OMAHA, Neb. -- It's the time of year when Nebraska fans shelve their red Cornhuskers shirts and hats to become surrogate fans of those out-of-state teams that appear in the College World Series.
Not this year.
After 51 years of watching the College World Series from 50 miles away in Lincoln, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are finally among the NCAA's final eight teams.
With traditional local team favorites such as Louisiana State and Mississippi State absent from this year's CWS, it's all the more likely that Nebraska will be picking up more fans than ever.
While most of Rosenblatt Stadium's 5,000 general-admission seats along the outfield will be filled by Nebraska fans, many of the tickets to the remaining 20,000 reserved seats are held by series regulars who come just to enjoy good baseball.
"Yes, there will be a lot of cheers for Nebraska, but you'll hear plenty of cheers for other teams, especially when they do something good," said Jack Diesing, president of College World Series Inc.
Diesing expects between 6,000 and 7,000 of the 25,000 fans at Nebraska's game to be wearing red and cheering for the Huskers during Friday night's opener against top-seeded Cal State-Fullerton.
While that's a definite advantage, it's not the overwhelming attendance of 75,000 at most Nebraska football games, Diesing said.
The only other time Nebraskans have had a local team to pull for in the College World Series was in 1991, when the hometown Creighton Bluejays were eliminated in the semifinals by regular-season rival Wichita State.
"Ten years ago, I would have said my blood runs true blue," said Rosemary Gross, 65, of Omaha, who has attended the College World Series with her husband nearly every year since 1950. "But I suppose we'll be pulling for Nebraska this year. I know how hard these kids have to work to get here."
She does draw the line at wearing Huskers red and expects a number of other College World Series season ticket holders to follow suit.
"It's not just Omaha people who have tickets," Gross said. "You've got a lot of Iowa people over here, you've got to remember."
Many series fans also travel from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas every year, whether teams from those states make it to the championships or not.
Those fans might be inclined to reciprocate the support that Nebraska fans have shown other teams over the years, said Big 12 spokesman Bo Carter.
"There might be that switch, because the Nebraska people have been so nice to other teams," said Carter, who was Mississippi State's sports information director in the late 1980s.
While there have been rumblings that Nebraska's appearance in Omaha gives the Huskers too much of a home-field advantage, NCAA officials say Nebraska's first-time appearance does not jeopardize Omaha's future as home of the College World Series - even if Nebraska wins the championship.
The theory that repeated appearances by the Huskers at the College World Series could have the NCAA scouting out a new host city is a leap, said Jim Wright, the NCAA statistics director.
"Very few teams make it to the College World Series, anyway," he said. "To suggest that Nebraska or anyone is going to come back year after year is pure speculation."
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NCAA Baseball Championships: http://www.ncaabaseball.com
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