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December 15, 2010

The Husker Buzz: Insight Bowl missed out

Putting together bowl games should be mainly about creating the match-up that will create the most interest and draw the most fans to your game.

The Insight Bowl in Tempe had the chance to do that by matching up Nebraska and Iowa, but chose Missouri over the Huskers which in my opinion has hurt both their game and the Holiday Bowl.

For the record I have nothing against San Diego, as who could ever complain about spending six days in one of the best cities in the country? What I do have a problem with though is matching NU up with a team they've already played once this season and that they'll play again in September.

It's not fair to the bowl and it's not fair to the fans. At last check Nebraska had sold just over 7,000 tickets in their allotment to the Holiday Bowl, while Missouri has sold 6,000 tickets for their match-up with Iowa in the Insight Bowl and the Hawkeyes were at roughly 5,000 tickets sold last Thursday.

I can confidently say after speaking to the Arizonans for Nebraska and the Husker N Arizona Clubs over the last several years that between NU's alumni base in Phoenix alone the Huskers would've sold their allotment with ease.

That doesn't even factor in what local Lincoln and Omaha area travel agencies would've been able to do in terms of putting together attractive packages for the fans to attend the game. A Lincoln travel agency executive told me the Insight's decision to pick Missouri over Nebraska cost his business tens of thousands of dollars. Now he said they are just trying to break even with a single plane charter to the Holiday Bowl.

Both the Holiday and Insight Bowls are struggling to go through their Big 12 allotments, which ultimately leaves each school with a big fat bill for the short fall.

Mizzou has even gone so far to sending out emails to their fan base urging Tiger supporters to buy tickets and donate them to either students or military personnel members. Here's a portion of the email they've sent out:

"The Tigers are heading to their 6th consecutive bowl game and now more than ever Mizzou asks supporters, alumni, and friends to step up to the challenge of showing the nation that Mizzou fans are second to none! Mizzou has approximately half of their 11,000 ticket allotment remaining. If every season ticket holder or TSF donor bought 1 ticket, Mizzou would be able to quickly sell through the entire allotment and make an incredible statement to the Insight Bowl!

"While Mizzou urges fans to travel down to Tempe, AZ for the game, it is critical that fans who cannot attend the game also rise to the challenge and show their support through ticket purchases. Fans who cannot attend are encouraged to purchase tickets that will benefit Mizzou students, military personnel, and Phoenix area charities that reflect the Mizzou brand! Tiger Scholarship Fund members will receive TSF priority points for the face value of all tickets purchased."


I'm sorry, I just can't see Nebraska having to beg its fan base to buy tickets to a bowl game. I'm actually pretty impressed NU has been able to go through over 7,000 for the Holiday Bowl, considering over 25,000 Husker fans traveled to Seattle to watch the NU pound Washington 56-21 earlier this season and an estimated 30,000 Husker fans were in San Diego last season.

In comparison to some other teams around the country, Oklahoma State has only sold 8,000 seats from their allotment to the Alamo Bowl, which is drivable for most Cowboy fans. Connecticut has sold only 4,000 seats to the Fiesta Bowl…Oklahoma doesn't release their ticket sale numbers, but they've already been sending out emails to promote fans to buy tickets for military personnel members, which indicates the demand is probably not high.

Both Texas A&M and Baylor have sold out their allotments to the Cotton and Texas Bowls, while Texas Tech had only sold 4,300 tickets as of last Thursday to the Ticket City Bowl. TCU sold out their allotment of 20,000 tickets to the Rose Bowl in one day.

Bowl games are a business and the Insight Bowl missed out on a sellout by not picking Nebraska. That doesn't seem too smart for business…does it?

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There's been a lot of criticism of Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson since NU's 23-20 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game.

In September and October Husker fans looked at Watson as an offensive genius for getting things turned around from last season. It's amazing what a bad month of November will do to a guy.

I'm just going to throw this out there. In the Texas game it was head coach Bo Pelini that made the decision to pull Taylor Martinez in the second half for Zac Lee. People were critical of Watson for not pulling Martinez against OU, but isn't that the head coach's call?

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Running back Brandon Wegher was officially released from his scholarship at Iowa this week, and his father Rick Wegher told me his son would like to pursue a school at the BCS level for next season and the impression I get is he'd like to play somewhere close to home.

Wegher sat out the 2010 season for personal reasons, and has given very little insight as to what his plans are for the future.

Wegher had an outstanding freshman season at Iowa, rushing for 641 yards and eight touchdowns, including 113 yards in the Hawkeyes win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. At Sioux City (Iowa) Heelan he rushed for an Iowa state record 3,238 yards as a senior.

The speculation amongst those tied in at Iowa is Wegher could be eyeing Nebraska, but Rick Wegher said they are still weighing out all of their options.

Iowa won't release Wegher to another Big Ten school, which raises the debate if NU is considered a Big Ten school yet since they won't officially be a part of the conference until June of 2011. I'm told through an Iowa source that they would not release Wegher to Nebraska if it came down to that.

As a recruit, NU offered Wegher out of high school, but switched their focus to current running back Rex Burkhead as the process moved on….I'd say they made the right call.

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For only its second season of existence words can't describe what Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs has been able to accomplish under head coach Scott Strohmeier. The Reivers won their conference and finished the season with a record of 9-2.

Strohmeier's squad had six players that signed junior college letter of intents today, and at least two more will sign in February, which is as many as any JUCO in the country.

IWCC quarterback Zack Stoudt will go to Ole Miss, defensive tackle Jared Ebert to Oregon, offensive lineman Dan Heiar presumably to Iowa, cornerback David Whitmore to Baylor, offensive lineman Dallas Hendrikson to Rutgers and tight end Max Miller to San Jose State. Defensive tackle Shaq Rowell and defensive end Lenard Williams will sign their D-I letters of intent in February, after taking some more official visits in January.

To put their success into perspective, IWCC will have as many Division I signees this year as the entire state of Nebraska in the class of 2011, and seven of their eight prospects had BCS offers. I'd say their administration's decision to add football has been a rousing success.

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If you didn't see it, congratulations to Nebraska wide receiver recruit Taariq Allen for being featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd" in their Dec. 6 issue.

Allen was featured with his cousin Ben Patrick, who helped The Rivers School in Roxbury, Mass. win their first Independent School League title in history. Allen finished the year with 38 catches. He's one of my early sleepers in Nebraska's 2011 signing class.

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With Texas's Will Muschamp accepting the Florida job and Maryland's James Franklin speculated to take the Vanderbilt job this week, the "head coach in waiting" title came and went faster than the Snuggie.

What will be the next trend in college football coaching? Coordinators in waiting?

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All-American Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara is the first known Husker player that has received an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., which is regarded as the top NFL draft all-star game.

Last year Larry Asante and Phillip Dillard both played in the game representing Nebraska. I have to think Alex Henery, Eric Hagg, DeJon Gomes and Pierre Allen are potential candidates for invites to the Senior Bowl as well.


Sean Callahan can be reached at sean@huskersillustrated.com and he can be heard each day at 6:50 am and 4:50 pm on Big Red Radio 1110 KFAB in Omaha. He can also be seen on WOWT TV in Omaha four nights per week during the fall and each week he appears on NET's Big Red Wrap Tuesday's at 7 pm.


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