Red-White Spring Game, 4/15

Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo signs autographs for fans after the spring game at Memorial Stadium last April.

JOURNAL STAR FILE PHOTO

Arick Johanson of Kearney had no problem with how Nebraska went about selling tickets to the Red-White Spring Game — none at all.

That's because his father's friend is a season-ticket holder who purchased 20 spring game tickets for family and friends.

As a result, Johanson said, he and his wife will take their three children to the April 21 football scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. Two of the kids will see the Huskers in action for the first time, he said.

"I feel for people wanting tickets," the 34-year-old Johanson said. "I do. But I knew the day they announced the hire (of Nebraska coach Scott Frost), we'd sell out the spring game and fast! I think a lot of people felt that way."

Those folks were right. The game sold out in a little more than 24 hours after sales to season-ticket holders began Tuesday. Tickets available to the general public were gone in less than two hours Wednesday, creating the first spring game sellout in school history.

Although there is enormous excitement in the wake of Frost's hire on Dec. 2, many Nebraska fans are disappointed they weren't able to come up with what is usually an easy $10 ticket. Some people took issue with season-ticket holders getting first crack at the tickets.

Season-ticket holders and the general public were able to purchase up to 20 tickets — as has been the case since 2008, said Diane Mendenhall, NU senior associate athletic director for ticketing.

She said athletic department officials didn't fully anticipate the magnitude of interest for tickets. The previous spring game attendance record was 80,149 in 2008, the first year of former head coach Bo Pelini's tenure.

"We had a plan this year, and we hoped it would eventually sell out," Mendenhall said. "We knew there was strong interest, but there was strong interest last year, too, with wanting to see the three quarterbacks.

"Anytime there's some new twist to the spring game, it really heightens interest. It's just that this was unprecedented."

Sales were opened up to season-ticket holders at 10 a.m. Tuesday. At 2:30 p.m., people who had requested season tickets for the 2018 season could begin buying — that was the main change from previous years of spring game sales, Mendenhall said.

However, "We've offered opportunities for season-tickets holders before," she said.

By 5 p.m. Tuesday, 57,000 tickets were sold. Average first-day sales in recent years was 20,000.

"This year we really emphasized getting out to our season-ticket holders — that this is a benefit of being a season-ticket holder," Mendenhall said. "They have been with us with their unwavering support. We advertised this as a benefit for them."

Sales for the general public opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday with about 10,000 tickets available. At 11:16 a.m., the Husker ticket office announced the sellout.

The situation frustrated some fans, including 33-year-old Brandon Dorenbach of Lincoln.

"I had considered taking my 3-year-old for the first time, but after seeing how many tickets sold on the first day and knowing the demand from nonseason-ticket holders would be high, I decided not to pursue tickets," he said. "I didn't feel that navigating the large crowds and sitting near the top of the stadium would make the experience enjoyable for him.

"Also, out of principle, I refuse to purchase marked-up tickets on the secondary market."

Club-level tickets were selling Thursday for as much as $500 on StubHub.

"Once we sell the ticket, we truly hope the person who is purchasing it will attend the game, but that's out of our control," Mendenhall said.

As for feedback from fans, she said, "I think people are really proud of the fact that this isn't going to happen anywhere else but Nebraska. That's kind of the predominant message we're hearing. Yes, people are disappointed they weren't able to get tickets or with what they're seeing pricewise on StubHub. We're hearing a little bit of that. But the main message out there is, 'This is pretty cool.' It's a bragging point for Huskers."

Mendenhall said a certain amount of tickets have been set aside for such people as Husker student-athletes, recruits and players' guests. It's possible that some of those tickets will become available to the general public in coming weeks.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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