Ticket lines mean football fever has hit

Monday afternoon Houston Nutt went over to the coliseum to visit with students who were in line outside, waiting to get their football tickets. When his football team started practice mid-afternoon Tuesday, there was still a line outside the coliseum. It was visible from the football fields.

Nutt's first Ole Miss team didn't need tickets. But they had the day off Monday anyway. First day of class. Nutt says his teams never practice the first day of school.

He and his staff want them to be students on that day. Football can be set aside for a day.

There was a spring in the step of the players Tuesday. You could sense they had gameday on their minds. By yesterday, it was as if the week would never pass. They admitted they were ready for Saturday.

"Great day to be a Rebel!" yelled one as he bounded up the stairs from the IPF to the practice field. He hopped, skipped, and jumped his way onto the field.

Not long after, while the team was in the early stages of practice, a "Go Rebels!" reverberated across the field from the street nearby. The UPS driver in the "What can brown do for you?" truck had obviously caught what so many have caught – Gameweek Fever.

Sans Russell, Associate AD for ticket operations, said the pace is picking up in the ticket sales department. There might not be a capacity crowd Saturday night when Memphis rolls in to Oxford. But then again, if there is a really big walkup……

OK, so maybe 60,000 is a stretch. But just to have the possibility means things are rebounding in the ticket department. They'd been on the slide since the year after Eli and company departed. A record season ticket sales of 47,000, counting student tickets, followed by a 4-7 season helped start the ticket slide that lasted until this summer.

All it will take for that number to get back up there to 2004's record breaker is for this Rebel team to win more than it loses and play a game in late December 2008 or early January 2009. That's doable.

The students are sold. And they're buying. Phillip Harrison, graduate assistant with the UMAA Foundation, says some bought early and others are buying still.

The returning students had the opportunity to buy tickets through the UMAA Foundation's student division back in the spring by joining or renewing. The ones who seem to take greater advantage of that situation are the freshmen and new students.

"We started selling the student memberships at orientations," said Harrison, a recent UM grad now in graduate school. "There were two or three orientations pretty much every week throughout June and July. We sold the student memberships for $75 apiece. Within that price, $49 covers the tickets, so that's $7 for seven games. If they do this early, they don't have to wait in line. They walk straight to the window and get their tickets."

The freshmen and newcomers are indeed better as a whole about pre-ordering. As students get older, they appear less likely to do it. Some of it is less demand because of losing. Win some games and the trend changes in future years.

It's a good situation for them. The students actually earn UMAA priority points to use after they graduate or leave college.

But for now there are those lines at the coliseum as football fever has hit the campus once again.

"Students should see from how things have gone this week why it's beneficial to do all this early," Harrison said.

Winning games will help take care of that like it always does.

Nutt says winning early in the season makes for a better postgame locker room, for some momentum to build on, to make the atmosphere surrounding the program conducive to more winning, to make practice better week after week.

And, as he knows by having visited the coliseum earlier this week, to sell tickets. It all starts again Saturday night.

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