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Low in-house turnout at Las Vegas Bowl questioned

There were large swaths of empty seats at the recent Las Vegas Bowl.

Just not as large as a published report about half-empty stadiums at bowl games might have you believe, according to bowl game director John Saccenti.

Washington defeated Boise State 38-7 before a generously announced crowd of 34,197 on Dec. 21 at Sam Boyd Stadium.

Using a figure obtained from stadium proprietor UNLV, The Associated Press reported that only 16,568 tickets were scanned at the gates. While announced attendance almost always exceeds the actual number in the house, the discrepancy at the Las Vegas Bowl was stunning.

And not accurate, Saccenti said.

“There’s a (Wi-Fi network) connectivity issue at the stadium, and a significant number of tickets never got scanned,” Saccenti said. “Our bands and thousands who came in the back gates did not get scanned.

“You and I both knew there were more (than 16,568 in the stadium).”

There appeared to be thousands more, at least until Washington started piling up the points.

At kickoff, most of the sideline seats in the 36,800-capacity stadium were occupied. Press box media estimated the turnout was in the low- to mid-20,000s.

Saccenti said paid attendance was around 30,000. He did not debate there were thousands of no-shows.

Announced attendance at the Las Vegas Bowl and other bowls (as well as regular-season games at many campuses) often is a hybrid of tickets bought and tickets distributed among those who don’t pay to get in: media, marching bands, sponsors, the well-connected in the suites.

As far as those scanners go, I can only say the one at the main gate was working. My credential got scanned. Most times the gatekeepers just wave me in.

Which only shows that even when connectivity is good and scanners aren’t on the fritz, announcing attendance at sporting events is far from an exact science.

Around the horn

— Notre Dame is playing five away 2020 football games in current NFL stadiums — Wake Forest at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina; Wisconsin at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin; Pitt at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh; Georgia Tech at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta; and Southern California at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The other road game is against Navy in Dublin.

We’re a long way from the Cliffs of Moher. But you may have noticed there’s a new NFL stadium going up in Las Vegas that soon will be open and seeking events.

Notre Dame vs. Navy at Allegiant Stadium in 2022? There’s precedent for service academies playing football a long way from home.

— Years ago it was suggested in a space such as this that the generals and admirals might consider playing the Army-Navy Game in Las Vegas someday — the only game in the time-honored series played west of the Mississippi River attracted more than 80,000 spectators to the Rose Bowl in 1983. With Allegiant Stadium coming on board, it’s an idea that doesn’t seem so far-fetched now.

— Speaking of that game, the star of Navy’s 42-13 victory was longtime Las Vegas resident Napoleon McCallum, who rushed for 182 yards, giving him 1,587 for the 1983 season. The College Football Hall of Famer and Oakland/Los Angeles/Las Vegas Raiders alumnus is director of community development for Las Vegas Sands Corp.

— Headline in Thursday’s USA Today: “Not a question of if but when Las Vegas hosts College Football Playoff or Final Four.” Agreed. But would have been nice for the playoff director to express a little more enthusiasm or at least mention Las Vegas by name.

“It wouldn’t be right for me to speculate about any potential host,” Bill Hancock said of the possibility of Las Vegas landing the 2025 or 2026 game — the only two not spoken for before the current TV deal with ESPN expires. “I don’t want to handicap the field, except to say it will be a fascinating race.”


— The Oakland Raiders aren’t the Las Vegas Raiders just yet — that doesn’t happen until March 18 when the new NFL calendar begins. But they are no longer the Oakland Raiders, at least on Twitter. The team’s official account is now just The Raiders (@Raiders).

Sort of like The Floridians of the old American Basketball Association, only with more familiar uniforms.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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