Michigan State vs. Nebraska, 11.7.15

Husker fans celebrate a fourth-quarter touchdown against Michigan State at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.

Like a year ago, there are still Husker football season tickets available heading into June. What there isn't within the Nebraska athletic department is panic.

To the contrary, NU official Diane Mendenhall expressed good feeling Wednesday about the pace of sales, including the renewal rate of season-ticket holders. That'd be a 94.5 percent renewal rate, "which we were really thrilled about" and is about the same clip it's been in recent years.

"Our biggest challenge that we have is just awareness, that life happens and we don’t renew it around 100 percent," said Mendenhall, associate athletic director for development and ticket operations. "We renew at 95, which only several schools in the country can say that."

So, yes, she wants to make aware that Nebraska has about 2,000 season tickets still remaining. They'll go on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m.

The hope is that the tickets are gobbled up similarly to last year. When Nebraska announced in mid-June there were about 1,500 season tickets available, they were sold within a couple of days.

Nebraska heads into this 2016 football season with a nation-leading 347 consecutive sellouts, one of the remaining and most-prized streaks of the Husker program.

"We're really confident about where we're at right now, especially how well the process worked last year with doing the on-sale," Mendenhall said.

A year ago, Nebraska officials chose to have two different "Seat Yourself" phases before announcing a number of remaining tickets. This time, it was decided to go through the process once before putting the rest up for sale at the beginning of June.

There will also be a push during New Student Enrollment summer programs to get more students on board as well. Mendenhall said Nebraska is "probably a little bit behind where we were last year" in regard to student ticket sales.

The student ticket allotment is just a little more than 8,000. At this point, just shy of 5,000 have been sold. Last year, it took up until the end of the opening-game week to sell all the student tickets.

Current students aren't the only focus. So are recent graduates — that younger generation that will be key in keeping the sellout streak going in the years ahead.

Mendenhall said Nebraska doesn't break down ticket holders by age within its current system. "But what we have done is partner with the Alumni Association and reaching the young alumni, especially those recent graduates," she said. "So we've started that pipeline of getting them involved. That's an area we’re constantly looking at. We know millennials will be our next generation of season ticket holders, so there's a strong focus on it."

In that pursuit, she said the athletic department is in the process of adding software with the capabilities to "dive into data relative to more demographics based on age" regarding ticket sales.

An eye must be on the future when trying to fill a stadium with 90,000 people in a state that has less than 2 million.

While NU did last year widen seats of the top 20 rows of some weathered seats in North Stadium, expanding them by 4 inches, much to pleasing reviews of those who sat there, Husker athletic director Shawn Eichorst told the Journal Star in January that was a specific project to address a specific need.

"We like where we're at from a capacity perspective," Eichorst said then, noting the importance of being "very deliberate and strategic" in any decisions regarding changes to the stadium.

Nebraska development officer Jack Pierce recently told The Associated Press that there were three games last year when he had to call on friends of the program a few days before to buy tickets to help preserve the sellout streak.

"What Jack was referring to is really kind of standard in the industry. … Typically, whether it's Yankee Stadium or (Pinnacle Bank Arena), a game or a concert, you always have those late returns that come back," Mendenhall said. "What we work at is redistributing those. We make sure that everyone on our staff lets people know that we have tickets available and to try to purchase those."

You have to be proactive.

And maybe even remind fans of those special moments you can't experience from your living room. Mendenhall said that was a key message in a "Be There" campaign the NU athletic department has used this offseason.

Like that wild celebration inside the stadium after Nebraska's win against Michigan State. You had to be there.

"We're so fortunate that we have seven Saturdays a year to have those moments," Mendenhall said. "And you never know when that moment will happen."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


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