Wyoming preparing for Big Red invasion
''Wyoming-Nebraska Is Most Anticipated Game in UW Football History'' blares the headline on the school's athletic website. That history covers 115 years and 1,038 games.
The Cornhuskers (3-0) are favored by more than three touchdowns over the Cowboys (3-0), and the game won't garner much attention nationally unless the unthinkable happens.
It's the event - not so much the game itself - that has the locals buzzing.
Fred Ockers, executive director of the local tourism board, said his family has had Wyoming season tickets for more than 50 years.
''And I would have bet pretty good money that Nebraska never would come and play in Laramie,'' he said Thursday.
The Huskers haven't played a road game against an opponent from a non-BCS conference since Southern Mississippi in 2003.
War Memorial Stadium, where temporary seating installed for this game has increased capacity from 29,181 to 32,000, will be the smallest venue Nebraska has played in since 1971.
''I'm sure it will be full and it'll be a good crowd,'' Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. ''As far as I know, the field is the same size, and that is what matters to us. Our fan base will be well represented out there.''
Laramie is a two-hour drive from the Nebraska border, so it's more convenient for Big Red fans in western Nebraska to see this game than to attend a home game six hours away in Lincoln. And almost half of the 4,300 Wyoming alumni in Nebraska live in the 11 counties closest to the Cowboy State.
Yes, this is a tough ticket.
More than 8,000 Huskers fans are expected in the stadium, and Wyoming officials are preparing for another 2,000 without tickets to show up and watch the game on a big screen that will be set up across the street in Tailgate Park.
Wyoming upped the face value to $75, more than twice the usual price.
Nebraska received an allotment of 3,500 tickets. Once those were gone, a fan had to be resourceful because Wyoming decided to not offer single-game tickets for sale to the general public.
Some bought Wyoming season tickets at $195 apiece, which is cheap compared with the $395 some brokers were asking for seats between the 20-yard lines Thursday afternoon.
Wyoming sold a record 10,714 season tickets this year, undoubtedly because Nebraska is on the schedule. Athletic director Tom Burman said he didn't have exact figures on how many Nebraskans bought season tickets.
''Let's say we had 300 ticket addresses from Nebraska in 2010,'' Burman said. ''I'm sure we have 600 or 700 now.''
One of those Nebraska buyers was George Schlothauer, an elementary school principal from Gering. Schlothauer said western Nebraskans used to enjoy going to Colorado to see the Huskers play the Buffaloes every other year, but those days are over now that Colorado has moved to the Pac-12.
''This is the closest Nebraska is going to play in who knows how long,'' Schlothauer said. ''I wanted to make sure I had my ticket. It still costs me less, even with a season pass to Wyoming, than it would for me to drive to Lincoln to see a game.''
What about those other five Wyoming home games Schlothauer is entitled to see?
He said he might go when TCU visits in November. He'll give the other tickets away.
All 1,800 of the Laramie area's motel rooms for this weekend have been sold out since May, and tourism officials said towns within a 100-mile radius are benefiting from the economic impact of the Big Red invasion.
''The net effect of the Huskers coming to our humble little town here is beyond huge,'' said Gordon Crow, president of the Laramie Area Chamber of Commerce. ''We were blown away two years ago when Texas came in. That put the economy over the top. The Huskers bring an even greater impact.''
Burman has wanted this game, and others like it, on the home schedule since he arrived in 2006.
He initially suggested a five-game series, with one game at Denver's Sports Authority Field, one in Laramie and three in Lincoln.
Details couldn't be worked out for a game in Denver, so Burman agreed to play in Lincoln twice if the Huskers would go to Laramie first. Nebraska will be paid a $300,000 guarantee for Saturday's game, Wyoming will get $750,000 for the 2013 game in Lincoln and $300,000 for the 2016 game in Lincoln.
Burman said the Cowboys will generate $1.1 million in ticket revenue for the Nebraska game compared with about $400,000 for other home games.
''I tip my hat to them,'' Burman said. ''There are a lot of other places they could play that are more sexy or the fan base might like better. It's a good for college football when programs like Nebraska and Texas are willing to play in a place like Laramie.''