- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2001


In a city that has the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day and the Super Bowl a month later, the inaugural New Orleans Bowl was a tough sell.

The game between North Texas and Colorado State attracted just 18,898 fans to the cavernous Superdome on Tuesday night, which was filled the night before for an NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams.

Was that an omen for the 25 bowls scheduled this postseason?

During difficult economic times, and with air travel down following September 11, logistics and matchups often dictate bowl ticket sales. And for some bowl games, those factors are not attractive.

Tennessee had trouble selling a Citrus Bowl date against Michigan after missing a chance at a national championship game against Miami. Clemson and Louisiana Tech offered little local interest for the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho. And Washington fans did not seem eager to travel to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl against Texas.

The four Bowl Championship Series games the Fiesta, Sugar, Orange and national-championship Rose are all sellouts. So are the Peach Bowl at Atlanta between Auburn and North Carolina, the Cotton Bowl at Dallas between Oklahoma and Arkansas, and the Alamo Bowl at San Antonio between Texas Tech and Iowa. All teams except Iowa have fans within driving distance of the games.

The Gator Bowl expects a sellout for the game between Florida State, just a three-hour drive from Jacksonville, and Virginia Tech.

The Outback Bowl in Tampa between South Carolina and Ohio State sold out for the third time in four years, with 65,000 expected, and the Insight.com Bowl in Phoenix, operated under the organizational umbrella of the Fiesta Bowl, expects more than 40,000, close to capacity at Bank One Ballpark.

However, some of the lesser bowls are struggling at the box office.

The Las Vegas Bowl attracted a record crowd of 25,868 last year, when hometown UNLV played. This year's Christmas Day matchup between Utah and USC is unlikely to do as well.

Utah, which sold 12,000 tickets for the 1999 game, was under 2,000 even with an appeal from the school to buy seats and donate them to charity. USC was at about 6,000. In 40,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium, that could add up to a lot of leg room.

Alabama, which has a reputation for traveling well to bowl games, is having trouble unloading its 12,000 tickets for the Independence Bowl against Iowa State in Shreveport, La. The university had sold about 7,500 tickets late last week.

The Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, between Washington State and Purdue is struggling because of logistics.

"I'm seeing [ticket sales] down just a little bit," said ticket manager Ellen Hughes. "It's not the matchup. It's related to September 11. People have concerns about traveling and they are wanting to stay close to home, those are the comments I've heard, and the economy."

Washington expected to sell about 7,000 tickets for the Holiday Bowl against Texas at San Diego. However, the number of people purchasing travel packages for the game through Northwest Travel is down significantly, said Brad Cilley, the company's general manager.

"People are just now getting layoff notices and won't have a job after Christmas," Cilley said. "So many of our clients are high-tech or Boeing. They've both been hit hard. Overall, I'm disappointed with the numbers."

Tennessee and Michigan would seem to be an attractive matchup for the Citrus Bowl. But a fourth trip to the Citrus was not much consolation for Volunteer fans, who were one win away from going to the Rose Bowl. The university has used about half of its 12,000-ticket allotment, and 2,500 of those went for band members, players and other officials.

Also set for Orlando is the return of the Tangerine Bowl, to be played tonight between North Carolina State and Pittsburgh.

"The Tangerine is about at 31,000, and we feel great about that in its first year," said Tom Mickle, incoming executive director of Florida Citrus Sports. "N.C. State has sold about 9,500 and Pitt has sold about 4,500. We think they may sell another 2,500 between them before gametime."

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