Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

'Phenomenal' Fans Fill Pinnacle Again

By Brian Rosenthal

Tim Miles, then in his first season as the Nebraska men’s basketball coach, remembers vividly shooting promotional videos, imagining the atmosphere and excitement in his program’s soon-to-be-new home, sparkling Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Part of that objective was to sell season tickets for an upstart program making a significant change.

“And you certainly know right away you’re going to get this huge bump of attendance because of the new building,” Miles said.

Sure enough, Nebraska fans purchased every season ticket for that 2013-14 season, the first in Pinnacle Bank Arena. And they helped Nebraska bust an NCAA Tournament streak that had dated to 1998.

So they came back … and they’ve kept coming back, through good times and bad, and now again, amid lofty expectations.

The Nebraska Athletics Department announced Wednesday the final season tickets for the public have been purchased, marking the fourth time in the past six seasons the Huskers have sold out their entire season allotment of tickets at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

That’s more than 15,000 fans, including the Red Zone student section.

“Our fans have been phenomenal, showing up, selling out Pinnacle,” Miles said. “It really makes it one of the best places in the country to be the home team.”

Nebraska Executive Associate Athletic Director Marc Boehm said he dreamed of sellout crowds and exciting atmospheres and a true home-court advantage every night when Pinnacle Bank Arena opened.

But to do so with such regularity, and for a program still looking for that huge, breakthrough season, with an NCAA Tournament win?

“I think it goes to show if you have the amenities and you have infrastructure to play with and the product to go along with it, that this is such a tremendous fan base, that they’re going to come,” Boehm said. “Did I ever imagine four out of six years? Honestly, probably not, as quickly as it’s been done.”

Since moving into PBA in 2013-14, the Huskers have ranked in the top 15 nationally in attendance all five years, and are one of only nine schools in the country to average 15,000-plus fans per game in that span.

And you better believe that Miles notices, too, from game's beginning to end.

“When I walk out of that tunnel and onto that floor, there’s not a better feeling I’ve ever had as a coach to be in PBA with the Husker fans ready to go,” Miles said. “Our fans can make a difference in the outcome. The louder they are, the more into it they are, they can really make a difference.”

That includes in recruiting, too. Prospective student athletes see the passion and excitement for Husker basketball, both live and on television, with the sold-out crowds.

“A lot of places I’ve been, you can say, ‘Oh, we only need 4,000 and it’s still got a great vibe to it,” Miles said. “You never say that about PBA because it’s sold out almost every night. That’s such a great thing about our fans. That’s what so important about it as we continue to go forward, is that’s a huge benefit for us recruiting.”

The fact fans have kept filling Pinnacle Bank Arena even after the shiny new smell has worn off is a tribute to the growth of the program, Boehm said.

“They’re starting to see the play elevate. They’re starting to see the recruits develop,” Boehm said. “More than anything, basketball is such an intimate sport, and you’re right up close and they’ve bought in well with these kids over the last several years. They’ve seen it with Glynn (Watson) and (Isaiah) Roby and (Isaac) Copeland and (James) Palmer and all these guys, that now is the year people are really hoping some magic can materialize and we can make the NCAA Tournament.”

Fans provided that push in Year One of PBA, when the Huskers finished 15-1 at home, the only loss coming in the final seconds to Michigan. Nebraska came close to the NCAA Tournament a year ago after going 16-1 at home, with the only loss to Final Four team Kansas, also in the closing seconds.

Boehm said Nebraska now owes it to fans to improve and enhance the game day experience off the court, too. The Athletics Department and all its units -- Fan Engagement, Husker Vision, Social Media, Events -- are getting together to build on fan experience.

“I think you’ll see some different things at Pinnacle Bank Arena than what’s been the norm over the last few years,” Boehm said. “It’s not going to be every single game, but we’re going to sprinkle things in different games.

“We want to do our part. We know the fans are going to show up, but we want to build that atmosphere around there, not just the play on the court. You’re going to see subtle things taking place.”

And, hopefully, something not so subtle – another strong home court record that helps toward an NCAA Tournament berth.

“There’s a maturity about them,” Boehm said of these Huskers. “The thing they really want, is they want to make history. They’re working hard together to make this thing happen.

“Our fan base is extremely smart. They get it. They see it, and they want to be part of it.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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