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Big Ten Attendance: Bowl Edition Preview, Part 2

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Rutgers' bowl history has been covered with what some would term "second tier" bowls. No BCS, no New Year's Day. But a lot of travel to "other" markets.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Are bowl games all good?  Are they all well attended?  Yesterday we pointed out that the answer, at least to the second question, is no.

Motor City to Little Caesar's to Quick Lane

The bowl in Detroit where RU will find itself playing on December 26 has gone through several iterations.  It started out as the Motor City Bowl in 1997, playing at the old Pontiac Silverdome. It moved to Ford Field in 2002, and became the Little Caesar's Bowl in 2009.  It has gone through ups and downs, in terms of attendance.  Despite the fact that the Big Ten had a tie-in for most of that time, only three times did a Big Ten team play in the game.  Most of the time, the MAC provided one of the opponents, and interestingly the largest crowds appeared when a MAC team was involved. But that team was Central Michigan, only a 2 1/2 hour drive to Detroit.

Date Bowl Attendance "Local" Team
12/26/97 Motor City 43,340
12/23/98 Motor City 38,016
12/27/99 Motor City 52,449
12/27/00 Motor City 52,911
12/29/01 Motor City 44,164 Toledo
12/26/02 Motor City 45,761 Toledo
12/26/03 Motor City 51,286 Bowling Green
12/27/05 Motor City 52,552 Toledo
12/26/05
Motor City 45,801 Akron
12/26/06
Motor City 54,113 Cent. Michigan
12/26/07 Motor City 60,624 Cent. Michigan
12/26/08 Motor City 41,399 Cent. Michigan
12/26/09 Little Caesar's 30,331
12/26/10 Little Caesar's 32,431 Toledo
12/27/11 Little Caesar's 46,177 West.Michigan
12/26/12 Little Caesar's 23,310 Cent. Michigan
12/26/13 Little Caesar's 26,259 Bowling Green

Even with schools that were less than three hours away, the Little Caesar's Bowl was drawing fewer fans over the last couple of years. All of the Detroit area bowls averaged 43,584 for the 17 years of their existence.  Over the last five years that average had dropped precipitously to just under 32,000.

Rutgers Bowl Attendance

Over its last eight bowl games, Rutgers has played before an average of 41,140, with a high of 52,210 at the 2006 Texas Bowl, ironically, Rutgers' first bowl victory. Even last year's Pinstripe Bowl, in New York and against Notre Dame, didn't top Rutgers' two highest bowl attendance totals (in red).

A 2012 USA Today story pointed out that since 2004-05, when USA Today starting charting bowl attendance, numbers have been declining. And even the better, "elite" programs were not able to sell their allotment of tickets, a fact that led to schools and conferences taking lower payouts from the bowls in return for a smaller commitment to sell tickets.  Keith Sargeant reported that, excluding RU's two Pinstripe games, the University has eaten more than 15,000 tickets for the four other bowl games and has resulted in Rutgers being on the hook for a total of $950,059  for its last four true bowl trips. This year, the Big Ten will cover all unallocated tickets for all its bowl-eligible schools.

And this year?

There's been no official word on the ticket sales that the Quick Lane Bowl is attracting.  Rutgers is still promoting students getting free tickets and encouraging fans to buy/donate tickets; unofficial reports say 2,000-3,000 tickets have been donated.  Rutgers is also promoting the game and the trip to Detroit:

And over the last week or so it has been retweeting the Quick Lane Bowl's promotional material, like the fact of the day:

The question of the day, though, is how many of those seats will be filled on December 26?