The importance of bowl tickets for MSU, how they’ve helped in the past but could hurt in the future

With nearly a month until the game even happens, Mississippi State has gone through just over half of its allotment of 15,000 tickets to the Gator Bowl, including all of the club level seats.

That’s the glass half full.

Half empty?

When MSU went to Jacksonville two years ago, it not only sold its entire allotment before the Bulldog fans even knew which bowl they were going to, but had to purchase extra tickets to accommodate the maroon-clad travelers who wanted to be a part of the game.

ViewArticleNow, MSU has close to half of its allotment remaining unsold. If MSU didn’t sell another ticket after today, the athletic department would be on the hook for a cool half a million dollars.

The word allotment, Senior Associate Athletic Director for Bulldog Club and Ticket Operations Mike Richey said, may not be the best word to describe MSU’s ticket situation. The Gator Bowl doesn’t just give out 15,000 tickets to the school. MSU has to buy those tickets, whether the fans choose to or not.

“I think the most important thing is our fans understanding that what we have, we pay for,” Richey said. “If tickets are 65 dollars apiece and we have 500 that aren’t sold, that’s 32,000 dollars.”

While MSU footing a bill for unsold tickets is less than ideal, it’s only one of the problems for State fans, and maybe not even the biggest one.

Over the past several years, MSU has garnered a reputation as a fan base which travels exceptionally well, and they’ve earned it, too. Even back in 2007, Bulldogs packed out the Liberty Bowl. When it came to selection time in 2010, MSU was able to point to a big crowd in ’07, full stadiums for home games and 15,000-plus tickets reserved by the time Selection Sunday got underway, all of which helped MSU move up the selection ladder over other SEC teams.

“It’s really important,” Richey said of MSU’s reputation for travel. “It helped us for sure two years ago when we could say that we were sold out before the announcement. I think it helped us last year, too.”

Because, yes, last year was again strong for MSU, selling out the full allotment of 12,000 tickets for the Music City Bowl.

Take all of that, add in an 8-4 regular season record, and MSU found itself again selected for a New Year’s Day bowl game in Florida, over teams with records just as good or close to it who finished the season on more positive notes.

Why? Largely because MSU has a record of traveling well. Of filling stadiums, hotels and restaurants.

“Being able to show that you can have that impact on the stadium and on that city is important,” Richey said. “In 2010, we had a New Year’s Eve event that was so packed you couldn’t get even get in. I think they were astounded at what we were able to do. I think that played a lot into their decision to bring us back.”

But now, the present is far behind the past and MSU’s stellar track record. The 2012 season may have ended on a rough stretch, but if MSU fans want to have the same advantage in bowl selection in the future, they have to support their team and school in a year where, despite having their best record in a decade, they may not feel as inclined to do so.

MSU’s sterling reputation is on the line this postseason, and it has nothing to with quarterbacks or linebackers.

The pecking order in the SEC, Richey said, could turn against MSU if it can’t prove it can consistently travel well.

“If you consider what happened with the 10-win teams this year, if you were to change that scenario and say there were two teams that were 10-2 and six teams that were 8-4, which is entirely possible in this conference, absolutely that would play a huge role in it, especially when you’re talking about the Florida games,” Richey said.

Of course, the problem isn’t just people going, either.

What was rarely an issue in the ‘90s has become a massive problem not just for MSU but for institutions across the country, Richey said.

Secondary markets. StubHub, TicketMaster and anyone else who sells tickets for far below the listed price.

If someone can get a $65 ticket for $8, why wouldn’t they?

After all, stadiums still have butts in seats and local business owners see plenty of extra faces.

Assistant Athletic Director for Ticket Operations John King said it’s not quite that easy.

“If most of those buy from other sources and we can’t get through our allotment, it still creates that perception that MSU can’t sell tickets,” he said.

And in the bowl business, perception is important.

Richey joked the price of a ticket online for the Orange Bowl now is probably no more expensive than it was in the 1960s, just because of the boom of secondary markets.

Not all colleges have adapted as well as MSU has.

“The issue of universities trying to sell out their allotments is something everyone is facing,” Richey said. “We have a lot of folks who, just out of generosity, they’ll buy tickets and not go, because they know it’s important to us. People willing to do that makes us a little more unique than other schools out there.”

QEFPTDJBMVSIZUL.20120202155004Understanding the investment a trip to a bowl game requires – hotel, food, gas, tickets and possibly taking days off of work – MSU has made an effort to reward those who do purchase tickets for the week in Florida, or where ever the bowl may be.

The school awarded Bulldog Club points to those who bought tickets the last two years, offering a point for every ticket, roughly a $100 dollar value on a $65 ticket.

This year, the Bulldog Club decided to double the incentive, offering two lifetime points per ticket, roughly equivalent to having donated close to $250 dollars to the Bulldog Club.

Good timing, too, as re-seating for football is coming soon with the expansion of Davis Wade Stadium.

The key for Mississippi State now is to sell tickets to the Gator Bowl and create another atmosphere like it did two years ago in Jacksonville.

“It goes back to what you can show the cities and bowl games,” Richey said.

As learned on New Year’s Day 2011, pack some sunscreen.

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20 Responses to The importance of bowl tickets for MSU, how they’ve helped in the past but could hurt in the future

  1. AL MOODY says:

    That really stinks. The Gator Bowl hurts the schools that it invites by almost giving away tickets. I can understand the merchants wanting to have a lot of people there, but they should not put the lower priced tickets on the market until a week before the game. It’s hard to convince even a strong fan to spend $55 more per regular ticket or $125 for a Club Ticket.

  2. dallasdux says:

    Question: does MSU pay List price for the tickets then ask patrons to pay that same price???

    I personally have no problem finding a lower priced ticket. I have to operate on a personal budget after all. If MSU wants to supplement my travel (room discounts, airfare reduction, fuel rebate, or even free meals) then that makes it easier to afford multiple tickets at face value. After all, chances are a fan is Not going by themselves to the game.

    Tell me why I should feel bad if MSU Was stuck with a $1 Million fee for tickets and decided to GIVE AWAY the tickets via a promotion or lottery??? The school athletic program is being paid well more than $1 million to play in the bowl, correct? The National exposure of playing on New Years Day on TV is easily worth that. MSU will be paid $3.5 MILLION to play in the game. I’m having trouble feeling sorry for them or any sense of urgency to pay full price for my ticker

    Now, let me say that I do not Expect nor do I feel Entitled to a free ticket. Nor do I think MSU should discount my travel. I’m just saying to this author that the argument you raise is not really a big deal.

  3. Paul says:

    I have to agree w Dallas. I am a MSU fan, but I will be enjoying my bowl game at home on my flat screen with my cowbell. I will also be able to enjoy the other 50 something bowl games that are being played on the same day as that is what is so exciting about bowl season. I can remember hardly watching the ending of the Michigan beatdown because there was another exciting game on with the outback bowl…I think.

  4. Gary mcBride says:

    I graduated at Mississippi in 1970 when we didnt know how to spell bowl. Come on guys get for real. MSU needs all of us to support “OUR STATE”

  5. Ok, I actually want to say well done for highlighting the importance of buying through the school. How it helps, how it hurts, etc…. But I think what is missing is the schools effort. Per my very short research. Our allotment that we apparently bought this year seems higher than last time. Who makes this decision? It was not very good speaking that, as a fan and alumnus. This season went from exciting to pretty much a fail. I have grabbed hold of the idea of good isn’t great and that we can be great. Plus anything after losing to Ole Miss just isn’t that exciting. It doesn’t look like the players even like playing football during that game (I digress). So, what about the fact that selling tickets is a business venture. Basic business is supply and demand. We already covered that. Consumer confidence is also needed. I already addressed that as an athletic performance, but what about an Athletic Department performance. If I buy a ticket from MSU, I have no clue where I’ll be seated. If I buy it from a third party, I know exactly my seat. See, paying $65 dollars and knowing that I’ll get a better seat or paying $65 and not knowing. This is an easy decision. Now throw in a discounted ticket and knowledge of my seating. Well I’m gonna take the discount. I’m not rich. I’m a young alumnus in grad school. I can’t just buy tickets to buy tickets. I would buy from MSU though if I knew where I was sitting.

    • B H says:

      The amount of tickets the school must purchase from the bowl is mandated by contract and non-negotiable. If we don’t buy exactly how many tickets they tell us to, we don’t go to the bowl. Last year, West Virginia’s athletic department had to swallow tons of $90 tickets because street prices were as low as $5 in some cases. This year, NIU has to go through 17,500 or so BCS tickets, despite only having a maximum regular season attendance of 16,000. It’s a rough system, but our athletic department can’t really do anything about it.

  6. Gary mcBride says:

    Well said Jordan sounds like your “TRUE MAROON” maybe us old guys need to take up slack and you can follow when your 66. Just want STATE to be around for all my 6 “GRANDKIDS.

  7. James says:

    I pre-ordered Gator Bowl tickets through the MSU athletic website 2 years ago. I drove 10 hours and spent thousands on the trip. Then my seats were in the high endzone. While it was nice to see my Dawgs beat down Michigan in person. Who pre-orders tickets to drive 10 hours and sit in the endzone? I am proud MSU made it to the bowl game but I will watch on TV or buy from another source assuring me better seats if I do decide to drive that far.

  8. StankyLegs says:

    I agree, it sucks for the athletic department to have to bite those tickets, due in part to secondary markets.
    However, the waning interest in this year’s team can’t be overlooked. It’s not just the Egg Bowl loss — too many beatdowns this year and seemingly clueless remarks from coaches have soured optimism.
    Last year, at 6-6, State beat Ole Miss to become bowl eligible. More important, State’s losses weren’t beat downs. A 19-6 loss to LSU and a valiant effort at home against UA told us one thing: we just need a bit of offense. Then, the losses to Auburn and South Carolina were close. We had a feeling that we just missed some chances. This year, the fan base feels like we took a step backwards.
    How do you recapture that energy? Work your butts off to promote all the positives of the program and this season. Tyler Russell is about to break 3,000 yards, though you’d never guess it. Banks is a Thorpe finalist and a future first-round pick, but we’re not getting highlight videos or promotions of these guys. We’re about to have our second nine-win season in three years, but where’s the pub about that in advance of selling these tickets?
    For all of our efforts in marketing and using social media, we’re not doing a very good job of rekindling the enthusiasm. I’m on the fence about going, and all I’ve seen is one boring, one-minute video about how to buy bowl tickets.
    Here’s an idea, is there any video of the New Year’s Eve party from the last Gator Bowl? Any video of MSU fans at the parade? The on the field celebration after the win? Any video of the sunshine and beach? (Yeah, it was winter but it’s still nice to be next to the ocean). Why not cut up all those videos and roll out multiple “See You in Jacksonville” videos to “sell the experience.”
    This bowl, like it or not, is a budgeted item for a lot of people. And after a poor finish to the season, some of us have to be reminded of all the positives and how much fun Jacksonville will be. Our athletic department isn’t doing a very good job of that.

  9. steve.whitehead4@gmail.com says:

    I hope we at least tried to get Ellis Johnson but maybe we could not match what Auburn offered.
    Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

  10. wickdawg says:

    Buying bowl tickets has always been my cheapest expense of the bowl experience. Buying the bowl tickets is not the problem. The problem for a lot people is the travel expense, hotel, food, oh and then of course comes the bowl tickets. There hasn’t been much excitement in the air about the bowl game this year as in the previous two. There needs to be something that gets the fan base excited especially after the defeat we took from Ole Miss. This year the fans are not on that season ending high like we have been the previous two years. Fans were excited. Excited for the future of this team and felt like whoever we played in the bowl game, it was our game to lose. This year started off so well and it came to a screeching halt.

    I am really proud of my Bulldogs, but there needs to be a better job of getting everyone excited. Living and working in Starkville there is not any bowl chatter that you’ve heard the past couple years. Are our fans getting complacent already? Yes this is our third straight bowl game, second Gator in three years. This should be hyped up. Get the fans excited! It’s been quite a while since we’ve been to three straight bowl games.

  11. Brad says:

    I’m more worried about an OC than a DC. Wilson was good last year but just kind of let us down at the last few games. Regardless I think he is a great DC and I have seen many more defensive adjustments after being down or playing close this year than offensive adjustments. I myself think we are playing behind ourselves two years or so offensively and need to make a change there. Bring in someone fresh that has some new ideas or Dan Mullen can simply hire a Special Teams coach and take over play calling on offense himself. Pull a Spurrier. Works for him…..

  12. Bulldawg4life says:

    Beat Ole Miss and you could sell all the tickets you wanted. The way we lost to them with seemingly a lack of effort from players and coaches left a bitter taste in alot of fan’s mouth. It made making the sacrifices to go to a bowl game not as appealing. I would have sold a body part to be in Nashville last year and was there. This year I’ll watch on TV in the comfort of my home and save that money.

  13. Clardyman says:

    This year team was full of talent & there wasn’t a game we played 4 full quarters! I’m not going to Gator Bowl because our Dawgs didn’t make a effort to play the second half of the Ole Miss game! I also think Vandy deserved to go to this year Gator Bowl &the not Mississippi State! This game was bought &the wasn’t earned!

  14. matt says:

    Im like several other people here. I buy my tickets via stubhub because even though I sit in between the 40’s, 36th row at Davis Wade stadium. We always end up in the endzone at bowl games. I am sitting on the 35 yard line at the gator bowl, and only cost me 110/ticket.

  15. sharon says:

    I really want to go. Somewhere State posted that all the premium tickets were gone. I cant find anyone to go with me andd last year all the rooms were booked.

  16. Maxine says:

    Hello friends, its enormous post concerning teachingand entirely explained, keep it up all the time.

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