Big Ten football title game crowd disappoints organizers

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Organizers of the Big Ten football championship played in Indianapolis say they’ll consider making changes for next year’s game in an attempt to boost attendance.

Saturday’s game between the University of Wisconsin Badgers and the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers drew only 41,260 spectators, a steep drop from the near-sellout crowd of 64,152 that watched last year’s game. Local ticket brokers complained before the game of soft demand for tickets.

By comparison, the Southeastern Conference reported attendance of 75,624 for its championship game between the No. 2-ranked University of Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 3 University of Georgia Bulldogs.

The upper bowl of Lucas Oil Stadium was mostly empty Saturday night as the Badgers dismantled the Cornhuskers 70-31 to earn a repeat trip to the Rose Bowl.

Organizers point to various factors for the decline in attendance, but mostly attribute it to the absence of a team vying for a national title or a powerhouse team with a huge fan base like The Ohio State University or the University of Michigan.

Undefeated Ohio State was ineligible to play in the game due to NCAA sanctions. The Buckeye faithful likely would have made the short trek west to Indianapolis had their team been eligible to play.

“It didn’t have national championship implications, and that always seems to add local and national excitement,” Big Ten Deputy Commissioner Brad Traviolia told IBJ on Tuesday. “It was just a combination of circumstances this year.”

The Badgers were 7-5 this season and finished third in The Leaders Division of the Big Ten, but earned their berth in the title game because Ohio State and surprising Penn State University (8-4) both were ineligible to participate due to NCAA sanctions.

Nebraska (10-2) won The Legends Division and was ranked No. 14 in a national poll.

Organizers weren’t specific on what changes they’ll consider for next year’s game, but plan to look into whether it can be marketed better.

“We’ll go back and look at what we did this year and see if there’s some adjustments we can make going forward,” Traviolia said.

The championship game is in just its second year and scheduled to be played in Indianapolis through 2015. It’s an event the city undoubtedly will want to keep.

Leading up to the game, the Fan Fest at the Indiana Convention Center and festivities on Georgia Street helped draw tens of thousands of visitors downtown, said John Dedman, spokesman for the Indiana Sports Corp., which helps host the game.

“We have a great relationship with the Big Ten that spans back decades with other events we host,” Dedman said. “I don’t think there should be a knee-jerk reaction to this.”


  • Ticket prices plus venue
    I totally agree with how the PAC-12 handles it - they play the championship game on the field of the higher ranked team. The BIG Ten should definitely consider that. Forget about locating it centrally. The ticket prices at Lucas Oil Stadium are way out of line. Consider this - if either of the participating teams are bowl eligible, their fans bases have to consider whether to spend the money on the championship game or wait to go to the bowl game. In the type of economy we have had in this country for the past 4 years, most people can NOT do BOTH. They will make a choice and most people will choose the bowl game as a family vacation to some place SOUTH between the holidays. I attended the game because I live nearby which means I had no travel or lodging costs. I will NOT be attending the bowl game because work is the next day.
  • Big Ten Game
    I may be in the minority, but I think the lesser quality of teams playing in the Big Ten Championship game could not be overcome, regardless of what effort was made from a marketing standpoint. Unfortunately, Big Ten football lacks lustre, as the coach hiring from one of our top teams (Wisconsin)to a mid performer in the SEC (Arkansas) would suggest. Hoping that the Big Ten can rebound, but their product is in a 2nd Tier compared to the SEC, and perhaps others.
  • What Do You Expect?
    When an unranked, 3rd place in the Leaders, 5 loss team plays a Big Ten newcomer... what do you expect? This was about as unsexy a matchup you could put together in what may be one of the most down years the Big Ten has had in decades. This was a perfect storm for mild fan interest. Put OSU vs. Michigan in the Luke and there wont be an open seat left (I'd be there and I'm an IU fan).
  • Idea!
    How about having the game in Maryland? Nah, that would be crazy... I'm just so bummed that the money grab didn't work out this time. Really.
  • Indy Hosting
    Indy gets the event for multiple reasons. One, it's a great, cheap, host city. Two, the NCAA is headquartered here. Three, it's location is pretty much perfect. Minneapolis would not be a great choice considering it's very far out for a lot of the teams. This is biggest reason why Chicago and Indianapolis always get chosen. They are, by far, the most centrally located.
  • Don't Say You Were'nt Warn
    Funny how money talks in athletics and how the supposed ranked teams should have all the priveldges paid to them...only, then cry about it when it goes another way. Has anyone taken note when the loud winds shouted that the Badger's did not deserve to be in the BT Title Game ? Result=== Wis. 70 - Neb. 31. Yet still after this amazing victory the Badgers are yet unranked in the polls ? Really ? Tell Bucky they don't deserve to play in the Rose Bowl. Now I warned you in advance, this just could be another dominate Badger blowout game, all because the nay-sayers spoke out of their envious, specious hearts. Is Anyone taking note of this great game and gives less attention to where and how the money flows....not ? 3rd RB Trip for Buckey, 2nd BT Title.
    The game is in Indy - located in the same state that has Purdue and Indiana. Move the game around to generate some buzz. Detroit and Minneapolis both have domes. I hate that about the Big Ten. They have all the events in Indy and Chicago. There are other places out there.
  • Ticket Brokers Ha!
    i like how they said ticket brokers complained for lack of demand....what a joke. its these same brokers that buy up all the good concert/sport tickets and jack up the prices for everyone else. too bad real fans can afford them half the time!
  • Matchups
    No one hosts an event like this better than indy. The problem is no one is going to be excited about an unranked team vs. #14.
  • Live close
    I live close to downtown, on Pennsylvania St, and am a huge OSU fan, so I should've known the B1G 10 Championship was being played 2 miles from house. The marketing was so terrible for this event, which should've earned this great city even more millions of dollars. Sad.
  • Rotate Host Cities
    The Big 10 should look at rotating the championship game between cities in the region (Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Twin Cities, etc.) for the sake of variety. I like Indy too, but its novelty can wear pretty thin after a while.
  • Home field advantage
    Nebraska has one of the best traveling fan bases in the nation. We filled half the rose bowl when we played UCLA this year and they weren't ranked, and it was almost twice as far from home. So it wasn't that the matchup wasn't good enough or the distance it has to do something with how they market it, 47,000 that's bismal for a major college football matchup I think make the higher seeded team get the home field it makes everyone have a chance to host and make money on it so it gives more of an incentive to win. College football is all about passion and tradition and playing for your own fans or having to deal with those of your opponent makes the passion level increase. As for tradition traveling to an opponents stadium even for the fans going to a place like the big house or the horseshoe? Watching Ohio state take the field locking arms or how the tunnel walk sends chills down your spine in Lincoln, or watching 80,000 Wisconsin fans "jump around" between the third and fourth quarters that's just something awesome to see. The B1G is a conference unlike any other in the country, more tradition in it,so don't take that out by sending the game to some pro stadium, it's not even bigger.
  • Wait till next year
    The conference was not good at all this year. Even my Buckeyes probably should have been ranked 10th or worse given how bad the conference. That is why they were 12-0. Anyway, as someone said, it is about the matchups. It is a shame that the tickets are not reasonably priced. We would love to take our kids but we cannot afford it. Doubt they care, however, when there are those willing to spend $1,000 for a couple of tickets and a long weekend getaway from Nebraska.
  • Not travel..
    Nebraska football fans are one of the best...if not THE best traveling fan base in the entire country. Most of those fans were saving their money for the expected Rose Bowl trip and not to Indiana. Maybe the NCAA needs to look at the ticket distribution and make it easier for the local fans to get their hands on GOOD seats rhater than the 600 level section that they gave to Colts season ticket holders that bought tickets through the Colts offer. The Indiana Sports Cop screwed this up...no one else is to blame..Now go get a another tatoo you Buckeye fans!
  • BIG game
    UW vs UN was not appealing to the locals and when Neb made it you knew they wouldn't send many. Boring game...glas I stayed at home and watched only one half before I turned to Baywatch. At least these red suits were more interesting.
    • if they had.......
      If they had offered tickets to all students for no more than 25.00 upper deck (despite whatever going rate is) that might have helped with the 2 playing teams. However unless they have a round robin to determine a winner and have more than 1 game why would a Purdue or IU group want to come? By only having 1 game you limit your audience. You have everyone play for championship in the basketball tournament why not also do that in football. More teams more hotel rooms booked etc. more tickets sold to more students and alumni.
    • Matchups
      The game is all about the matchups... Of course the SEC Championship game was a sell-out, it was #2 vs #3. No amount of marketing would have made that game more attractive.
    • Crazy Prices
      I was looking forward to attending the game until I got online and realized tickets were at $185. Pretty nuts!

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