The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 27, 2011

Orange will cost West Virginia a bit of green

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University doesn’t expect to lose more than $1 million on the trip to Miami for the Orange Bowl game against Clemson.

That’s what Athletic Director Oliver Luck said last week after talking to his business staff, including the marketing staff. WVU faces a problem most bowl-bound colleges face, and that’s to sell tickets for the game.

Luck said, “Connecticut, I’m told, lost anywhere between 2.3 and 2.4 million dollars (in expenses) going to the Fiesta Bowl. They only sold a couple thousand tickets or something like that.”

The Mountaineers (9-3 and ranked 23rd) expect to wind up selling only 8,000 of the 17,500 tickets the school was allotted. Luck said he’s been told Clemson (10-3 and ranked 14th) hasn’t done much, if any, better.

Luck believes a school can’t sell its allotment because fans can buy tickets to the Orange Bowl much cheaper than they can from a school and actually get better seats.

They can do that, despite the fact the Orange Bowl — and others — urge people to purchase tickets from respective schools’ allotments.

Luck also points to the prolonged economic status nationwide as another reason. Many football fans can’t afford to attend a bowl game.

The cheapest ticket WVU has costs $99 each. Travel expenses and the cost of lodging in bowl cities are other reasons cited by Luck, who’s in his second year as AD at his alma mater.

Finally, parents who are football fans don’t like to keep their children out of school in the middle of the week.  The Orange Bowl is being played on Wednesday night, Jan. 4.

Schools in most states will be in session then.

Back in the 1930s, 1940s and the 1960s, there were a total of six bowls. That’s right. And the bowls paid the schools for participating — not to the conference as the bowls of today.

“Actually, you’re better off (financially) not playing in a bowl today because each school receives its share of a pool of money in a conference’s revenue-sharing program,” Luck said. “Each bowl-eligible school produces the money for the revenue sharing.”

Luck, a former academic All-American quarterback, readily admitted that it would deprive a team of the reward for a successful season.

“I think 35 bowls are excessive,” he admitted. “And I think winning only six games to become bowl-eligible is too low.”

Luck singles out UCLA as an example of a West Coast school that finished 6-6, lost in a conference championship game and then suffered an eighth loss in a bowl. UCLA has fired head coach Rick Neuheisel.

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After last Saturday’s 10th bowl practice in Morgantown, coach Dana Holgorsen indicated he was pleased with preparations so far. He then left for Houston to spend Christmas with his children and other relatives.

The last five practice sessions will be held in Miami after the coaches and players reassemble Thursday. The game will kick off at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 4, and be televised by ESPN.