Photo by Eric Francis
Nebraska Football

Sellout Streak a ‘Special Deal’ for Huskers

September 14, 2016
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Devine Ozigbo is standing just outside of Nebraska’s weight room after defeating Wyoming. He’s already being asked about the next game on the schedule – Oregon. He’s diplomatic in his answers (“We take it one week at a time.”) but he pauses when he’s asked about the 350th consecutive sellout part of Oregon coming to Memorial Stadium.

“It’s one of my favorite announcements,” Ozigbo said. “Being the 350th, it’s going to be a great one against a great team. It’s going to be a lot of hype around that game. It’s just a great opportunity to show what I can do and what this team can do.”

He’s also memorized the stadium announcer’s line during that announcement. “Nebraska fans, you are a part of one of the longest traditions,” Ozigbo recites.

Hearing that over the stadium speakers, he says he always pauses. He’ll never grow tired of hearing it.

There’s something to be said about Nebraska’s 350 consecutive sellouts. It’s a tradition that dates back to 1962, spanning six head coaches and three conferences. It’s a tradition that means just as much today as it did when it began.

Over the last week, head coach Mike Riley, his staff and his players have been asked endlessly about Oregon. They’ve answered questions about how to stop the Ducks’ speed to how they can personally be more offensively balanced. They’ve also been asked a bit about the significance of the sellout streak.

Coming from Oregon State, Riley and his staff inherited Nebraska’s sellout streak tradition. They’re not unfamiliar with it, especially as Oregon – their former in-state rival – chased its own sellout record.

“They’ve had in their history a really rowdy crowd and it’s a hard to play,” offensive coordinator Danny Lansgdorf said. “I know going to Autzen Stadium in Oregon is tough and I think that will be the same for them in our place. Our place is a great atmosphere, it’s loud, it’s rowdy. Any time you play in those hostile environments, it’s tough. It’s tough to communicate. It’s tough to hear and hear yourself think

“For us, it’ll be a great home field advantage.”

Oregon’s streak just ended. After 110 games and 17 years, the streak fell short on Sept. 3 by just 183 tickets. The Oregonian’s John Canzano wanted to know why, so he called the Ducks directly. Oregon Senior Associate Athletic Director Craig Pintens answered.

“It’s pretty simple. We didn’t sell out the game. We’ve never been big on papering the house,” Pintens told Canzano.

But why did it end?

“There’s not one reason,” Pintens said. “If there was any one reason we’d be able to attack that and figure that out.”

Seeing another program’s streak end for no specific reason worries some, even Husker fans. The discussion over whether or not it could happen at Nebraska is addressed nearly every summer, like clockwork. Could it happen to the Huskers? Sure, but not today.

That means the Nebraska football program is just enjoying what it is now because it’s not common. It’s unique to have that many sellouts under a team’s belt.

“It’s a special deal,” Langsdorf said. “There isn’t anywhere in the country that can say something like that. It’s just such a long-standing tradition and support here that is unmatched, so it’s for sure a special place to work and to coach at.”

Linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey agrees. He also sees the sellout tradition as a tie from the past to the future, uniting former players (like defensive line coach John Parrella) to the current players on Nebraska’s roster.

“This place means a lot to a lot of different people and for a lot of different reasons,” Rose-Ivey said. “We came in different eras with different people here but it remains the same that this place is special.”

For a man like Riley, Nebraska is his “last great adventure.” The sellout streak lives within that adventure, which is a part of what made the Huskers so special when he chose to leave Corvallis for Lincoln.

Saturday is going to be meaningful. You can see it on the coaches’ faces, as well as the players’. Ask them about the sellout streak and they always pause, like they’re still trying to wrap their minds around what they are now a part of.

Sure, facing Oregon is a big deal. The team is treating it as such, but they’re also treating the sellout streak with the same level of respect. It stands for the tradition Nebraska is founded upon. Win or lose, it’s a part of what has made Nebraska special to so many for 62 years of sellouts.

“It will be great to go out there on the 350th sellout, put that N on my helmet and go play football for the Cornhuskers,” Rose-Ivey said.
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