'A miscalculation on our part'
Alabama refunds 10,000 bowl ticket requests
Posted: Tuesday December 22, 1998 04:54 PM
TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (AP) -- Alabama has had to refund more than 10,000 ticket requests from Tide Pride members because of a miscalculation in allotting tickets for the Music City Bowl.
"It was a miscalculation on our part," athletic director Bob Bockrath said. "Believe me, I feel terrible about it."
Alabama received an original allotment of 12,000 tickets from Music City Bowl officials and purchased another 2,500 tickets directly from the bowl. But an overwhelming response for tickets for the game with Virginia Tech forced school officials to refund more than 10,000 Tide Pride requests.
About 1,800 tickets were sold to the general public via TicketLink on December 7, prior to the Tide Pride orders being filled.
Then, no limit was placed on the number of tickets that could be requested in an individual orders. That meant members of the highest levels of Tide Pride and a small percentage of Touchdown Club members could purchase dozens of tickets to the December 29 game.
That left donors in lower levels -- most of the Touchdown Club as well as the Bama Club, Century Club and Bryant-Denny Only members of Tide Pride -- were shut out entirely.
They were shut out again because Alabama officials had encouraged them to deal with the school ticket office only. When fans scrambled to get tickets through the bowl or other outlets, those too had been sold out.
Bockrath sent a December 18 letter to fans whose orders were refunded, citing the Tuesday afternoon kickoff time, the chilly Nashville climate and the lukewarm response to recent Alabama bowl trips as reasons why the miscalculation occurred.
"[Those factors] led us to believe that we should not put a ticket purchase limit on this year's bowl orders," the letter said. "The overwhelming response from our fans proved us wrong in our assessment."
Bockrath said ticket sales for the 1996 Outback Bowl against Michigan were only 4,023, a shortfall of nearly 3,000 from its allotment.
"Frankly, the recent numbers made us a little bit nervous," Bockrath said. "At the Outback Bowl, we basically had to eat 3,000 tickets at $40 each. So we decided not to limit the tickets."
It's no consolation to Royce Hembree, a season-ticket holder from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who had his entire trip to Nashville already planned when he learned about the lack of tickets.
"This was a sham and a total disrespect for the fans," Hembree said. "When you join Tide Pride, one of the things that they promise is bowl tickets. If they can't deliver them, they shouldn't promise them."
Bockrath said the school has learned from the ticket crunch.
"This will help us next year," he said. "We'll learn from the experience, and the great demand will provide us with additional leverage when we negotiate with the bowls next year. But that's next year. Right now, we'll have to weather the storm. We thought we were doing the right thing, but it didn't work out."
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