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FORUMS | CHAT | PRINT THIS STORY

Ticket sales not big issue for Fiesta Bowl

By Mike Griffith, News-Sentinel sportswriter
December 26, 1999

TEMPE, Ariz. - Tennessee's football team arrives in the Valley of the Sun today with some 7,500 Big Orange fans expected to follow.

The Vols sold approximately half of their 15,000 allotted tickets and returned the remainder to the Fiesta Bowl.

"That's not a big issue to us because we have such a strong demand for tickets locally," said John Junker, the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl. "We're not a bowl based on tourism. Our job is to take care of things on the football side and provide an exciting football game.

"The tourism and economic side will come along with that. It doesn't necessarily work the other way around."

The Fiesta Bowl probably could have guaranteed itself a quick sellout had it opted to invite Kansas State.

"We opted for this game (Nebraska-Tennessee) and we are very excited," Junker said. "This game has an air about it. Two great teams will be testing themselves."

The Fiesta Bowl is one of the better organized and friendlier bowls, and its "football-first" matchup strategy hasn't failed since the inception of the Bowl coalition alliance (which evolved into the Bowl Championship Series).

In fact, the last time the Fiesta Bowl didn't sell out was in 1991 when Alabama played Louisville.

Tennessee played Penn State the following year. The Vols brought approximately 9,000 fans to that game.

Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said he hasn't kept up with the number of tickets sold.

"I love our fans, they're great," Fulmer said. "But they don't block and tackle, so I can't worry about that."

Fulmer will hold a 6 p.m. (EST) press conference today and then gather his players for a 9 p.m. team meeting.

Tennessee will begin its Tempe practices for the Jan. 2 game Monday evening.

Nebraska arrived and practiced Friday. The Cornhuskers sold their full 15,000-ticket allotment and their fans have requested more.

GOOD STOCK: Two of the Vols' recruiting commitments were honored in the Arizona Republic. Quarterback John Rattay and defensive back Lee Wheeler come from two of the "Top 20" football families in Arizona in the 1900s. Wheeler's father was a standout while Rattay's older brothers, Chris and Tim, also played football. Tim just finished his senior season as the star quarterback at Louisiana Tech.

Their father, Jim, is a coach. In fact, he was honored as one of the top 25 high school football coaches in Arizona in the 1900s.

GRAND MARSHAL: Jerry Colangelo, who owns the NBA's Phoenix Suns and baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks, will be grand marshal for the Dec. 31 Fiesta Bowl Parade. It is expected to draw some 400,000 spectators.

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