Taylor Martinez and the Nebraska Cornhuskers will visit UCLA next Saturday. (Dave Weaver / Associated…)
Call it the big bang theory.
Nebraska, with its red-clad zealots, is coming to town. That has UCLA officials promising plenty of fireworks … after the game.
During it? Well, UCLA may have two concerns: seats that are empty and seats filled by Cornhuskers fans.
A top-25 opponent should be an easy week for the UCLA marketing department. Instead, there has been a ticket campaign, with a side show and a give-away included in the package.
Besides the postgame fireworks, the first 10,000 fans will receive a UCLA team poster. No word whether that's the first 10,000 fans not clad in red.
UCLA officials said that the promotions have nothing to do with lagging ticket sales or the legion of fans trailing after the 17th-ranked Cornhuskers.
"The reason for the fireworks and posters is the fact that this game marks the start of the Jim Mora era and we want to start it off — if you pardon the pun — with a bang," UCLA spokesman Nick Ammazzalorso said.
It is Mora's first home game as head coach, and UCLA fans should out-number their Nebraska counterparts.
But by how much?
UCLA officials are expecting about 55,000 for the game. But there is a red scare.
Nebraska ran through its ticket allotment and came back for more. The school has sold about 8,000 tickets, according Keith Mann, assistant athletic director for media relations. But more than 8,000 Cornhuskers fans are expected.
"California has the third-most Nebraska alumni, after Nebraska and Colorado," said Shannon Sherman, senior director of communications for the Nebraska Alumni Assn.
Said Mann: "That's not counting those in Las Vegas and Arizona who could drive over."
This has happened before. A Nebraska throng hit the Coliseum in 2006 to see the Cornhuskers play USC. But the Trojans, then at the height of the Pete Carroll era, were a hot ticket with locals. UCLA has been in a ticket-sales free fall.
The Bruins sold an average of 76,379 tickets per game in 2007. That has declined every year since. UCLA averaged 56,644 last season, a drop of 19,735 in four years.
UCLA lists the Rose Bowl capacity at 91,136.
"We took a dip in season ticket revenue and we want to reestablish that base and move forward," UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said.
Only 42,085 showed up to see the Bruins play San Jose State last season, the second-smallest crowd for a UCLA home opener at the Rose Bowl. The 1992 opener against Cal State Fullerton drew 37,965.
Sales for this season's opener will exceed that, though UCLA may be seeing red.