Editor’s Note: Art Carden wrote this article in August, back when the Samford Bulldogs still had a chance at the championship.
It’s the end of summer, which can only mean one thing: college football is in the air!
And with the start of college football season, students and alumnae will pay handsomely for the privilege of cheering on their favorite teams. Members of the general public who ordered tickets from the University of Alabama to attend Alabama vs. Kentucky paid a minimum of $78 per ticket. In a stadium that seats almost 102,000 people, this suggests revenue of almost $8 million for the game just from ticket sales alone.
It gets worse depending on the game. Premium games command premium prices in the primary and secondary markets. Stubhub shows tickets to the Ohio State-Oklahoma game at $250 and up.
If Alabama and LSU stay in the top 5, I expect tickets to their November 5 game in Baton Rouge to command several hundred dollars each.
As surely as summer follows spring, high ticket prices are followed by howls of outrage at the greedy colleges and universities and the greedy ticket dealers who are gouging hapless fans and coaches and administrators padding their outrageous salaries by demanding “absurd” prices.
Are they the ones we should blame for high prices? No. Colleges and universities are able to charge high prices because there are a lot of people competing with one another over scarce seats. If you want a ticket, you have to pay a lot because there are a lot of other people willing to pay a lot for it.
It isn’t like fans are competing over an unchanging supply of tickets, either. Bryant-Denny Stadium, the home of my beloved Alabama Crimson Tide, started with a seating capacity of 12,000 in 1929. Since then, it has expanded it’s seating capacity eight times (!) and is now up to 102,000.
They’re also playing more games. The SEC added a championship game in 1992. In 2006, the NCAA started playing a 12-game regular season, and with the addition of the College Football Playoff, Alabama played fifteen games to win the 2015 title.
The prices of college football games remain sky-high even in a world with vastly-expanded entertainment options. Tickets to Hamilton are substitutes for tickets to sporting events. Ubiquitous, large-screen TVs make it easy to watch games at home, and the internet offers an effectively infinite amount of content.
Given all this, is it surprising—or outrageous—that the University of Alabama is asking $78 a ticket for the Kentucky game? Given that people are clearly willing to pay it…no.