The year was 1962. John F. Kennedy was in the White House, a gallon of gas cost about 30 cents, and you could get a Nebraska football ticket for only a few bucks.
But in the years prior, the Huskers hadn’t given fans much motivation to actually buy them. Nebraska was coming off a 3-6-1 record in 1961 when it hired Bob Devaney to run the football team. That instilled some energy back into the program, and his 6-0 record to start his first season really got momentum kicking.
The Huskers fell about 400 tickets shy of a sellout for a late October game against Kansas State that season — and was the last time Nebraska failed to hit that mark.
A couple weeks later — on Nov. 3, 1962 — Nebraska hosted Missouri with hopes of moving to a perfect 8-0. “A homecoming throng of 38 thousand,” as The World-Herald described it at the time, filled Memorial Stadium to see it — the first sellout in what started a streak of 347 consecutive.
The Huskers actually lost that game, 16-7, but in the years that followed, they didn’t lose many more. From 1963-72, Nebraska earned eight conference championships and two national titles. And for each season, Memorial Stadium was sold out.
It’s a streak that’s lasted 54 years entering the 2016 season. It’s seen six Nebraska head football coaches, five national championships, 22 conference championships, three Heisman Trophy winners, 79 All-Americans, 297 home wins and 12,740 points scored by NU inside Memorial Stadium.
It started when NU was in the Big Eight, lasted throughout the Big 12 era and has continued into the Big Ten.
It’s become one of the biggest points of pride for Nebraska football — but is it in danger?
It took nearly two months for Nebraska to sell all of the 2,000 season tickets it made available for the 2016 season. That's significantly longer than the previous year, when approximately 1,500 tickets sold out in about 30 hours.
Still, Eichorst told our Tom Shatel he’s confident the streak will survive.
“We’re pleased and confident where we are today,” Eichorst said. “More than anything, I think there just needs to be an awareness to the general public, that often times there are season tickets available. And we’ll work hard so that folks are aware that we are in sales mode.”
The streak did come close to ending during the 2015 season. NU development officer Jack Pierce told The Associated Press last month he had to call up “friends of the program” days before three games and ask them to buy up tickets returned by the opponent.
That could happen more frequently unless they find a solution to an attendance issue that’s become a nationwide problem.
CBS reported that average attendance nationally has declined every year since 2008. 2015 only saw a decrease less than 1 percent, but in 2014, it was 4 percent. And 2015’s average attendance figure was the lowest recorded since 2000.
The Big Ten has seen a decline as well. The 2015 average of 65,998 was down from 66,939 in 2014 and 70,431 in 2013.
Nebraska has mostly avoided a significant decline in attendance. The Huskers have never finished outside the top 20 nationally dating back to 2003, and stadium expansions in 2006 and 2013 boosted numbers the following year.
But 2015 attendance was down. The Huskers’ average last season (89,998) was lower than the two previous years — 91,249 in 2014 and 90,933 in 2013. The cost of tickets combined with the quality and availability of television broadcasts has encouraged fans to stay home.
Nebraska has taken steps in the past to at least make Memorial Stadium more inviting, even if that meant lowering the capacity. In 2015, they widened seats in the north end zone, resulting in the removal of more than 1,000 seats, and there are plans for more. They made Memorial Stadium wireless friendly and highlights from other games are shown on the video screens.
All that comes in an effort to make the in-stadium experience more appealing than the on-couch experience. But cost will continue to be an issue.
A package of single tickets to seven 2016 home games will run $399, or $57 per game. Fans are also on the hook for an annual donation that ranges in value from $150 to $2,500 depending on the location of the seats. That’s a far cry from how much it cost to get into Memorial Stadium 54 years ago.
But should the streak eventually end, it won’t be surpassed any time soon.
Several schools have seen their own long streaks end recently. Alabama had one reach 56 games before ending in 2012. Virginia Tech got up to 93 before its streak ended in 2013. Florida managed 137 consecutive sellouts, but that too would end.
The longest active streaks behind Nebraska belong to Notre Dame (249 games) and Oregon (110). Notre Dame would actually be closer to Nebraska if not for a Thanksgiving Day game in 1973, the school’s only football game to not sell out since 1966.
But even if the Huskers’ streak did end today, it would take Notre Dame — estimating seven home games per season — until 2029 to surpass NU. Oregon would have to wait until 2049.
It’s certainly no guarantee, though, that Notre Dame or Oregon will ever threaten Nebraska’s mark. They face the same issue as every other program in drawing fans to the stadium.
And Notre Dame doesn’t make it cheap. To apply for season tickets, fans must first cough up a $50 fee just to get on the waiting list. Should they get those tickets, they pay face value, plus an additional rights fee that ranges from $1,375-$2,200 per ticket per year depending on the seat’s location.
Single-game tickets aren’t any more affordable. The Irish have a lottery system with tiered pricing, meaning tickets cost more for the bigger games. For example, a ticket to the Michigan State game in 2016 runs $150, while for Stanford it’s $125. And recent graduates have to make a $100 donation to enter that lottery.
But the Irish still manage to fill Notre Dame Stadium. Their attendance has held steady at 80,795 (full capacity) each year since a 1997 expansion brought the stadium to that number.
If Notre Dame can extend its streak, one could argue that Nebraska can, too. And even if NU's streak does end some day, Husker fans can know their mark will at least live into another decade — and maybe even a couple more.
For more information on the Memorial Stadium sellout streak, check out The World-Herald's hardcover book "Husker Full House: Celebrating 50 years of sellouts"