A year ago, Utah football fans produced a respectable showing at the Holiday Bowl.
The reasoning for that is multi-layered. It helped that the Utes got to that game with Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss both out with injuries. It felt like an achievement, so why not celebrate? Second, the drive from Salt Lake City to San Diego is approximately 10 hours, which means it can be done in one day. No need to spend money on flights. Lastly, San Diego, for an abundance of reasons, is an attractive tourist destination.
On Dec. 31, Utah will face Texas in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. With the College Football Playoff in play, Utah lost to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game Nov. 6. That dropped the Utes out of CFP contention, out of New Year’s Six contention and down to the Alamo Bowl. This feels like a consolation prize, not an achievement. Salt Lake City to San Antonio is approximately a 20-hour drive, so unless fans want to be in the car for two days if not three, they’ll need to fly. San Antonio certainly has its share of tourist attractions, but it is not San Diego.
Late last week, The Salt Lake Tribune reached out to Utah fans via the Twitter handle, @sltributes, asking if they’re going to the Alamo Bowl and whether cost, destination and disappointment were factors in the decision.
The answers were all over the board, which may speak to the disappointment aspect of this whole thing.
One school of thought had fans saying no to the Alamo Bowl, but they would have gone to the Rose Bowl or Fiesta Bowl because both are drivable. Furthermore, if Utah had played in the Granddaddy of them all or a CFP semifinal, no one can predict when Utah would have been back in either.
“Would have gone to Rose or Fiesta Bowl because those are within an easy driving distance and ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences." — @Babs73
“Delayed all Christmas preparations until we found out if they were going to the Rose Bowl. Not going now because the Alamo doesn’t feel like a bowl that we won’t get with some regularity. Wouldn’t have gone to CFP due to cost.” — @UofU_LS_Matt
“My family was considering going to the Rose Bowl or the CFP game but I think a lack of excitement over the Alamo bowl is keeping them home.” — @maragon_xv
Beyond the disappointment of not playing in a higher-profile game, there is a faction of Utes fans who would have traveled to whatever bowl game the team was playing in.
Along these lines, people want to send off this landmark senior class the right way. Headlined by Huntley and Moss, Utah has roughly 10 players with legitimate NFL aspirations. That includes junior cornerback Jaylon Johnson, who has already declared for the NFL Draft and said he will not play in the Alamo Bowl.
“Going to the Alamo Bowl. Didn’t go to P12 Championship because I anticipated Rose or CFP. Going because I want to support the team because outside of the USC and Oregon game, they played amazing and had their best season in the P12.” — @cslumin1
“Didn’t matter the bowl for me. Going either way. The bowl game is my Christmas gift to my kids and they’re pumped!!!!” — @alexwhitt1
“My brother and I are going. Decided we were likely going to whichever bowl Utah ended up in and although the Alamo was a disappointment we decided to go for it anyways and support this team one more time.” — @seaperson1203
No one should be telling anyone else how to spend their personal time, and especially their disposable income, so there were certainly fans saying they would sit San Antonio out because of cost. Honestly, we can’t blame them.
As of Sunday night, a roundtrip ticket from Salt Lake City to San Antonio (with a layover), leaving on Dec. 30 and returning on Jan. 1, was priced at $469. When one factors in merely food and a hotel stay that includes New Year’s Eve, it turns into an expensive proposition.
“I was bummed about the Pac-12 championships. Then looked at San Antonio and flights are outrageous and they jacked up the hotel prices.” — @chasingmavrotty
“Unfortunately SA is too hard to get to and too pricey.” — @davemcg_
“Alamo bowl not worth the money. Just as happy to watch it on tv during holiday break.” — @braydon_hanks
All of this begs the question, what will the Utah fan turnout look like?
The Utes and the Alamo Bowl won’t say how many tickets have been sold, but no matter how many fans go, it will be a lopsided crowd.
The Alamodome seats 64,000 for football, and Texas’ Austin campus is just 80 miles from San Antonio, which equates to roughly a 75-minute drive. This is going to be a virtual Longhorns home game. It’s just a matter of to what degree.