Bucs' home opener doesn't sell out

TAMPA, Fla. -- Cam Newton is coming to town. Greg Schiano’s coaching his first game and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are unveiling high-priced free agents Carl Nicks, Vincent Jackson and Eric Wright.

The Bucs are having all sorts of promotions to commemorate Ronde Barber’s 200th career start and Sunday’s afternoon high in Tampa is expected to be a relatively cool 84 degrees.

So you would expect the season opener between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium to be a sellout, right?

Wrong. The 72-hour window to sell out the game and lift the local television blackout just passed and the Bucs have announced they didn’t make it. Not even in a year in which they’re taking advantage of a new NFL rule that allows them to declare a sellout if 85 percent of the non-premium seating sells out.

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The Bucs announced last week they were 9,000 tickets away from selling out. This has been a problem in Tampa Bay for several years. In 2008 and ’09, the team often bought up remaining tickets to lift the blackout.

The team stopped doing that in 2010 and the Bucs have sold out only two home games the last two seasons.

We’ve speculated about the reasons (the economy, the fact Florida is a transient state, the on-field product, etc.) for this repeatedly. I think all those factors are at play.

But I think the surest and quickest way for this problem to ease would come if Schiano and the Bucs start winning. Florida has its shortcomings, but Tampa is a trendy town. Back when the Bucs were consistently good, they had a waiting list for season tickets because Bucs’ games were the place to be seen.

It might take some time, but, if the Bucs can get back to winning, fans will come back.