Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big Ten [Print without images]

Monday, January 13, 2014
A look at Big Ten bowl ticket sales

By Brian Bennett

By now, you should know the drill when it comes to the bowl selection process. It's not just about what a team accomplished in the regular season. It's also about how many people that team can bring to town.

Bowls are basically chamber-of-commerce ventures designed to fill hotel rooms and sell tickets. So teams whose fan bases historically travel well often have a leg up and can get picked ahead of other teams who might be more deserving based on their on-field results.

Times could be changing, as leagues will claim a much bigger say in the bowl process starting next season. The Big Ten wants to ensure fresh bowl destinations and attractive matchups. Conferences are also demanding lower ticket guarantees from the bowls. So fan travel history might matter less in the future, though bowls will always want the team most likely to fill their stands.

With all that in mind, we're taking a look today at how Big Ten teams fared in moving their bowl tickets this postseason. Numbers have been down across the board for bowl attendance, especially when it comes to the official allotments. Some of these trips are very expensive -- you were lucky to find a non-fleabag motel in South Florida over New Year's for less than $300 per night, for instance -- and smart fans will buy their tickets through brokers or other sources to save money (and often score better seats). The numbers here only represent the tickets the school officially sold, as there's really no way to account for fans who purchased tickets through outside means. Iowa, for example, says that as many as 15,000 Hawkeyes fans attended the Outback Bowl without buying through the school.

So here are the numbers that we got through the schools, media reports and the bowl games themselves, along with the official attendance at each bowl:

Minnesota

Sold 3,375 tickets out of a 12,000-ticket allotment to the Texas Bowl.

Texas Bowl official attendance: 32,327

Reliant Stadium capacity: 71,500

Michigan

Sold about 6,500 tickets out of an 11,000-ticket allotment to Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Wings Bowl official attendance: 53,284

Sun Devil Stadium capacity: 71,706

Nebraska

Sold about 3,000 tickets out of a 12,500-ticket allotment to the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. Gave away 4,000 tickets, including 1,000 to veterans.

Gator Bowl official attendance: 60,712

EverBank Field capacity: 67,164

Iowa

Sold about 11,000 tickets out of 11,500-ticket allotment to Outback Bowl.

Outback Bowl official attendance: 51,296

Raymond James Stadium capacity: 65,857

Wisconsin

Sold 3,627 tickets out of a 12,500-ticket allotment to Capital One Bowl. Distributed another 1,357 tickets to players, band, athletic department, etc.

Capital One Bowl official attendance: 56,629

Florida Citrus Bowl capacity: 70,000

Michigan State

Sold all of its 24,000-ticket allotment to the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Rose Bowl official attendance: 95,173 (sellout).

Ohio State

Sold 8,500 out of a 17,500-ticket allotment to the Discover Orange Bowl

Orange Bowl official attendance: 72,080

Sun Life Stadium capacity: 76,100

Quick thoughts: The numbers bear out what bowl officials have been saying for years: Teams that finish the regular season strong have better turnouts. Iowa was the best of the non-BCS bunch in ticket sales after ending the regular season on a high note, and Hawkeyes fans were eager to travel after their team missed the postseason in 2012. ... Wisconsin's turnout seemed to be really affected by the loss to Penn State in the regular-season finale. ... Nebraska fans probably weren't real hungry to follow their team, especially as the Huskers went back to Florida for a rematch. ...  Michigan about half its official tickets, but the Wings bowl was happy with the attendance. ... Minnesota actually sold a bit more tickets to the Texas Bowl than it did in 2012 when it played in the same game. ... I was at the Orange Bowl, and Ohio State obviously had more than 8,500 fans in attendance as Buckeyes backers dominated the crowd. There sure looked to be more than just 4,000 empty seats in that stadium, however. ... No surprise Michigan State sold out its Rose Bowl allotment in the blink of an eye, and there some estimates of as many as 50,000 Spartans fans in Pasadena. The big question going forward is whether that game will maintain its allure when it's not a semifinal in the new College Football Playoff.