IOWA CITY — Just like everything else in 2020, the upcoming college football bowl season will be an unconventional one for Iowa and Iowa State fans — even as many experience the typical enthusiasm over bowl invites for the Hawkeyes and Cyclones.
For starters, due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, far fewer fans will be traveling to the game destinations — with the University of Iowa bound for Nashville and the Dec. 30 Music City Bowl and Iowa State University headed to Glendale, Ariz., for the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl.
The PlayStation Fiesta Bowl is not permitting any general admission to the game “due to the COVID-19 pandemic” — meaning only families of student-athletes and coaches can attend.
The TransPerfect Music City Bowl is following a Nissan Stadium Safe Plan that restricts capacity for the game to about 20 percent of its 69,143 limit — or nearly 13,830 fans. That means the UI doesn’t have a fan allotment and isn’t offering any official alumni tour packages this year.
UI Athletics instead is using all its 750 complimentary tickets for football player and staff family members and other guests, according to Senior Associate Athletics Director Matt Henderson. Those tickets are going to football players and staff only — not to other UI athletics employees or campus administrators, he said.
“For postseason competition, student-athletes are permitted up to six complimentary admissions,” Henderson said.
Fans wanting to snag tickets through MusicCityBowl.com will find a range of options and prices — from $25 in the upper deck to $150 lower down. Most higher-priced seats close to the field or near the 50-yard line no longer were available Tuesday afternoon, although ticket exchange and resale sites like StubHub.com list Music City Bowl prices from $40 in the upper level to $899 for club seats.
In a typical year, teams receive larger allotments to distribute with fan packages — with a big chunk still sold through the bowl game’s home site. Had this been a normal year and the UI been chosen for the Music City Bowl, Henderson said, Iowa “would be responsible for approximately 8,000 tickets.”
In that ISU’s Fiesta Bowl isn’t allowing any general admission, only families of Cyclone players and coaches will be permitted to attend, according to Shellie Anderson, vice president of business development and constituent engagement for the ISU Alumni Association.
“We will not be doing any organized travel packages or any type of organized event this year due to COVID,” Anderson told The Gazette, pointing to a statement distributed publicly and to its alumni community making sure fans know the matchup against the Oregon Ducks will be televised on ESPN at 3 p.m. central time Jan. 2.
“We are so happy for our Cyclones and so disappointed we aren’t able to be there to show our support,” Anderson said. “Next year!”
The UI Center for Advancement — which runs independently of the UI and handles alumni engagement — also isn’t offering travel packages this year, according to spokeswoman Dana Larson. Neither is Destinations Unlimited, a local travel firm that’s helped coordinate UI bowl game getaways with chartered flights in years past.
Athletic conferences are truncating even team travel times this year due to COVID concerns, resulting in reduced bowl travel budgets, according to the UI’s Henderson. All those changes, curtailing fan involvement — and thus spending — will further hurt athletic bottom lines already marred by abbreviated no-fan or fewer-fan fall seasons.
“There will be an impact on bowl revenues for this year due to the reduction in ticket sales, sponsorships, canceled bowls, etc.,” Henderson said.
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