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Boise State struggling to sell Cactus Bowl tickets, could lose money if sales don’t pick up

December 15, 2016

BOISE — Boise State needs a significant late surge in ticket sales for the Cactus Bowl or the school and the Mountain West Conference could be out a considerable amount of money.

As part of Boise State’s invitation to participate in the Dec. 27 bowl in Phoenix, the school was required to purchase 8,000 tickets to resell to fans. The school has distributed more than 2,000 tickets for the game, but not all of those were purchased.

That leaves close to 6,000 tickets still left for Boise State to sell for the matchup with Baylor with less than two weeks until kickoff.

“The school’s investment on the ticket side, we have some miles to go,” Boise State Associate Athletic Director for External Relations Dusty Clements said during an appearance Tuesday on ESPN Boise. “We work with the conference, but we do need to sell more tickets to hit our threshold within the Mountain West Conference, so it doesn’t impact Boise State and our budget for this bowl game.

“There’s a threshold out there and we’re scratching and clawing and trying to get there, but we’re confident that we’ll get close to there or surpass it provided we get some help from Bronco Nation over the next 10 days to two weeks.”

The Mountain West Conference has agreed to cover the cost for unsold tickets after a certain point, but Boise State has declined to reveal publicly how many more tickets need to be sold before they will be off the hook financially.

Clements confirmed that they aren’t there yet, which is slightly concerning for Boise State officials given their lowest cost — $39.50 for a seat in the upper deck at Chase Field — is significantly higher than tickets can be purchased for on the open market.

Tickets are going for as cheap as $4 on VividSeats.com and $6 on Stubhub for similar sections that Boise State is selling for $39.50.

And there’s not much Boise State can do about it. They have to charge the amount they were billed for by the Cactus Bowl, even though fans can find similar tickets elsewhere for cheaper prices.

“If they look at different seats that are available on the secondary market, that’s decision they have to make,” Clements said. “But we try to sing the tune of helping out the department, making sure it’s a great bowl for our team and our players, and part of that is supporting the athletic department by purchasing tickets through us.

“It is critical that they guy their tickets through our department.”

Boise State will receive a budget of $685,000 from the Mountain West for Cactus Bowl expenses, with $125,000 of that coming from the allotment of 8,000 tickets the Broncos need to sell.

Simply put: the more unsold tickets Boise State ends up with, the more money they could potentially lose from the bowl trip.

Clements noted increased customer service, sitting with other Boise State fans and helping the athletic department not lose money on the trip among the reasons to purchase the tickets from them at BroncoSports.com.

Similar problems happen each year at bowl games across the country, leaving schools struggling to cover the costs of unsold tickets.

Clements also admitted that the Dec. 27 date doesn’t help ticket sales because it makes it difficult for fans to travel to Phoenix for the game.

Some fans have voiced displeasure over Boise State’s system for selling bowl tickets as a reason they decided to purchase tickets elsewhere. Fans that purchased tickets in the first three days following the announcement were only able to pick a price range and not an exact seat.

Boise State then ranked the buyers based on their points and donation rank to the Bronco Athletic Association and will distribute the best tickets to the highest donors.

The goal was to reserve the best seats for those that donate the most money.

“It’s important that the priority points and your standing as a donor comes into play at some point,” Clements said.

Clements called that system “standard practice” at schools around the country, but said fans now go to BroncoSports.com and select the exact seat they want to purchase, even if they are not season ticket holders.

A ticket issue two years ago with the Fiesta Bowl caused Boise State to mistakenly charge the same price for tickets in the first row of the stadium as some in the upper deck. That issue also has caused some fans to look elsewhere for tickets.

“I know there are some Bronco fans that are as die hard as anyone and they are going to just work through the bowl game or the secondary market to get their bowl seats based on one or two experiences in the past,” Clements said. “We’re just trying to be transparent about the process.”

Boise State has a sponsorship agreement with VivdSeats.com and gets a portion of each sale on that website, but the school would prefer — and benefit the most — from fans purchasing tickets directly from them.

Fans unable to attend the game can purchase tickets for military members to help Boise State get closer to the 8,000-seat mark. There’s an option on BroncoSports.com to purchase tickets for military members.

Boise State and the Cactus Bowl will donate the purchased tickets to military members in the Phoenix area.

“We’re trying to push that,” Clements said. “If people are going to be here in Boise or wherever home is watching the game, we would encourage them to consider the military contribution so you are still supporting the team for this bowl game and filling one of our seats that’s going to root for the Broncos.”

The 2015 Cactus Bowl featuring Washington and Oklahoma State drew 35,409 fans to Chase Field. Last year’s game, which was Jan. 2, 2016, drew 39,321 fans for local product Arizona State and West Virginia.

Boise State and Baylor likely will play in front of a much smaller crowd this year.

Tickets can be purchased at BroncoSports.com, or of course, on the secondary market.