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College Bowl Games: Are Ticket Prices Reflecting Economy?

Sports & The Economy
CNBC.com
Sports & The Economy

I wanted to find out how the demand has changed for college bowl games given the economy.

Since I'm not going to wait for attendance numbers, I asked the fine folks at StubHub to go through each bowl game, tell me what the average ticket price is selling for on their site and compare it with last year's final average price.

A couple of important points to make here. There's still some time and ticket prices will likely drop even further in every case. Also realize that I have no idea how much volume is moving here and please take in mind that teams change each year, which is some cases could be the reason for the entire fluctuation. Take a look:

Worst Declines

BOWL
TEAMS
AVG. TICKET PRICE (CHANGE)
Music City BC vs. Vanderbilt $37 (-65%)
Nat'l Champ Florida vs. Oklahoma $757 (-45%)
Orange Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech $78 (-43%)
Alamo Northwestern vs. Missouri $80 (-42%)
Motor City Central Michigan vs. FAU $46 (-41%)
Capital One Michigan State vs. Georgia $114 (-41%)
Independence Louisiana Tech vs. NIU $54 (-32%)
Chick Fil-A Georgia Tech vs. LSU $114 (-27%)
Armed Forces Houston vs. Air Force $43 (-25%)
Sheraton Hawaii Hawaii vs. Notre Dame $49 (-21%)

Best Increases

BOWL
TEAMS
AVG. TICKET PRICE (CHANGE)
Humanitarian Nevada vs. Maryland $61 (+101%)
Gator Clemson vs. Nebraska $115 (+71%)
Outback Iowa vs. South Carolina $121 (+55%)
Fiesta Texas vs. Ohio State $233 (+45%)
Pointsettia TCU vs. Boise State $84 (+40%)
Sun Bowl Pittsburgh vs. Oregon State $66 (+31%)

Now let's analyze some of this.

I stressed in an earlier post

that bowl games that pick teams that have fans that can drive to the game will be in better shape this year because fuel is cheap and flying at the last minute is expensive. As you can see, the Music City Bowl is really hurting. The Music City Bowl is in Nashville, which is where Vanderbilt is located. There's not much of a drive there.

Maybe it's just the fan base given the smaller student body and the fewer number of graduates as compared to a state school. It's the same case with the Chik Fil-A Bowl, which has done an extraordinary job in getting a "local" team in its bowl. Georgia Tech is right there, but the demand isn't the same as last year, when Auburn played Clemson.

The BCS games are usually pretty teflon, but take a look at the National Championship Game and the Orange Bowl. The Orange Bowl numbers make sense. It's probably the least appealing BCS game ever in terms of general interest. If it's at $78 now, it's going to be selling for pennies by bowl time.

But how about the national championship game? Last year's game (Ohio State vs. LSU) sold for an average of $1,362 on StubHub and the year before the average (Ohio State-Florida) went for $1,329. Then factor in that the game is in Miami, which any crazy gator fan can easily get to at the last minute.

A couple more to explore. First, I'll take the Alamo Bowl, a game that I am going to. Missouri fell pretty quickly and has played in so many big games to close out the season that it might have slowed down the caravan of Tigers fans that were willing to trek to San Antonio. Unfortunately, my beloved Northwestern Wildcats are not a national team that people follow (YET).

Don't ask me about that Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The numbers make no sense. Hawaii is back in the game and Notre Dame is coming and the game is in less demand?

Texas vs. Ohio State is still a game that's in demand and has the Fiesta Bowl's ticket prices on the secondary market up by 45 percent. But the economy is hurting the game. Consider these facts. Ohio State didn't sell out of its allotment and the last time these two teams played, the StubHub average was $596 and $547 per ticket.

To share your bowl story — why you are or aren't going to support your team — email us at SportsBiz@cnbc.com.

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