CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia University football fans are getting a last-minute second chance to buy tickets for Saturday's game against the University of Louisville after students passed at claiming tickets for themselves.
The hype around this weekend's noon game at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown shot up exponentially last week, following the off-field political drama that appeared to pit the two schools against each other for a slot in the Big 12 Conference.
WVU won that battle - much to the chagrin of Louisville Cardinal fans - and this Saturday's game stands to be the last time the two face off as members of the Big East Conference.
While the Big 12 announcement boosted ticket demand from the public at large, WVU students did not rush to claim tickets.
Under WVU's student ticket system - which was created at a time when student demand exceeded ticket supply - students have a 48-hour window on Sunday and Monday to request a ticket online.
When that window closed Monday night, the WVU ticket office found that students had only requested about 7,700 of the 12,500 tickets available to them.
Once they request a ticket, students still had through the end of the day Wednesday to claim and confirm that they intended to use the tickets Saturday. As of Wednesday afternoon, about 6,800 of the 7,700 ticket requests had been claimed.
Student leaders weren't sure why their classmates didn't go online en masse to request tickets, but WVU Student Government Association president Jason Bailey said it could have been just a combination of things on the calendar.
Bailey, a 22-year-old from Ripley, said the fact that the Mountaineers played away at Rutgers last weekend may have been a factor. He said students are more apt to claim their ticket when a home game is fresh in their memory.
He also said Halloween parties from Saturday through Monday could have served as another distraction.
"I don't directly relate the lower number of student request to a lack of desire or not wanting to be there," Bailey said. "I think there's just a lot going on now and maybe putting in the request for next weekend's game wasn't on students' minds."
He also said the ongoing saga of conference realignment and WVU's move to the Big 12 may have distracted attention away from this weekend's game.
Even if they didn't request a ticket, students can still go to the university ticket office until kickoff on Saturday to get an unclaimed student ticket. Bailey said a lot of students have started to request those.
Regardless of the reasons behind it, WVU athletic department officials are now having to balance the surplus of unclaimed tickets versus sold-out general public seating.
On Thursday, they began selling off the tickets in stadium section 211.
While students pay a fee each semester to cover ticket costs as part of tuition and fees, athletic officials felt the move was justified because it appeared those seats would be empty otherwise.
"We're not taking anything away from students," said sports marketing director Matt Wells, "we're just trying to take advantage of tickets that were not going to be used anyway."