Cajun fans have already ordered 12,500 tickets for the New Orleans Bowl, and apparently they're just getting started.
Exactly 48 hours after their bowl invitation became official, and 24 days before they'll actually participate in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, UL's football team passed a milestone Wednesday.
Actually, UL fans passed that milestone, as the Ragin' Cajun ticket office surpassed the 10,000 mark in ticket orders for the Dec. 17 game and then kept going.
As of 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the UL ticket staff had processed orders totaling 10,762 ticket requests. The total passed 11,000 before noon, and reached a final count of nearly 12,500 ticket orders at the end of business Wednesday. That staff is in the midst of a well-deserved two-day break for the Thanksgiving holidays, but UL ticket manager Shivaun Bertrand says the break doesn't mean a break from ticket sales.
"Over the holidays, people can go online and get their ticket orders in," she says. "That way, we'll have those ready to process on Monday."
The Cajundome box office is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. due to IceGators hockey both nights, so fans can also purchase bowl tickets there while doing holiday shopping.
The ticket order numbers are already greater than sales at any other Sun Belt Conference school in the bowl's 11-year history, and UL director of athletics Scott Farmer expects those numbers to continue shooting up.
"Two days after the announcement, and we're halfway to our goal," Farmer said on Wednesday after taking dead aim at a 25,000 local sale during Monday's bid announcement/pep rally. "We're tickled at those numbers, but I'm getting even more pumped up when I talk to a lot of people who have been waiting for this for a long time.
"Bill Desormeaux came by the office today, just to come by and congratulate us. Since both of his sons [quarterback Michael and fullback Matt] played here, he wanted to tell us how special all of this is for them."
That's just one example of the fan support that has made for a frantic scene in the Cajun ticket office since Monday.
"We haven't seen anything like this before," says Matt Casbon, a former standout with the UL baseball team who now works on the ticket staff. "The buzz we had about basketball tickets after last year's late streak, and the buzz we had for football season tickets with Coach [Mark] Hudspeth in the preseason they don't compare with the excitement that people have about this game."
The Cajuns received their official New Orleans Bowl bid at 6 p.m. Monday, but the ticket staff had been taking pre-orders for bowl tickets for more than a week prior to the official announcement.
"Our fans were so anxious, we had to do something," Farmer says. "We're not complaining, but it does add an extra step to what we would normally do and we're trying to assure everyone that we'll get their orders processed as soon as we possibly can."
Every chance he gets, Farmer is stressing to Cajun fans to buy tickets through UL outlets and not outside agencies, including the Superdome and the New Orleans Bowl. Income from tickets sold locally comes directly back to the Cajun program.
Fans who are purchasing tickets online (www.ragincajuns.com), by phone (337-851-2011), or at the ticket offices located in front of the Moore Field baseball complex or at the Cajundome box office aren't receiving hard tickets yet.
Orders and payment are being taken through all those outlets, and next week the actual tickets will be assigned through a priority system with Ragin' Cajun Athletic Foundation (RCAF) members, season ticket holders and selected other groups getting first priority. After that, tickets will be assigned in the order that orders were received. Beginning next week, the ticket staff will call or e-mail every person who placed orders and advise them on how and when they can pick up their tickets.
"Basically right now, we're selling everyone a general admission seat," says Bertrand, who didn't leave the office until 11 p.m. Tuesday night. "Then we're placing them in a reserved-seat location. We're lucky in that we have the same ticket system as the Superdome, so we have direct access to their seating chart."
"We've got plenty of tickets and we're getting more," Farmer says, "but the earlier fans get their orders in, the better seats they'll get."
The ticket office in front of Moore Field has three phone lines on a rotating basis, and on Wednesday morning during a 15-minute visit to the offices, none of the three were idle for more than 15 seconds.
"We're asking everyone to please have patience," Bertrand says. "We're trying to be very meticulous and thorough so we don't overlook anything, and we'll make sure everyone has their tickets in plenty of time before the game."