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The streak was given a reprieve.

The fact that it needed one, the work that went into making it happen, and the discussion that followed, has served as a reminder of the importance of the Nebraska football team's unprecedented stretch of selling out its stadium, and the tenuous position that stretch is in thanks to a perfect storm of events that have made keeping it alive a week-to-week grind.

"I don’t think it would be a good thing (that it ended). Because that would be a sign that things are just spiraling even worse," said Husker fan James Mullen. "If we would start winning some games, I think it wouldn’t be an issue. I think we’re on the tipping point right now — we’re just trying to see which way it’s going to go."

Things will trend toward full for the 376th consecutive time Saturday when the Huskers kick off at 11 a.m. against Fordham. Thanks to anonymous donors who bought up the roughly 2,400 remaining tickets so that they could be distributed to underserved youth, Nebraska's streak will live on.

It remains perhaps the program's most important recruiting tool. Some 20 years removed from a conference title, with a native son coach who has struggled to build any momentum, in the face of a pandemic that has altered even further the viewing habits of fans who were already making the trip to their couch rather than the stadium, this isn't the first time Nebraska's sellout streak has come under fire. 

It won't be the last, either. No other games this year have sold out yet. It will be a grind some weeks to get it done. Nebraska had three days to exhale, Alberts said after Fordham became a sellout, before the work starts again.

"Fans are what make Nebraska football, Nebraska football. That’s just the truth. I can’t tell you that maintaining the sellout streak is not an overwhelming effort, but it’s an area of focus for all of our staff," NU athletic director Trev Alberts to the Journal Star this week. "I’ve said it publicly and I’ll say it again, I’m not sure the University of Nebraska has much more of a differentiator between our peers and ourselves other than our fan base. That’s what separates us.

"So my focus and our focus will always be, as best we reasonably can, to ensure that our fans have a good experience, and we’re responsive and receptive to that experience and that we look for opportunities to engage more people who aren’t having an opportunity to be a fan."

Fan opinion on whether the streak should continue seems to be split. The 89,000 or so who will fill Memorial Stadium Saturday certainly think one way. But a not insignificant portion of the fan base wouldn't be sad to see the run stop. Whether that number grows depends on a lot of factors, not the least of which is the team so many show up every fall Saturday to watch.

A lack of progress under Scott Frost has begun to wear thin even the strongest allegiances, said Victor Schleich, a Pennsylvania native with a name linked deeply to Nebraska's football heritage.

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"We started hearing, well, the streak might not make it. And I started to think, well, the streak is something that should be earned. It existed because of the product on the field. People went to reward the success," Schleich said. "And to just have a sense of entitlement — 'Well, the streak has to continue,' well, why? Why should people pay an absurd amount of money, frankly, to go to a game now, where the product is one of the worst in the conference?"

Schleich's grandfather, his namesake, played tackle on both offense and defense for the 1940 Nebraska team that played in the 1941 Rose Bowl against Stanford. He has a place in Nebraska's athletic hall of fame. And he has a grandson in Pennsylvania who has never been inside Memorial Stadium, yet still roots for the Huskers because of those ties.

That's not the same as a season-ticket holder. But Schleich's thoughts aren't all that dissimilar from a growing portion of the fan base.

Memorial Stadium's sellout streak extended to 351 in 2016 against Illinois. It will reach 376 Saturday against Fordham. Journal Star file photo

There also remains the other side, the committed, the diehards who will all stick together in all kinds of weather.

Matt Borland's family has had season tickets since 1962, when the streak began in the final game of Bob Devaney's first season in Lincoln.

"We have continued them and the sellout streak is important, but it’s hard to support a team that we see on Saturdays in the fall the past 4 years," said Borland, a Lincoln native who lives in Kansas City. "However, I’m a huge Husker fan through and through. I will always support and do my part to continue the sellout streak."

The streak remains a link to the past and what Alberts hopes is a boon for the future. Yes, the Red Carpet Experience, announced Wednesday, will get young fans who might not otherwise see a game into the stadium. It might also light a spark in some of those kids and their families that NU hopes can grow into fire.

As with anything in college athletics, winning would solve a lot of problems. If Scott Frost were 21-12 and not 12-21, it's not likely that the streak would be in jeopardy. 

But reality is what it is. And a football team struggling to win games doesn't help matters at a time when it's harder than ever to justify packing into aluminum bleachers to watch in person.

"Obviously winning is an important component to the sellout streak. I think there’s a lot of variables and a lot of factors. We’re coming off a pandemic when we weren’t allowed to welcome fans, so I think yes, some of the human behavior and human experiences during that time and some of those changes impacted it," Alberts said. "So I think when you combine all of the factors and variables into this one bucket, I think it exacerbates the challenge. In terms of what our record is, the pandemic, no fans last year, and then natural trends nationally in terms of live sporting events.

"It doesn’t take a whole lot of research to read about institution after institution that has communicated that they’re no longer sold out. This place is just really unique, and different."

Whether Nebraska can stay unique and different when it comes to putting fans in the stands will depend on a lot of things. But the discussion of what will happen to the streak is as real as ever.

Contact the writer at cbasnett@journalstar.com or 402-473-7436. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.