Few Bruins fans ventured up the coast to watch their 6-7 team.
Still, bowls need to be able tap into their local market to sell tickets.
Andrew Bagnato, a spokesman for the Fiesta Bowl, said No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Stanford each sold their allotments to the BCS game in Glendale, Ariz., but the attendance of 69,927 was still about 3,000 short of a sellout.
“Phoenix has had a terrible economy with the housing crunch,” he said. “The sports teams in Phoenix have struggled.
“We had to be creative to sell what would normally be considered our season tickets. We had to use a lot of social media this year. The Fiesta Bowl generally is sold out. But this year you could get good seats.”
The Insight Bowl, which is also run by the Fiesta Bowl, did better with a sellout crowd of 54,247 to watch a couple of name-brand programs in Oklahoma and Iowa. Though Bagnato also said that bowl organizers have to be more careful than ever about making sure tickets are affordable.
“One thing we’ve seen with the Insight Bowl is the tickets are priced right,” he said. “Upper deck seats were $25.”
The cost of taking her family of five to the Fight Hunger Bowl was too much for Illinois alum Gina Raith, even though she lives in nearby San Anselmo, Calif., and loved the idea of watching her beloved Illini on a sunny and mild San Francisco day.
“It just wasn’t in the cards financially,” said the 45-year attorney and yoga instructor.
Raith said she was looking at paying about $50 per ticket, though the price was going down on the secondary market. Still, she and her husband couldn’t justify plunking down the several hundred dollars it would have cost to pay for tickets, transportation and parking, plus food and drinks for their three daughters.
“It felt too discretionary,” she said.
No matter the cost, a poor matchup is hard to overcome, and bowl organizers only have so much control as far as that goes.
Kunzler-Murphy and her bowl organization found that out this year.
The Las Vegas-based bowl paired No. 8 Boise State _ generally a good draw, though its fans were disappointed to be left out of the BCS _ against an Arizona State team the sputtered to the finish of the with four straight losses and fired its coach after the regular season.
Attendance for the MAACO Bowl was down 14.8 percent from 41,923 to 35,720 this season, and Sun Devils fans were smart to pass on the long drive (about 5 1/2 hours) or short flight from Tempe, Ariz., to Las Vegas.