Nebraska has returned nearly half of their 15,000 tickets for the Big Ten Championship game to Ticketmaster, according to the Omaha World-Herald. CBSSports.com reports that Wisconsin has sold slightly more than a third of their ticket allotment as well.
Why the relative lack of interest? It's a combination of factors, but it starts with interest level. Nebraska already defeated Wisconsin once this season, and the Badgers actually finished in third place with a 7-5 record. There's some part of a been-there, done-that mentality with this game. Granted, considering how close the first game was, you have to hope that the players don't think that way. Would there be more interest in the game if the Huskers were playing Ohio State? Quite possibly, though one would wonder if some Husker fans would stay away for fear of another beat-down like what happened in Columbus in October. This game would be more meaningful, though.
In my opinion, it's the accessibility of Indianapolis that's probably the key factor. Sure, if the interest level is there, Nebraska fans will find a way to get to the game. But it's a value proposition...and Indianapolis is a 10 hour drive from Omaha. (11 hours from Lincoln, and so on...) Could you drive it? Yep...but it's a long day's drive each way.
Short notice airfare is even pricier. Since the berth wasn't clinched until Friday, nobody likely purchased plane tickets at the more reasonable advance purchase fares. Now, tickets start at $450 and head upward from there. So that becomes a value question fans. Do you spend $600 or more for a weekend in Indianapolis? Or do you save your money, and hope for a New Years trip to Pasadena, Orlando, or Tampa? When you think about it, it's kind of a no-brainer.
It's not like Nebraska fans WON'T be at Lucas Oil Stadium. Many have bought tickets through other sources. The Big Ten has been marketing tickets to fans as well, with a conditional ticket purchase offer. If Nebraska doesn't go, you aren't committed. I'm sure many bought that way. Others are hitting the secondary market, and paying less than face value. (CornNation's partner, TiqIQ had tickets available to the Big Ten Championship Game for as low as $22, as of Wednesday evening.)
But that's the risk of playing games at a neutral site. If the location is too difficult to get to, fans vote with their wallets. That's why ACC Championship tickets are going for $5 on the secondary market for a game between Florida State and Georgia Tech in Charlotte, NC. Meanwhile, SEC Championship Tickets are being scalped for $300 or more; that's because the game is being played 1 hour from Georgia's campus and 3 hours from Alabama's. You think there would be more interest for the Big Ten game if it were played in Kansas City instead of Indianapolis this weekend?
But this is one of those things to keep in mind with the new playoff system that uses bowls for semi-final matchups. Will fans blow their money on a semi-final game...or save their money to attend the big game? The question will depend on the amount of effort (time and money) it takes to travel to the bowl site.