LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --- It may not be a BCS Bowl game, but Louisville fans are making the university look very good to bowl officials with the number of tickets they've purchased for the Russell Athletic Bowl.
One UofL team official told WDRB Sports Louisville had sold "slightly over 11,000 of 12500" allotted to the university by the Russell Athletic Bowl, as of Monday afternoon. That does not include tickets purchased via third party outlets.
Louisville plays Miami Saturday in Orlando.
More than 11,000 is an impressive number, considering the current landscape of struggling bowl game ticket sales.
The Orlando Sentinel reported Monday UCF returned 10,000 tickets for the Fiesta Bowl, having sold less than half its allotment. That's a BCS Bowl game, people. The Knights have sold or committed to use just 7,500 of their 17,500 ticket allotment for the program's first BCS Bowl game.
UCF isn't alone. Ohio State has sold just 7,000 of its 17,500 allotment for the Orange Bowl, another BCS Bowl game. Michigan? Less than 6,000 of 11,000 for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Arizona.
A Miami assistant athletic director told WDRB Sports Monday, "We are not publicizing how many we have sold." That's usually not a good sign, and Miami is just a 3 1/2 hour drive to the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.
It was this time last year University of Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich was telling the media Sugar Bowl officials were thanking him. UofL had "saved" the Sugar Bowl, after the Cardinals had sold almost 15,000 of its ticket allotment.
The attendance for Louisville's win over Florida was 54,178, the lowest for the Sugar Bowl since 1939 when 44,308 watched TCU and Carnegie Mellon at old Tulane Stadium. But the Cards weren't to blame.
Florida sold only about 7,000 of its 17,500 ticket allotment for last year's Sugar Bowl.
This is the second straight year bowl officials will take note of Louisville's impressive ticket sales. There was reason for some to believe Cards fans wouldn't turn out, after not making it back to a BCS Bowl game. That clearly isn't the case.
For a fan base starving for big-time college football, these ticket numbers could pay dividends in the future.
Ticket sales, proximity to the bowl, and the size of fan bases are almost the sole factors when big-time bowls choose at-large bids among eligible teams. It's the reason why Oregon isn't in a BCS Bowl game, despite finishing ranked higher than Oklahoma (Sugar) and Clemson (Orange).
Louisville fans have shown these big bowl games its more than willing to make the trip...and spend the money.
***Monday Louisville football team update***
Charlie Strong and the Cardinals practiced in Orlando Monday for two hours at First Academy. The players were then treated to a Best Buy shopping spree, as part of the bowl game festivities. Louisville finished the day with a team trip to Universal Studios theme park.