Stew Price had to pay a steep price to make sure he and three family members have seats Saturday night in Camp Randall Stadium.
Price, a Nebraska fan who lives in Waunakee, paid more than $1,500 to secure four tickets to see the Cornhuskers play the University of Wisconsin in the matchup of top 10 teams.
But at least Price is assured of watching his alma mater make its highly anticipated Big Ten Conference debut in person. Some fans are scrambling for tickets and being forced to decide just how deep they want to dig into their wallets to attend the game.
"I've been a Nebraska fan for a long, long time and I have never seen anything like this," said Price, a product manager with Dean Health Care. "I'm telling everyone from Lincoln this is the toughest ticket I've ever seen in Nebraska history — and you can throw in all the bowl games and national championship games, everything.
"Nothing even comes close to this. This is crazy."
Some might think Price is crazy for paying what he did, but he had sentimental reasons for doing so. He wanted his 88-year-old father, Aldon, to see the Cornhuskers play their first Big Ten game. Price's wife, Kit, and mother, Marj, also will be there.
Price purchased two tickets in Section F for $300 apiece from a co-worker. He paid $980 last spring for two UW season tickets in Section A to save himself the hassle of finding tickets as the game got closer.
Nebraska received more than 20,000 requests for tickets from season-ticket holders but was allotted the standard 3,000 tickets from UW. As many as 20,000 Nebraska fans are expected to descend on Madison, whether or not they have tickets.
Justin Frederick, a school principal in Chambers, Neb., is among the Nebraska fans traveling to Madison. No one in his group of eight people has tickets. His aunt and uncle are bringing 12 people in their RV, and no one in that group has tickets, either.
Frederick had a chance to secure two tickets for $250 apiece, but he balked at the price. He'd rather not pay more than $150. And if he doesn't get into the game, so be it — he couldn't pass up the opportunity to travel with the Cornhuskers during their historic journey to the Big Ten.
"We'll just play it by ear," said Frederick, who booked a hotel room in February. "I've heard Madison is the best place to tailgate before the game in the Big Ten. Whether or not that's true, that we'll see."
'Never seen prices like this'
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were about 500 tickets available on StubHub.com, an online ticket resale site. Prices ranged from $199 for a ticket in the upper deck to $1,500 for one in the Varsity Club suites.
According to a StubHub press release, the UW-Nebraska game was the top-selling event on the site this week and "is by far the most demand we've seen for a Wisconsin home game in company history."
Ticket King, a Milwaukee-based agency that buys and sells tickets to sporting events and concerts, has end zone seats priced at $250 and seats on the 40-yard line at $369.
"It's unprecedented," Ticket King president John Lamoreaux said. "We've never seen prices like this for a Badgers football game in 20 years of being in business."
There have been tough tickets at Camp Randall over the years, with the most recent being last year's game between UW and Ohio State. But Lamoreaux said the UW-Nebraska game stands out for one reason.
"All of those games, the week of the game prices came down," he said. "I don't see prices falling apart for this game. It's a solid $250 to get in the door, and that's unprecedented."
Some fans have taken advantage of the seller's market. Tom, a Sun Prairie man who asked that his last name not be used, sold two seats on the 50-yard line for $450 each three weeks ago. He has two other tickets but plans to use them.
He started advertising the tickets on Craigslist in May and sometimes got as many as 20 responses a day, mostly from Nebraska fans. He ended up selling his tickets to UW fans.
Some UW students have cashed in by selling their tickets for $200.
"It's a great price," Connor Diedrich, an 18-year-old freshman from Kaukauna, said before UW's victory over South Dakota on Saturday. "For me, that's fine, I'll just take the money and not go to the game."
Diedrich sold his ticket to a fellow UW student but admits he would have sold it to a Nebraska fan for the same price.
Another freshman, Mitchell Oelke of Sun Prairie, was looking to sell his ticket for $200 on eBay but settled for an offer of $183.50.
"It covers the (price of) season tickets, so why wouldn't you?" Oelke, 18, said. "I can give up one game to go to the rest of them for free and have extra spending money."
It didn't matter to Oelke whether he sold his ticket to a UW fan or a Nebraska fan. He ended up selling it to a man from Iowa City and said he didn't feel guilty about being disloyal to the Badgers.
"I guess I don't have much loyalty," he said. "I'm a freshman, I've been here four or five weeks, so loyalty is not big in my world right now."
UW junior center Peter Konz said he could understand why fellow students would want some extra cash in their pockets.
"I'd think you'd want to watch the game if you had those tickets," Konz said. "But times are tough, I understand. People have Christmas to worry about, people have to buy their Thanksgiving turkey, they have to buy candy for Halloween. If the car breaks down, it's winter time. That money will come in handy."
UW coach Bret Bielema wasn't as diplomatic when asked about UW fans selling their tickets, particularly to Nebraska fans. Bielema admitted he was disappointed to hear fans were doing so.
"To me, if you're going to have a season ticket, the reason that you want it is for this game," Bielema said. "This is as good as it gets: the stage, the competition, the environment. I can't see anybody that's a true Badger fan wanting to trade that in for some extra grocery money, but everybody's entitled to their own opinions."
Price will show up Saturday dressed in black from head to toe, as Nebraska fans are being encouraged to do. He says UW fans looking for tickets for next year's game in Lincoln shouldn't get their hopes up.
"Generally, Nebraska fans don't sell their tickets," Price said, "especially for bigger games."