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Report: Lack of bowl ticket sales cost Big Ten 'nearly $4.5 million'

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Wisconsin
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Oct 12, 2013; Madison, WI, USA; The Big Ten logo on the field at Camp Randall Stadium following the game between the Northwestern Wildcats and Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin won 35-6. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Every time a team accepts an invitation to a bowl game, the school is allotted a certain amount of tickets to sell to its fans. According to a report from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, many Big Ten schools struggled to sell those bowl tickets.

The ticket sales don’t impact the schools individually, but rather the conference as a whole. Through open-records requests obtained from all seven Big Ten bowl teams, future teams Maryland and Rutgers and each of their bowl opponents, the Gazette learned that the conference had to absorb “nearly $4.5 million” due to unsold bowl tickets.

Nebraska’s athletic department was given 12,678 tickets for the Gator Bowl against Georgia, but through an open-records request, the Gazette found that the school sold only 1,748 tickets. That resulted in a loss of “nearly $800,000.”

Other schools, like Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, also struggled to sell its bowl tickets. In fact, per the Gazette, only Iowa and Michigan State “sold more than half of their allotted tickets.”

For the Rose Bowl, Michigan State sold 94.5 percent its tickets while Iowa sold 78.2 percent of its tickets for the Outback Bowl.

One reason for the decline in ticket sales through schools is due to the “secondary ticket market” like ticket brokers and scalpers.

“The secondary ticket market has changed the way our business works,” said Iowa athletic director Gary Barta. “If a fan knows that he can get a better ticket on the secondary market, obviously it’s tempting to go through that process. It’s hurting the bowl ticket sales and it’s hurting the university ticket sales.”

At the Big Ten spring meetings this week, conference officials are seeking a new model for the bowl ticketing system, accepting “lower payouts for lower ticket guarantees.”

Ticket locations will also change. From the Gazette:

"There also are changes to ticket locations. Often schools were saddled with upper deck or end zone seats, while tickets sold through the bowl had much better sightlines. Fans quickly caught on and bought tickets through the bowl. They supported their team, but they also cost the university money."

Seat location is obviously a big deal for fans and is a smart move by the Big Ten. If you were going to travel long distances to see your team play, you wouldn’t want to sit in the nosebleed seats, would you?

Per the Gazette, between Nebraska and Georgia, only 12.2 percent of the 60,712 tickets sold for the Gator Bowl came through the two athletic departments, so offering better sightlines in the lower levels should definitely help the schools with sales moving forward.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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