CFB: Huskers offering deals to spur bowl ticket sales
AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – 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 under 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.
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.”
Ticket sales slowed to a trickle last week and Adam said school officials brainstormed to get things going again.
The standard $25 handling fee on bowl game ticket orders was waived. Starting Wednesday, the handling fee will be $10 through game day. The “Holiday Bowl Blitz” promotion ran Monday and Tuesday, promising two free tickets to the Jan. 8 basketball game against Iowa State with every bowl ticket order.
“I’m not sure that’s exactly the prize people are looking for,” Kugler said, referring to Nebraska’s bottom-feeder status in Big 12 basketball.
Holiday Bowl executive director Bruce Binkowski said he anticipates paid attendance of more than 60,000 at Qualcomm Stadium, which will be configured to seat 66,000.
Some 30,000 tickets are pre-sold in San Diego, he said, and about 7,000 tickets have been sold locally since the matchup was announced.
“It certainly doesn’t have the buzz of last year because Nebraska is back for the second straight year and Washington is coming in with a 6-6 record,” Binkowski said. “We do know there is a big buzz in Washington and they’re fired up and coming down here.”
Ticket brokers aren’t seeing much demand for the game, said Chad Carr of Ticket Express in Omaha.
Seats in the end zones or corners are priced as low as $42 on online broker websites, $18 below face value for tickets sold through the schools and $28 below face value for tickets sold through other outlets. Shipping and handling fees that go along with buying from brokers will reduce some of that savings.
Carr said some people have called looking for premium seats between the goal lines. But Nebraska fans he knows who have traveled in the past seem content to watch this game on TV and look ahead to the 2011 season.
“If there’s a secondary market (for tickets),” Carr said, “I’d like someone to tell me where it is.”