OMAHA, Neb. – Apathy for the Holiday Bowl matchup with Washington has forced Nebraska to dig deep for ways to spur ticket sales.
This week, Nebraska offered a pair of free basketball tickets to anyone who buys tickets to the bowl game in San Diego on Dec. 30. The school also encouraged fans to buy tickets even if they don’t want to go – they can instead be donated to active military personnel in Southern California.
Nebraska had sold just less than 7,500 of its 11,000-ticket allotment as of Tuesday, assistant athletic director for ticketing Holly Adam said. Since the school is contractually obligated to buy unsold tickets at $60 apiece, that meant it owed about $210,000.
“That’s why we’re trying so hard to be creative,” Adam said.
Washington, on the other hand, has almost sold out its allotment, athletic department spokesman Jeff Bechthold said. He said his school, which is bowl eligible for the first time since 2002, is selling only to season-ticket holders.
Nebraska fans, known throughout college football for traveling well to see their beloved Huskers in bowl games, aren’t as eager this year.
For starters, the matchup isn’t new. An estimated 20,000 Big Red fans traveled to Seattle in September to see the Cornhuskers beat Washington 56-21 and the teams will play again next season in Lincoln, Neb.
A lot of Nebraska fans also went to Dallas to watch the Huskers lose to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game. And the Huskers played in the Holiday Bowl last year, too, beating Arizona 33-0.
Another factor is the destination, beautiful as it may be. Flights to San Diego from Omaha and Lincoln aren’t cheap.
“The interest level around here ranges from people being vaguely aware it’s going to be played to extremely low,” Omaha radio talk-show host Kevin Kugler said. “We’re not getting a lot of conversation about it.”
Initially, it looked as if Nebraska would go to the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., and play future Big Ten border rival Iowa.
But the Insight bowl officials chose Missouri over Nebraska, so the Holiday Bowl jumped at the chance to land the Huskers and their fans. Under Pac-10 bowl guidelines, the Holiday Bowl was obligated to take Washington (6-6) because it was the only remaining bowl-eligible team from that conference.
Nebraska ticket sales might be even worse if the school hadn’t pre-sold 5,000 tickets before the bowl and opponent were known, Adam said.
“We didn’t think we’d go back to the same place,” she said. “A different opponent might have helped us draw more interest.”