UPDATE: There’s absolutely no way that the Quick Lane Bowl had the 19,177-fan crowd it announced (which is still far short of the top Texas high school games) to see Boston College top Maryland 36-30. Just check out the photos taken from the stands below.
This is becoming an annual holiday tradition, but so far it’s rung true yet again: Texas high school football is a bigger draw than the vast majority of college football bowl games.
To this point in the schedule, no bowl game has been able to boast an attendance near the 40,318 drawn for DeSoto against Cibolo Steele at AT&T Stadium, which proved to be the high water mark of the 2016 UIL state title game schedule.
Of the pre-Christmas bowl schedule, only one game was a sellout — the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., where Appalachian State topped Toledo 31-28 — but that stadium’s capacity was just 21,000. The highest total attendance of any early bowl game was the New Orleans Bowl, which had just more than 35,000 watch Southern Miss top Louisiana-Lafayette in a game where both schools were nearly as close to the Mercedes Benz Superdome as DeSoto and Steele were to AT&T Stadium. That’s an exaggeration, but not by a lot.
It’s unlikely that any of the Monday, Dec. 26 triumvirate of bowls will top the 40,000 ticket marker, either, with Mississippi State and Miami of Ohio kicking off at 11 a.m. in St. Petersburg, Fla., far from either school’s home campus; Boston College and Maryland facing off in Detroit for the Quick Lane Bowl; and North Carolina State and Vanderbilt taking the field at the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. Monday evening.
Of course, the biggest games are still to come, and it goes without saying that the so-called New Year’s Six, stretching from the Dec. 30 Orange Bowl between Florida State and Michigan to the Jan. 2 Cotton, Rose and Sugar Bowl, including the two national semifinals in the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, will outdraw DeSoto and Steele. A handful of other games that have psuedo-local or major draw teams — think Tennessee playing in Nashville’s Music City Bowl or possibly LSU and Louisville facing off Orlando’s Citrus Bowl or Oklahoma State and Colorado in San Antonio’s Alamo Bowl — should outstrip the 40,000-fan mark as well.
Then again, it’s important to consider what constitutes “attendance” at these bowl games. In some bowl cases there is patently no way that the real, in-game attendance was as high as the published number. The most glaring of these is the Miami Beach Bowl, which announced 15,262 for a game between Tulsa and Central Michigan played on a Monday afternoon. Anyone who tuned in for any of that game knows that there is absolutely no way 15,000 fans were in the stands; at the opening kickoff, it was definitely closer to 1,500, if that. Even 150 might be near the actual mark.
What does all this really mean about Texas football? Mainly that it continues to be a huge draw, to a degree that many highly compensated bowl-earning colleges could only dream of.