Virginia does not expect to sell out its ticket allotment for the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31, an athletic department official said Tuesday. The Cavaliers (8-4), who will take on Auburn (7-5) in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve, were given 18,000 tickets as the ACC’s representative in the bowl game.
Jon Oliver, the school’s executive associate athletic director, said Virginia “will probably top out at 13,800, maybe 14,000 if everything is great.” But Oliver also said he fully expects at least 20,000 Virginia fans to attend the game, which will be held at the Georgia Dome.
The presence of secondary ticket markets such as StubHub, as well as other circumstances beyond the athletic department’s control, has contributed to Virginia’s struggles to sell out its Chick-fil-A Bowl ticket allotment, Oliver said. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Cavaliers had sold roughly 13,600 tickets to the contest, according to Oliver.
“Obviously we want to sell all of our tickets,” Oliver said. “But in this current environment and everything that we’re up against, including the secondary ticket market, a sale of 14,000 when we haven’t been in a bowl game in four years and you’re dealing with the economy and on such short notice, I’m fairly proud of our fans. But clearly we want to get to 18,000. There’s no question about it.”
Oliver said when he searched through StubHub and another secondary ticket online marketplace on Sunday, more than 7,000 Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets were available for purchase, ranging from $40 to more than $100.
As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, 4,556 Chick-fil-A Bowl tickets remained available on StubHub, one for as little as $20. And, as Oliver noted, there were plenty of tickets available close to the sideline. That generally is viewed as a better vantage point to watch the game than the end zone or in the corners, which is where Virginia’s remaining allotted seats — priced at $80 — are located.
“It’s tough, but what are you going to do?” Oliver said. “You’ve got to continue to press upon your fans that if they buy the tickets from you, it helps you. If they don’t buy from you, it hurts your opportunity to break even [financially] on a bowl game.”
Oliver also noted that unless Virginia fans made their bowl travel plans relatively soon after the announcement was made Dec. 4 that the Cavaliers would compete in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, finding reasonable rates for plane tickets to and downtown lodging in Atlanta at this point would be difficult.
Auburn is close to selling out its allotment of 16,000 tickets, according to a bowl game official. Chick-fil-A Bowl CEO Gary Stokan said Friday the Tigers had sold 14,000 tickets. An Auburn team official did not immediately return a call seeking an updated number on its school’s ticket sales for the game.
The Tigers received a lower ticket allotment than Virginia because the Chick-fil-A Bowl’s spot in the selection order among bowl games with ties to the Southeastern Conference is lower than it is among bowl games with ACC ties.
The Chick-fil-A Bowl (formerly known as the Peach Bowl) has posted sellouts in each of the past 14 years, and Virginia sold out its ticket allotment the past two times (1995 and 1998) it played in a bowl game in Atlanta.
Even though it doesn’t seem likely the Cavaliers will sell out its Chick-fil-A Bowl ticket allotment this year, Oliver doesn’t expect that to mean there will be a dearth of Virginia fans in the stadium to cheer on their team.
“I will be surprised through either our sales process or through the secondary ticket market if you don’t see 20,000 Virginia fans in the [Georgia] Dome,” Oliver said.