Fans dismiss Florida fatigue: USC fans still buying bowl tickets in droves

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 17, 2013 

South Carolina hopes to see a big fan contingent in Orland, Fla., for this year's Capitol One Bowl.

ERIK CAMPOS — File Photograph

South Carolina fans aren’t tired of Mickey Mouse — yet.

The Gamecocks have distributed 9,000 of their allotted 12,500 tickets to their Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl game appearance against Wisconsin and are confident demand will continue through game day, senior associate athletics director Charles Bloom said Tuesday. South Carolina is ahead of the bowl ticket selling pace it was on for last year’s Outback Bowl and the 2011 Capital One Bowl.

“I think we are in a good place,” Bloom said. “We think that based on historical information that we will sell a good amount of tickets the week of the game.”

That doesn’t mean the Gamecocks and the SEC aren’t aware that even Orlando, Fla., and Disney World can lose their appeal after a while. Call it “Florida Fatigue” or call it human nature, but now that South Carolina is making a Jan. 1 bowl appearance in the Sunshine State a regular thing, some fans are looking for more variety.

Hank Jolly, a 45-year-old dentist in Gaffney, is as pro-Gamecock as it gets. He’s a member of the school’s Board of Visitors and was a past president of the Cherokee chapter of the Gamecock Club, but he and his wife will ring in the new year on the beach rather than at the bowl game.

“For me personally, there’s a little bit of fatigue,” said Jolly, who took in the Gamecocks’ last Capital One Bowl appearance in person. “If it had been Dallas (in the Cotton Bowl), or definitely if we had gotten a BCS bowl bid, we might have had a change of plans and made more of an effort to attend. We’ve been down there several times, need a change of venue.”

The SEC is hearing that from fans at a lot of its schools, which is one of the reasons it sought, and received, more control in the bowl assignments. Starting next season, commissioner Mike Slive and his team essentially will place each bowl-eligible conference team in the spot the league wants rather than allowing the bowls to pick.

There were several reasons that change was needed, Slive said this spring, including the desire to have “a variety of assignments to help prevent repetitive postseason destinations.”

The Big Ten — which is matched up against the SEC in the Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl and the Gator Bowl — also senses some staleness in its bowl lineup. At its spring meetings, commissioner Jim Delany suggested it would be helpful to occasionally rotate tradition bowl partners with other leagues. No such plans are in the works in the SEC to Bloom’s knowledge, he said.

The Gamecocks have played nine bowl games since 2000, and five of them have been against Big Ten teams. The Capital One Bowl will be their third straight postseason game against a Big Ten team.

“I wouldn’t call it fatigue, but going back to the same locales in a reasonable time frame takes the newness off,” Bloom said. “There are several factors that go into a fan buying a ticket and traveling to a bowl.”

Bowl attendance is trending downward with last year’s average crowd (49,222) the lowest since the 1978-79 season, according to an analysis by AL.com. However, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all have sold out their bowl allotment this season, according to the SEC office, and the Capital One Bowl ticket remains a relatively hot item.

The lowest available ticket for South Carolina’s game at Stubhub.com was selling Tuesday for $51. That was the 10th-highest among the 37 bowls. The average price of the 9,000 tickets South Carolina has distributed (the school took 1,500 of that total for its internal use) was $92, but the secondary ticket sellers have not cut into South Carolina’s sales much because of the quality of tickets the Gamecocks are selling, Bloom said. Ninety percent of South Carolina’s tickets are in the lower bowl of the 65,438-seat Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.

“This is maybe one of the best allotments that we have ever worked with in a bowl in terms of quality and quantity,” Bloom said.

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