Diehard Nebraska fans Robin and Doug Netz of Lincoln are off to Florida's Capital One Bowl with a full-blown case of Huskeritis.
They were not disheartened by the Wisconsin blowout that chilled some fans' bowl fever.
The Lincoln couple booked their bowl trip before the Big Ten Championship game and would have gone regardless of the outcome, Robin Netz said.
“It's kind of like a marriage,” she said. “You don't quit when things aren't going well.”
The Netzes should find themselves in a sea of red at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1, but much of it may be Georgia red.
While University of Georgia ticket sales reportedly have been brisk — Bulldog fans were sighted around Orlando on Friday — ticket sales through the Nebraska athletic department are down sharply from last year's Huskers appearance in the same bowl. The Nebraska Alumni Association reports fewer travelers booked this year's bowl trip. A tour manager from Lincoln also said they are sending fewer fans.
Several factors may be undercutting the wanderlust of the Husker faithful. Among them, the Wisconsin loss dashed hopes for a prestigious Rose Bowl berth. And Nebraska is making its second trip to Orlando in as many years — Walt Disney World is awesome, but how much mouse can you take at those prices?
By game time, it's possible there will be a good turnout of Husker fans who chose to book their own flights and buy cheaper tickets through secondary markets. And there's the local Florida Husker fans who may be lured in by a cheap ticket.
Although Florida Citrus Sports doesn't publicize how many bowl game tickets have been sold, sales are lighter than last year's matchup, which South Carolina won 30-13, said Greg Creese, director of communications. “I would say at present we're trending behind where we were last year,” he said.
There's “definitely” more demand for seats on the Georgia side, he said.
Each school got 12,500 tickets, which were selling for $87 apiece this week.
Georgia has issued about 9,500 tickets for the game, according to Tim Cearley with the University of Georgia ticket office.
Some Georgia fans purchased tickets through secondary market sources, but it's difficult to know how many, he said.
Cearley said he expects a good turnout from the Georgia fan base because of the attractive location and matchup.
Holly Adam, assistant NU athletic director for tickets, said the department has distributed about 4,000 of its 12,500 tickets.
Last year, Nebraska sold about 8,100 of its 12,500 ticket allotment.
That game wasn't a sellout. It had an announced crowd of 61,351, but there were a decent amount of empty seats in the 65,438-seat stadium.
The Huskers saw a similar lag in ticket sales when the team appeared in back-to-back Holiday Bowls. NU sold all 11,000 of its allotted tickets to the 2008 Holiday Bowl in a day and a half, and the Huskers went on to beat Arizona 33-0. When the Huskers made a repeat trip to San Diego the following year, it sold about 8,600.
That year, an estimated 20,000 Big Red fans had already traveled to Seattle in September to see the Huskers beat Washington 56-21.
In the bowl rematch, the Huskers lost to Washington 19-7.
The Capital One Bowl last sold out in 2008, when Michigan beat Florida 41-35. The official attendance was 69,748.
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Adam said she does not have a way to know how many fans bought tickets from other sources in order to estimate how many Husker fans will attend the game.
Orlando is a great destination, but traveling there is costly, she said.
Georgia fans can drive the 455 miles to Orlando in under eight hours. The drive from Lincoln is 1,400 miles, nearly 23 hours. Round-trip airfares Friday from Omaha to Orlando were starting at about $860. Flying from Atlanta costs half that.
A survey of Internet ticket outlets Friday showed tickets in the nosebleed sections, high in the corner of the stadium, were going for as low as $11 on StubHub and $17 from CheapTickets.
The Nebraska Alumni Association is sending about 170 fans, a “slight decline” from last year, according to Shannon Sherman, association spokesperson.
Some are repeat travelers from last year, she said.
“I think Orlando's just a great destination, and the Capital One Bowl is a great game, and there's an exciting opponent,” she said. “So there are things that people are looking forward to, even those who are going for the second time.”
In addition to the trip, the alumni group will be co-hosting with the Nebraska Athletic Department Monday's pre-game Husker Huddle, featuring Tom Osborne's last speech as athletic director. The Orlando event will feature the Cornhusker Marching Band and the NU Spirit Squad, plus Herbie Husker and Lil' Red.
Sherman said they expect fewer fans at the event than last year, but still about 600 people.
Vicki Grieser, group travel manager for Travel and Transport in Omaha and Lincoln, said her agency teamed with other travel agencies this year to send one airplane that seats 135 to 140 people. It was to fly out this morning, and travelers were to stay at the Peabody Hotel, where the team is booked.
Tour participation is “definitely lighter than last year,” she said, when they sent two charter airplanes.
“Now, Orlando's also one of those destinations people like to make a vacation out of,” she said. “So when they're looking at spending what they spend to get down there, I know a lot of people are going in early or maybe bought airline tickets on their own.”
Had Nebraska won a trip to the Rose Bowl, fans would have been much more excited, she said.
“I do know, from the amount of calls we had prior to the Wisconsin game, had it been the Rose Bowl, we probably would have had 500 people, at least, go, three or four plane loads,” she said.
Eddie Maddox, director of catering and convention services at the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, said there's always a dropoff when teams make consecutive trips.
But his hotel is full.
“Whether or not they're all fans of Nebraska, or just people who are enjoying the warm weather, the hotel will be sold out starting last night,” he said Friday.
For the Netz family, the game has extra significance. Their daughter Mallory, a senior on UNL's Scarlets Dance Team, is performing at her last bowl game.
Joining them on the trip are their three other children: Morgan, a UNL sophomore, Nicolette, a senior at Lincoln East High, and Nathan, a freshman at East.
Robin Netz said she loves the band, the spirit squad, the whole bowl experience. The Huskers' 10-3 record is nothing to be ashamed of, she said.
“My son plays football,” she said. “I understand on any given day a team can have a bad day. They're young kids, and I just think as Nebraskans, it's our team, we need to support them win or lose.”
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