It's been a down year in the Big East. And it looks like it will be a down year for Big East travel.
Across the league, ticket sales appear to be way down for league schools going to bowl games.
Connecticut had sold only about 4,500 seats from its 17,500-ticket allotment to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl as of Tuesday. The Tampa Tribune reported that South Florida had claimed less than 3,000 tickets to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, though the Bulls were given 10,000.
The Charleston Daily Mail reported that West Virginia -- whose fan base normally travels in droves -- had sold fewer than a third of its 12,500-ticket allotment to the Champs Sports Bowl as of last weekend. Pittsburgh, the weakest traveling school in the Big East, might be lucky to take that many to Birmingham for the Jan. 8 BBVA Compass Bowl, especially with a lame-duck coaching staff leading the vastly disappointing 7-5 Panthers in such a late game (the Panthers have distributed about 20 percent of their 10,000 tickets thus far).
The exceptions to these slow ticket sales come from Louisville and Syracuse. The Cardinals sold more than 10,000 tickets for Tuesday night's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, while the Orange bought up most of their 10,000-seat block at the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Of course, both fan bases were hungry for postseason games after long droughts, and both were blessed with desirable destinations -- an in-state trip to New York City for Syracuse, and a pre-Christmas Florida junket for Louisville.
Why are the others so down? UConn fans may be excited about the program's first-ever BCS game, but the fact remains that plane tickets and lodging in Phoenix can run well over $1,000 per person. The Huskies might have counted on more fans coming along had they been chose for the Discover Orange Bowl in Miami.
West Virginia fans have shown a lackluster amount of enthusiasm for this year's team, and the midweek date for the Dec. 28 Champs Sports Bowl is not attractive for many. Bowl ticket sales are down for a lot of schools this year, with the economy a likely culprit. Remember, too, that fans often can find cheaper tickets online through brokers and they are not counted toward their teams' allotment.
But schools are on the hook for buying all their official tickets for bowl games no matter what, so some Big East athletic departments could be writing large checks for unclaimed seats this winter. And this showing won't do much to help the league's cause for getting better postseason tie-ins in the future.