Will Northwestern Be a Neutral Site Game?

ESPN's Michael Wilbon was quoted this week as saying, "I expect Cornhuskers to occupy 50 percent of the seats this week". That wouldn't be an unprecedented feat by the Husker Nation. There have been a number of road games over the years where NU fans were at least equal in number to those of the hosting team. But what's curious in this case is that this is "Family Weekend" at Northwestern. So parents, grandparents, and siblings will be flooding the campus. Ryan field isn't exactly the Big House. Their stadium houses a modest 47,130 people. Yet Wilbon thinks the home team won't get even 24,000 to attend.  Why not? 


Lack of Tradition

It might be fair to say that a big reason that Wildcat fans might find themselves shoulder to shoulder with Husker fans is that lack of tradition in Evanston. It's not that they couldn't sell more tickets to their own fans, it's just that as smart as they might be, Northwestern fans don't yet understand how the game is played. Nebraska fans (the BRN staff included) had locked in tickets months ago. That happens when you think and talk about college football 52 weeks out of the year. By the time 'Cat fans woke up that the game was approaching, the tickets were gone baby gone.


Lack of Interest

Anyone can get behind a football team that's 6-1. Anyone would look forward to a rematch at home after scoring a huge win in Lincoln over ninth-ranked Nebraska. In order to do that, you'd have to actually know the team is 6-1 or about last season's upset. A good chunk of the 8,400 or so undergraduates and 10,700 postgraduates at NW might accurately be described as something less than "obsessive" about college football. Even within Ryan field, I expect to overhear the following from someone wearing purple, "What's their record? What's our record? Who's their quarterback? Who's our quarterback? What's the score? Which one's our team? Why won't those Nebraska fans sit down?". That's how you sell fewer than 24,000 tickets on family weekend.


The Big Red Represents

Let's give a little to the Husker Nation as well. Wildcat fans probably wouldn't find themselves flanked by Husker fans if we weren't so crazy for our Cornhuskers. Even when Nebraska is struggling, we post. NU's sellout streak has even survived Bill Callahan and Kevin Cosgrove, after all. It doesn't hurt that Evanston is so near Chicago, a major airport hub. It was a lot tougher to get as many people to Lubbock or Stillwater, back in the day. Still, there's a hardcore base that follows the Big Red like they're the Grateful Dead.

Wilbon may not be 100% accurate. The breakdown could be 70/30 either way. In any case, the environment won't resemble the Horseshoe in Columbus. NU players can expect to hear cheers when the Huskers make a play and maybe even some noise for the defense. If the Huskers don't find a way to take care of the ball and slow the Wildcat running game, it won't matter how many of us make the trip. In the end, it's still all about the players.

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Comments 13 comments so far

This week, I think BO has figured how to shut down the mobile QB and proves he is moving forward after the embarrassing loss in Cbus. Expect a huge game from T-Mart, both rushing and passing. GBR!

Now all you BRed fans have to do is tear down the goal posts and carry them to the top of the stadium at an away game—as Iowa fans did up in Minneapolis a few years ago!

It could be that an abnormal amount of Husker fans will attend this game so they might be able to say ‘I was at Bo Pelini’s last game as head coach’.

I still think Huskers win by 17 if they don’t lose more than 2 fumbles.

Excuse the off subject comment but just watching the Pelini press conference… What is he talking about saying that when mistakes happen you need to shake them off, have a short memory and get on to the next play?!?!?!?! Please! Talk the talk! Who screams at players on the sideline and boils forever? If Bo could actually move on after a play instead of pouncing on the player who knows they have wronged he would not be COMPOUNDING THE PROBLEM.

Sorry. That SHOCKED me to hear that and NOBODY pounced on him…

As for this article, I think it was 50/50 at ucla so this should be the same.


They usually bounce back well so they may play decently and win, or the same team shows up looking like they don’t fully know what to do…that team shows up quite often, sometimes when you least expect it, like last year in Lincoln when NorthWestern came to town…which brings me to the realization that…we could loose this game…then what with the season?
I think the vast majority of our problems is our coaching. I really do. Funny how the personality of the team so much reflects the personality of it’s coach. Even if Bo is given ample time to get these things under control, like if we give him another 3-5 years lets say, does anyone believe that he will be the next ‘era’ coach at Nebraska? Along the same lines as Devaney and Osborne? Looking at the first 4 1/2 years and at this team and it’s undisciplined play and lack of progress or consistency, I’d be hard pressed to say yes. I don’t think Pelini will be the next big time ‘era’ type of coach at Nebraska. I just don’t see a champion there. If he could just recruit…....
He’s made 2 big mistakes that, in the end, may very well have sunk him. First are his atrocious hires of non experienced assistants and coordinators. I have no idea what he was thinking, but it’s called nepotism elsewhere. Second is his recruiting, or lack thereof, and not building up traditional Nebraska strongholds; the offensive line in particular. We’re seeing now how invaluable and important a domineering offensive line is to the success of a ground attack such as has traditionally defined Nebraska, even in the passing game where Martinez seldom has the luxury of time. Now that we’re fully into his players and staff that he brought here, he’s falling hard on his lack of being able to consistently bring top level recruits to Lincoln to play in “his” system. We’ve got no “Monsters”.
He is starting to be exposed for not really knowing how to fix this…it stands to reason that if he did, then he would of, but he hasn’t, so he won’t be fixing these problems anytime soon. And if he does, does it have to get this bad before they realize they have to focus on the simplest of fundamentals again? Or that maybe he really doesn’t have the players to operate his 2 gap system successfully so maybe a change is needed? Ya think?
Just can’t see him gabbing joyfully with Erin Andrews after a monumental Nebraska National Championship win, can you?

Bo is in his fifth year, many fail to realize that we still have not had any continuity in the coaching staff with this program like the Devaney and Osborne era had.  We have changed offensive coordinators and now defensive coordinator and coaches around. The coaches can coach all they want but at sometime the players have to step up and take command of leadership and accountabillity of their actions and be focused and be disciplined in their assignments. GO BIG RED!!!

i’m not sure i understand why it is such a big deal how many husker fans are at the northwestern game on sat. we had 85,000 husker fans at the northwestern game last year and we know how that turned out.

Do not ignore the obvious: Northwestern is a remarkably small school that has defied the odds and is still competing in Division I football.

Northwestern is a charter member of the league which became the B1G Conference. At the inception of the league (about one hundred and ten years ago), the University of Chicago was also a member. Most colleges and universities were much smaller in that era. Chicago was once Northwestern’s most prominent rival.
The University of Chicago eventually abolished its football program. Decades later, when Chicago reinstated its football team, the Maroons entered Division III. Northwestern is the Green Bay of the conference. It is the smallest campus in the league in the same way that Green Bay is the smallest city to host an NFL team.

With the sole exception of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern is the only B1G conference football program competing in a market with a full contingent of professional teams (NL, AL, NFL, AHL, NHL, NBA, plus a host of other teams, college and minor league teams in the vicinity). Chicago is a divided city in terms of its college football preferences. There are as many Illini and Notre Dame fans present here, if not more than Northwestern fans. Chicago sports fans sometimes have multiple games to choose from on the same day.

Many Northwestern students are not necessarily locals, so many relocate after graduation. So the entire Northwestern alumni base is not in Illinois.

Prior to 1995, when Northwestern field successful teams (primarily in the Sixties) there were few, if any, consolation bowl games for teams that finished in second place. After 1972, the university administration included educators who were openly hostile to athletics and shortchanged the football team constantly in terms of budgets.

When Penn State entered the Big Ten Conference, it was thought that Northwestern was going to be pushed out. Three conference titles in six years made that effort problematic.

Northwestern seldom hosts a sellout crowd unless its opponent travels well. A good Northwestern turn out only amounts to half of the seats being sold. The stadium is also very red when Wisconsin visits.

One final comment: although the tickets for the game have been sold out for many weeks, brokers and ticket scalpers made many of the purchases in expectation that Nebraska would travel in huge numbers.

Unless there is a late surge, there may be some empty seats in the stadium. Some people who bought tickets to resell have not been finding buyers. I guess that 40,000 + will be on hand, but there may be a few empty seats here and there if the tickets are not resold soon.


If what you are saying is true, then it sounds like someone in Chicago finally found a transfer payment that works.

At Notre Dame, students were asked, “Why are you selling your football game tickets to Husker fans for $1,400.00?”  The industrious student replied…“Because Husker fans will pay $1,400.00 to watch their team play!”

Now keep in mind, that was Notre Dame.  So, be an entrepreneur, but reasonable at the same time, and you should do JUST fine!!


Do Cornhusker fans avoid online ticket companies and prefer to wait outside of the stadiums and bargain face to face? I was reading that many Nebraska fans traveled to Madison without tickets when the Badgers played host to the Cornhuskers.

My previous comments were directed to online advertisements for game tickets at Stub Hub and similar companies. I was predicting some empty seats based upon the fact that tickets remained unsold via the Internet.

does it really matter how many ne fans are there. Look at the ucla game. I feel sorry for all ne fans that made that trip to watch that.


It is just kind of the “old-school” way of doing things that we have come to recognize as tradition.  Some students need money.  What, who am I kidding, ALL Students need money.  It’s not that we don’t “like” or don’t “trust” online retailers for ticket purchases, it’s just like when we make the purchase, we know we are going to see our team play, and we are helping out a college student make ends meet at the same time.  Just a better warm-fuzzy.  When it is late October, warm-fuzzies go a long way.


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