Rebels struggling to fill seats, even for Saturday's "big" game


Within hours of UNLV throwing away a game at Minnesota on opening night of the college football season because the coaches refuse to play scholarship players on fourth down and kickoffs, I received an offer for two free tickets, essentially, for the Rebels’ “marquee” game against Arizona Saturday night.

This was remarkable on various fronts.

First, there’s the matter that UNLV considers Arizona a featured attraction outside of basketball season.

Do you know that Arizona is the only member of the original Pac-10 that has never played in the Rose Bowl, and once lost to Drake in the Salad Bowl?

The Wildcats did have one outstanding season, which is one more than the Rebels have enjoyed since Randall Cunningham. In 1998, Arizona finished 12-1 and No. 4 in the polls.

“Unfortunately, the Wildcats were drubbed in the 1999 season opener by Penn State and never recovered.”

That’s what it says on Wikipedia, and there’s even a footnote.

If you have to get drubbed, better it be by the Nittany Lions than by Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.

Last week, Arizona drubbed the ax-wielders from Flagstaff 35-0, something the Rebels could never do, but a dubious Las Vegas ticket-buying public apparently was not impressed. Interest in the home opener pretty much flatlined after UNLV’s debacle in the Land of 10,000 Special Teams Breakdowns.

So now, after there was talk of moving this game to University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. — something Cal State Fullerton would have done when it still had a football team, but also something that would have paid UNLV a handsome million — it appears the Rebels are sending out the monkey and the organ grinder.

You could have gotten free tickets for the Arizona game through House Seats Las Vegas, and, according to my Facebook pal Randy, from a similar company called FillaseatLV.com.

Well, not exactly free, because it still costs $89 for a year’s subscription to House Seats.

A cheap seat for the Arizona game costs 0 at the box office, a good one goes for $50. If you also plan to go to the Central Michigan game, or the Western Illinois game — mark your calendars, football fans — it’s gonna cost extra. Multiply by 2 if you bring your wife or a Facebook pal.

Before the leaves even turn colors, you’re way over the $89 it costs to join House Seats.

Here’s how it works: When shows and sports and manicure slots at beauty salons don’t sell out, tickets are released, and then you go down to the box office and they give you two tickets or file your nails.

You are not supposed to tell anybody they gave you two tickets, because then people who paid full price to see Frank Caliendo imitate John Madden probably are going to be pretty cheesed off.

I imagine the same hostility could develop at a UNLV football game if you get in for free, and wind up sitting next to one of the 16 people who purchased season tickets.

This is how I got to see Cheap Trick do Sgt. Pepper, the Go-Go’s at Mandalay Beach, Dennis DeYoung play the music of Styx, Blue Man Group play with silly string, guys with beards and cowboy hats and guitars claiming to be the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Greg London’s ICONS (must have been a Tuesday night) and Larry G. Jones, Master Singing Impressionist (must have been a really slow Tuesday night). I passed on the manicures.

One full-priced ticket to Cheap Trick doing Sgt. Pepper cost more than the annual membership.

Some people believe UNLV making football tickets available through these services cheapens the product and is a sign the Apocalypse has arrived with a Johnny Manziel autograph.

Others give the marketing types credit for trying something — anything — to spark interest in a moribund program that couldn’t beat Northern Arizona and Southern Utah in front of the home folks.

“You and I know there are always ways to get tickets to events,” UNLV interim athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said. (Yes, but I didn’t see her at the Atlanta Rhythm Section gig.)

“Our hope is to get people out to this home opener against a good Pac-12 team, and hopefully they enjoy the college football experience and they come back and buy season tickets.We just want everyone to get to Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday night.

“Does it really matter that there are 10 different ways to get there?”

She has a point there, because a guy who gets in for free, or next to free, probably will buy a beer or two and maybe even one of those soft pretzels that have turned into a stalagmite. And getting a little money from that guy is better than getting no money at all from him — which is what would happen if he stayed home to watch the game on his big screen TV with the high definition.

Anyway, you snooze, you lose. Arizona-UNLV tickets no longer are available through House Seats. Neither are tickets to Frankie Moreno, the Tony Sacca Variety Show and Hair by Daniel at aDias Salon.

At last check, good seats still were available for Mike Hammer’s Comedy Magic Show at the Four Queens though.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski