“We have a spirited debate.”
Despite beating Nebraska, the Gophers watched as the Cornhuskers were selected to the more lucrative and prestigious Gator Bowl. Despite a history of bringing many fans to bowl games, Nebraska is struggling to get fans interested in the Jacksonville, Fla., game after an 8-4 season and questions revolving around coach Bo Pelini.
“I think some people want to see this season in the rearview mirror,” said Scott Glenn of Executive Travel in Lincoln. Glenn, a Nebraska football player in the 1970s, said he canceled a charter flight for the Gator Bowl because of a lack of demand. “We weren’t surprised at all. The last three games, [with] the Michigan State loss, [and] we lost to Iowa at home” were disappointing.
Glenn said the economics of bowl games — especially for the many less desirable bowls — make it difficult to generate interest. Fans can watch the games at home on large-screen TVs, and charter packages typically charge far more for tickets than fans can pay elsewhere. Plus, he said, the Huskers had in recent years played several bowl games in Florida.
“Everybody [was hoping] to go to Phoenix,” he said.
Tough for bowls
Adding to the dissatisfaction is a new survey by New Jersey-based Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, which showed that many college football season-ticket holders are unhappy with affordability and the gameday experience.
“We’re all competing in the entertainment industry,” said Haynes Hendrickson of Turnkey, which lists the NFL, the NBA and Madison Square Garden among its clients.
And Hendrickson said that philosophy extends to bowl games. Hendrickson said bowl selection officials have told him that, after considering other factors, “at the end of the day they also pick on gut. Who’s going to help us sell? Who’s going to travel?
“It’s not always, ‘Boy, this is a better team,’ ” Hendrickson added. “It’s still a business.”
Capital One Bowl spokesman Matt Repchak said Minnesota “caught us by surprise” by being 8-2 with games remaining against Wisconsin and Michigan State. Had the Gophers won either game, said Repchak, a 9-3 Gophers team would have received “extra consideration” for the Jan. 1 bowl.
“Minnesota hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to be in consideration late in the year,” he said.
Jamey Rootes, the president of Lone Star Sports and Entertainment, which manages the Texas Bowl, said he was not surprised the Gophers still were available when his bowl made its selection. The Texas Bowl is owned by ESPN, and Rootes said the sports cable network was “directly involved” in selecting the Gophers and Syracuse.
Rootes said he also was not surprised that the Gator Bowl, for example, selected Nebraska ahead of Minnesota.
“If you’ve been in this business long enough, nothing shocks you,” said Rootes, who is also president of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
As for the Gophers, he added: “It feels like the program is headed in a great direction” and that with “signature wins” over Nebraska and Penn State the Gophers are “doing things that the program hasn’t done in a long time.”