It's rarely difficult to fill Death Valley with 80,000 football fans on gameday. Getting 17,500 to support Clemson directly for a BCS bowl in Florida is a different challenge.
Sun Life Stadium capacity: 75,540
Clemson's Orange Bowl ticket allotment: 17,500
Clemson ticket office prices for Orange Bowl: $50 upper corner, $120-$155 upper sideline, $165 lower corner, $225 lower sideline
StubHub price range: $47-$5,600
Many Clemson fans descending on Miami for the 12th-ranked Tigers' Orange Bowl game against No. 7 Ohio State will seek alternative methods for getting through the gates at Sun Life Stadium, which is why Clemson University sprang into action to protect its own financial burden.
Geographical breakdown through one week of Stubhub.com sales by state (Dec. 8-13)
Orange Bowl: 40 percent Florida, 17 percent Ohio, 12 percent South Carolina
Capital One Bowl: 31 percent South Carolina, 29 percent Florida, 9 percent Wisconsin
Most college football bowls require schools to sell their allotted number of game tickets, and eat the cost of any unsold. Clemson is tasked with selling 17,500 tickets for the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, while South Carolina must distribute 12,500 tickets for its Capital One Bowl matchup against Wisconsin on New Year's Day.
The allotment represents a fraction of both teams' fan bases. With secondary markets like StubHub.com and FrontRowTickets.com offering cheaper tickets, it can often feel like a losing battle.
"We know that our fans are smart, and the third-party marketplace is a viable option for tickets," Clemson assistant athletic director for communications Joe Galbraith said. "So we've put together several incentives."
The Clemson side
Clemson fans can find upper-deck tickets to the Orange Bowl for around $60 on StubHub.com. USC fans who don't mind sitting high above the field can purchase Capital One Bowl tickets on the website for as low as $53.
Both are cheaper than if fans go through the school. Plus, better seats are reasonably easy to obtain through second-hand avenues.
"Right now, the Orange Bowl is on pace to outsell last year's Orange Bowl," StubHub communications coordinator Cameron Papp said. "I think that's because of the two teams involved, since Ohio State and Clemson historically have fan bases that travel well."
Charleston County Clemson Club president Heather Byrd has been to every Clemson bowl as long as she can remember, and she used StubHub for last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl.
"Because I didn't want to be in the third tier of the Georgia Dome," Byrd said. "I hate to sound like I'm not supporting Clemson, but I have really good seats in Death Valley. I kind of want to have the same thing with my bowl experience.
"You've got to do what's best for you. We've had friends that buy tickets outside the stadium for 20 bucks, and then they're in the same section we are."
Clemson dangled carrots for IPTAY boosters and season-ticket holders, offering tickets starting at $50, which Galbraith said are regularly in $75 to $95 sections. Processing and shipping costs through the official ticket office (Clemsontigers.com) will be waived.
The USC side
South Carolina opened its ticket sales last week, offering Gamecock Club members reserved seats for $92. The school made Capital One Bowl tickets available to the public Thursday.
Lance Grantham, USC's assistant athletics director for tickets, acknowledged the struggle of competing with secondary markets during the bowl season.
"They don't have to buy right now, but I would ask if they're going to make the trip to look at us first, or at least look at us second," Grantham said. "At least let us be in the conversation. We've still got a couple thousand tickets that are really good in the lower-level corner and the upper-deck in the middle. I don't know if they'll find a better ticket at face value out there, and it would certainly help the Gamecocks.
"Every ticket that we don't sell goes against our allotment, and we have to pay for it anyway. So help us. Help us get rid of them and get them done."
South Carolina has sold about 7,000 tickets, including 3,300 last week, Grantham told The Post and Courier on Friday. The school has distributed about 8,500. Grantham said ticket sales are about 1,000 ahead of the pace set in 2012.
Grantham believes the "stars have aligned" for USC this bowl season. Fans know the Capital One Bowl will be their final chance to watch defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and quarterback Connor Shaw in a Gamecocks uniform.
With New Year's Day coming on Wednesday, fans get the weekend away from work before the holidays. The extended break offers more opportunities to check out the many attractions in Orlando, and Grantham said that perk has made a difference with ticket sales.
Grantham said the Capital One Bowl makes it easier to fill the allotment because the best seats are generally given to the school. In the past, Grantham said school tickets have been stuck in the end zone instead of near the middle of the field.
"Overall, we're very pleased. We're tracking very well," Grantham said. "Selling 3,000 this week is huge. If we can sell another couple thousand next week, we'll be sitting really pretty going into the bowl week. They've been very supportive so far. Personally, they're the best bowl numbers we've had probably in three or four years."
The StubHub effect
As it is, according to ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell, the Orange Bowl is fetching far lower prices than other BCS bowls. The Orange Bowl's median sales price, per Rovell's Wednesday tweet, is $138, compared to $178 for the Fiesta Bowl, $267 for the Sugar Bowl, $482 for the Rose Bowl and $1,275 for the BCS national championship in Pasadena.
Papp shared StubHub figures indicating the website's sales have been relatively healthier for the Orange Bowl than the Capital One Bowl. However, the geographic breakdown shows consumers from the state of South Carolina are gobbling up much higher percentages of StubHub sales for the Gamecocks' trip than the Tigers' trip.
"Compared to last year's Orange Bowl, we've seen sales more than triple during the same time frame, a week after selecting the teams," Papp said.
Which is why Clemson's fighting some uncertainty with paying customers. As of Saturday afternoon, Clemson declined multiple requests to produce exact or approximate figures on Orange Bowl ticket sales for its trip two years ago against West Virginia or its upcoming game against Ohio State.
"We want our fans to support our athletic department," Galbraith said, "and by buying tickets through us, they support us more than they would be buying them somewhere else."