Missouri draws few more fans for finale

As the football program improves so does its fan base on the road.
Friday, December 29, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:16 a.m. CDT, Thursday, June 12, 2008

EL PASO, Texas — The notion that Missouri has a poor traveling fan base might be in step with the perception of the football program as a whole.

There are noticeable signs of improvement, even if it’s only in baby steps.

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said the athletic department had sold, donated or given away between 4,000 and 4,500 of its 8,000 allotted tickets for today’s Sun Bowl.

“You always want to be able to give out more,” Alden said. “I think the local sales in El Paso are really high, they always are. This bowl game has been around for a long time. I think the stadium will be packed.”

Because the Sun Bowl is such a big event in El Paso, the amount of tickets a team can sell and how much money a team can bring to a bowl isn’t as much of a concern as it is with other bowls. It was a major reason why the Alamo Bowl had Missouri third on its wish list of teams. The teams thought to be in the running for a bid to the Alamo Bowl this season were the Tigers, Kansas State and Texas Tech. Missouri defeated K-State and Texas Tech in the regular season but the perception was that the Tigers couldn’t bring as much money as the other two teams.

Alden said the Sun Bowl officials were pleased with the ticket sales of Missouri and Oregon State, and said that there are always a few major factors that affect ticket sales.

“For the most part, a lot of it will always depend on what the location is, what the destination is, and what the ease of your fans’ ability to get to those locations are,” Alden said.

Eric Morrison, MU associate athletic director, said the number of tickets Missouri dispersed was about what he expected it to be.

“Are we satisfied? No,” Morrison said. “But the consistency of going, our fans coming, I think is a great opportunity for our people.”

Alden also spoke about today’s game being a good stepping stone for the continued improvement of the football program. He said he’s been hearing a lot of enthusiasm regarding the team going to a higher-tier bowl game.

“I still think that our fans, as they should be, want us to achieve more,” Alden said. “But I do think they are enthusiastic about what they’ve seen so far, and I think they’re very supportive as we continue to build the program. That opportunity to be able to compete for the Big 12 Championship in the coming years is something they’re going to see as the next step.”

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel also spent significant time this week talking about the improvement of the program. With a win today, this Missouri team would be the fourth to win nine games in a season. The previous three were in 1969 (9-2), 1960 (11-0) and 1899 (9-2).

Pinkel also spent time at Thursday’s news conference talking about his mentor, former Washington coach Don James. James was Pinkel’s coach at Kent State and Pinkel later served under him as an assistant coach at Washington. The two most recently saw each other a few weeks ago in New York City at the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Pinkel and James coached Washington in the 1979 and 1986 Sun Bowls.

“I feel like I’m carrying the torch for him,” Pinkel said.

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