Money Talks: Why Are College Sports Tickets So High?

Earlier this semester I was looking for tickets to the upcoming USC-UCLA game – which will have serious implications for the Pac-12 championship and college football playoffs. Since the game was away at the Rose Bowl, my pre-paid student season ticket would not work for that game. So I went to ticketing sites like StubHub, Ticketmaster, and SeatGeek only to find that the prices were over $100, and now the lowest ticket price is a whopping $176 — which is almost the cost of my entire season ticket pass at the time that I wrote this column write. I understand it’s one of the biggest games of the season for both teams, but that’s just too high for college students.

Luckily the USC ticket office had a lottery for USC students to get up to two tickets to the upcoming game at $65 each and I was able to get the two entries. What was confusing was that I paid a total of $130 for these two tickets, while people who weren’t lucky enough to get a ticket through this lottery pay $40-$50 more for just a single ticket.

A ticket under $200 is a steal compared to other colleges across the country. For example, the game No. 1 University of Tennessee vs. No. 3 University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, its cheapest ticket at $568. Getting better seats near the 50-yard line costs over $3,000. We look forward to the Big Ten matchup between Ohio State and Michigan in Columbus, Ohio, which takes place in just a few weeks on November 26th. The cheapest ticket at VividSeats is $429.

These prices apply to regular season games only. If I want to look at the early prices for games like next year’s Rose Bowl, they start at $461 on Ticketmaster. Additionally, the College Football National Championship starts at $684 on the same site.

This problem affects not only college football but also other sports such as basketball. Although home games are free for USC students, if I want to go to an away game, prices will go up again. For example, the cheapest ticket to our first matchup against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion is $64. It’s not terrible, but quite expensive compared to the free home games.

What’s even more frustrating is that the prices I list don’t include handling fees, an additional fee that’s often a percentage of the ticket cost. Fees range from $12 to $50 or even higher.

So there are two ways to combat these high prices. You obviously remove these processing and other fees. The Biden administration is already exploring eliminating or reducing such fees on entertainment and travel tickets, which could save buyers over $1 billion. The Biden administration hopes to minimize the power of these ticket companies, who can add surprise fees as they please and allow Americans to save money, too. Hopefully this issue can be adequately addressed at the federal level.

Then the other option is to limit the resale of tickets. The ticket resale business is huge, with companies bulk buying tickets early and raising prices to make a profit. Also known as ticket scalping, there are no major federal laws prohibiting the process. At the state level, the laws are fairly lenient and mostly target people illegally reselling tickets outside of venues.

Overall, college athletics prices can be affordable through sophisticated processing fees and ticket resale practices. This will help college students, who are already paying so much on tuition, housing and other expenses, and watch their peers compete.


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