Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 | 6:15 p.m.
Anyone in Las Vegas who cares about UNLV football even a little bit was excited the 7-5 Rebels landed in a bowl game for the first time in 13 years. Getting those people to actually attend the game was never going to be easy, though, and a day before kickoff the numbers are about as low as expected.
UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy said Tuesday that the university sold around 300 tickets to Wednesday’s Heart of Dallas Bowl against North Texas. The game kicks off at 9 a.m. Las Vegas time in Cotton Bowl Stadium and will air on ESPNU.
The university was required to purchase more than 5,000 tickets from the bowl at full price. UNLV sold tickets to the public for $75 and to students for $20.
The Rebels knew they weren’t going to get close to selling out their allotment, so there are already plans in place to help soften the financial hit. Some donors gave extra money that the university used on tickets to give to local military and Boys & Girls Clubs in Texas.
“I don’t have the final numbers,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “Obviously it will all be public once we get back and figure out how much it cost and how much we brought in.”
Kunzer-Murphy also plans to ask the conference for assistance since the Fort Worth Bowl requires only about $200,000 in ticket purchases versus the Heart of Dallas Bowl's $400,000. The Rebels were flipped from Fort Worth to Dallas by ESPN Regional Television, which owns both games.
Just because UNLV only sold about 300 tickets doesn’t mean that’s all the Rebels fans that will be in the stands. Nearly half that many were at the fairgrounds tonight for a combined pep rally with North Texas. While the fans who spoke with the Sun all said they purchased their tickets through the university, they said they have friends coming in later tonight who bought seats on the secondary market.
That’s one of the biggest problems for a university just looking to break even. Tickets can almost always be found for cheaper — sometimes more than 50 percent off — elsewhere, and a lot of times it’s the bowls offering those tickets up, as USA Today explored on Sunday.
Last year the Heart of Dallas Bowl offered half-price tickets through Groupon. However, a day before the game there didn’t appear to be the same type of deals. The cheapest ticket the Sun could find online this afternoon was on StubHub for $59, and those were gone by 5 p.m., leaving only $90 seats.
While the Rebels are going to be stuck doing some math, North Texas is expected to bring as many as 20,000 people to the Cotton Bowl. The Mean Green’s campus is about 40 miles north of Dallas, so it makes sense that they would be able to bring a much larger contingent.
Even if they’re wearing green, Kunzer-Murphy and UNLV coach Bobby Hauck both said they just want people to show up and add to the gameday environment.
Just getting to this point was the big challenge for the Rebels in 2013. They’ll figure out the rest starting in the New Year.
“I don’t think you put a price on it,” Kunzer-Murphy said. “… I think you’re going to see the dividends over the years because of something like this tomorrow morning on national TV.”