Slumping ticket sales could force ACC title game out of Jacksonville
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The third Atlantic Coast Conference championship game might have been the last in Jacksonville.
The city has struggled to support the event the last two years, culminating with Saturday's empty-seat affair between No. 6 Virginia Tech and Boston College (No. 11 BCS, No. 12 AP).
Attendance has declined dramatically the last two games, and officials have to decide whether the game might be better off in Tampa (even farther away from most conference schools) or Charlotte, N.C. (where cold weather is almost a given in early December).
"We're looking for the best model to make it successful, regardless of who's playing," ACC commissioner John Swofford said Saturday.
There were more than 75,000 tickets sold for the first title game between the Hokies and Florida State in 2005.
That number dropped to 62,850 last year. Officials blamed the slip on less-than-ideal weather -- it was 59 degrees and raining at kickoff -- and a less-than-glamorous matchup between Wake Forest and Georgia Tech.
There were no excuses this time around. Virginia Tech is typically one of the best crowd-drawing schools in the conference, and the high was about 70 degrees with a slight wind that made for near-perfect football weather.
Nonetheless, only 53,212 tickets were sold and the upper deck at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium was nearly empty.
"It's all a mix of the locale as well as the schools coming to the game," Swofford said. "That will all be part of our evaluation of the first three years."
Virginia Tech sold its allotment of 10,000 tickets, but Boston College only sold about 3,500.
The city had hoped locals would make up the difference, but Jacksonville proved to be a disappointment -- hardly surprising since the city has seen three local television blackouts already this season for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jacksonville signed a two-year contract to host the ACC title game, and the league granted the city a one-year extension following last year's game.
Along with Jacksonville, Tampa and Charlotte presented bids to the league last month to host the championship game in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
The ACC is expected to announce the results later this month. Given what has happened the last two years, it would seem like a long shot for the game to remain in Jacksonville.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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