The Crimson Tide of Alabama will begin their quest for a third straight title much like they began the season last year: at a neutral site against a perennial national contender. This year’s opponent will be Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech Hokies in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game on August 31st, a rematch of their 2009 meeting in Atlanta to open up the season. The Georgia Dome expects north of 70,000 fans to be in attendance and those still looking for tickets will have to cough up quite a bit of cash for one of the more expensive games of the 2013 college football season.
Officials announced this week that both Alabama and Virginia Tech have sold out their ticket allotments for the game, leaving only the secondary market as a possible outlet to purchase seats. PrimeSport is the Official Ticket Exchange of the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game and has tickets available for as low as $113. Currently, the average ticket price is $326, almost double the price of the two Chick-Fil-A Kickoff games last year, but significantly less than the 2011 game. Last year, Clemson vs. Auburn had an average ticket price of $144 with a get-in price of $67, while Tennessee vs. N.C. State was a little more expensive at an average of $185 and the cheapest listing at $79. Two years ago, the average ticket price to see the Georgia Bulldogs face off against the Broncos from Boise State was a whopping $493, driven up because of the proximity of Atlanta to Athens, GA. In order to get in the building, a fan had to fork over at least $195 per ticket.
Alabama-Virginia Tech is one of the twenty most expensive games of the season, joined by a surprisingly high number of other neutral site games. Besides the usual crop, such as the Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl (Texas-Oklahoma has an average ticket price of $504) and the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party at Everbank Field (Florida-Georgia has an average ticket price of $453,) other unique neutral site matchups join Bama vs. Tech as some of the more expensive seats on the market. The Cowboys Classic (the same game in which Alabama defeated Michigan last year) will match LSU vs. TCU this season with an average ticket price of $218. Cowboys Stadium will have to gear up for another college football dual in October when Arizona State meets Notre Dame. Fans looking to grab tickets for that game will find a get-in price just south of $200 and an average ticket price of $475.
Many top football programs have recently been embracing the neutral site game and Alabama has been at the forefront. They are 2-0 in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff game, having won in the inaugural game in 2008 as well as 2009. Typically, teams have shied away from playing early season games on the road because their title chances could come crashing down with a loss, but more importantly they potentially lose out on millions of dollars they’d garner playing at home. Nonetheless, programs are starting to realize the benefits these types of games provide. Ultimately, The Chick-Fil-A game is one of the biggest showcases of the college football season: opening weekend, ESPN coverage, premier opponent, etc. It provides the players a date to mark down on the calendar and rewards schools with a fantastic recruiting edge early in the fall.
The other advantage is soaring ticket prices. The Georgia Dome is able to sell out the building at reasonably high ticket prices, leveraging two strong programs with loyal followers. With the increase in ticket prices over the past few years, and the demand continuing to rise, programs like Alabama are able to make almost as much money as if they were playing a home game. If athletic departments can crunch the numbers and realize substituting a kickoff classic for a home game doesn’t hurt the bottom line, we may be on the precipice of seeing more and more neutral site games between top-tier programs in the coming years.