BCS Finale: Best Game You’ll Never See
January 6, 2012
The BCS National Championship Game is the lone major sporting event that completely shuts out the general public.
While fans have a shot at purchasing tickets to events like the Super Bowl, World Series and college basketball’s Final Four, college football fans who hoped to pay face value ($300-$350) for one of the 72,000 seats inside the Superdome on Monday night had no chance to do so. There is no internet sale. No lottery. Nothing.
“There is no primary walk-up market (for tickets to the BCS Championship game),” said John Sudsbury, spokesman for the Sugar Bowl, whose staff is putting on this year’s national title game. “We don’t sell the tickets ourselves.”
If the average fan wanted to buy a ticket to the game, he would have to go through a secondary outlet. Thursday, the lowest price on TicketCity.com – an official sponsor for the BCS title game – was $1,285. The highest price was $5,200.
The only buyers who pay face value for tickets to the national championship game are the participating schools. And they have no choice.
Alabama and LSU were each "allotted" 17,000 tickets for the contest, although that verb is a misnomer. Both were compelled to purchase those tickets. Of the remaining tickets, 28,500 were snapped up in Sugar Bowl ticket packages sold before the title-game matchup was set and 9,500 went to title sponsors, ESPN/ABC and BCS -- and they are all gratis.
“That’s the contract between the BCS bowls and the 11 conferences,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock said. “And it exists for every BCS bowl except the Rose. Believe me, some schools wanted more tickets and some wanted less.”
In the matter of the national championship game, athletic departments have an insatiable appetite. LSU and Alabama representatives were unavailable for comment on how they handled the distribution of their allotment.
Last year, Auburn and Oregon sold out all of their 17,000 tickets immediately, but those tickets were made available only to season-ticket holders and donors.
“We have 9,100 members in our Duck Athletic Fund and last year we had over 32,000 ticket requests,” said the fund’s executive director, Garrett Klassy.
As an Oregon fan, if you wanted one of the school’s tickets for last year’s title game, you needed to be a season-ticket holder or an annual donor (minimum donation: $50) or, more likely, both.
“We assign our tickets priority points,” Klassy said, “which is based on a combination of current year giving, historical giving and consecutive years as a season-ticket holder.”
Do the division and you realize the top 28 percent of Oregon’s most munificent supporters were given the opportunity to purchase between two and six tickets. Make it rain, indeed.
A plethora of fans at Auburn and Alabama, both of whose schools had a shot at the title game until Thanksgiving 2010, bypassed their schools’ development funds. Instead, they applied to become “season-ticket holders” to the Fiesta Bowl, whose committee hosted last year’s championship game.
“We had a great number of one-time Fiesta Bowl season ticket applications from the state of Alabama,” said the bowl’s spokesman, Andy Bagnato.
What did it take to become a Fiesta Bowl season-ticket holder last year?
“A customer would have had to purchase one ticket to the Insight Bowl [in Tempe] and one ticket to the Fiesta Bowl,” Bagnato said, “for each ticket he would be allowed to buy one for the national championship game.”
Tickets to last season’s game ran $300 to $325, but with the Insight Bowl/Fiesta Bowl tandem surcharge, each ticket easily ran close to $600. That still may be less expensive than giving to your school’s athletic fund and expecting to make the cut.
The surest and cheapest way to obtain a ticket? Work for one of that bowl’s corporate sponsors, the bowl itself or the network televising the contest. The Sugar Bowl will allot 13 percent of the seats to its aforementioned partners. Many of those individual recipients have already turned around and put those tickets on StubHub or TicketCity.com.
The irony of that, of course, is that if any of the game’s 170 players were to do the same with their four allotted tickets, they’d be in hot water with the NCAA.
And while getting rid of tickets to the title game is not a problem for schools, the same can’t always be said for the other BCS bowls.
Last January, Connecticut, which met Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, lost nearly $3 million in unsold tickets. The Huskies, selling their tickets at face value to a fan base that would be obliged to travel 2,800 miles to see them play, had to compete against both the sponsor types and the Fiesta Bowl season-ticket holders.
Both groups were scalping their tickets and, in some cases literally giving them away.
“It’s all on the schools,” the UConn official said of the risk in staging a BCS bowl game. “The BCS bowl cannot lose money. It’s impossible for them to lose money.”