LINCOLN — If Husker fans regard Pasadena as a big red rose, some apparently view Indianapolis more like a carnation.
Demand for tickets and travel packages to see the Huskers' first appearance in a Big Ten championship game appears weaker than expected, according to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln official, a ticket broker and a travel agent.
The NU athletic ticket office had sold a little more than half its allotment of 15,000 tickets by Tuesday, more than four days after they went on sale. Any of the 7,400 remaining tickets unsold by 11 a.m. Wednesday will be returned to Ticketmaster, said Holly Adam, assistant athletic director for ticketing.
“I'd say it's a little bit slower than for a Big 12 championship game,” Adam said.
Explaining lukewarm demand for Saturday night's game in Lucas Oil Stadium can be tougher than outrunning Taylor Martinez. The prevailing theory is that many fans already have put the contest in the win column and are saving their pennies for Pasadena — where the Huskers will play in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day if they defeat the Wisconsin Badgers.
“When it came down to it, I really don't want to go to Indianapolis in December when I can wait a month and go to a place that's got a little better climate and a lot more fun,” said Husker fan Bill Fleck of Omaha.
Fleck said he and his wife, Samantha, discussed attending Saturday's game, but they just couldn't get excited about a 600-mile, one-way drive from Omaha to Indianapolis. Nor could they justify dropping $1,200 on a pair of plane tickets, especially when the flights would have required connections and taken more than six hours each way.
If the Huskers lose Saturday night, most football analysts say they probably will be invited to a game in Florida when bowl match-ups are officially announced Sunday.
Another factor that might dampen that famous passion Husker fans have for the road is that their team already beat the Badgers this year. Even worse, Wisconsin backed into the championship game with fewer wins than either Penn State or Ohio State, both suspended from post-season play by the NCAA.
What's more, the Huskers didn't wrap up their spot atop the Legends Division until they beat the Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday. That didn't give fans much time to arrange a trip and travel time, said Chad Carr, president of Ticket Express, an Omaha-based ticket broker.
“The opponent, the destination and the short time frame all culminate in people not being super-excited about going to the game,” Carr said.
That's not to say Husker fans won't show in Indy. Carr predicted that they will outnumber the Badger faithful, who also had not snapped up all of their 15,000-ticket allotment as of Monday.
Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, holds about 67,000 spectators. While the conference reserved 30,000 tickets for the division winners, it put the other tickets on sale in August. Scott Chipman, a spokesman for the conference, could not say Monday how many total tickets have sold.
It's hardly as if Husker fans are boycotting the game. At least two travel agencies said they booked 50-seat motor coaches even before the Huskers handled the Hawks.
AAA Travel, meanwhile, has sold 110 game, lodging and air packages for $1,200 on a charter flight that departs Friday morning from Omaha. On Monday, the agency offered the remaining 50 seats on the plane for $495 for travel only, said Rose White, the company's Nebraska spokeswoman.
White agreed that it appears some fans are choosing to save their travel budgets for a bowl game.
Meanwhile, tickets are sold out to the Husker volleyball team's opening round match Thursday in the NCAA tournament in Lincoln. If other schools turn in unsold tickets, they will be offered for sale Wednesday morning, Adam said.
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