WVU struggling to sell Orange Bowl tickets

| Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia fans are known to travel well, but that might not be the case this bowl season.

The Mountaineers are behind in ticket sales for their Jan. 4 matchup against Clemson in the Orange Bowl. West Virginia has sold about 7,500 tickets for the BCS bowl and is projected to come well short of its 17,500 ticket allotment.

"That's a lot of tickets. That's a big number," said West Virginia sports marketing director Matt Wells. "We were hopeful we would be able to sell more to our fan base because it is such a prestigious bowl."

Wells, who has served in his role since 2006, said both the game being on a weekday after the holidays and the rising travel and hotel costs makes this game a tough sell.

West Virginia is also competing with other sources that are selling Orange Bowl tickets for less. The lowest ticket prices through the school are $99 in the upper level, but on Monday afternoon, StubHub.com had tickets for the Orange Bowl as low as $19.

"I think it's safe to say there will be a good representation of Mountaineer fans at the game," Wells said. "I would estimate anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 Mountaineers fans will be there, and certainly not all will have purchased them through the Mountaineer ticket office."

It's a double-edged sword because the university wants to have a great turnout at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. West Virginia has always had a reputation as a school for traveling well, and the athletic department wants that to continue.

But through its ticket allotment, West Virginia's taken on a big financial commitment, and the athletic department is encouraging fans to buy through the Mountaineer ticket office rather than other sources..

"We fully realize fans have to make decisions based on the economics of the entire situation," Wells said. "We encourage fans to help support the program and buy through the Mountaineer ticket office, but we know sometimes there are factors that lead them to make a different decision."

The West Virginia Alumni Association, which is selling travel packages for the game, is also encouraging fans to purchase tickets through the university.

"We want people to fill the stadium," alumni spokesperson Tara Curtis said, "but at the same time, we hope people will purchase tickets through the university so that for future bowl games, we will have met our allotment."

West Virginia also struggled in ticket sales during its last BCS bowl appearance. The Mountaineers sold just under 8,000 of its allotment for the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. However, there were other circumstances surrounding the bowl game that season.

West Virginia was knocked out of the national championship game by an upset loss to Pitt, and then-coach Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan. Traveling to Tempe, Ariz., was also a longer trip for fans than going to Florida this year.

"Even though are sales numbers through our department is going to be very similar, I would expect there to be more Mountaineer fans at the Orange Bowl than that was at the Fiesta Bowl," Wells said.

Wells said he expects West Virginia to use between 10,000-11,000 tickets of its allotment, including about 1,500 tickets for internal use for players' families, the marching band and the traveling party.

It also includes 3,000 tickets for the Veteran Ticket Foundation's Tickets for the Troops program, which distributes event tickets to current and former military personnel. West Virginia has already sold 1,300 tickets for the program and will meet the foundation's request with unused tickets from its allotment.

Wells added the university won't know how much it will lose on failing to sell its ticket allotment until after the game is played. However, West Virginia appears to be in line to lose at least $650,000 in unused tickets.

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