For the first time in at least a decade, Duke has sold out of football season tickets.
For the first time since 2000, however, N.C State may not.
Wolfpack associate athletic director Dick Christy said Monday that N.C. State is about 1,800 season tickets short of where it was last fall, when it sold 38,000. Meanwhile, Duke - thanks to a Sept. 18 date with defending national champion Alabama - joins North Carolina as having only single-game tickets available this fall.
"I think it's huge, for the momentum it's building for this program, for Coach [David] Cutcliffe, the players, for being more recognizable," said Boo Corrigan, Duke's senior associate athletic director for external affairs. "Obviously, the Alabama game does help ticket sales ... but even beyond that game, there's a lot of excitement around this team."
Duke, a private school, does not release its season ticket allotment numbers - so comparing its overall sales to State or UNC's has an "apples to oranges" element to it, considering that the Wolfpack and Tar Heels each have sold more season tickets than Wallace Wade Stadium's capacity (33,941).
But for a school that hasn't posted a winning season since 1994, the run on season tickets in Durham is a big deal. The Alabama game has drawn so much excitement that the Blue Devils will add up to 3,900 seats in the end zones and the concourses for the matchup, increasing Wallace Wade Stadium's capacity to 37,841. The last time Duke added additional seating was for a Nov. 19, 1994 game against UNC; 40,103 fans reportedly showed up to watch the Tar Heels beat the Devils 41-40 that day.
It's unclear how many of those Duke season-ticket seats will go unused during the six home games not involving the Crimson Tide, the preseason No. 1. The hope, Corrigan said, is that the stands will continue to fill as interest in the team - which won four games under Cutcliffe in 2008, and five last season - continues to grow.
Single-game tickets are still available for all seven Blue Devil home games. However, to snag a seat for the Alabama game, there is a catch: You must be a member of the Iron Dukes booster club to purchase one. A $100 membership allows fans to buy two tickets in the extra seating, at least until those sell out as well.
In Raleigh, meanwhile, Christy anticipates most of the Wolfpack's games selling out, just not by their Sept. 4 opener against Western Carolina. One factor that could lead to smaller crowds is the presence on the schedule of visiting teams, such as Western Carolina and Boston College, that Christy doesn't expect to bring a lot of fans.
Christy said the school calls fans when they choose not to renew their tickets, and many of them cite the economy as a reason for not renewing.
Although Christy said there's a chance season tickets will sell out this season, he said he has most of his sales team working to sell group tickets to help fill the seats that would otherwise be empty in those visitors' sections.
"Obviously you'd like to be sold out right now and not lose any," Christy said. "...[But] for us to only be down in the 3-, 4-percent range, that's pretty strong."
In Chapel Hill, UNC sold 35,100 season ticket packages - 600 more than last year - before individual tickets went on sale. Four games are sold out, leaving only the games against Georgia Tech (Sept. 18) and William & Mary (Oct. 30) with single-game tickets available. The Tar Heels are ranked No. 18 in the Assocated Press preseason poll
"We're definitely pleased with the ticket sales," UNC associate athletic director Clint Gwaltney said. "A win against LSU [in the season opener], and we'll get there [sold out] with Georgia Tech. And William & Mary is the homecoming game. ... so we're excited about where we are. No question."
In Greenville, East Carolina has broken its record for public ticket sales for the third time in five years. Under new football coach Ruffin McNeill, the Pirates have sold 22,765 season tickets - surpassing 2007, when it sold 22,000.
Staff writer Ken Tysiac contributed to this story.
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