A streaker runs on to the field in front of Doyle Miller #6 of the Nevada Wolf Pack during their game against Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park on January 9 2011 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
"Best atmosphere: The Rose Bowl is always great by default, so I am going with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl between Nevada and Boston College. Some 30,000 Nevada fans packed the home of the San Francisco Giants to root on the Wolf Pack, who closed the best season in school history with a 20-13 win over Boston College. 'I would say this is probably the best atmosphere we've been in,' Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick told the Reno Gazette-Journal. 'The stadium holds 42,000 and it seems like all 42,000 were for Nevada.'"
I'm certainly not going to take anything away from Nevada's fan base and their strong attendance at this year's Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, but let's not be so quick to declare this year's bowl fan travel a failure. All things considered, I maintain that this year's fan support was pretty good. Consider the following:
The Season. BC came in to the game with a streaky record of 7-5, including a five-game losing streak before a five-game winning streak over the likes of Clemson, Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia and Syracuse. While the winning streak was nice, the wins weren't exactly over a murderer's row of opponents, and certainly couldn't inspire much confidence in the fan base. Wake, Duke and UVA were clearly the three worst teams in the conference this year, Clemson was certainly in the bottom half of the ACC this year, and Syracuse (up until the bowl game) had an offense that couldn't get anything going. In contrast, 12-1 Nevada was coming off the best regular season in program history. I hardly blame fans not wanting to show up for a 7-5 football team, who eked out five wins against sub-par opponents to make its 12th consecutive bowl appearance.
The Date. A Sunday night bowl game .. in mid-January .. in California is certainly not the easiest game to get to from Boston and the East Coast, especially with work the next morning. With this year's San Francisco bowl occurring well after the winter break, it became much tougher for fans to travel coast-to-coast without taking off work. While last year's bowl date didn't make it very convenient to travel (the day after Christmas), fans were still able to use the holiday to take off work and get to the game.
The Repeat. BC was asked to travel the 3,102 miles to San Francisco two years in a row, this year to face an opponent with much less college football cache than USC. I'd qualify my last sentence "with all due respect" to pander to our pro-Nevada audience, but why? It's true. They know it and we know it (and it's been proven by science). USC is a (much) bigger draw than Nevada, and BC didn't exactly have the season (see above) to make up for the lack of a name-brand bowl opponent.
Richard Paolinelli of the SF Examiner reported that the school sold approximately 6,000 of its 8,000 ticket allotment. That's 1,400 more tickets than UConn sold for their program's first BCS bowl game, while BC was playing in a third-rate bowl game, even further from New England, over a week later. The Fight Hunger Bowl sold out, which is more than bowl execs who landed other ACC programs can say about their games (more on the conference's bowl attendance performance tomorrow). And at the end of the day, selling out the game is all bowl executives really care about.
Like I said, all things considered, I felt that BC traveled pretty well to this game, given how BC's season went, the date and location of the game, and the fact that the Eagles found themselves in San Francisco for the second straight season.
Anyway, I'd gladly have my school lose the bowl game attendance battle if it means avoiding the nation-wide debut of such fans as the streaker (above), Wolf Man, and this Blue Man Group reject. You stay classy, Wolf space Pack fans.