International Bowl could be a tough sell

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

The bands from Western Michigan University and the University of Cincinnati will fill some 400 seats.

With 95 players per team plus coaching staff, you can add another 200 or so more into Rogers Centre for the inaugural International Bowl.

And then there's Cincinnati Bearcats senior tight end Brent Celek who will have his own booster section for the first NCAA Bowl game to be contested in Canada.

"My parents have got a busload of about 50 people coming up," the Cinci native said yesterday during a Rogers Centre press conference to drum up interest in the game.

"Hopefully there will be more like that. I know people around campus are excited."

The International Bowl's chief operating officer, Don Loding, is optimistic the game will sell well here, even without a tangible rooting interest for either school or evidence that Toronto sports fans are interested in a second-rate NCAA Bowl Game.

Organizers have delivered some 10,000 tickets to the campuses of each participating school and given both are within an easy drive of the GTA, it is hoped each will deliver a sizable contingent.

GOOD BASE

"I think we'll be in the 25,000-30,000 range," Loding said yesterday of the first game in a four-year contract with the NCAA. "We think this city has that kind of a base. Plus we're selling tickets in Toronto, Kalamazoo (site of the WMU campus) and in Cincinnati."

Still, a crowd that would be roughly double that of previous Vanier Cups here or land in the range of Argos home attendance is likely on the optimistic side.

Will Toronto sports fans, for example, recognize that Cincinnati comes from a conference (the Big East) that got plenty of hype this season?

Or that the Bearcats knocked off then undefeated Rutgers in December and trailed No. 1 Ohio State 10-7 at halftime of their meeting in Columbus before getting blown out?

"It's an event, not just a game," recently hired Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "It's the marching band, the half-time show, the kids that are going to be here for four or five days. It's a good experience for our football players and for your city."


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