Bitter ticket sales for Sugar Bowl for UF


Gator fans and Cincinnati fans hang out outside of the Louisiana Superdome before the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, La., on Jan. 1, 2010.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 5:11 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 5:11 p.m.

A berth in the Sugar Bowl is Florida's reward for a successful football season. But with it comes a likely significant financial hit for the UF athletic department.

As part of the current bowl system, participating schools are required to purchase a designated number of tickets from the bowl and then sell them. Schools are accountable for any unsold tickets.

Playing in a BCS bowl, Florida was required to purchase 17,500 tickets from the Sugar Bowl. With the Jan. 2 game against Big East co-champion Louisville less than three weeks away, UF has sold only 6,500 tickets.

That leaves UF holding 11,000 unsold tickets at an average price of $165 a ticket. That adds up to a little more than $1.8 million in unsold tickets, which would be a significant financial hit for the University Athletic Association.

UF is expected to sell more tickets between now and the game. The school also will get assistance from the SEC, which has a rule where it will purchase up to 3,000 unsold tickets from member institutions that are unable to sell all of their bowl tickets.

UF's ticket sales also lagged in a poor economy before the Sugar Bowl game against Cincinnati, another Big East school, three years ago. Less than three weeks before that game, the Gators were holding about 5,000 unsold tickets.

Even with some help from the SEC, the UAA sustained a significant financial loss three years ago.

That hit, coupled with probably an even bigger one this year, could add up to more than $2 million in combined losses for UF from unsold tickets in its last two Sugar Bowl appearances.

Florida isn't the only state school facing a significant financial setback this bowl season playing in a non-championship game during a struggling economy. Florida State, which plays Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl (also a BCS bowl), has sold less than 5,000 of its 17,500 tickets even though it has slashed the cost of bowl tickets. Northern Illinois has sold about 5,500 of its tickets.

Along with the economy, another factor working against schools like UF and FSU is the reality that fans can find and purchase less expensive tickets on the Internet without having to go through the university.

Among the nine SEC schools in bowl games, six (UF, LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M) remain far short of selling out their bowl tickets. Only Alabama, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss have sold out.

Alabama is in the BCS Championship Game, Vanderbilt is playing in its home city (Nashville) and Ole Miss has a short trip to Birmingham for the Compass Bowl, where tickets are only $50.

Mike Hill, UF's executive associate athletic director for external affairs, expressed appreciation for the Florida fans who have purchased tickets for the Sugar Bowl and are headed to New Orleans.

“We certainly understand the financial commitment it takes to travel to and attend a game like the Sugar Bowl, and we are very appreciative of the support of our fans who are making their way to New Orleans,” Hill said. “We are looking forward to celebrating a special football season with them in the Big Easy as we bring in the New Year and close the curtain on a very memorable 2012 season.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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