The future of Nebraska’s sellout streak in jeopardy?

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In 1962 the polio vaccine is given to millions of children, the Beatles release “Love Me Do,” Johnny Carson begins hosting The Tonight Show, Marilyn Monroe sings happy birthday to President Kennedy, the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly starts a nuclear war with Russia, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, the average income is $5,556 and, oh yes, the Huskers sell every ticket at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 3 versus Missouri, beginning a run of 375 sellouts, a streak that still exists.
But for how long?
From Bob Devaney to Scott Frost, Husker football players have played in front of a full house of screaming, passionate fans in Lincoln each and every game, becoming the national leader in sellouts by a wide margin (second place Notre Dame dropped out last fall after failing to sell all their tickets in a game in November against Navy).
Devaney came to Nebraska after coaching at Wyoming and won big almost immediately. Before he arrived Lincoln banks would purchase football tickets and leave them on their counters, free for customers to take. That game against Missouri resulted in a 16-7 loss, Devaney’s first Husker loss, but it marked the first time the team scored a single point against the Tigers in four years. It also was a game in which there were more pass interceptions (4) than pass completions (3). Total attendance that day was 36,501.
Looking back, it was a historic day and one fans point to when bragging up the Husker dynasty. Filling up the stadium for 57 consecutive seasons is a minor miracle in itself.
That streak has included games against Bear Bryant and Alabama, Barry Switcher and Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame, UCLA, LSU, Florida State, Washington, Texas, Ohio State, Oregon, Michigan, Miami and of course many others.
Memorial Stadium was expanded in 1964 (south end zone), 1965 (north end zone), 1966 (north end zone), 1972 (south end zone), 2006 (north end zone) and 2013 (east side and skyboxes). Capacity is now listed at 91,585, the attendance mark set against Miami in 2014.
The streak nearly came to an abrupt halt back in the early 90s, but a perfect regular season in 1993 and then three National titles later, momentum swung back in favor of Big Red. Tickets were suddenly hard to get, and scalpers made off like bandits.
Former Nebraska AD Bill Byrne began a $100 per seat “scholarship donation” program following the 1992 season, and currently those donations range from zero up to $2,500 per ticket. Pretty steep if you’re keeping track from home. He said back then that it was “touch and go” trying to keep the stadium sold out until Tommie Frazier and Co. got things rolling.
Currently, I’ve counted a total of 3,888 seats that were not renewed following the 2019 season. And if my math is correct, that’s nearly 4,000 tickets that must be sold before the next home game for the streak to continue, whether that’s this fall, next February or the fall of 2021.
And while Husker fans are the best in the country, these trying economic times will be a huge obstacle for the athletic department to overcome. If Frost hasn’t felt the pressure to win yet, and win big, this is certainly going to push him over the edge.
Nebraska’s consecutive sellout streak has survived 11 U.S. presidents, seven head coaches, 22 conference championships, five National Championships and three Heisman Trophy winners.
Sadly, it may not survive this pandemic.
DAVE BRADLEY can be reached at advertising@hamilton.net.

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