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On Attendance and Stanford's BCS Bowl Hopes

Stanford rose to sixth in the BCS standings following its most complete game of the season--a 42-17 pasting of Arizona--and losses by four teams previously ranked ahead of the Cardinal. With each passing week, and each Stanford and Oregon win, the chances that the Cardinal will find themselves in the Rose Bowl grow.

The BCS bowl picture remains murky, but Stanford's most likely path to Pasadena involves the Cardinal, Ducks, and either Boise State or TCU winning out, and Auburn losing. If that happens, Oregon would probably play the Broncos or Horned Frogs in the National Championship Game, and the Rose Bowl would be free to select the Cardinal as the Pac-10 runner-up. There's a chance Stanford could wind up in another BCS bowl as an at-large selection, but there's also a chance that Stanford could run the table, finish 11-1, and play in the Valero Alamo Bowl on New Year's Eve. I hear San Antonio's lovely in December.

Suppose Auburn and Oregon win out and meet in the National Championship Game. The Rose Bowl would be required to select an eligible team from a non-automatic qualifying conference--Boise State or TCU, assuming both teams win out. Stanford's resume would certainly put it in contention for an at-large berth in one of the other BCS bowls, but the Cardinal could be passed over out of fear that its fans would not fill seats.

Bruce Jenkins writes that the BCS needs to start paying attention to Stanford. It would help if the Cardinal's fans started paying attention to Stanford. As Jenkins noted, it was "disappointing to see thousands of empty seats at Stanford Stadium" for Saturday's game. What gives? RuleofTree member RickeySteals shared his thoughts on Stanford's attendance woes, and I agree with most of his points, as well as this one from Jon Wilner:

Maybe giving away all those free tickets over the years — before the "What’s Your Deal" deal, back when Stanford had no football marketing plan except to give ‘em away — has served to devalue the product.

As a Stanford fan living on the East Coast, I can't speak to the athletic department's marketing efforts in and around Palo Alto, but I applaud its use of social media, including Twitter and Facebook, and the expanded content on its YouTube channel, to grow the Cardinal football brand.

While Saturday's turnout was surprising, with an undergraduate enrollment of less than 7,000 students, attendance at home games isn't the only indicator of how well Stanford fans would travel for a bowl game. It may take some time for the marketing department to consistently fill Stanford Stadium, but I think Cardinal fans would turn out in droves for a BCS bowl. You don't have to take my word for it. One Stanford fan created a petition in the form of a Facebook event titled "Stanford fans will go to a BCS Bowl" on Sunday. Within hours, more than 1,000 people pledged that they would attend. That number has since ballooned to more than 2,700. From the event's page:

Dear BCS Bowls,

Stanford will sell its allotment if selected for a BCS game. If we are in contention for a BCS bowl, do not let the fear of empty stands persuade you to select another team in our stead. Please do not take Stanford's home game attendance into account. This is not an accurate assessment of the level of support you will see from us at your bowl game.

For what it's worth, CBS Sports projects Stanford in the Rose Bowl: "With the Rose Bowl losing Oregon to the title game, look for Pasadena to take a one-loss Stanford ranked in the Top 10 of the BCS Standings. Boise State will also be in play here, but taking a Pac-10 replacement team will be tough to pass up."'s Mark Schlabach and Andrea Adelson have different opinions of where Stanford will end up this postseason. Schlabach, who projects an Oregon-Auburn title game, predicts the Cardinal will play in the Alamo Bowl. Adelson, who projects an Oregon-TCU title game, predicts the Cardinal will play Michigan State in Pasadena.

Of course, we won't be having this conversation if Stanford doesn't take care of business in Tempe this week. I'll turn my attention to the Sun Devils tomorrow.