Virginia Tech is struggling to sell out its Sugar Bowl allotment of 17,500 tickets, and the school is acknowledging that if sales continue to lag, it could affect the Hokies’ reputation as a college football program that travels well to bowl games.
On Monday morning, Virginia Tech confirmed it had sold 9,337 tickets so far and announced a proxy program under which fans who don’t plan on going to New Orleans could buy tickets that would then be donated to military personnel and New Orleans charity organizations.
The Hokies have had issues selling bowl tickets during their past two Orange Bowl trips as fans have flocked to secondary markets such as StubHub for cheaper, and often better, seats. In 2008, the Hokies sold just more than 3,300 tickets for their Orange Bowl matchup with Cincinnati. Last season, Virginia Tech sold upwards of 6,500 tickets for its bowl game against Stanford.
But Virginia Tech’s ability to sell out its ticket allotment has come into the spotlight this year since the Sugar Bowl made a controversial choice, selecting the Hokies over Boise State and Kansas State largely because of their track record for traveling to bowl games. The announcement detailing Virginia Tech’s proxy ticket program asked fans to donate tickets as a way to maintain the school’s “reputation of being a football program that enjoys a strong following to bowl games.”
On the athletic department’s weekly radio show, Tech Talk Live, athletic director Jim Weaver said the school had sold more than 9,500 tickets as of Monday night. He conceded that the secondary market was making the sale of tickets more difficult — the lowest face value of a Sugar Bowl ticket the school can sell is $120, but tickets were going for as low as $50 on StubHub on Tuesday morning. Weaver also mentioned that the game is on a weekday, raising airfare costs and the bad economy as reasons why sales haven’t been as strong as expected.
“We need to really try to move. There’s still time but we need Hokie nation to do whatever they can do even if it’s part of the proxy program,” Weaver said Monday night. “I think we’ll have 17-20,000 people there, just like the Orange Bowl. My concern is not that the Hokies will be there; my concern is we’ve got the tickets we’ve got to sell.”
When contacted for an interview with the Washington Post on Monday morning, Weaver asked to wait until Thursday to answer questions so Virginia Tech could have more time to sell tickets. The school’s ticket office planned to open sales to the general public this past Monday but then decided to move up the date to Friday. However, Weaver said the athletic department couldn’t properly promote the date change because of the shooting tragedy on campus Thursday.
That, though, doesn’t explain why Virginia Tech didn’t just open up ticket sales to the general public immediately following the Sugar Bowl announcement. Michigan, which reported Monday it had sold 14,800 of its 17,500-ticket allotment, sold 14,000 tickets on the first day tickets went on sale.
“We thought the best way because we have season ticket holders, Hokie Club members and then the general public, and they wanted in the ticket office to show the general public on the computer screen where they were getting their tickets and they couldn’t do that if they would’ve opened up sales to all three groups at the same time because the other orders had to be filled at the same time,” Weaver said Monday night when host Bill Roth asked him a question about the public sale date.
Virginia Tech isn’t the only team in the country having trouble selling BCS bowl game tickets. At the Orange Bowl, West Virginia’s ticket office said it has sold 7,000 of its 17,500 tickets. Clemson’s ticketing office said the Tigers had sold 5,600 as of Monday.
But Wisconsin, Oregon, Oklahoma State and Stanford have either sold out or are close to selling out their ticket allotments for BCS bowl games. Kansas State officials reported Monday the Wildcats have sold more than 14,000 tickets to this year’s Cotton Bowl.
It’s important to note that once Virginia Tech sells 8,000 bowl tickets, the ACC picks up the tab for any other unsold tickets. We’ll have more on this later in the week when Weaver goes into further details about the issues Virginia Tech is having selling its bowl tickets.