College Football Playoff Preview
For the first time in NCAA history, college football will be hosting a four-team playoff for the top ranked schools in the country. A selection committee will determine the lucky four teams based purely on metrics such as record and strength of schedule, so no conference will receive an automatic playoff bid. In addition, the bowl games you’re used to watching throughout New Years will still be around, as all of the traditional bowl games (with a few exceptions – I’m still mourning the loss of the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl). The top six bowl games will rotate as hosts for the semifinal games, with the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl set to host the semis this year. The Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl are scheduled to alternate over the next few years as well.
As the playoffs are approaching, let’s take a look at ticket prices from previous bowl games to determine what prices might look like for playoff games and other top bowl games this winter.
College Football Playoff National Championship Ticket Prices
No longer in existence, the BCS National Championship was considered the college football championship, supposedly featuring the top two teams in the nation. Over the past four years, prices have varied significantly, but this was consistently the most expensive college football game of the season, and tickets to the College Football Playoff finals will surely fall into this range (if not slightly higher due to the anticipation of a new playoff format). Last season’s average ticket price of just $1005, by far the lowest average ticket price for a BCS National Championship game over the last four years. This represents almost a 70% decrease in ticket prices on the secondary market in comparison to 2013’s average ticket price of $1705 for the Alabama-Notre Dame game. After Auburn upset Alabama, ticket prices steadily declined at a sharper rate than usual, perhaps because the Tigers went to the championship game in 2011 with Cam Newton and Auburn fans might’ve attended that matchup instead. Although tickets averaged $1339 for the 2011 game, ranking third out of the four games in terms of average ticket price, the cost of a ticket shot up almost 150% over the course of the month prior to the game.
Ticket prices for the Rose Bowl have generally ranged between $200 and $300, but last season saw a huge spike in average ticket price after Michigan State clinched the game with a win over Ohio State. On that day alone, Spartan fans bought Rose Bowl tickets on the secondary market for an average of $624, up 10% from the previous ticket average of $567. Over the course of that week, consumers purchased tickets at an average of $735, an increase of almost 30% since beating the Buckeyes. Although this boom ultimately subsided as game day approached, the final average ticket price was $575, up 145% from 2013.
In comparison to some of the other bowl games, the Sugar Bowl tends to feature more variance from year to year than other matchups, suggesting that the bowl game relies on the quality of competition to drive ticket sales on the resale market. Last year’s matchup was the highest ticket price since 2011 with an average of $261, an 83% increase from the $142 average in 2012. Alabama’s unexpected loss to Auburn could have caused this large increase, resulting in an abnormally high average ticket price for the game. The 2011 Sugar Bowl between Ohio State and Arkansas had a slightly higher average ticket price at $166.
The Orange Bowl tends to fluctuate between about $75 and $90 over the past few seasons, marred by unfavorable matchups. Last season, tickets to see Ohio State and Clemson averaged $133 on the resale market, more than double the 2013 price for an Orange Bowl ticket. However, the 2013 game featured Northern Illinois, not exactly the most popular team on the secondary market, and this might be why the 2013 Orange Bowl averaged just $64. West Virginia’s 77-33 clobbering of Clemson the previous year might have also deflated ticket prices for 2013.
Last year’s Fiesta Bowl saw an unprecedented spike after Baylor defeated Texas to win its first Big 12 title, thus clinching a bid to the Fiesta Bowl. The day Baylor earned a spot in the game, tickets shot up from an average of $147 all the way to $251, a 70% increase over just one day. However, an uninspiring opponent in Central Florida brought prices back to earth, and the game averaged $154 in total on the resale market. The highest average ticket price for the Fiesta bowl over the last four years was 2013’s matchup between Oregon and Kansas State, averaging $228 on the secondary market.
Last season’s Cotton Bowl between Oklahoma State and Missouri averaged just $160 on the resale market, 60% less than the 2013 game between Oklahoma and Texas A&M. Tickets were expected to decrease after the Johnny Football effect inflated the 2013 prices, but this was by far the lowest average over the last four years. In 2012, tickets still averaged $278 on the secondary market, 42% more than last season. This could be because both Missouri and Oklahoma State played in the Big 12 just two years ago. The two teams played annually, so perhaps fans had already witnessed the matchup and didn’t feel the need to attend again.
The Chick-fil-a Bowl (a.k.a. The Peach Bowl, a.k.a. The Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl), much like the Sugar Bowl, has been affected by the teams participating. Last year, Duke shocked the college football world when it won the ACC’s automatic bid to the showdown against Texas A&M. Duke’s participation offset fans’ excitement about Johnny Manziel, and tickets averaged just $69 last year. (It’s not Duke’s fault that their fans haven’t realized that the school is now a dual-sport powerhouse.) The most expensive matchup recently was the South Carolina-Florida State game in 2010 where tickets went for $118. Since that game, Chick-fil-a Bowl tickets have averaged less than $100 each year.