SBD/December 30, 2013/Colleges

Online Bowl Game Ticket Discounts Undercut Schools, Conferences Selling Full-Price Seats

Online discount ticket sellers said that they procure tickets from college bowl games themselves, "creating a dual economy when it comes to lower-tier bowl games," according to a front-page piece by Brent Schrotenboer of USA TODAY. The Holiday Bowl to fill empty seats "tried a new strategy, offering $80 seats for $40 through an online discounter." But Texas Tech and Arizona State, the schools playing in the game, as well as their respective conferences, "are required by contract to buy 10,400 full-price tickets at $70 to $90 each." If they "can't find enough buyers, they're stuck with the full-price cost anyway." Schools and conferences over the last five seasons "absorbed more than $92 million in losses on full-price bowl tickets that went unsold, causing many participating teams to lose money on bowl trips." Florida State last season reported to the NCAA that it was "'very dissatisfied' about having to buy 17,500 full-price tickets to play in the Orange Bowl." FSU "sold a small portion of that allotment and needed help" from the ACC to pay $2.1M for unsold tickets. The loss "caused FSU to exceed its expense allowance" by $1.4M, and the school "cited the easy availability of cheaper tickets as a reason." Schrotenboer: "If anybody should take the blame for the unsold tickets, it might be the teams' league representatives, who made a big gamble on prearranged ticket allotments when they agreed to multiyear contracts with the bowls." In retrospect, the leagues "overestimated the number of tickets their teams could sell." They also "might have been willing to take the financial risk in exchange for a guaranteed block of premium seats and a bigger guaranteed payout." The leagues in their new multiyear bowl contracts starting next year "asked for much lower ticket commitment requirements, cutting them by a quarter or half" (USA TODAY, 12/30).
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