POSTED: 12:03 p.m. HST, Dec 18, 2012
The magic number for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl is 14,500.
That's how many people are needed in the Aloha Stadium seats on Christmas Eve to guarantee its existence a year from now. Under current rules, bowl games require a rolling average over three years of 25,000 in turnstile attendance to continue.
It's questionable how serious the NCAA is about this, but Hawaii Bowl executive director David Matlin doesn't want to have to risk finding out.
When Hawaii played Tulsa in 2010, the count was 41,089. It was 19,411 when Nevada played Southern Miss last year.
That should give a clear picture of how important it is for UH that the Warriors make their hometown bowl as often as possible. It's use it or risk losing it.
Matlin said Sunday that more than 26,000 tickets have been distributed for next Monday's game between SMU and Fresno State.
It's good to remember there's often a huge difference between the number of tickets out there in people's hands and those that are actually used.
Matlin is hopeful that the tickets issued reaches 30,000 by game time — and just as importantly that the no-shows won't outnumber the fans who actually find their way to Halawa.
There's really no guarantee that will happen. But judging from the attendance figures provided by the stadium this past season, we'll get a number indicating a 50,000-seat facility half full even if it looks more like three-quarters empty.
This is the first time in the 11-year history of the Hawaii Bowl that it is faced with back-to-back games without UH. One ardent Warriors supporter told me Sunday that he has bought his tickets, as he always does, but he once again can't find anyone who wants to use them ... because UH isn't in the game.
Friends of Hawaii Charities has stepped up with a purchase of 1,000 tickets via an anonymous donation; those will be going to children, so presumably close to all will be used. Matlin said he thinks the turnstile count will also be helped by the fact that more than 2,000 tickets have been purchased online by people from mainland zip codes ... you figure that if they come all the way to Hawaii from Fresno or Dallas they will take the final steps through the parking lot and past the metal bar.
Matlin said he's glad both teams bands are coming because he likes the atmosphere they create. Also, he admits every click counts, especially if UH doesn't make it to the postseason again next year.
Let's be extremely generous and say enough folks want to see June Jones, Timmy Chang and a couple of other guys from the old gang coaching SMU to run the in-the-house count to 20,000.
That means the 2013 Hawaii Bowl would have to draw 35,589 to hit that 25K three-year average. Without UH, that ain't happening ... even if you book Kahuku-Punahou as an opening act and Bruno Mars for halftime.
Perhaps it won't matter because with the new playoff system on its way everything's going to change anyway and the attendance requirement will fall by the wayside. Could happen ... or maybe the Hawaii Bowl gets a pass because of its good TV ratings. They should be even better than usual this year; as Matlin points out, "in essence we are Monday Night Football next week."
Certainly, that great exposure —along with that provided by a stellar Diamond Head Classic field also on ESPN — will give our tourism industry a bump.
But it will hurt the Hawaii Bowl attendance. The broadcast will be live, here, too.