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Los Angeles • When the University of Utah busted the BCS in 2004, David Osborn was just a 12-year-old wishing so badly he could’ve been at the Fiesta Bowl to watch the Utes take down Pitt.
Four years later, the Salt Lake City native was a junior at East High School. He has vivid memories of all of his friends getting Sugar Bowl tickets for Christmas. They all saw Utah smash Alabama at the Louisiana Superdome. But not Osborn. There were no Sugar Bowl tickets in his stocking, nor under his tree.
“Disaster,” Osborn recalled.
But there was no way he was missing the program’s first Rose Bowl appearance.
Based on some ticketing numbers floating around in recent weeks, Osborn is not alone. Utah fans will be everywhere on Saturday when the Utes face Ohio State (2 p.m., ESPN).
A Utah athletic department spokesperson told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday afternoon that 32,319 Rose Bowl tickets were purchased through the school’s ticket office. Utah’s original ticket allotment was 27,800.
Take those 32,319 tickets sold, then add in the fact that it seems a great deal of fans bought tickets from Ohio State’s allotment, which was immediately open to the general public, plus however many fans bought from secondary resale sites, plus however many bought from Ticketmaster, and it’s safe to expect a pro-Utah crowd in Pasadena this weekend.
For what it’s worth, Utes athletic director Mark Harlan, during a recent radio interview, said that he was expecting about 60,000 Utah fans in attendance. If that pans out, that would mean that Utah fans would have better than 65% of the stadium.
After missing out on his team’s other big bowl appearances, Osborn, like many Utah fans, left nothing to chance this time around. He decided to take a calculated risk. Ten day before Utah played Oregon for the first time on Nov. 20, he took advantage of Ticketmaster releasing a small batch of tickets to the public. Osborn bought four tickets before Utah clinched the Pac-12 South, let alone the Pac-12.
“Your hopeless fan optimism leads you to believe everything will work out the way you want,” Osborn said. “I had the tickets in mid-November, flights were booked after the second Oregon game in the postgame euphoria.
“Clearly, we’re never going to lose another game.”
Wait, there’s a kicker.
Osborn, his wife, Katelyn, and their young daughter live in Chicago as Osborn attends the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern’s business school.
Osborn is going with a buddy and his family, while his wife and daughter — who, along with Osborn, are spending the week of Christmas in Salt Lake — go back to Chicago. Then Osborn is taking a 12:30 a.m. redeye home on Saturday night. The new semester at the Kellogg School of Management begins on Monday.
“I joke that our wedding day and the birth of our daughter are my second and third-most important days,” Osborn said. “She’s definitely a great sport. She knows how important it is to me, annoying as I am to be around.”
James Morse’s wife does not think he is nuts, but rather encourages her husband’s Utah fandom. After all, Morse’s wife is the youngest of eight siblings — six of whom have Utah season tickets for football and basketball.
Forty-five family members are going to the game. Few if any, however, have been planning on it longer than Morse. Like Osborn, Morse left nothing to chance and took a calculated risk, purchasing through Ticketmaster on Nov. 10, 10 days before the Utes even clinched the South Division crown.
“How fast those tickets went was pretty wild,” said Morse, a level 4 Crimson Club member with five season tickets. “I got mine in Section 11L in the lower bowl. I logged out, logged back in, and that entire section was sold out.”
Morse figured, at the very worst, he would be able to sell his tickets to some fans from Oregon, Arizona State, Ohio State or Michigan. If Utah did not get to Pasadena, he was pretty sure he would be able to sell the tickets.
He’ll never know.
Wait, the kicker may indicate that Morse’s wife is wrong and her husband is indeed nuts.
Morse bought his Pac-12 championship game tickets on July 27, the first day the league put them on sale. He did the same thing in 2017, when Utah didn’t get that far, and 2019, when the Utes got to the title game for the second year in a row at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
“My wife and I always go to one game every season, and we wanted to go to Vegas regardless. We bought them that early because we knew they were going to get used,” Morse said.
Connor Schone took a slightly-lesser risk than Osborn and Morse, but he still took a risk.
Schone, who says he grew up on Utah basketball in the late-1990s and didn’t fully dive into Utes football until Urban Meyer showed up in 2003, at least waited until Utah clinched the South to buy Rose Bowl tickets.
On Nov. 22, with a division title in hand, but still no guarantee of a Rose Bowl trip, Schone purchased his Rose Bowl tickets and his flight. A planner by nature, Schone, like Osborn and Morse, were not leaving anything to chance. After all, Schone is correct in noting that this could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Utah and its fan base. He is quick to note that Cal has not played in a Rose Bowl since 1959 and Arizona State has not been back since its vaunted 11-1 1996 team got to Pasadena.
“I went ahead and booked a roundtrip flight,” he said.
Schone considered going to the Pac-12 championship games in 2018 and 2019, both Utah losses, but didn’t.
He wasn’t going to miss another shot at the Utes getting to the Rose Bowl.
“With the adversity the team has gone through, two early losses, then Cam Rising’s ascension, I just had to go,” Schone said. “I booked early ... and the team came through.