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BCS executive director Bill Hancock told USA TODAY Sports the 12,500-ticket requirement would include the two semifinal games, plus the Cotton, Chick-fil-A and Fiesta Bowls. Those three games, plus the Rose, Sugar and Orange Bowls, are part of new playoff and premium bowl rotation that starts next season and replaces the BCS. Hancock said the national championship game would have a requirement of about 20,000.
While some teams easily found buyers for their 17,500 tickets in the BCS era, others struggled and were stuck with the full-price bill for them anyway. In 2011, for example, Connecticut reported it lost $1.6 million on its Fiesta Bowl trip because of $2.6 million in unsold tickets.
"I think it's more in line with what the schools can use," said Hancock, who also will oversee the playoff. "It's a balancing act, because you had Connecticut, which only could use 5,000. On the other hand, you had LSU going to the Sugar Bowl and could take 50,000. Our challenge in preparing contracts is to find a middle ground that will work for everybody."
The ticket requirements are negotiated by the bowls and leagues long before bowl matchups are finalized. The bowls like bigger guaranteed ticket sales because they shift the risk of unsold tickets to the schools and leagues. In exchange for taking on that risk, the bowls generally guarantee a bigger payout for participating schools and leagues.
The schools and leagues also get blocks of premium tickets at locked-in prices that might fetch more money on the open market. Under the new playoff system, tickets to some of the games are likely to command top dollar, especially the semifinals. But the other games might depend upon matchups and travel distances. This season, Baylor and Central Florida reported having trouble finding buyers for the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona.
Last season, Florida State sold only a portion of its 17,500 tickets to the Orange Bowl and was forced to absorb $2.1 million in unsold tickets with help from the Atlantic Coast Conference. FSU reported to the NCAA, "(The prices) of the tickets were too high and the secondary market had tickets at a much lower cost, which made it impossible for us to sell our allotment."
By contrast, teams from the Big Ten generally don't struggle to sell their tickets to the Rose Bowl. This year Michigan State sold its 24,000-ticket allotment to the Rose Bowl and needed more because of high demand.
"Some places have smaller fan bases and are more regionally oriented," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany told USA TODAY Sports. "They struggle with it. ... There's got to be some number that people are accountable for."