University of Colorado chancellor Phil DiStefano challenged fans last spring to ramp up their support for the school's athletic programs now that CU is a member of the Pac-12, where all schools share revenue equally.

DiStefano reasoned that with everyone on equal footing through revenue sharing, the programs most likely to thrive would be those that sold the most tickets and received the most donations.

Colorado fans have provided mixed results in their response.

Season-ticket sales for the football program -- the primary revenue source of the department -- have increased dramatically to nearly 25,000 heading into the home opener Saturday against Cal.

But as of Tuesday afternoon, there were 7,000 seats still available for the first home game in coach Jon Embree's tenure.

The game doesn't count in the conference standings because it is the second half of a home-and-home series scheduled between the schools before conference realignment, but it is the first game against a Pac-12 opponent in the new era.

The school also is welcoming back the 2001 Big 12 championship team and former coach Gary Barnett this weekend. The team will be honored at halftime Saturday.

Given all those facts, Embree was asked Tuesday whether CU fans are doing their part.

"Obviously, we'd like it to be a sellout," Embree said. "I don't know if it's us losing (the season opener at Hawaii) or me or whatever. I only got one nasty letter.

"... It would be great for these kids to have a sellout for their home opener. It would be great for the 2001 team to be honored with a full house, but I understand. I don't believe it's a Colorado thing. It's just kind of how it is with a lot places, with the exception of the SEC and some of those programs. You have to give them something to come out for first sometimes. That's OK. I understand that."

Embree said the CU program has struggled to fill its stadium even in the best of times. He noted that Folsom Field was not sold out in 1994 when former running back Rashaan Salaam was closing in on a 2,000 yard season and the Heisman Trophy and the team was 9-1.

"It was 58 degrees and a great fall day," Embree said. "So a little of that could be the culture around here. We've got to do our part to get people to say this is something they want to be a part of. I'm sure the economy has some things to do with it. There is always circumstances surrounding it.

"The ones that do come, I appreciate them coming and I need them to be loud."

Embree said the program will host a handful of recruits this weekend and the game day atmosphere can play a part in the prospect's overall impression of the school and the program.

Embree said the nasty letter he received after losing his head coaching debut at Hawaii last week was anonymous and a sign of the times in big time college sports, where patience is lacking.

University of Colorado Head Footballl Coach Jon Embree laughs about the lone letter he got from a disgruntled fan as he speaks to the media at the Dal Ward
University of Colorado Head Footballl Coach Jon Embree laughs about the lone letter he got from a disgruntled fan as he speaks to the media at the Dal Ward Center on the CU Boulder Campus. Photo by Paul Aiken / The Camera / September 6 2011 ( PAUL AIKEN )

Embree said he hopes to see a significant amount of improvement from the first game. The Buffs are facing an opponent that beat them 52-7 in Berkeley last fall.

The Bears feature quarterback Zach Maynard, who can make plays on the run or in the pocket, just like Hawaii signal-caller Bryant Moniz did last week. Embree said his defense must tackle better.

Embree said senior quarterback Tyler Hansen didn't play his best against Hawaii and he isn't sure why. He said he is excited to see how Hansen responds against the Bears.

"The thing I love about Tyler is his expectations are probably higher than what mine are for him," Embree said. "So having someone like that as your quarterback and leader is good. I want him to be more aggressive leading, and I told him that."