Despite being in the first BCS bowl game in school history, the UCF Knights are having trouble selling tickets. The Orlando Sentinel reports that UCF has returned 10,000 unsold tickets to the Fiesta Bowl.
School officials estimated that they would need to sell 13,000 tickets to simply break even on the game. As a comparison, the Knights’ opponents, the Baylor Bears, returned 5,000 tickets to the bowl. Teams were allotted 17,500 tickets apiece.
While UCF’s numbers are disappointing, the team has still sold more than Ohio State for its Orange Bowl matchup against the Clemson Tigers.
This situation raises an interesting hindsight view at why the Orange Bowl didn’t select UCF over Ohio State. It would have been a move that, historically, made little sense, but could have been a gamble that paid off.
From the second Alabama lost in the Iron Bowl, Ohio State fans cast their gaze to the BCS Championship Game. With a two-year winning streak, one of the best coaches in the country and historical pride, anything less than the title game was going to be a disappointment. After being upset by Michigan State, the Orange Bowl became a consolation, not a destination for Buckeyes fans. Sure, the weather in Miami is nice, but maybe not enough to warrant a trip to watch a game with nothing more than pride on the line.
As for UCF, the trip to Arizona was a death knell – both the school and bowl knew as much. The Knights don’t have a large national presence. The school has only really blossomed in the past 15 years in both enrollment and athletics. However, the Orange Bowl could have gambled on fan enthusiasm and proximity to carry ticket sales.
Considering the Orange Bowl had the first selection of BCS at-large teams, it was hardly conceivable that an upstart program would get the nod over a traditional powerhouse (and historical matchup). However, considering the current economic climate and increased fan entitlement, the Orange Bowl may have come out on top by bucking conventional wisdom.