombrero 70-113).

The literary societies on campus were highly respected at the time: "literary societies were the chief centers of life outside the class-rooms [sic] (The University 57). The Palladian Society, the oldest student organization at the University, functioned to “help build up the moral and intellectual capacities, and in like manner the social capacities” (1892 Sombrero 101). The society consisted of eighty members in the 1891-92 school year, but none of these members were fraternity members as a result of a falling out between the organizations in the eighties. When the Palladian society expanded to include so many members, the Delian literary society formed in 1889 with a cap membership of fifty members to preserve the best literary and and social culture (1892 Sombrero 113). The Union Society, originally referred to as the Adelphian, was the third literary society present on campus. Eventually, all three societies also had a debate club.

During the 1890s, all male students were required to take three years of Military Science. The University Cadets won the Maiden Prize at the National Competitive Drill in Omaha in 1892. At the time, Lieutenant John Pershing was Commandment of the cadets while he maintained an elementary mathematics teaching position. The 1898 Yearbook lists pages of soldiers who chose to enlist in the Spanish American war.