Virginia Tech Falling Short of Selling Orange Bowl Ticket Allotment

Once Again, Virginia Tech Finding Orange Bowl Tickets to Be a
Tough Sell

By Mark Giannotto
     Dec. 30 (Washington Post) -- BLACKSBURG, VA. - Two years
after falling more than 14,000 tickets short of selling its
ticket allotment to the Orange Bowl, Virginia Tech is again
facing ticket sale issues as it prepares to face No. 5 Stanford
on Monday.
     In conjunction with membership in the BCS, each
participating school is expected to buy one-fourth of the tickets
available for its bowl game. In the Orange Bowl's case, that
means Virginia Tech and Stanford are on the hook for 17,500
tickets each.
     When the Hokies came to South Florida following the 2008
regular season, they sold just more than 3,300 of their 17,500
tickets. Virginia Tech again expects to take a heavy loss this
year. As of last week, the Hokies had sold around 6,500 of their
ticket allotment. Tim East, Virginia Tech's associate athletic
director for external affairs, said they expect sales to continue
as game day approaches, but "we're not gonna sell out our
allotment, that's for sure."
     Stanford, meanwhile, has sold just more than 10,000 of its
tickets, according to a school official. Plus, the Pacific-10
Conference will cover the cost of any unsold tickets, per league
policy. ACC schools are fully responsible for the costs of 6,000
bowl tickets, and partially responsible for the next 2,000
tickets sold. After 8,000 tickets are sold, the conference's 12
schools share the cost of any remaining unsold tickets.
     The problem, according to Virginia Tech officials, is
two-fold. For one, neither school is given the best seats in the
house. While Virginia Tech did have some lower-level tickets to
sell, most were end zone or corner seats at Sun Life Stadium in
Miami. The majority of the best sideline views are kept by the
Orange Bowl to sell to its local patrons.
     "If you're out marketing the other 50 percent of the tickets
to the general public, you're gonna want to get the best seats
you can get and that's what the bowls are doing," East said. "But
you'd like to think you can sell the tickets, and if the demand's
there, it's gonna sell."
     That, it seems, is the problem the Hokies once again have
run into this year. An Orange Bowl official confirmed this week
that they are expecting a crowd of around 65,000 at the Jan. 3
game, about 10,000 short of Sun Life Stadium's 75,540 capacity.
     Even though a matchup with the fifth-ranked Cardinal is much
more attractive than two years ago, when Virginia Tech faced
Cincinnati, the slow sales have created a secondary market
through online retailers such as StubHub that feature cheaper
prices than what the school can offer.
     The price range of tickets in Virginia Tech's section runs
as low as $65 for the upper deck or as high as $225 for the lower
bowl. But as of Tuesday, tickets in the lower level were going
for as low as $40 on StubHub. Upper-level seats were available
for just $12.
     Despite how this appears, Orange Bowl chief operating
officer Michael Saks contends the secondary market is not the
issue this year and that bowl officials haven't seen a dramatic
shift in ticket sales through sites such as StubHub over the past
12 days.
     He said there are many factors that can affect ticket sales,
such as how a team got to the bowl game or how much a team's fan
base has already traveled that season. Not to mention this year's
Orange Bowl is on a Monday, when most children have returned to
school from the holiday break.
     "We look at the secondary market, not as competition, but
that it can aid you," Saks said. "A lot of times it can drive
ticket prices up. I think you have to look at the bowl system in
its totality, not just snapshots of single bowls. I think when
you look at the system as a whole, there's a lot of bowls that
have the highest demand of tickets."
     This, though, doesn't change the fact that Virginia Tech
will be forced to pay a sizable amount for its unsold tickets
even though it expects more than 17,500 of its fans to be in
south Florida over the next week.
     For future years, the school's athletic department is
debating whether to sell off its ticket allotment at reduced
prices or offer alumni club benefits to entice fans to buy
through the university.
     Ultimately, though, it's a consumer-based decision. As East
tells it, he received one e-mail from a fan who, despite finding
cheaper tickets online, was adamant about buying bowl tickets
through the school because of the school's poor ticket sales two
years ago. But more often than not, that doesn't seem to be the
     "Fans are savvy, and everybody's got their own prerequisite
or objective that they're looking for," East said. "A lot of fans
want to sit on the 40- or 50-yard line and if they have to spend
a little bit more money or go on the secondary market to do it,
that's what they're gonna do."
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