As a bowl president, Scott Ramsey said selecting a school in the midst of a coaching search is tricky business.
On one end, if a team is coming off a lackluster regular season and stumbled into a bowl, there could be a lack of interest among fans. However, Ramsey believes if the school makes a quick, exciting and appealing hire that injects excitement into the fan base, it could prove to be beneficial for the bowl’s attendance.
Whether the latter holds true remains to be seen but Ramsey certainly hopes that is the case for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, which pits Vanderbilt and North Carolina State on New Year’s Eve at LP Field.
After N.C. State went 7-5 (4-4 in the ACC), sixth-year coach Tom O’Brien was fired. Athletics director Debbie Yow quickly found a replacement and hired Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren over the weekend.
Wolfpack offensive coordinator Dana Bible will serve as interim coach for the bowl game. But Doeren was one of the hottest coaching names. He led NIU to two straight Mid-American Conference championships, including a 12-1 record this year and a BCS berth in the Orange Bowl.
“I don’t know if the impact of the coach will be positive, negative or neutral, quite frankly,” Ramsey said. “I think it will still be another week or so here before we have a really good feel on some numbers. But, for the most part, for the ACC teams we’ve probably averaged somewhere between 7,000 to 10,000 [out of a 10,000 ticket allotment]. Occasionally they’ll donate some tickets back. But that is a pretty good chunk of people when you’re talking about coming for two or three or four days. If that was a convention that would be a huge convention. All in all, I expect them to get into that range.”
With the sixth and final ACC selection, N.C. State was Ramsey’s only choice.
But he said since the Music City Bowl partnered up with the ACC seven years ago, the Wolfpack always have been on his radar. This will be N.C. State’s third straight bowl game but its first appearance in the Music City Bowl.
Ramsey expects a huge throng of Wolfpack fans will make the eight-hour trip from Raleigh, N.C., and spend New Year’s in Nashville.
“We’re hearing a lot of positive buzz,” Ramsey said. “I think it is still pretty early in the process to really gauge the number of fans that will come. I think the fans’ general response is they’re excited about Nashville. So I think, if nothing else, it underscores the brand of Music City and the attraction of our city, especially in that time of year.”
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, can’t get tickets fast enough.
The Commodores burned through their initial allotment of 12,000 by Thursday morning and had requested more. Vanderbilt’s director of sales and marketing, Steve Walsh, said the school was working with Music City Bowl officials to ensure the next batch of tickets stays close to the Vanderbilt section.
General ticket sales through the Music City Bowl will also continue, though, club and lower level sections are nearly sold out.
“I think our fans have been excited all year,” Walsh said. “I think the three sellouts that we had at home, I think the environment our fans saw at the Tennessee game, I think all those things pointed to the fact that our fans are excited about the postseason. I don’t think it exceeded expectations because we had high expectations and we still hope to continue selling tickets.
“The fact of the matter is we’re taking coach [James Franklin’s] mantra to heart of wanting to sell out LP Field.”