LINCOLN — While Memorial Stadium’s sellout streak remains alive for another year, the strain of Nebraska football’s six consecutive losing seasons took a significant toll on gate attendance during the 2022 season.
For the first time since the World-Herald started requesting the numbers, the scanned ticket total for a game — Nov. 19 vs. Wisconsin — dipped below 50,000.
NU’s scanned ticket numbers for the kickoff against the Badgers registered at 46,613 — 8,225 fewer than the previous low of 54,838 for the frigid 2018 Illinois game. The 2022 Minnesota game — at 57,730 — became the third game to have fewer than 60,000 scanned tickets since the World-Herald started charting the totals.
They differ significantly from official attendance figures — routinely in the upper 80,000s — in part because scanned ticket data doesn’t include media, players, coaches, support staff, concession workers and others who might be included in the announced attendance. Still, the Wisconsin total is nearly 30,000 fewer tickets than the 75,051 scanned for the 2022 Oklahoma, which served as the high-water mark for this season, followed by Indiana (70,019), North Dakota (69,772), Georgia Southern (68,238), Illinois (66,681), Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts is spearheading a major overhaul of Memorial Stadium that will remake the massive south chunk of seats and reduce the stadium’s capacity by perhaps tens of thousands when complete. Alberts has said he wants the “right size” the seating to fit the kind of modern amenities and experience college football fans have come to expect. That renovation will occur as the Huskers play games.
"We are literally going to be repairing and rebuilding an airplane while we're flying it," University of Nebraska President Ted Carter said.
Less than a decade ago, NU added capacity with an East Stadium project that towers over the field and features six decks. That East wall of fans roared at the conclusion of the 2016 Oregon game, which remains the top scanned ticket total since 2014 with 80,865. Scott Frost’s coaching debut against Colorado is close second at 80,654.
The Frost era now accounts for the three lowest totals, too, with 2018 Illinois and the Minnesota and Wisconsin games this season. While Frost was fired Sept. 11, the overall multi-year struggles of his team have affected the gate attendance.
A Memorial Stadium survey proves it. Commissioned last year by Alberts, more than 21,000 respondents were asked why they didn’t attend more NU games. While cost and seat comfort both led the way at 42%, team performance was listed by 33% of the respondents. Nebraska is 23-45 since 2017, the start of the losing-season streak.
Nevertheless, the sellout streak survived to 389 games through the use of a “Red Carpet Experience” that matches booster-bought tickets to underserved youth. The streak is sacred enough among Husker high rollers that it’s likely to continue whether rank-and-file fans purchase tickets or not.
Alberts has repeatedly pointed to a rabid fan base as NU’s No. 1 program strength. Just before Thanksgiving, the NU Athletic Department took out a full page ad in the Omaha World-Herald to express its gratitude for continued support.
“Thank you for rallying our coaches, staff and student-athletes, and providing unmatched support for our programs,” Alberts signed note read in part.