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Ticketless Trojan Game

2008 September 16
by Brian Goff

I’ve had an longtime fascination with gameday ticket resell, not just the analytics and systematic data study but in a “hands-on” way — I guess you could call it “behavioral” research. Various friends and I have attended FSU-Miami (91), Auburn-Alabama (Birmingham), Auburn-Florida (Auburn), TN-Arkansas (98), Texas A&M-Baylor (College Station), Ohio St.-Michigan (Columbus), Michigan-Penn St. (Ann Arbor), plus odd assortment of Arkansas, SMU (pre-death penalty), UK, and Vandy games without tickets in hand. The only “shut out” was the Notre Dame-FSU game in 93.

Differences in ticket prices at various NCAA football games tend to follow supply and demand in predictable ways with game quality, stadium capacity relative to the population of the market highly influential, and local resale restrictions and their enforcement highly influential. In recent years, tickets can be secured via online brokers, but the expiring option nature of a ticket frequently means lower prices closer to game time — the actual process of this price movement is interesting to observe if you aren’t too concerned about seeing the kickoff.

The availability of ticket sellers is a different matter. In places such as Ann Arbor, Knoxville, Auburn, Birmingham, or College Station gameday resale comes close to an organized exchange in volume of tickets for sale. The price varies, depending on the game’s characterisitcs but ticket sellers abound. At places like Columbus or Florida State where (when I visited) resell restrictions were in place and modestly enforced, resellers existed but in much smaller numbers and with less obvious marketing. This makes sense.

That brings me to last Saturday and my head-scratcher. My family and I drove to campus very early, hung around until near game time, and canvassed the campus and Coliseum area. In total, we saw 3 tickets openly marketed. I also observed two others being sold. According to sources that I had consulted, local authorities sometimes discourage resell near the Coliseum, but not on campus. In fact, the tickets that I observed being resold were near the Coliseum in full view of strolling police officers. So why so few tickets openly marketed? The online sites posted a large number of tickets as late as noon on Saturday. Any ideas in the Sports Economist world?

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