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Orange Bowl Ticket Sales Create Financial Concerns for WVU

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Orange Bowl tickets have been available for a week now and West Virginia University has sold less than one-third of its total allotment.

According to Sports Marketing Director Matt Wells, WVU's ticket sales are just over 5,700 as of Monday morning. The university was given 17,500 total tickets to distribute, but sales have been slow.

"The fact that we have 17,500 tickets and we've only sold about 5,700 of them shows that we have a lot of tickets that are not going to be sold," says Wells. "There are several factors that play into it, but the fact of the matter is ticket sales aren't as strong as we hoped they'd be."

Among those factors that play into the drop in ticket sales is the timing of the game. A trip to Miami for a Wednesday night after the holiday is more difficult to swing than say a weekend game during the course of the holiday. Extra vacation time from work is likely required for most fans, which is something many cannot pull or afford.

There's also the fact that the Orange Bowl simply has not sold well recently.

"If you go back and look at the numbers of what Virginia Tech sold each of their last two Orange Bowl appearances, you look at what Stanford sold, you look at what Georgia Tech sold when they were there, there's a lot of tickets available for the game," says Wells.

Another factor is the secondary sources that sell tickets. A source like StubHub has a wide selection of tickets for better seats and a cheaper price. The cheapest fans can purchase a ticket for through the university is $99, which will get them upper level end zone seats.

Similar seats on StubHub start at $41.

It is difficult for WVU, or any school, to blame its fans for choosing a different method of obtaining tickets when the competitors sell their seats at a more attractive price. But the university is stuck with a major financial hit if so many of its more than $2 million worth of tickets go unsold.

"That's certainly a competitor for the schools and the allotment of tickets that we receive with how the bowl does in terms of location and pricing," says Wells. "The concern from our standpoint is that we're obligated financially to those 17,500 tickets. That's a pretty big financial hit if you have thousands of unsold tickets."

Wells does not believe the numbers he sees are necessarily reflective of the amount of fan support the Mountaineers will have in Miami.

He estimates the total tickets WVU has given out is approaching 9,500 by including tickets given to players' families and other members of the travel party. The university has also partnered with the Veterans Tickets Foundation to provide former and current military personnel with seats at the game.

A part of the concern outside of financial gains this year, though, is what a poor showing would do for WVU's future in bowl games once the program begins competing in the Big 12, which has its own tie-ins unfamiliar with the Mountaineers.

Should West Virginia fall short of an automatic BCS bowl berth, it would be up to games like the Alamo Bowl or the Holiday Bowl to determine where each team plays. Wells wants to make sure his department can prove what sort of turnout a bowl should expect if it were to invite the Mountaineers.

"The more tickets we can sell through the ticket office and through the department and be able to show them in black and white, ‘Hey, we sold this many tickets to the Orange Bowl. We're an attractive team for you to consider,' that just helps us from a negotiating or an attractiveness standpoint moving forward," says Wells.

Clearly, there are plenty of tickets remaining through the athletic department, which can be purchased online at WVUgame.com or by calling 1-800-WVU-GAME.  

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