Weather causes disruptions for Auburn fans

Published: Monday, Jan. 10 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Drew Muscatell, left, and Nick Adam have some fun outside University of Phoenix Stadium before of the BCS National Championship NCAA college football game between Auburn and Oregon Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz.

Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wintry weather in Alabama left some Auburn fans with tickets to the BCS championship game out in the cold back home, while others scrambled for alternative routes or endured delays.

Charter flights out of Birmingham Airport were able to take off by midday. On campus, both classes and the viewing party scheduled at Auburn Arena were canceled.

Tigers fan James Harrison made it to Arizona from Charlotte, N.C., but hadn't been able to reach friends trying to get there.

"I know people who were sleeping in the airport at Birmingham," Harrison said. "Who knows if they made it or not?"

Chase Payne said he had friends who were scheduled to fly out of Birmingham but drove a few hours to either Memphis, Tenn., or New Orleans to catch other flights.

"They said lots of people have been doing this," Payne said.

One Alabama resident who didn't get to make the trip: Gov. Bob Riley, who didn't want to leave after declaring a state of emergency in Alabama on Sunday.

He encouraged Alabama residents to stay home Monday night and "enjoy the Auburn game."

CECIL NEWTON: The contingent of Cam Newton's family attending the game didn't include the quarterback's father, Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said.

Cecil Newton was restricted to "limited access" to the school's athletic program when the NCAA found that he shopped his son's services to Mississippi State during the recruiting process. He also skipped the Heisman ceremony in New York.

Jacobs said the decision for Cecil Newton not to attend "was mutually agreed upon. Out of the highest respect that Cecil has for Cameron, he won't be here today."

Newton had said that his father would be among the contingent traveling from Georgia for the game, but that he didn't know if Cecil Newton would be attending the game. He said the Newton group would be "loud and proud."

RATINGS GAME: Television ratings for the BCS in its first year of a new contract that puts all the games on ESPN have been down for most of the games compared to last year.

Burke Magnus, ESPN senior vice president for college sports programming, said he's not concerned with a one-year dip.

"I take solace from the fact that the numbers that we put up this year, you don't have to go very far back in the history of the BCS to find equivalent games that we've beaten," he said.

"The Rose, while down from last year's game, you only have to go back to '08 to find a game we beat."

Magnus said the Fiesta Bowl between Oklahoma and Connecticut on Jan. 1 had better ratings than the '09 Orange Bowl, which was in the same prime-time slot. The ratings for the Orange Bowl between Virginia Tech and Stanford on Jan. 3 were better than the ratings for three of the last four Orange Bowls, just not last year's.

"The comparisons are pretty good when we look at the totality of the last cycle for example," he said. "Are we in the vicinity of what this property has done over time? And I'm comfortable with where we are."

Even Magnus admitted that it would be tough for the national title game between No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon to match the 17.5 rating Alabama-Texas did last season.

The Crimson Tide and Longhorns are two of college football's marquee programs, teams that draw casual fans' interest.

Auburn and Oregon don't provide the same pop and the other BCS also games suffered from pairing that lacked broad appeal.

"The BCS ends up being a lot about the matchups and the competition on the field. Those two things are out of our control," Magnus said.

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