It's not just the teams playing in low- and mid-level bowls this season that are having trouble selling tickets. According to reports, several BCS-bound teams are struggling to get rid of their allotment.
Both teams playing in the Fiesta Bowl, Baylor and Central Florida, have returned thousands of unsold tickets from their 17,500 seat allotment. Baylor sold about 12,000 tickets while Central Florida managed to sell less than half of its allotment.
Perhaps more surprising is that Ohio State, a school whose tradition trumps both Baylor's and UCF's, is having a hard time ridding itself of a 17,500 ticket Orange Bowl allotment. According to the Toledo Blade, the Buckeyes have only sold about 7,000 tickets thus far.
That's not to say Ohio State fans won't be showing up in droves, but it may mean that fans are circumventing the school in search of better seats on the secondary market. The tickets being sold by Ohio State range between $90 and $240 while fans can easily find seats on Stubhub for half that price.
This isn't the first time in recent years that an Orange Bowl team has struggled to sell out its allotment. Last year Florida State sold less than half its allotment while Northern Illinois couldn't get rid of 7,000 tickets. In 2012 Clemson and West Virginia were forced to eat a combined total of more than 15,000 tickets.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told the Blade that the bowl allotments are “a hard business model that we keep fighting.”
Luckily for Ohio State, the Big Ten absorbs unsold tickets. Last year conferences and schools ate nearly $21 million in unsold tickets.
All told, only a handful of bowl-bound programs will make money in the postseason, and most of those are BCS teams. What's harder to measure, however, is the revenue that schools will get from the publicity and the recruiting benefits that come with a successful season.
College bowls, particularly those in the BCS, have come under increased scrutiny in recent years for its business practices. Many of the bigger bowls enjoy tax breaks, but then charge the schools -- many of which are taxpayer-financed public universities -- for not selling their ticket allotment. A 2011 investigation by HBO's Real Sports brought many of these issues to light: