Every year, there seems to be at least one bowl where the entire stadium looks empty on television.
It's an embarrassing sight for the bowl, but officials aren't crying over those empty seats.
But the schools that accepted the bowl berths probably are.
When a school accepts a bowl berth, it includes contractual obligations to buy a predetermined allotment of tickets. If the school doesn't sell its entire allotment, it's still on the hook for the cost of the tickets.
Meanwhile, the bowl's bottom line is fat and happy since it got paid for the seats, regardless if fans are sitting in them.
Some conferences don't have to worry if one of their teams doesn't sell its entire allotment of tickets—the conference will cover the losses.
According to athleticbusiness.com, the Pac-12 and the Big 12 "absorb the cost of any and all unsold bowl tickets." Unfortunately, not all conferences have that policy.
When a team falls short of selling its allotment, it can cost the school a huge chunk of change.
It's hard to fathom that schools are contractually obligated to buy a certain amount of tickets when most fans will go through a ticket reseller or auction site to find the best seats at the lowest possible price.
More often than not, schools always seem to have a large assortment of corner end-zone seats available. The bowls and the ticket resellers have better seats available to buy, and that's usually why schools can't sell their entire allotment of tickets.
So what happens if a conference doesn't have a policy that covers a school's failure to sell its allotment?
The Big East does not have that policy, which proved to be costly to UConn when it traveled to Glendale, Arizona to play Oklahoma in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl.
UConn only sold 2,771 of its 17,500 ticket allotment, according to the DailyCampus.com, "resulting in the university absorbing 14,729 tickets worth $2,924,385."
The story goes on to state that the loss of ticket revenue wasn't the only issue for UConn. "That expense completely soaked up UConn's revenue allotment of $2.5 million from the Big East all by itself. UConn's losses were then further inflamed by the costs of travel, meals, lodging and other bowl expenses."
BCS bowls require the schools to also pay for a certain amount of rooms at a certain price. The list goes on and on for their contractual obligations.
You can read here for a picture of the cost for a BCS bowl.
Obviously, if a team's ticket allotment is covered by its conference, the losses are minimal but there's still a heavy price to pay if a team doesn't send a lot of its fans to a game.
Remember, the host city is counting on a lot of dollars being spent around town. If the fans don't show up, the city doesn't benefit from anticipated revenue via local sales or hotel taxes. That may weigh heavily on bowl officials' minds when deciding on which team to award a bowl berth the following year.
The pressure is still on for teams like UCLA, which travels to San Diego for the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl on December 27 to play Baylor.
UCLA has discounted a $65 ticket to $25 for students who wish to attend the game.
According to UCLA's official website, "several donors to UCLA's Wooden Athletic Fund have made additional donations to ensure that the first 650 tickets purchased by UCLA students for the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl will be discounted from their $65 face value to $25."
Northern Illinois is also promoting its team's appearance in the Orange Bowl. According to SFgate.com, for students who make the trip to Miami Gardens, Florida, the school will purchase their tickets. The school has also arranged for bus packages for both students and fans.
Northern Illinois has a student enrollment of around 22,000 students, but its allotment of Orange Bowl tickets is 17,500, the report states. That's going to be a tough hill for the school to climb.
Notre Dame received an allotment of 17,000 tickets for its BCS Championship game against Alabama, but the school received over 100,000 requests for tickets, according to the South Bend Tribune.
Notre Dame fans travel very well. In 2010, the Sun Bowl reported the fastest sellout of tickets in bowl history, so the school shouldn't have to resort to discounting tickets to lure fans. But it did have discounted tickets for Notre Dame students thanks to an anonymous donation that cut the price from $300 to $150 each.
This year, the Orange Bowl will be packed, and bowl officials will be pleased.
But somewhere out there, a team that didn't sell its allotment of tickets will have a sad story to tell.
And once again, it will fall on deaf ears.
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