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Ticket quick-snap: 59-minute sellout has Happy Valley riled

June 2007 Penn State Tickets

Ticket quick-snap: 59-minute sellout has Happy Valley riled

The Philadelphia Inquirer
June 13, 2007 by Kathy Boccella

For Pennsylvania State University students, getting a seat at the school's football games is harder than scoring tickets to U2.

It was bad enough that the school's 21,520 student season tickets sold out in a record 59 minutes on Thursday. Now diehard fans who came up empty must watch as enterprising fellow students scalp tickets on Craigslist and other Internet sites.

Attending all seven homes games was a major part of Brian DiPentima's plans for his senior year at Penn State.

"It might be Joe Paterno's last season," said DiPentima, 21, a Northeast Philadelphia resident shut out of the ticket scramble. "I wanted to see Ohio State. And I especially wanted to see Notre Dame, which hasn't played at Penn State in memory."

He was working on the day of the sale and figured he could buy tickets Saturday, since they were available for 13 days last year.

"I think the whole way they did it was unfortunate. Who isn't at work on a Thursday at 9 o'clock?" said the nursing major, who draws blood at Northeastern Hospital.

Greg Myford, a spokesman for the university, said demand for tickets had been building since the Big Ten school played in the Orange Bowl in 2006. Before that, student tickets were still available in August.

Because of the fierce interest this year, the school proposed a lottery, but "students wanted absolutely no part of that," Myford said. Instead, the university sent an e-mail and a letter notifying students, including incoming freshmen, when the online sale would begin.

"That June 7 date became magic," he said.

Almost immediately afterward, a black market sprung up on Web sites. Games in the $190 season-ticket package are going for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

"That's the American way," said Rich Gershenfeld of Yardley, who is on Craigslist with an offer to swap Eagles tickets for Penn State tickets. He plans to turn them over to his son, Andrew.

Andrew logged onto Ticketmaster.com at 8:50 a.m. and was waiting to buy the ducats when an incoming fax snarled his connection. When he got back on, it was too late.

He missed out last year, too, and had to buy tickets to individual games at jacked-up prices. Gershenfeld said he feels for his son.

"It's in the middle of nowhere," he said of the State College campus. Football "is the major event of the fall season."

ESPN's College Gameday ranks the school's student section - the second-largest in college sports - as among the best in collegiate football. Many say it's what makes Beaver Stadium so tough for the Nittany Lions' opponents.

It's not right that the university doesn't make that experience available to every student who wants it, Gershenfeld said. Penn State has more than 84,000 students at 24 campuses.

Though Beaver Stadium bulges with 107,282 seats, that's impossible, Myford said, because the sections on either side of the student area are for other season-ticket holders, mostly alumni.

"The last thing we want to do is expand the student ticket section and, down the road, have excess student tickets," he said. The university added 520 student seats this year.

Scalping, he said, is "the dark side" of the ticket frenzy. Penn State does not have a rule banning students from scalping, but relies on a state statute that prohibits a seller from charging more than 25 percent above the ticket's face value. The law is vague regarding Internet sales and enforceable only when the buyer, seller and transaction are in-state.

Some sellers try to get around the law by charging hundreds for a trinket, such as a Penn State pen, and throwing in tickets "free."

If there were a school scalping policy, Myford asked, "who enforces that and how do you possibly begin to track down all the people who are abusing it?"

One idea being discussed among Penn State administrators is electronically recording the ticket numbers on student IDs that would be swiped at the gate on game day, he said.

Kaylyn Pacchioli, 18, opted to jump online rather than head to class at William Tennent High School in Warminster in order to get tickets.

"I was on right at 9 o'clock," said the soon-to-be freshman. Then she went through an agonizing delay - 10 minutes, maybe, though it felt longer.

"I'm assuming the server was really overloaded. It kept going, 'Please wait 15 minutes,' " she said. The ticker "would go down to 10, then it would go back up."

Finally, the good news came: Tickets to seven home games were hers for $190.

As a three-sport athlete, and daughter of the Centennial School District athletic director, "I would have been really disappointed," Pacchioli said, if denied the thrill of going to the games.

Non-student tickets to individual games go on sale July 27. And professional brokers have plenty to offer right now.

Yesterday, TicketCity.com - an online broker based in Austin, Texas - had listings for more than 2,000 Nittany Lions tickets.

The highest asking price: $2,415 per seat for the Notre Dame matchup on Sept. 8.

That's a little steep for DiPentima. But he's placed a want ad online and he's willing to pay cash.

He's done it before. It's just that this year, the Father Judge graduate, who played football in high school, is particularly desperate. "It's my last chance," he said.

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