70,000-plus crowd no lock anymore for CU-CSU game
CU, CSU combined have more than 9,000 tickets left for Saturday's game
Playing the Colorado-Colorado State football game at Invesco Field in Denver could be losing its luster.
Officials from both schools confirmed a significant number of tickets remained at the close of business Monday for the 79th edition of the rivalry. If sales remain sluggish, it could lead to Saturday's crowd numbering fewer than 70,000 for the second consecutive season — something that hasn't happened in the seven previous years in Denver.
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Colorado State, which receives 45 percent of the allotment, or about 33,000 tickets, has approximately 5,000 tickets remaining. It has sold approximately 28,000 total tickets, including its allotment of 10,000 student tickets.
Colorado receives 55 percent of the allotment, or about 39,000 tickets. It has about 4,100 tickets remaining. CU had sold more than 34,000 tickets, including nearly all of its allotment of 12,000 student tickets.
"It's actually a little better than last year at this point," CU athletic director Mike Bohn said. "We have four full days left to go. Hopefully, it will get closer to that sellout number."
The Denver Metro Sports Commission and some Denver Broncos season ticket holders also figure into the allotment of tickets at 76,125-seat Invesco Field.
The schools began playing their annual grudge match in Denver in 1998 in front of a crowd that numbered 76,036. All but two games in the series have been played in Denver since, including last year's contest in which CSU beat CU 14-10 in front of the smallest crowd (65,701) to see the series in Denver.
Last year's contest was a CSU home game. CU is the home team this year.
Officials from both schools said they were optimistic that fans would buy a significant number of tickets in the final four days leading up to the game. They also acknowledged the game never has attracted a large number of walk-up purchases on game day.
A variety of factors could have fans shying away from spending $55 or more to attend the game this year. The fact that both teams are coming off sour seasons is at the top of the list.
The Buffs went 2-10 last season — only the third 10-loss season in school history — in coach Dan Hawkins' first year coaching the team. The Rams went 4-8 and lost their final seven games, leading a few to wonder if coach Sonny Lubick's best days in Fort Collins are behind him.
Another factor possibly contributing to slow sales is the 10 a.m. start time. The schools agreed to play early this year to attract a national television audience on Fox Sports Net. Playing nationally televised games puts extra revenue in athletic department coffers.
Gary Ozzello, senior associate athletic director for external operations at CSU, said those issues really amount to excuses.
"I think you have several reasons that people will choose to hide behind, but I still think there is a tremendous excitement for the game from CSU fans," Ozzello said. "I think it's on par with previous seasons.
"To be honest, when we've had night games, you have people who say, 'Oh, that's too late.'"
Colorado officials chose to bring the game back to Boulder in 2004 and 2005 in part because of fans who said they prefer the game to be played on campus. The crowd of 54,972 at the 2005 game in Folsom Field was the largest crowd for a home game on campus in CU history.
Officials said they don't believe large numbers of unsold seats this year will lead to renewed calls to return to Boulder or Fort Collins. CSU hasn't hosted the Buffs in Hughes Stadium since 1996.
"I feel like our marketing and advertising efforts for exposure have been strong in the past month leading up to the game," Bohn said. "I'm hopeful we can accomplish our goal of a sellout."
Bohn said CU has sold out of more than 4,000 combination passes for students. The passes allow students to attend every home football and men's basketball game this school year. ... The Buffs had Monday off for the first day of fall semester classes. They practice today, Wednesday and Thursday in advance of Saturday's game. ... There are 620 schools participating in some level of NCAA football in 2007, an increase of four over 2006, according to the Football Writer's Association.