Sluggish bowl-ticket sales will leave Iowa writing a big check

Chad Leistikow

The University of Iowa will likely have a large check to write after experiencing sluggish bowl-game ticket sales.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the school had sold 4,008 tickets of its obligation of 8,000 for the football team's Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl appearance in Jacksonville, Fla. Tickets purchased for the UI marching band, which director of athletic ticket operations Pam Finke estimated at 500 seats, is included in that sales total.

The university's bottom line certainly was impacted by low prices for tickets on the secondary market. As of Tuesday, mid-level seats for Iowa's game against Tennessee could be had for $49 on, while the university has a fixed price of $85 for standard seating and $125 for club seats.

The 14 Big Ten Conference teams split the tab on whatever the final shortfall is in the ticket allotment, according to Rick Klatt, the UI's associate athletic director for external relations. Pricing out the 3,992 unsold seats, the total obligation would be between $350,000 and $400,000. In other words, Iowa's shortfall will cost every Big Ten institution somewhere in the neighborhood of $28,000.

These unsold seats are often donated to charities, with an added bonus being that fewer seats are seen as empty during the TV broadcast.

A lack of fan enthusiasm also is a factor in Iowa's ticket sales. By contrast, Tennessee — going to its first bowl game since 2010 — sold out its allotment of 8,000 in a matter of days.

Enthusiasm was high for the Hawkeyes a year ago. The UI sold 10,800 seats for last year's Outback Bowl game in Tampa, Fla., Finke said last week. This year, high expectations against a weaker schedule weren't met. Iowa lost its final two games, both at home, to finish 7-5.

In an interview prior to the bowl announcement earlier this month, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta acknowledged uncertainty about bowl ticket sales while giving support for coach Kirk Ferentz in 2015.

"I understand that there's angst. We're 7-5. I guess in some programs, that would be acceptable, that would be exciting," Barta said on Dec. 6. "I stand here today and am saying after reviewing and thinking about it during the season, 7-5 isn't acceptable. Why is that? Because acceptable for us is when we have a chance to win a championship. And we didn't get that done. So I'm getting that feedback."