SBD/December 26, 2013/Colleges

Schools Continue To Struggle Selling Large Ticket Allotments For Bowl Games

Michigan fans have bought about 5,600 tickets to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
A postseason with 35 bowl games "provides little direct financial reward for success," and for smaller schools it is "often punitive," according to David Briggs of the TOLEDO BLADE. Even Ohio State is among the schools that are "struggling to unload their massive allotments to far-flung destinations." OSU will often "battle cool sales" -- even for BCS games "short of the Rose Bowl or the national championship." The Big Ten’s "second tier of bowls often face the same issues." Michigan has only sold "about 5,600 of its 11,000 available tickets" to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Meanwhile, a "rare success story" could be Bowling Green, which plays Pitt today in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. BGSU will "receive only $100,000 from the MAC, but that’s because expenses of a three-night stay just up the road are minimal while it gets to keep the revenue from ticket sales." MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said, “We’re different than a lot of other conferences in that we don’t charge schools and tell them they’re responsible for selling ‘X’ number of tickets, and if you don’t, you have to pay for them. We negotiate with the bowls so that schools can monetize them.” Toledo AD Mike O’Brien said that his department has "helped offset recent bowl losses with unexpected revenues," including $130,000 from former coach Tim Beckman’s buyout and more than $360,000 from Northern Illinois’ Orange Bowl appearance last year. Steinbrecher: "Unless we're in a BCS bowl, there's probably not more money coming in for bowls than we're spending." Briggs noted even if it "sometimes leaves them in the red, most schools find a bowl system held together by sponsorships, ticket guarantees, and ESPN -- which will televise 33 of the 35 games -- worth it." BGSU Assistant AD/Communications Jason Knavel said, "That three-hour commercial on ESPN and the institutional spots you get on there, I don't know how you value that. It's huge" (TOLEDO BLADE, 12/22).

DEFENDING THE ALAMO: The Valero Alamo Bowl on Monday announced that the game had sold out for the third straight year. It also marks the sixth sellout in the last eight years. Both Oregon and Texas sold their entire allotments and Valero purchased the remaining 220 seats for a San Antonio food bank fundraiser (Alamo Bowl). In San Antonio, Tim Griffin noted bowl officials "aren't surprised" at the sellout despite "less time to sell tickets this year." It marks the "third-fastest sellout in the bowl's 21-season history," trailing only the '99 Texas A&M-Penn State game and the Texas-Iowa game in '06. This year's ticket sales also "picked up some extra sizzle after UT coach Mack Brown announced his resignation." Extra fans could be "accommodated with the addition of a couple of extra rows of seats in suites in the south end zone and squeezing a few extra standees into the building in various locations." Alamo Bowl Exec Dir Derrick Fox said, "We'll see what we need to do after we get some additional requests from a couple of our sources. We'll just see what would be allowable.” Griffin noted the bowl is "among a handful that have announced a sellout," including the BCS National Championship Game, the AT&T Cotton Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Bowl (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 12/24). Duke Assistant AD/External Affairs Art Chase said that the school has "only upper-level seats remaining for its required 18,500-ticket allotment to sell" for the Chick-fil-A Bowl (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 12/24). 

SUGAR & SPICE: An Alabama spokesperson said that the school "sold all 17,500 of the tickets allotted" for the team's matchup against Oklahoma in the Allstate Sugar Bowl after "receiving more than 7,000 orders." In Birmingham, Michael Casagrande noted the Sugar Bowl is "coming off a record-low attendance of 54,178" for last year's Louisville-Florida matchup (AL.com, 12/20).

ALL ABOUT THE U: In West Palm Beach, Matt Porter noted the Miami-Louisville Russell Athletic Bowl "promises to be an exciting" matchup, and those "profiting from the game are undoubtedly pleased." This year's game is a "much hotter ticket" than last year's Virginia Tech-Rutgers matchup. PrimeSport, the official ticket and hospitality provider for the bowl, said that its "special-package sales" are up 416% over '12. UL Assistant SID Rocco Gasparo said that "slightly more than 11,000 of the school’s 12,500-ticket allotment had been sold." Meanwhile, UM Senior Associate AD/Communications Chris Freet "couldn’t share specifics, but said UM still had 'a large block of tickets' left from its 13,500" (PALM BEACH POST, 12/24).

TOUGH SELLS: Georgia AD Greg McGarity last week said response from the school's fan base for the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl against Nebraska has been "lukewarm." McGarity said, “Usually what happens in situations like this as we saw with really every other bowl we’ve been to, even in Memphis (for the Liberty Bowl), we didn’t move a lot of tickets through our office but the secondary market a lot of times has better seats than we do." In Georgia, Marc Weiszer noted McGarity "thinks Georgia will end up selling about 7,500 of its 15,000 ticket allotment." McGarity: "It hurts us on the back end" (ONLINEATHENS.com, 12/20). In Greensboro, Mark Thompson noted North Carolina for the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati has "sold 7,000 of its 12,500-ticket allotment" as of Friday (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 12/24). 
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