Ute football notes: Bowl ticket requests overwhelm U. system

Alabama fans join Ute fans in a frenzy that swamps the phones, crashes the computer
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Utah fans who haven't bought tickets to watch the Utes play Alabama in the Sugar Bowl still have a chance after an initial rush crashed Utah's system Friday.

Utah assistant athletic director Zack Lassiter anticipated that the school had enough tickets to sell through the weekend.

Both Utah and Alabama received an allotment of 17,500 tickets for the Jan. 2 game in New Orleans. Alabama used its allotment to satisfy some of the requests from its 60,000 season ticket holders, so both Utah and Alabama fans flooded Utah's system when tickets went on sale Friday morning. Utah said late Friday that it had 5,000 remaining tickets.

Several notices were sent out to Alabama fans through message boards, media reports and e-mails that tickets could be bought through Utah's ticket office today.

Utah received 3,000 ticket orders before the Sugar Bowl matchup was announced Sunday.

The Utes had the phone lines staffed with extra personnel in anticipation of high demand, but still couldn't keep up with orders as requests jammed phone lines and crashed Utah's computer program less than an hour into the sale.

Utah's system was back up and running by late afternoon, giving fans the options of buying tickets online through the web site, over the phone or in person.

No pro thoughts, yet

Utah defender Paul Kruger, a sophomore who many believe will be a pro star some day, said he hasn't thought too much about declaring for the NFL Draft.

His family is "keeping an eye and ear out," he said, but he is more concerned with game-planning for Alabama's offense.

"If I had an unbelievable opportunity, I'd have to consider it, but right now it's just all about Utah and the bowl game," said Kruger, who redshirted in 2004 before going on a mission.

One element that could make it enticing for eligible players to explore their NFL options this season is that the NFL is expected to make some revisions to its salary structure for rookies starting in 2010. There is a concern, from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others, that unproven rookies are being rewarded more than proven veterans.

Waiting until 2010 to go pro could cost players millions in salaries or bonuses if the NFL makes changes in the pay structure.

"It's something to think about," Kruger said. "But I haven't really explored it that much."

Players three years removed from their high school graduation date are allowed to petition the NFL for the draft. Those who wish to be evaluated to see where they might fall must have their request into the College Advisory Committee by Dec. 19.

Players can retain their eligibility as long as they declare their intention 72 hours following the NFL Draft declaration deadline, which is Jan. 15 for the April 25, 2009, draft.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Kruger would be better-served with at least another year of college ball.

"There are more factors involved, too," he said. "The academics value can't be understated, and he is getting close to his degree in a year or so."

Following its last BCS appearance in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Utah had five players go in the draft, led by junior quarterback Alex Smith.

The king is back

Kicker Louie Sakoda was back on campus after his multi-stop awards show tour earlier this week. He said he was disappointed not to win the Lou Groza award, which goes to the top kicker, but accomplished one of his personal goals by meeting Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

"He is like my hero who I look up to," Sakoda said. "He was the nicest guy. He had people bombarding him but he set aside some time, so that was cool. I think anyone, whether you're an athlete or not, can look up to a guy like him. He is using his power as a high-profile guy to help people in the community."

Sakoda said he heard some of the commentators who didn't give Utah much of a chance against Alabama, a line of thinking that isn't new to him.

"Coach Jay Hill and I kind of glanced at each other a little bit," he said. "That is where Utah likes to sit as an underdog. Hopefully we can take advantage of that position."

Sakoda was named to the Walter Camp All-America team during Thursday's ceremonies in Orlando.