Two weeks ago, when it appeared Clemson's football team might stay home for the holidays, the team's fans, coaches and administrators launched an overwhelming publicity blitz to secure a bid to the Humanitarian Bowl.
Fans deluged the bowl's offices with faxes. Head coach Tommy Bowden announced that 10,000 to 15,000 Tiger fans would travel more than 2,000 miles to Boise, Idaho, for the Dec. 31 game against Louisiana Tech (12:30 p.m., ESPN).
Clemson got its bid, but it might be safe to say now that Bowden and his fans didn't have their facts - or faxes - straight when forecasting attendance.
Though Clemson ticket manager Van Hilderbrand won't reveal how many tickets have been sold, the number of fans who will follow the Tigers across the country appears to be significantly lower than expected.
Hilderbrand said he doesn't expect fans to buy all of the 8,000 tickets the school guaranteed it would purchase at $33 apiece.
"The whole key is transportation," Hilderbrand said. "It's impossible to get there without spending a lot of money and a lot of time."
Clemson's tradition of drawing legions of followers to its bowl games was a big reason why the Humanitarian Bowl chose the Tigers over Mississippi. Clemson has sold at least 17,500 tickets to 15 of its past 17 bowl games, many of which were in Florida.
On the day the bid was extended and accepted, athletics director Bobby Robinson said he expected 13,000 Tiger fans to make the trip. Gary Beck, executive director of the Humanitarian Bowl, said he thought that estimate was high given what it takes to get to Boise.
"When we calculated what attendance we thought was best for the bowl, we didn't use those numbers," Beck said. "(Robinson and Bowden) were saying that probably without doing their due diligence."
Beck said he's hoping that 5,000 to 7,000 fans make the trip. He's been trying to inform Clemson fans that Salt Lake City, Utah, which has a major airport, is a 4 1/2 -hour drive from Boise.
"I don't think it's a will; it's a way," Beck said. "The way is getting to Boise."
Louisiana Tech is supposed to take 1,500 fans to the game, which is being played in 30,000-seat Bronco Stadium. Hilderbrand said some Tiger fans have purchased tickets and donated them to Big Brothers-Big Sisters in Boise.
The Clemson administration is considering sending orange pompoms to Boise for children who might attend the game.
"Hopefully we'll have some new Tiger fans," he said.
Georgia and South Carolina don't have to worry about donating tickets. The Gamecocks sold out their 22,000 allotment to the Outback Bowl, played on New Year's Day in Tampa (11 a.m., ESPN), and Bulldogs fans have responded enthusiastically despite the disappointment of settling for a spot in the Music City Bowl.
Freddy Jones, associate athletics director at Georgia, said Friday that fans had bought more than half of the school's 12,000 allotment for the Dec. 28 game in Nashville, Tenn.
The No. 16 Bulldogs (8-3), who were spurned by the Outback, Cotton and Peach bowls, will play Boston College (7-4) at 67,000-seat Adelphia Coliseum (5 p.m., ESPN).
"It's an indication that the fans like the team and they like the coach," said Georgia athletics director Vince Dooley. "Despite the disappointment, I've been very pleased."
Georgia Tech vs. Stanford
4 p.m. Dec. 27 (ESPN)
Safeco Field, Seattle
Tickets ($50): 888-TECH-TIX
Music City Bowl
Georgia vs. Boston College
5 p.m. Dec. 28 (ESPN)
Adelphia Coliseum, Nashville
Tickets ($25-$40): (706) 542-1231
Clemson vs. Louisiana Tech
12:30 p.m. Dec. 31 (ESPN)
Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Tickets ($33): 800-CLEMSON
South Carolina vs. Ohio State
11 a.m. Jan. 1 (ESPN)
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
Tickets: Sold out
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645.
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