Utah football: Fans not buying into bowls

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Bowl games are supposed to be the big payoff for great seasons, but as with everyone else this season, big paydays for schools in bowl games has gone by the wayside.

We aren't just talking about the smaller bowls among the 34 post-season contests this year, the ones with the minimum payout and the ones fans are hesitant to spend a lot of money to travel to see. We're talking about the big ones, the ones in the Bowl Championship Series which were designed to be the grandest of them all in stature and in moneymaking.

Then the economy hit. Utah can't sell all of its bowl tickets and stands to lose as much as $405,000 if it has to cover the loss of 3,000 tickets at more than $100 each.

Earlier this week, Utah ticket manager Zack Lassiter said Utah was "absolutely concerned" over slow ticket sales. He isn't the only ticket manager who is.

Ohio State held a rare public sale for tickets to the Fiesta Bowl where the Buckeyes will play Texas. Normally its bowl tickets go to season ticket holders, faculty, staff, donors and any others deemed important enough to be on a priority list. No need for such exclusivity this year.

Texas also had a public sale. Perhaps the matchup of the teams wasn't that appealing to fans since they've played in recent years or maybe fans decided the $155 they were expected to shell out for tickets could be better spent elsewhere.

Other schools are in even worse situations. Wisconsin, which traditionally travels well, reportedly has sold only about 3,000 of the 12,000 tickets it was alloted for the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, and that includes tickets for Wisconsin's traveling party.

Tickets for the Orange Bowl between Cincinnati and Virginia Tech can be had for $15 on the internet.

Blame the economy for the slow ticket sales, or the lack of a playoff system or the NCAA's policy that basically any entrepreneur who wants to start a bowl game can, which has made going to a bowl game not that big of a deal anymore.

Certainly, fans are saying, the games aren't worth the price of admission.

Maybe the empty seats will do some good in the long run and bowls will be more apt to schedule regionally rather than for TV. If such were the case, the Utes likely would be in the Fiesta Bowl and Ohio State would be in the Sugar Bowl. I'm sure there would be more Utah fans who could get to Phoenix rather than the Big Easy.

Better yet, maybe some of these bowl games will go away and make playing in December special again so when teams do go, fans are more apt to plunk down their hard-earned dollars to see the teams play.

Are there really many fans who are interested in the Independence Bowl matchup of Northern Illinois and La Tech? Or Buffalo against Connecticut in the International Bowl? I bet you don't even know where that game is played.

It's in Toronto, on Jan. 3. And people wonder why bowl tickets are going slow.