subota, 03.12.2011.

Indianapolis prepares to host Big Ten title game, football

The idea seemed as dependable as an extra point in football.

The tradition-rich Big Ten Conference would have its inaugural football championship in Indianapolis, a town with a modern retractable roof stadium and lots of experience staging big events.
And when the Wisconsin-Michigan State game ends late Saturday night, it might go down as a success. But headlines this week have some observers wondering. Tickets were selling for as low as $14 on StubHub, well below face value. A post on Craigslist seeking paid "seat-fillers" for the game was exposed as a hoax, yet it received a lot of publicity and highlighted a real issue:

Is Indianapolis a college football town?
The Big Ten hopes so, because it has committed to having its championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium through 2015. But former Purdue football coach Joe Tiller, the school's all-time leader in victories, is among those who aren't sure enthusiasm for college basketball translates to college football.
"My attitude toward all of Indiana has never changed,'' Tiller said. "It's a basketball state. I think it always has been. … I think Indianapolis is a microcosm of the whole state.''
Tiller made it clear he wasn't indicting the city — "I love spending time in downtown Indy" — but merely stating what he sees as obvious. Indianapolis has received rave reviews while hosting six NCAA men's Final Fours in basketball. College football has a much lower profile.
This season, Indianapolis had the Indiana-Ball State game and the annual Circle City Classic, which has teams from historically black schools. Neither of those is in the same galaxy as the Big Ten title game. The last high-profile college football game in Indy was Purdue-Notre Dame in 1984 to open the Hoosier Dome.
The schools that identify with Indy as their city — IU, Purdue and Ball State — rarely make more than a blip on a national level in football. Purdue has had successful runs, but not a winning season since 2007. IU has been mired at or near the bottom of the league, finishing 1-11 this season. Thousands of seats were empty last Saturday for the state's biggest rivalry game, IU-Purdue, in Bloomington.
"Indy is a blah, corporate choice that needs the right combination of teams — see: Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State— to deliver sellout crowds,'' wrote Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald.
McKewon sested that a league "with the sand and leather-bound hubris to create division names of 'Legends' and 'Leaders'" would have done well to choose a cold-weather, outdoor site such as historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Indy beat out Chicago's Soldier Field for the game.
Local officials point out that the game is hardly being ignored. A total of 20,000 tickets made available to the general public July 30 sold out in two hours. Michigan State sold its allotment of 15,000 tickets. Wisconsin returned 1,900 of its allotment to the league office. Those tickets were put on sale to the public Wednesday.
John Dedman, spokesman for Indiana Sports Corp., which works to attract big events to the city, said the group is confident Saturday's game will be a sellout. The question, though, is how many seats will be filled. Dedman said he expects almost all of them to be filled.
As to how good a college football town this is, Dedman sested waiting until after Saturday before making that judgment.
"I don't really know how to answer that,'' he said. "This is really the first event of its kind hosted here from the sports corporation's perspective. We do feel like there's a number of Big Ten fans in central Indiana. We have a lot of basketball fans, but we think lots of those are football fans, too.''

- 03:04 -

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