SBD/January 2, 2014/Colleges

Fiesta Bowl Sees Lowest Attendance Since '97, While Florida Bowls Also Fail To Sell Out

UCF's 52-42 win over Baylor in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last night drew a crowd of 65,172, nearly 8,000 fans "fewer than a sellout" and the "smallest Fiesta Bowl turnout since Texas played Penn State on Jan. 1, 1997," according to Tim Griffin of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. Baylor "brought more than 20,000 fans to the desert," but the upper deck at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium "was about half-full." Only three of the 29 bowl games played through yesterday have "attracted sellout crowds: The Las Vegas Bowl, Valero Alamo Bowl and Rose Bowl" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 1/2). In Phoenix, Paola Boivin notes there were "empty chunks of seating," but it was a "respectable crowd considering the lopsided predictions and the reality that one of the teams was coming from a warm-weather state on the other side of the country." The atmosphere at the game was "better than expected" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/2).

AMERICAN BAILOUT: CBSSPORTS.com's Jeremy Fowler cited sources as saying that the American Athletic Conference "has a contractual provision to help offset a portion of unsold tickets for its bowl-eligible teams." That could be used on UCF, which stood to "use an estimated $2 million for its appearance" in the Fiesta Bowl. The exact relief amount is uncertain, but one AD from the conference indicated that the formula is "designed to help all bowl-eligible league teams that don't sell half their ticket allotment." UCF "returned 10,000 of its 17,500 allotment" of Fiesta Bowl tickets. The school receives a "portion of the American's BCS payout for its role in the Fiesta Bowl, as do other member schools," but UCF has to "pay for travel expenses" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/31). AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco said that he "wouldn’t go into the actual financial details" of the aid, but acknowledged that the conference would "lend a helping hand." He said, "We’re going to help out and there are ways ... we can deal with this." Aresco believes that if UCF "had played in the Sugar or the Orange bowls, the actual number of tickets sold would have been a lot higher" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/2).

WHERE IS EVERYBODY?
In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz wrote empty seats at bowls games "have become an increasing problem in recent years," and yesterday's TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl was a "perfect example." Bowl officials announced "tickets distributed" for the Nebraska-Georgia matchup as 60,712. However, several thousand "must've been distributed into a dumpster because the stadium (76,000 capacity) was half empty." The two teams played each other in the Capital One Bowl last year, and it was clear fans "from neither school were interested in this bowl rematch." Nebraska fans also "were not excited about having a third straight bowl game in Florida" (AJC.com, 1/1). In Baton Rouge, Ross Dellenger notes LSU fans "bought just 7,000 of the school’s allotted 12,000 tickets" to yesterday's Outback Bowl. Raymond James Stadium was "less than half-full, the entire upper deck nearly completely empty" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 1/2).

KISS FROM A ROSE: In California, Keith Lair reports the announced attendance of 95,173 at yesterday's Rose Bowl, in which Michigan State beat Stanford 24-20, was the "largest to date of the 2013-14 bowl season and the largest Rose Bowl crowd since 1998." That game drew a crowd of 101,219, which saw Michigan gain a share of the national championship after defeating Washington State (SAN GABRIEL VALLEY TRIBUNE, 1/2). However, CBSSPORTS.com's Dennis Dodd wrote for football fans who "love the Rose Bowl, the end of the 100th game kicked off a departure." The bowl, which "becomes a national semifinal game in the new playoff," will not "retain its end-all status that it retained for more than a century, even through the BCS years." Dodd: "Next year there are genuine concerns about whether one of the most famous events in American sports will even sell out" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/1).

ORANGE YOU GLAD
: Orange Bowl Exec Dir Eric Poms called the bowl’s selection as one of the CFP's top-six bowl games "a great conclusion." He said, "It keeps us relevant and part of the road to the college football championship game." In Miami, Susan Miller Degnan reports the Orange Bowl Committee, which "takes the lead on the South Florida organizing effort, is intent on winning one of the championship games in the eight years the bowl isn’t hosting a semifinal," as it is "expected to be part of the next bidding process a year from this spring." South Florida's upcoming bids, "which will continue to encompass partnership" from the Dolphins and Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, are "expected to get a longer look when more time passes." Greater Ft. Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau President & CEO Nicki Grossman and Miami-Dade Tourism Dir Bill Talbert "believe strongly the Orange Bowl will be awarded one of the top games" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/2).
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