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Dave Parker generally doesn't have difficulty finding takers for the four Creighton basketball tickets his company buys for each game.
"Most of the time," Parker said, "they get snapped up in a heartbeat."
Not so for Wednesday's game against Missouri State. At the same time Creighton will tip off its Missouri Valley Conference season at Qwest Center Omaha, Nebraska will kick off its Alamo Bowl matchup with Michigan in San Antonio.
Parker says his sales director offered the tickets to 10 or 12 people without success. Parker finally found a taker, an out-of-town client who has no interest in the football game.
Many Bluejay fans do, creating a test of loyalty that has Creighton officials concerned. The school's fan base includes many Nebraska football season-ticket holders. Some will make the trip to San Antonio. Others likely will be unable to resist the lure of tuning in to see the Huskers play their final game of the season.
"We know a lot of our fans also are interested in Nebraska football," Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said. "We have to hope that our fans understand how much we need them for this game. We're going to be playing an excellent basketball team, and we're going to need all the help we can get."
Rasmussen said Creighton looked into moving the basketball game to another day or switching the starting time after learning of the conflict when bowl matchups were set. After studying the possibilities, Rasmussen said, school officials decided a switch wasn't feasible.
Moving the game to Tuesday would have meant cutting into the short break that coach Dana Altman gives his team for Christmas. Switching the game to Thursday would have given the Bluejays three games in five days. They play Dec. 31 at Illinois State and Jan. 2 at Bradley.
Shifting the game to Wednesday afternoon would have made it tough on the fans, Rasmussen said. "A lot of our season-ticket holders would be at work."
So Creighton decided to stay with the 7:07 p.m. start time, hoping that most fans will be like Ren Smith. He plans to attend the basketball game, then try to catch the second half of the football game on television.
"That's pretty much the consensus I've heard from talking to Creighton fans," said Smith, a former president of the Jaybackers booster group as well as a Nebraska football season ticket-holder. "I want to see Nebraska win the football game, but my first loyalty is with Creighton.
"I think true Creighton fans will be at the game because they know the team will need the support against Missouri State."
Missouri State is 7-1 and averaging almost 90 points a game. The Bears defeated Creighton twice in the regular season last year before losing to the Bluejays in the championship game of the Valley tournament.
"We'd love to have the building full and rocking for this game," Rasmussen said.
Creighton leads the Valley in average attendance at 14,263 after five home games. Wednesday's game against Norfolk State drew an announced crowd of 14,776, but it was the first played during the semester break when many students are home for the holidays.
About 300 fans at the game were students from area high schools who were admitted free and allowed to use seats in the lower bowl normally occupied by CU students. The school started the program several years ago to help fill the student section during the break.
"It's a black eye when there's big holes in the lower bowl," said Mike West, the athletic department's director of marketing. "We got the idea from one of our fans, and it's really helped us with the atmosphere at these games during the break."
High school students are admitted by showing their student IDs and signing a sheet to comply with NCAA rules.
Creighton will expand the program to include about 20 schools from southwest Iowa. One of the school's corporate partners also is looking east of the Missouri to distribute tickets.
West said First National Bank buys a large block of seats for a home game during the holiday season. He said the bank plans to distribute the tickets at its Iowa branches for the first time.
"The thinking is that if you live in southwest Iowa, you're probably an Iowa or an Iowa State fan and not a Husker fan," West said. "And it's a lot closer to get to Omaha than Ames or Iowa City, so those are fans we should be able to attract to our games.
"It's an area we should have been focusing on years ago."
Altman said the energized atmosphere at the Qwest helped contribute to his team's performances in wins over Dayton, Nebraska and Xavier.
"We're conservative in our optimism," West said. "This is a situation that makes us a little nervous, and you try not to expect too much."
The bottom line is that it's now up to the fans to choose between the Huskers and the Bluejays.
"A lot of us support both programs," Smith said, "but this is a time when Creighton needs our support. And, heck, I don't think Bill Callahan will know whether I was watching the Huskers on television or not."
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