The traveling Huskers will put an exclamation point on their season by trying to extend their home attendance streak. The streak is now at 828 straight sellouts, the longest such streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and at 103 games, the longest such streak in college football. Nebraska is averaging 91,838 fans at Memorial Stadium this season, which is an average of 8,328.6 fans per game.
In a world where everyone is looking for a shortcut to fame, fortune and a better tomorrow, it’s refreshing to see a fan base so committed to the university and their team. The Nebraska football team has a loyal following, and they have been rewarded with four home sellouts in their last six games. The Huskers have been quite successful at home, with a record of 8-3 in Lincoln since head coach Bo Pelini arrived in 2011.
On October 10, 2014, Nebraska football fans faithful, determined to keep home sellout streak alive will head to Memorial Stadium to watch the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers host the Colorado Buffaloes. The Nebraska football Huskers’ home sellout streak is now at 99 straight sellouts, tying the longest home sellout streak in college football.
Addisyn Parks, 11, turns to her father in a Chevy Traverse speeding through endless fields of green and asks an existential Nebraska question: “How come they’re not good like they used to be?”
Cliff Parks says something insightful to his daughter, explaining that football is cyclical, and that this is simply Nebraska’s time to be down, and that they’ll work their way back up. But that’s exactly the question I’d want to ask Parks on a Sunday afternoon, after he’d traveled 14 hours round trip with his daughter to see the Nebraska Cornhuskers play the Fordham Rams, a Patriot League FCS team.
What motivates you to accomplish this?
The Parks family lives in Chadron, a panhandle hamlet in a separate time zone set against a background of buttes and canyons about as far away from the University of Nebraska as you can go without crossing state borders. The Cornhuskers have only had one winning season in the previous six years, and their 2021 season opener against Illinois last week offered little optimism. A series of mistakes led to a 30-22 defeat and significant worries that tickets for a Nebraska game at Memorial Stadium (capacity 85,000) would not be sold out for the first time in 59 years.
The Parks family had to join a waiting list to get season tickets around 15 years ago. Cliff Parks remembers how ecstatic he was when he got the email, after a year or two of waiting, informing him that the coveted tickets were theirs.
But it was a long time ago. Addisyn is now part of a group of young people, ranging in age from infants to young adults, who have no recollection of the Cornhuskers’ supremacy, of their team humiliating opponents en way to five national titles. Cliff Parks recalls quarterback Scott Frost leading Nebraska to a national championship in 1997. This generation will remember Scott Frost, the coach, pleading with Huskers supporters not to give up on them.
So, as $11 tickets were being sold on StubHub, Parks did what he has done for more than a decade: he did what he has done for more than a decade. With unshakable optimism, he set out for Lincoln.
“I’ve never considered giving them up,” Parks remarked. “Hopefully, when we’re done, my kids will take the tickets.”
“Going to Husker games is something you look forward to in the autumn. It’s simply the way you are.”
The official attendance for Nebraska’s 52-7 victory against Patriot League foe Fordham on Saturday was 85,938. Rebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press
MY EARLIEST CORNHUSKERS FOOTBALL MEMORIES ALWAYS CONTAINED LOSSES. There was a New Year’s Eve party for the 1979 Orange Bowl game between Nebraska and Oklahoma, a night filled with four-letter adult obscenities I’d probably previously heard on a football Saturday. It was the first and only time I witnessed my father use alcohol. Oklahoma defeated Nebraska by a score of 31-24. There was the 1984 Orange Bowl, when the Huskers, who were rated No. 1 and had won 22 consecutive games, trailed Miami by 7 points in the final seconds and scored on fourth-and-8. An extra point would have knotted the game at 31, but there was no overtime in college football at the time, so Tom Osborne, Nebraska’s towering, red-headed icon of valor, went for two. Turner Gill’s pass to Jeff Smith was incomplete, and my journal that night included just two sad sentences: Nebraska had lost, and my elder sister Teri’s mascara had streaked down her face.
We never went to Nebraska games; it felt like a privilege reserved for the well-heeled, or at least families with four children packed into a one-bathroom home. Years later, it was a huge thing when I got the Nebraska football beat, not because I could attend to the games, but because it was the most significant writing job at my local paper.
I’d always wondered whether covering a team that seldom lost and blew away its opponents by video-game margins would be tedious. I was never informed. The Huskers had just returned from a trip to the national championship game the previous season, in 2002. However, they dropped out of the AP Poll for the first time since 1981 after losing back-to-back games against Penn State and Iowa State. They finished 7-7, ending a run of 40 consecutive winning seasons.
The milestones continued to plummet like temperatures in a Nebraska November throughout the following several years. After winning nine games during the 2003 regular season, Frank Solich was dismissed, fresh off an emotional victory against Colorado. Steve Pederson, the athletic director at the time, summed up his choice this way: “I refuse to let the program drift into mediocrity.”
Texas Tech beat them by 70 points in 2004, their worst defeat in 114 years. That season, the 35-year bowl run came to an end. That was perhaps the most agonizing record to tumble for Nebraskans.
The only thing that remained was the home sellout streak. It began in 1962, during the Bob Devaney era, and has seen economic downturns, wars, hirings and firings, and teams who may have hoped they could be labeled average at the conclusion of the season. Despite this, the run continues, currently at 376 games. There’s a T-shirt that perfectly encapsulates Nebraska’s tenuous hold on history and relevance. “Sellout Streak Champs,” it reads.
Trev Alberts, a former NU All-America linebacker who was named Nebraska’s athletic director in July, said this week that a supporter or a corporate sponsor had purchased a percentage of unsold tickets in the days leading up to a game in previous years. Alberts, on the other hand, said that he wants to be open.
He said that Fordham returned 2,400 of its allocated tickets a few weeks ago, and that in the past, if held tickets were not sold, it was still considered part of the sellout.
“And I didn’t feel good about it,” Alberts said. “So I just said, ‘What are we going to do?’ What is our strategy? ‘Does anybody have any suggestions?’”
Dr. Lawrence Chatters, who was recently hired as a senior associate athletic director for diversity, equity, and inclusion, expressed interest in a project that would expose the Nebraska brand and experience to young people who haven’t had those opportunities due to financial constraints during a Tuesday meeting. Alberts told him, “Tell me more.”
Alberts was discussing the concept with a supporter that weekend, and the following day, two anonymous contributors volunteered to purchase all of the unsold seats. The Red Carpet Experience was developed, and Chatters only had a few days to put it all together. They ended up with about 2,000 people.
“There are a lot of young kids here whose parents may not have gone to college,” Chatters said. “In the future, they may be first-generation college students.”
“They may not comprehend Nebraska’s past brilliance, but what I do want them to experience through this is Nebraska’s compassion.”
Winning, or the lack thereof, according to Alberts, has been a major factor in slow ticket sales. In addition, he mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic. While student tickets have sold out, he expects that selling the remaining seats would be difficult. On Saturday, Nebraska will face Buffalo.
He said, “This isn’t a season-long announcement.” “To keep the sellout run going, this is a week-to-week struggle.”
He’s attempted to figure out why the sellout streak is so significant, and he’s come up with this: Nebraska is a school that values tradition, and they had no influence over the program’s and records’ decline. They may, however, maintain control over this final relic of the past. He understands how the streak may help him stand out in a recruitment battle with other colleges. Alberts is a native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, and a lifelong Hawkeyes supporter. But then he traveled to Nebraska on a recruiting tour. “The room was packed, and everything was red,” he added. “And there wasn’t anything else like it.”
Before the national anthem and again when the Huskers pulled away in the fourth quarter, Memorial Stadium was almost empty. Rebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press
CHRIS SAYRE STANDED OUTSIDE OF POUND HALL ABOUT TWO HOURS PRIOR TO KICKOFF SUNDAY, PLAYING HIS ACCORDION NEAR THE STADIUM AS FANS FLOWED IN. For the last 39 years, he’s been doing this. Sayre used to perform a variety of songs, but it appeared like just two of them were popular: “There is No Place Like Nebraska” and “Hail Varsity.”
The sky was a slate-gray Saturday morning, and the crowds proceeded at a snail’s pace. He didn’t seem to be very concerned about it. He said that it was AM. The Huskers have had a number of these early starts in recent years due to their record. Sayre accepts gratuities, which typically cover the cost of a meal for his wife. Fans have thrown $100 dollars into his accordion case. That hasn’t occurred in a long time.
“Are we going to win today?” Between songs, Sayre spoke something, and the response ranged from sarcasm to fake excitement.
He remarked, “Nebraskans are usually so optimistic.” “However, I believe that many people are waiting for something to happen. For things to improve.”
For the 11 a.m. start, the audience was a little late. The stadium was unusually quiet at the start of the game, according to Joel Schafer, a 42-year-old mortgage salesman from Omaha who attended with his 75-year-old father. The family owns four club level tickets in west stadium, approximately on the 45-yard line. However, he was unable to find anybody to accept the remaining two tickets. His younger kid isn’t interested in athletics and his daughter is a junior at NU. The elder son enjoys football but was at work on Saturday and appears to prefer the Seattle Seahawks over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Schafer is curious as to what this means for his favorite home team.
He stated, “[Nebraska football] meant everything to me.” “Isn’t it true that I was born during the Golden Age? In 1997, my first year in college, they won the national championship. When you compare what I witnessed to what my children see, it’s heartbreaking.”
Schafer, who was the president of NU’s student body two decades ago, clearly recalls his first Nebraska game. It had been his tenth birthday. It snowed when the Huskers were playing Kansas State. Schafer’s earliest recollection of Nebraska was most likely the 1984 Orange Bowl. It was the first time he had ever seen his father weep.
For most of the first quarter on Saturday, they watched Nebraska struggle against a squad that was paid $500,000 to travel to Lincoln. He is no longer surprised by anything. Nonetheless, they continue to observe.
“When I listen to [sports radio], I hear people who attempt to blame it on a fickle fan base from the 1990s,” he added. “And I’m like, ‘You have to be kidding me,’” she says. The only thing that has kept this thing going has been the fans. You’ve had incompetent ADs and egomaniac ADs who tried all they could to sabotage the program. You have coaches who were caught on video insulting supporters and acting like a horse on the field, humiliating the institution.
“The fans, on the other hand, are still present. I can’t think of any team in college football whose supporters have stayed around as long as Nebraska fans have throughout the past two decades of mediocrity. They’re still around.”
Nebraska grabbed a 17-7 lead against Fordham after quarterback Adrian Martinez ran for a score in the second quarter. Rebecca S. Gratz/Associated Press
MARCEL BLACKBIRD sent an email to Chatters as soon as he learned about the Red Carpet Experience. Blackbird, who teaches youth football on the Winnebago tribe in northeast Nebraska, estimated that for most of his kids, seeing a Nebraska football game in person would be their only opportunity in their lives.
A mentor brought Blackbird to a Nebraska football game 26 years ago. He was twelve years old at the time, and it was one of the most memorable days of his life. Giant linemen, Blackbird’s heroes, stopped near the stadium tunnel to give him a high-five. It gave him the impression that he could do anything. “It’ll be something I’ll never forget,” Blackbird remarked.
He found out they’d be allowed to attend the game midweek, and Blackbird surprised them after practice with the news. They departed in four vehicles early Saturday morning and arrived in Lincoln about 9 a.m. The kids and chaperones were given a complimentary hot dog and a bottle of water, and they were able to take their seats before the rest of the audience arrived. They didn’t want to be left out of anything.
Angelo, Blackbird’s 11-year-old son, has heard his father tell about the day he went to a Nebraska game many times. He was so pumped up on Friday night that he invited a buddy to spend the night so they could board one of the vans early the next morning. They departed with their own recollections at the end of the day.
Alberts said the institution has received a rush of letters from fans who wish to contribute in the days since the Red Carpet Experience was announced. Chatters, whose family couldn’t afford football tickets while he was growing up in Bellevue, Nebraska, watched games by running errands in the press box with his high school ROTC, devised the idea.
Alberts stated, “We were all sitting there chatting about the future.” “How can we attract new fans? Our fan base is becoming older. How can we start new traditions and introduce more people to the Husker experience? And it became clearer and clearer as time went on.”
In his fourth season as Nebraska’s coach, Scott Frost, a popular former Husker quarterback, is currently 13-21. Thorson, Bruce -Source: USA TODAY Sports
AN HOUR AFTER NEBRASKA’S 52-7 WIN OVER FORDHAM, THE BEER WAS STILL RUNNING AND THE HOT DOGS WERE GRILLING UNDER A BRIDGE NEAR THE STADIUM — FAIRBURY REDS, OF COURSE. A food table had just been knocked over, the real hallmark of a successful party, and it seemed like old times for a minute. Tom Bonnichsen, 64, threw down his koozie, climbed a ladder on the back of his RV with remarkable speed and agility, and when he reached the top, he chanted:
“GOOOOOHHH BIIIIIIG REDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD
The audience responded with chants. “Go, Big Red,” says the narrator.
The 1996 Fleetwood Flair was purchased by Bonnichsen and his wife, Meg, more than a decade ago, and the drab, beige-colored car with chipped-away Nebraska emblems is best described as rustic. It was bought just for tailgating and has carried them from Ashland, Nebraska, through Texas, Wisconsin, and Iowa, through victories and defeats.
The pair spends $1,100 a year to park here for six or seven home games, and they consider it money well spent. You can really see the scoreboard from the driver’s seat. Tom was so angry in 2011 after Nebraska fell down by three touchdowns to Ohio State that he left the stadium and went to his RV to drown his sorrows. Then, from behind the wheel, Bonnichsen saw Rex Burkhead lead a ferocious Cornhuskers rally.
The Fleetwood Flair is beginning to show its age, and the Bonnichsens have considered retiring it. There are no highly anticipated road trips on the horizon, and there will almost certainly be no conference championship games to attend. As they pondered on the sellout run and their own devotion on Saturday, they wondered aloud what it would take to persuade them to stop coming, and the answer seemed obvious.
Bonnichsen stared towards the stadium, saying, “I don’t care how terrible it looks in there.” “We’ll never give up because we care about them. We’re not going down without a fight. This is the composition of our group.”
Elizabeth Merrill is a former Nebraska football beat reporter for The Omaha World-Herald and now works as a senior writer for ESPN. [email protected].com is her email address.
It’s tradition in the Nebraska Cornhusker football program. Sellout crowds attend every home game from the first one in 1890 to the current day. Goofy mascots, Wildcat uniforms and the “Husker” battle cry have forged a loyal following in a state that has become a football hotbed in recent years. Nebraska football is a family affair, and the fans have proven they’re not going to give up on Husker football just because it’s in a rebuilding phase.. Read more about nebraska football depth chart and let us know what you think.
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