The assumption is that Oregon, playing the Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State on Jan. 3, has some kind of built-in advantage. A game nestled deep in Pac-12 territory in Glendale, Ariz., would only serve to help the Ducks.
The most basic numbers tell a different story.
“It might seem like we’re closer and we’ve got less of a journey to get to Arizona, but that’s just not true,” Oregon senior associate athletic director Craig Pintens said. “It’s actually a shorter distance to get from Manhattan to Glendale then it is from Eugene to Glendale. Not by much, but it’s closer.
“And it’s not like our entire fan base is two hours up the road in Portland, where you can fly out pretty easily, like some people might assume. It takes a little more doing to get from Eugene to the game than you might think.”
Both the Oregon and K-State fan bases have built reputations for traveling well to away games within their own conferences and to bowl games. And while the Wildcats are playing in their third straight bowl, they haven’t been to a BCS bowl since losing to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl in 2003.
This is Oregon’s fourth straight BCS game, following a trip to Glendale in 2011 for the BCS Championship game and a Rose Bowl win in January.
“Our fans are pretty savvy about acquiring tickets to the game,” said Pintens, who oversees marketing and public relations. “A lot of them are buying on the secondary market because they want the best possible ticket to the game and not necessarily what we offer. They have the hang of the way BCS bowl games work and we’re pretty confident they’ll show up in big numbers. We’re known as having the best-traveling fans in the Pac-12.”
K-State is known for its fans, too. Wildcat fans showed up en masse to the Dallas area for last season’s Cotton Bowl and were able to equal the turnout of Arkansas fans, no small feat considering the Razorbacks had deep connections to Cowboys Stadium — owner Jerry Jones is an Arkansas alum and the team had played at least one regular-season game there each season since the stadium opened.
“There has been incredible demand from the Kansas State side, which is exciting,” Pintens said. “You only get allotted 17,500 Fiesta Bowl tickets and K-State needed more than that. They’re a known factor as far as traveling to bowl games.”
The K-State Alumni Association was able to fill up six charter flights with a Fiesta Bowl package — four from Manhattan, one from Wichita and one from Kansas City. K-State Alumni Association president Amy Button Renz said they were anticipating a huge turnout for a pep rally on Jan. 2 at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Last year, an estimated 15,000 K-State fans turned out for a rally the day before the Cotton Bowl at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, where the Texas Rangers play.
“We’ve been absolutely thrilled with the response from our fans, and it’s because we’re proud of our team, of our Big 12 champions,” Button-Renz said. “We’ve got almost 1,700 travelers that have signed up for our Fiesta Bowl package and like I said before, the rally is a huge event. We want to paint Phoenix purple.”