BYU will open this football season against the Arizona Wildcats, but the game won't be in Provo or Tucson. Instead, they'll battle in Glendale, just outside of Phoenix. It's entirely possible that the ticket sale distribution won't be so 'neutral' after all.
Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne told 1030 KVOI that BYU has currently sold more tickets for the opening game than Arizona has. You can find the specific segment starting at around the 34:26 mark. Here's the specific quote:
"Right now, BYU has sold more tickets that we have. And we need to fill the place. I don't think there is any reason why we can't have 40,000 Arizona fans at that game in Glendale. It's going to be indoors, it's going to be a great enviroment, and a great opponent. We're going to be playing BYU a lot over the next ten years, but this will be the first time we get them in quite a while, and it'll be a great opportunity....but I can't stress this enough for Arizona fans...please make that trip. It's going to be important for Arizona football."
The fact that BYU is drawing well in the greater Phoenix area should not be a surprise. After all, Phoenix, along with Las Vegas, has more Latter-Day Saints than just about any big city outside of Utah. BYU has a heavy alumni presence in the area, and compared to many other road trips, it's not that far of a hike from Glendale either.
But Byrne is right, there should be more Arizona fans at this game. According to LinkedIn, about 18,000 Arizona grads live in the Phoenix area, compared to only about 5,000 for BYU. Glendale is only a little more than a two hour drive from Arizona's campus, compared to about nine and a half from Provo. 40,000 Arizona fans might be a teensy bit ambitious, but having a majority of fans isn't.
Of course, the crowd makeup isn't just an opportunity to brag about #brand #reach. This is projected to be a very close game. BYU opened as a 1.5 point favorite over Arizona a few weeks ago. On 5dimes, that line has shifted to BYU by 2.5, but that is still awfully close. Given how important this game is to BYU (it appears to be one of the more winnable games in what projects to be a very difficult early seasons schedule), the ability to project home field advantage could conceivably be the difference in a close game.
The game time for this matchup hasn't been released yet, but Byne indicated earlier in the interview that he is hoping for an afternoon kick, so folks in Tucson can drive up and back on the same day.
Arizona's athletic director probably wouldn't be quite so pointed in his request for support if BYU wasn't decidedly winning the ticket sales battle. We'll see if those trends hold come kickoff, but if you're playing a national schedule, having a fanbase that travels nationally certainly doesn't hurt.