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The Weekly Roundtable: The Football Sellout Streak, Pinnacle Bank Arena Season Tickets, Baseball's Concerns

The Corn Nation Staff talk about this week's topics in Husker Sports.

David McGee/CN

So, lets go through a few questions this week shall we?

1. It sounds like the Pinnacle Bank Arena has sold out a lot of tickets for this coming fall. Like, around 11 thousand. And that is more than anything in the Devaney Center era. What’s that say about the feeling of Nebraska Basketball and Tim Miles?

Billgrip: Really it could be now or never for #nebrasketball. You’ve got an exciting, energetic coach who blew expectations out of the water in year one. You’ve got a brand new arena that will be amongst the best in the nation when completed. You’ve got a fan base that desperately wants a winner, or at the very least a team that’s at least competitive. If not now, when?

David McGee: There’s definitely excitement surrounding the program. Fans saw a team that no one thought would have anything similar to success going into the season, but then they were. They were with in a bucket with 5 minutes left on the road vs. Michigan who just lost one of the best title games in recent memory. Remember that? There’s a belief that there’s a lot of new talent which should lead to more success on the court, right? We’ll see.

Also, they’re moving into a new building, that always leads to an uptick of excitement. Combine that with the assumed significant increase in talent and the incredible sales job the athletic department and Tim Miles have done in this first year, it’s not a shock there’s an increase in ticket sales, but I think even this is more than anyone expected. It also lends credence that the fanbase will support basketball if they show even a hint of success which, if it happens, will dwarf any attention Creighton could ever dream of within the state. Feel free to scoff, Omahan’s, but it’s true. Also, I think it hurts the pro-beer sales argument.

Mike: New stadiums and arenas typically always have this reaction. The building provides a lot of momentum, and it’ll be Tim Miles job to capitalize on it. And yes, Husker basketball should be able to dwarf the interest in Creighton hoops...even in Omaha. Back in the mid 1990’s, the Creighton/Nebraska games at the Civic were always a "Hus-Ker Home Game! (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)". That being said, now that Creighton will be a member of a major basketball conference, Creighton hoop interest could increase as well.

Mister Mike: I think we got a great one in Tim Miles. He’s just the right blend of coach, car salesman, motivational speaker, and stand-up comedian. There was a rumor floating around out there that Minnesota was going to attempt to make a run at him after firing Tubby, so that should tell you something about Miles. I am personally more excited at this point for Nebrasketball than I am for football. I feel that there’s a more positive energy that Miles has created around than program than there has been in almost 15 years. We don’t sell these many tickets without Tim Miles as head coach.

Will Grubb: Tim Miles took care of business in year one, and it shows. However, this runs deeper than fan confidence in Miles. It’s about appreciating the athletic department’s investment in basketball. Under Doc Sadler, it sometimes felt like the University didn’t have the same sense of urgency as fans. The Hendricks Training Complex and the Pinnacle Bank Arena have proven that thought wrong.

Brandon Cavanaugh: Miles brought a sense of excitement back to Nebrasketball. He interacts with fans, the media and his halftime tweets are becoming the stuff of legend around the college basketball world.

There was a huge investment in the Pinnacle Bank Arena which tells me that Nebraska’s serious about its commitment to basketball as a whole. Football and men’s basketball are the two programs that usually end up in the black. With Miles, the new arena and the interactivity surrounding the program and fans, it’s a winning combination that will hopefully inject even more profit into the program.

Brian: This is fantastic news, and hopefully there will be as many renewals as there are initial purchases this year. That will have to be a product of Nebrasketball getting better and better with both teams. And, to be honest, this wasn’t going to happen with Doc Sadler around.

2. There have been weird things being said about the Memorial Stadium sellout streak in the last couple of weeks. Steve Sipple thinks it could fall because of both the market and the B1G division teams, while Tom Shatel think there’s nothing to worry about. What are our takes on this?

Billgrip: The sellout streak is an incredible testament to the dedication of Husker football fans and its meaning to this state. It’s really the one thing that still links Nebraska football of the past to Nebraska football of the present. Nebraska fans are some of the most loyal in all of college football, and it’s going to take a drastic economical change to keep at least 90,000 of us from forking over the money to go see a home game. I’m not saying the sellout streak won’t end, but it’s also not invincible. However, a weaker division certainly wouldn’t be enough. Remember, this is a stadium that still sold out against the likes of Kansas and Iowa State- terrible teams that had no chance against Nebraska most years. A couple of lousy seasons on the heels of a mediocre decade is much more threatening than having to play Illinois every year.

DM: Sipple’s crazy to think it will fall because of the teams in the division. That won’t have any bearing on the streak. He’s not crazy to think that the market could have in impact. That, I think, is the biggest threat to it. The state of Nebraska has been fortunate that the recession hasn’t hit as hard as it has in other places. If, God forbid, it ever does, people will be forced to make choices where their discretionary income will go and football tickets will potentially fall victim. I think that’s a legitimate concern.

Mike: If Bill Callahan hadn’t been fired by Tom Osborne, the sellout streak would have been in mortal danger in 2008. (Somewhere, I have an archive of unwanted Nebraska tickets from the Callahan/Pederson error that I keep as proof.) At 90k plus capacity, the sellout streak is always at risk of Nebraska underperforming on the field. There are tricks you can do to keep it going in the short term, but the only way the sellout streak will continue is for Nebraska to win. Nine wins a season probably isn’t enough.

Mister Mike: I think the sellout streak COULD be in danger. I know that there are some things the university will do (they did them during the Callahan era) to keep the streak intact. I know donations have been down since 2010, but whether the university counts donations for season tickets in that data, I have no idea. That being said, nine win seasons (with one of those wins every year against Western State University for the Deaf and Blind, so really 8 against real competition) might buy Pelini some time in the near term. But fans are going to be wanting more and unless this team wins a conference championship in the next two years, fans may not renew season tickets, and if that happens enough, Pelini will be looking for a new job. Lack of conference championships, BCS bowls (and yes, losing seasons) got the last coach fired. We have one of the weakest schedules in the country this year, so things should set up very nice for a CCG appearance. We’ll see though.

Will Grubb: I would guess there was a lot of research done before deciding on 90k. The most obvious problem would be a long period of losing, but if Pelini keeps winning 9 games a year, it should be enough to keep interest up. I also have a theory, in a dark room somewhere in the ticket office there is a red phone. It’s a hard line to a booster ready and willing to buy up any extra tickets needed to maintain the streak.

Brandon Cavanaugh: The sellout streak will never end. Never. If tickets don’t sell, they’ll be bought up by those who can buy them. Simply because people aren’t in the seats doesn’t mean the game isn’t sold out, after all.

Why would such a thing happen? The streak’s too valuable as a recruiting tool. Yes, it’s an amazing testament to the culture of Nebraska football, but if there’s a dip in performance and a few folks stay home, don’t worry. Someone will pick up the tab.

Jon Johnston: Never is a huge word. All good thing come to an end. College football faces serious threats because of potential health issues and the O’Bannon case against the NCAA.

This idea that a booster will buy all the tickets, but hey, why not aliens?

There’s little incentive for a booster to buy extra tickets. It has the potential to bring nothing but ill will towards them. Once a booster has bought extra tickets to save the streak, fans will expect them to do it forever. The moment they don’t, they get the blame for ending the streak. Who wants to put themselves in that position?

Brian: It will end eventually If you really don't think so, ask Boston Red Sox fan if they thought the sellout streak at Fenway Park would end. How it ends is anyone’s guess. The economy along with supply and demand will make this happen. I would say that’s not going to probably happen soon, but it will eventually happen. No one can dictate what’s going to happen 2-3-4 years from now and if you can, I can make us both rich!!

3. Do you think that the extra things in the spring game (conquer drill, lineman catching punts) are good things that you wanna see again? Or is that something that you could care less about?

Billgrip: I would absolutely want to see those things again. I give big props to Pelini and staff for doing something new and exciting for the fans. I’d love to see more drills in future spring games, but it also shouldn’t become a circus. The spring game is the only opportunity some backups ever have to play a real game in a Nebraska uniform in front of their family and friends. Don’t take that away from them. For the drills, maybe only let the starters participate so fans can see them a bit more, and then rev up the intensity of the actual game for everyone else. Avoid drills that could fuel controversy, such as a QB passing accuracy drill. Keep the drills fun, use them to showcase athleticism but not necessarily football talent.

DM: The spring game is an opportunity for people who maybe don’t get to go to many games ge a taste of what it’s like. For many, they use the day to introduce their kids to the program and it is an opportunity for the athletic department to showcase the personality of the program. Doing things outside of the box is good. It’s a little bit like the Harlem Globetrotters. Don’t take it too seriously, have enough real football to keep the parents and the football junkies entertained and throw in some fun things to keep the kids (and those with ADD) attention and get us home in 2 1/2 hours. Find some new things next year, keep us on our toes. I also heard the idea thrown about that it might be interesting: make it more like an All-Star weekend. Do some skills competitions. A kicking contest, perhaps. Let’s see the secondary try to make a field goal. Wide receivers try to coffin-corner a punt. Stuff like that.

Mike: In a spring game, yes. The game is less about evaluation and more about celebrating Nebraska football. Make it fun for families, and yes, make it fun for recruits. Make it good for TV as well.

Mister Mike: It was great to see in the Spring Game. I agree with Mike in that it should be more about having fun and the experience of a game in Memorial Stadium.

Will Grubb: Pelini showed his lighter side. How could one not enjoy watching a 300 lb lineman trying to catch a punt? Yes, at times the game did take on a circus feel, but everyone likes a trip to the circus now and then, as long as there isn’t a win or loss on the line.

Brandon Cavanaugh: The 2013 Spring Game was fantastic for so many reasons, and yes, the sideshow acts were great. What made them great was not only were Huskers both current and former involved, but everyone in the stadium was having fun with it. Not just those on the field, but those on the stands, recruits, media, everyone. That’s what that final scrimmage should be about.

Nebraska showed the college football world how to treat that event. People are still talking about everything that happened during the day, Jack’s run being the most obvious, but that’s a testament who everyone who made it happen.

I also understand there was a kicking competition scheduled that Jeff Jamrog was set to participate in that didn’t happen. I’m kinda peeved that the tug of war didn’t go down.

A notice to every school that has a spring game: Watch what Nebraska did and do that. People will come.

Brian: It was a nice touch, and it honestly made the game feel more like the Fan Day that some have griped about losing in the fall. However, I’m happier that the weather cooperated this year and made the experience worthwhile for what the fan base lost last year.

4. Nebraska Baseball; do you feel better now about them than you did 3 weeks ago? Or are you still as frustrated as you were during the non-conference schedule?

Billgrip: I feel pretty good about where the baseball team is at. Sure, it wasn’t fun to get dominated in non-conference play, and no Husker fan wants to see their team lose, but at a certain point you’ve got to step back and be realistic. Right now they’re in a good position to compete for a conference championship, and ultimately that should be the goal for this year.

DM: My feelings really haven’t changed. The non-conference gauntlet was designed to prepare them for conference play and hopefully a regional. So far, objective one seems to have been achieved, though their first test will come when OSU comes to town this weekend. It would have been nice to get a few more wins in California, but reality was that this team would likely have to win the conference tournament, so that hasn’t changed.

It’s become en vogue to treat sports like baseball with the same mentality that we do football. That’s dangerous, please stop doing it. This is a sport that has a lot of games over a fairly long period of time. This team will be a lot different in May than it was in February. We’ve already seen it evolve. A slow start doesn’t and hasn’t changed any of NU’s goals. Not a single one. They’re still all out there for this team to achieve.

Getting Kyle Kubat back into the swing of things will be vital for this team who has a need at starting pitcher. Kubat getting back on the hill would push one of our weekend guys to the week day which should help their midweek results improve. Getting to face some weaker Big Ten pitching has been good for Husker bats, too. They're going to put up a lot of runs in conference play, which we’ve already seen. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing in conference play and take care of business vs. Indiana when they come to town, this team’s going to be in position to do exactly what they set out to do.

Mike: The blowout loss to Kansas State made me feel worse, not better. I could shake off the sweeps earlier in the season because the games were competitive for the most part. Now, I’m just not sure what to think about Husker baseball unless they make a lot of noise at Target Field next month, and then do something in a regional.

Mister Mike: One word: pitching. That is all.

Will Grubb: I should plead ignorance with Husker Baseball, but I will say this, despite the rough start they are still in position to win a B1G title. All I need to keep frustration away is a shot at a conference championship.

Brandon Cavanaugh: The bounceback from that hellish streak to begin the season has been encouraging, and the Huskers are taking care of business in the B1G thus far. Then you see cringe-worthy losses to Kansas State and well, who knows?

This team’s certainly not as frustrating as it was during the beginning of the season, but there are still hot and cold spells. It’s like these guys are ready to bust out, but can’t quite figure out how to do it. Still a lot of baseball left to be played, so at this point, I remain cautiously optimistic.

Jon Johnston: Pitching. If that comes around we can do some decent damage and cautious optimism is the right approach.

Fans need to look at the bigger picture when it comes to baseball. Husker fans tend to have this attitude (okay, all fans have it not just us) that there’s a magic button somewhere and all we have to do is find it, hit it, and PRESTO!, we have a winning baseball (whatever sport) team. Sadly, magic buttons exist only in video games and TV commercials.

This is about building a program, or re-building a program that fell a long ways under Mike Anderson. It isn’t about just this year - it’s about getting better year by year under Darin Erstad until we have a team that can win the conference every year. Keep patient.

Brian: Said before me, but it does start and end with pitching. The bats have arrived, will the arms?