When Nebraska announced it would play a volleyball match in Memorial Stadium in February, university system president Ted Carter issued a challenge to continue the tradition of selling out the venue as it has for every football game since 1962.
“I’m just not going to be happy with 20,000 or 30,000,” Carter said. “I want to challenge all Nebraskans. We have sold out this stadium for every sporting event we’ve put in that stadium since 1962. Let’s pack the stadium. Sell this thing out and show the world how great we, as Nebraskans are as sports fans.”
This week, the Huskers fans answered the call and purchased more than 82,900 tickets in less than 48 hours. Just after noon on Thursday, Nebraska announced that its match in the century-old football venue on August 30 against Omaha was officially a sell out.
The state-wide celebration of volleyball will also include an exhibition match between Division II teams Nebraska-Kearney and Wayne State College in the afternoon. A concert is also scheduled after the volleyball matches, but NU has not announced who the musical artist will be.
“Nebraska fans never cease to amaze me,” Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts said. “We knew the interest in this match would be extremely high, but to sell out Memorial Stadium is truly remarkable.”
The incredible ticket demand means Nebraska will easily shatter the record for the most attended college volleyball match.
The 2021 NCAA title match between Nebraska and Wisconsin drew the biggest crowd to watch a college volleyball match with 18,755 fans at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Seven of the eight largest attendance figures for any volleyball match, and 12 of the top 14, featured Nebraska in the national semifinals or championship match.
Wisconsin holds the NCAA regular-season record, attracting 16,833 fans for a match against Florida last September at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Badgers’ record erased the previous mark set by Nebraska and Creighton nine days earlier when 15,797 fans watched the instate rivals play at the CHI Health Center in Omaha.
Drawing more than 80,000 fans for a single match is unheard of in college volleyball. Only four teams posted more than that figure for the entire 2022 season. Nebraska (155,618 in 19 matches) and Wisconsin (139,701 in 18 matches) were the only schools that attracted six figures. Third place Hawaii saw 89,450 total fans at its 15 home matches, and Minnesota had a total attendance of 80,886 at 17 home contests.
“We knew there was a lot of interest in this event based on the reaction we’ve had the last couple of months traveling around the state and the country,” NU coach John Cook said. “But to sell out more than 80,000 tickets already? It’s unreal. Our team was already pumped up about Volleyball Day in Nebraska, but now I can’t even imagine how excited they are going to be for this. It’s epic.”
Because the tickets sold do not include field-level seating or indoor club seating, the event could challenge for the most attended women’s sporting event ever.
The current record for a women’s event was set in March 2022, when Barcelona hosted Real Madrid for a UEFA Women’s Champions League match that drew 91,553 at Camp Nou. No. 2 on the list is the 1999 World Cup final (90,185) between the United States and China in 1999.
While it might be a challenge to reach those marks, the Nebraska volleyball match should reach the top five events, which include a match between Australia and India at the 2020 Cricket World Cup (86,174 in Melbourne), the 2012 Olympic soccer gold medal match (80,203 in London) and a 2019 soccer friendly between England and Germany (77,768 in London).
Season ticket holders purchased 17,900 tickets on Tuesday before sales were made available to the public Wednesday at 10 a.m. The initial allotment was gone in less than an hour, and the NU Ticket Office opened up the rest of the stadium. Only limited-view seats were left by Wednesday night, and all of those were sold by 6:40 a.m. on Thursday. Later that day, students claimed all the on-field standing-room-only tickets in less than three hours.
“It’s really exciting,” Cook said. “We want to make it a volleyball day of celebration. It’s great. Nebraska is trying to do some special things here, and our fans are the best and they want to be a part of it.”