WVU Orange Bowl ticket costs to be hefty
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With the Orange Bowl one week away, it appears West Virginia University will have to eat the cost of several thousand unsold tickets for the nationally televised game.
WVU sports marketing director Matt Wells said Tuesday the university ticket office has sold about 7,700 of the 17,500 tickets it received for the Jan. 4 Bowl Championship Series game between the Mountaineers and Clemson Tigers.
But unfortunately for WVU, there's no return policy for unsold tickets.
"Basically, anything we don't sell we are obligated to and responsible for purchasing," Wells said.
So the university will have to foot the bill for any of the unsold tickets — which range in price from $75 to $225 — it still has by kickoff.
Wells said it's still unclear how much that total cost might be.
"Too early to really give a number because there's so many different price levels," he said. "You could end up with 1,000 tickets at the $125 level or 1,600 tickets at the $75, so it wouldn't be accurate to make a guess just yet."
That will eat into the estimated $2.2 million of Big East bowl share revenue the university is expected to receive for the BCS bowl game.
Wells also said unsold tickets won't necessarily go unused.
"Obviously, there's tickets we use for internal uses such as for the band, players' families, and other groups," he said.
Those groups will fill between 1,200 and 1,500 seats for the Orange Bowl game.
The university also has teamed up with a national non-profit organization to donate some tickets to active and former members of the military and their families.
"We partnered with the Veteran Tickets Foundation, and they are helping us distribute some of our unused tickets," Wells said. "They are helping us distribute about 3,000 of our unused tickets."
Tickets are being distributed to members of the West Virginia National Guard and their families, as well as active duty military members and veterans in Miami through the program.
Individuals buying tickets had the option to donate some tickets to the military donation program, so some of the 3,000 dedicated to that program are included in the 7,700 tickets sold so far.
"With what we've sold, what we've used with internal usage and what we've used for troops, we've accounted for approximately 10,750 tickets," Wells said.
He expects that number to rise to 11,000 by next week. That still would leave about 6,500 tickets unused.
University officials are coordinating with Orange Bowl representatives to try to donate unused tickets to charities and organizations in Florida that the bowl committee supports.
Wells said a combination of factors may account for the university's low sales tally.
"The fact that it's a mid-week date after the holiday and it requires additional vacation time, plus the fact that kids are back in school by then — that all certainly plays into things," he said.
But he also said the rise of websites such as StubHub.com that help fans exchange tickets has affected university sales because they can offer tickets at lower prices.
"The fact that tickets are available from other sources certainly plays into this," Wells said. "It's something that all the schools that are in these types of games are dealing with."
The Orange Bowl website has its own such exchange with upper-level tickets available for as little as $19.
"I don't think there's any doubt that there's going to be a significant amount of fans that have bought tickets through other outlets than our ticket office that will show up on game day," Wells said.
While the lower-priced tickets might be a good deal for fans, purchase from other sources hurts WVU because university ticket office sales are used as the official gauge of how many fans travel from a particular school.
"This is the official count in black and white we can point to and say, 'This is how many fans we delivered to the Orange Bowl,'" Wells said.
Those numbers help conferences when they negotiate future bowl agreements. But in this case it appears WVU will be underrepresented.
Well said while anything could happen over the next week, WVU officials aren't expecting to see any significant change in their sales figures prior to game day.
"History has shown us the bulk of the bowl sales happen in that first week to 10 days after the bowl game is announced," he said.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.