The economic slump has taken its toll on ticket sales and attendance figures for any number of bowls over the past couple of seasons -- no, John Q. College Football Fan does not want to spend his hard-earned cash visiting Detroit at the end of December to watch the Little Caesar's Bowl -- but that doesn't mean that with the right matchup in the right setting, fans still won't flock to their team's postseason destination.
Exhibit A: the Sugar Bowl has already sold out . It's the Sugar Bowl, sure, but getting to New Orleans from Columbus isn't the easiest of hikes, and while no one will accuse Arkansas fans of being any less fervent in their devotion to their football team than fans at their fellow SEC schools, they also simply don't have the numbers of an Alabama, Florida, or LSU. If it's taken less than 48 hours or so to sell out the Superdome, that's not bad.
But, yes, it is still the Sugar Bowl. And yes, it's the Hogs' first trip there in ages and the Buckeyes have one of the nation's largest followings. It's not bad, but it's not impressive. What might be, though, is Exhibit B: the Sun Bowl, in El Paso, Texas, has also sold out . It's even done so in record time, exhausting its ticket supply in less than 24 hours to break last year's mark by nearly nine days, and that's despite El Paso's less-than-desirable proximity to crime-ridden Juarez hampering its image as a tourist destination. (If you can't make it in person, remember that you can always watch the Sun Bowl at 2 p.m. EST Dec. 31, exclusively on ... wait for it ... CBS!)
That's what having two name-brand teams in Miami and Notre Dame set to renew the most famous and consequential rivalry of the late 1980s will get you, we suppose. (That the Irish declined to play a bowl game of any kind last season probably helps, too.) What happens if you're not pairing the 'Canes and Irish? What happens if you're pairing, say, a 6-6 Pac-10 mediocrity with a Big 12 opponent that 1. just crushed its legions of fans with a devastating championship game defeat 2. played in that same bowl game last year 3. obliterated that same Pac-10 team in that team's stadium earlier this season?
What happens is you have the Holiday Bowl and its Nebraska-Washington matchup, and you are also not going to see all that many Husker fans there :
The Nebraska athletic ticket office still has about 5,000 tickets for sale to the public, something that probably wouldn't have been the case had the Huskers made it to another bowl against another team.In many cases, yes, the economy will be to blame for bowl struggles. But as the Holiday is proving, there's often a lot more to it than that.
"Last year we had two planes full within our first four days," [travel agent Vicki] Grieser said. "There's not the same interest, and we think it's mainly because of the opponent ... When I first heard Holiday Bowl I said, 'Oh, that's not so bad. People love San Diego.' But when it was against Washington people are thinking twice about it."
HT on Holiday story: DocSat .