The University of Minnesota sent three full buses to Houston for this year’s student road trip to the Gophers’ bowl game — a marked improvement over last year, when the bus was barely half-full.
The University-sponsored student road trip increased participation from 25 students in 2012 to 130 at this year’s Texas Bowl.
University sport management senior Slade Williams traveled on both trips as one of thousands of fans to cheer on the Gophers.
“It was exciting to see the growth — the number of students who attended compared to last year,” he said. “The team and the University, I think, really appreciated that as well.”
Minnesota sold 3,375 tickets to the 2013 Texas Bowl, about 200 more than last year.
Stephen Ross, a University sport management associate professor, said the boost in sales was because of the bowl’s name change, Minnesota’s on-field success throughout the season and the reputation of its bowl opponent, Syracuse.
The Texas Bowl was previously the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas but was re-branded as the Texas Bowl for this season. Ross said the new name sounds more impressive.
“It was a special year in terms of the performance, the record, the back story with Coach Kill,” he said. “But I also think the opponent had a lot to do with it. Syracuse is a big program — a lot of history .”
In addition to a ticket to the game, the student bowl package included round-trip busing, two nights at the team hotel, a ticket to the pregame tailgate, a T-shirt and 2014 student football season tickets — all for $200.
University agricultural education sophomore Jacob Orren said the promotions exceeded his expectations.
Orren, the Gopher sports chair for Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, worked with the athletics department to promote the trip within his fraternity.
“Students actually knew about the trip this year because of last year’s trip,” he said. “They were expecting some trip, and so they were looking for it.”
The students left Minneapolis on Christmas Day, drove through the night and arrived in Houston the next afternoon. They passed time playing games and watching movies, and they stopped at three college football stadiums along the way.
“It didn’t feel like it was 20-some hours,” he said. “People were pretty energetic throughout.”
University sophomore Emma Montie attended 10 of the Gophers’ 13 games this season, including the bowl game. She said the game’s result — a 21-17 Minnesota loss to Syracuse — didn’t detract from the overall fun of the trip.
Williams said he would recommend the trip to other students.
“I would do it over again just to be there for the team and spend time with other Gopher fans,” he said. “It’s just a unique experience that I was glad I took part of while in college.”