By Lincoln Arneal
When Nebraska announced its intention to play a volleyball match in Memorial Stadium, the intention was to take back the single-match record for attendance.
It turns out NU set its sights too low.
The public snatched up all available tickets as Nebraska announced that the event was a sell-out, with more than 82,900 tickets sold Thursday afternoon for its match against Omaha on Aug. 30. Nebraska-Kearney and Wayne State will play the opener that afternoon. That number does not include field-level seating or indoor club seating.
Wisconsin currently 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.
“I’ve never seen a reaction like a stadium match because I just think it’s so unique,” NU coach John Cook said Tuesday. “I think this is an event that everybody wants to say, ‘Hey, I was there.’”
However, with more than four times that many tickets already sold, the Volleyball Day celebration could be one of the most attended women’s athletic events 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.
It might be difficult to reach those marks, but the volleyball match could reach the top five events, which currently 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 they 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 on-field standing-room-only tickets.
A concert is also scheduled after the volleyball matches, but NU has not announced who the musical artist will be.
“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.”
Seven of the eight largest attendance figures for any volleyball match, and 12 of the top 14, featured Nebraska in the national championship match or national semifinals. 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.
Attracting more than 80,000 for a single match is unheard of in college volleyball. Only four teams drew more than that figure for the entire 2022 season. Nebraska (155,618) and Wisconsin (139,701) 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.