Tickets or not, Nebraska fans heading to Wisconsin
Wisconsin officials tout Saturday night's game against Nebraska as the toughest ticket ever at 94-year-old Camp Randall Stadium.
As many as 30,000 Cornhuskers fans are expected to migrate to Madison, Wis., Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez said Wednesday. Most probably won't get into the stadium to watch Nebraska's inaugural Big Ten game.
Beau Baumert of Omaha, Neb., and his roommate, Jared Lubbe, wanted to make sure they had seats, so they bought a pair of upper-deck season tickets from Wisconsin for $700 this summer.
"I knew last year that this game would be extremely hard to get a ticket for," said Baumert, a 26-year-old gas pipeline engineer. "We started looking for ways in January. In late June or early July the Badgers' web page said they would release season tickets for purchase and that it would be the only way to get tickets to this game."
Wisconsin spokesman Brian Lucas said the school had 404 season tickets available for sale and that 67 of them were bought by people with Nebraska addresses. Each buyer was limited to four tickets.
Under Big Ten rules, a school is allotted 3,000 tickets for road games. Nebraska received requests for 20,000 for this one.
Fans willing to pay a premium could try their luck on the secondary market. Brokers were asking $200-$500 Wednesday for a ticket with a $49 face value.
Many ticketless Nebraska fans aren't deterred. They're heading to Madison in droves.
Mike Huffman, a 52-year-old physician from Lincoln, Neb., said he'll fly to Madison with two friends with the understanding that they'll pay no more than $200 apiece on the street for a ticket. If the price isn't right, he said, they'll be content to soak up the atmosphere from a local watering hole or the tailgate area.
"This is a historic event. Man, I can't miss it," Huffman said. "I've got to be there. It's one of those bucket-list things. I'm pretty sure I'd regret it if I didn't go."
Brent Gries, a 51-year-old bar owner from Paxton, Neb., is loading up his Dodge pickup and heading to Madison with two friends. If they can find tickets for $100 or less, they'll go inside the stadium. Otherwise, they'll go to a bar or tailgate in Badgerville, an area north of the stadium that can accommodate 5,000 people with big-screen TVs and will be open throughout the game.
Mike Fields, 33, a University of Nebraska web designer from Lincoln, said he and his wife and in-laws are driving an RV to Madison to mark the occasion of the Huskers' first Big Ten game. He said he probably wouldn't buy a ticket for any price. He said the Huskers have let him down too many times in big games, and they're 9½-point underdogs.
"I may be kicking myself a bit if we win and I wasn't there," Fields said, "but it might be worse if I spent the money and was there and we lost. I have a slim suspicion we might not be competitive."
Adding luster to the game is that it's the first in Madison since 1962 that two teams ranked in the top 10 will square off. Wisconsin is No. 7 and Nebraska is No. 8.
Wisconsin officials are hopeful the locals won't give into temptation and sell tickets to Nebraska fans, many of whom will be wearing black instead of their traditional red so they stand out among the red-clad Badgers fans.
The last thing the Badgers want is for Nebraska fans to take over their stadium the way they did at Notre Dame in 2000, when about half the crowd of 80,000 wore red as the Huskers beat the Irish.
"I think the reason you'd have a season ticket here at the University of Wisconsin would be to see a game like this," coach Bret Bielema said. "I know Nebraska has their little black-shirt mojo going, so I'm sure there'll be a few of them who get in the stands. But hopefully the Wisconsin fans stand strong and wear the red and make that environment second to none."
Madison merchants are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Nebraska fans. According to a University of Wisconsin study, each fan spends an average of $232 during a home football weekend.
"As much as we're excited about the game, we want to make sure to roll out the red carpet for our new friends from Nebraska," said Diane Morgenthaler, vice president of marketing and strategic planning for the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau.
As for Baumert and the season tickets he bought from Wisconsin, he sold to a broker the ones he had for three nonconference games and the Big Ten games against Indiana and Purdue. He hasn't gotten rid of the tickets for Penn State.
"We're trying to make as much back as we can," Baumert said. "Every dollar we get back on those is one less we had to pay for a Nebraska ticket."
Baumert said he won't renew his Wisconsin season tickets in 2012. He will, however, buy season tickets from another big-name opponent if single-game tickets are scarce.
''Next year," he said, "it might be Ohio State."