During the week leading up to the Texas Bowl, I started keeping an eye on what appeared to be the cheapest tickets of the bowl season.
The game, which is played in Houston and this year featured a 6-6 Syracuse team against an 8-4 Minnesota squad, seemed to be destined to have a sparse crowd. Minnesota only sold 3,375 of its 12,000 seat allotment (which, incredibly, was an improvement on the 3,163 tickets they sold when they played in last year's Texas Bowl). As for Syracuse, Joe Christensen of The Star Tribune wrote "It’s unclear how many tickets Syracuse sold, but if today’s Texas Bowl luncheon was any indication, Gophers fans outnumbered the Orange fans by a wide margin."
On Wednesday, the cheapest tickets for the game were available for an extravagant 75 cents on StubHub:
An overzealous buyer may have jumped at such a deal, assuming that surely ticket prices to a bowl game featuring two BCS conference teams couldn't fall any further.
Patience would prove to be a virtue for those who waited for Texas Bowl tickets to fall to a more reasonable price. About 20 minutes before the 6 p.m. EST kickoff on Friday, the cheapest tickets to the game dropped to 25 cents on StubHub:
Great deal? Seemingly.
Alas, a few minutes before kickoff, the bottom truly fell out of the Texas Bowl ticket market:
StubHub took the listing down after kickoff, but it's not completely unreasonable to assume based on market trends that at 6:05 p.m., StubHub sellers would have been paying decent money for people to take these tickets off their hands.
Why were tickets to this game so cheap?
1. The game is being played at Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans, which seats more than 71,000 people. That's a lot of seats to fill for a mid-level bowl.
2. While we're sure people in Minneapolis and Syracuse wouldn't mind a break from their current weather, Houston is quite a trek. Even teams playing in BCS games have had trouble selling tickets to games at distant venues.
3. Houston is a city torn between the Big 12 and the SEC. Even among the die-hard college football fans living in the area, there are probably only a limited number of people who have bothered to watch Syracuse or Minnesota play on TV this season. The tickets sold to Houstonians will likely just be limited to the number of people who just wanted the novelty of attending a bowl game... any bowl game.
But things aren't all bad for the Texas Bowl. Just yesterday they announced a 6-year tie-in with the SEC, who will now match up with the Big 12 annually -- provided both conferences have enough bowl eligible schools (the Big 12 didn't this year, which is why Syracuse got the invite).
In addition, Syracuse's SBNation blog "Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician" raised $44,444.44 to send more than 1,400 Houston kids to the game.