While college football fans outside of Alabama and Clemson spent the last week debating whether or not Part IV is good for the sport, there’s something else about Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship that seems conclusive.
Sticking it out in Santa Clara, Calif. was a mistake.
Why would I say that? It actually isn’t even the fact that a couple of teams from the Southeast are playing on the West Coast. It happens. That type of stuff can’t be predicted when these sights are set years in advance.
All you need to look at is the secondary ticket market at realize that having this game in Levi’s Stadium was a bad idea. As of this writing (Friday afternoon), this year’s title game as a get-in price of $126. In other words, $126 will get you the worst available seat in the place. Last year, the get-in price was $1,752.
Now obviously that game was a bit of an outlier because neither Alabama nor Georgia fans had to fly to get to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
But already, this year’s title game has the lowest get-in price of the decade (per Ticket IQ):
And just in case that didn’t drive the perspective point home, check out this stat:
#NationalChampionship 🎟 market update 📣 $1,250 now gets you a 50 yard line view in 34th row 🐘🐯Last year, that wouldn’t have gotten you into the building 🏟 Buyers market 🧐 👉https://t.co/wTuvdQwF5I pic.twitter.com/QVVpgXxW7T
— TicketIQ (@Ticket_IQ) January 4, 2019
But at the same time, it’s sort of not bonkers when you think about it. The crazy travel costs are the obvious cause of the historic secondary market.
The stadium is an average distance of 2,428 miles from each campus, which is the furthest average distance traveled for each program this decade.
Plane tickets to San Francisco in the neighborhood of $1,000 a pop from major airports in the Southeast (kudos if you found something cheaper than that on such short notice). That’s after both Alabama and Clemson fans had to fly to their respective semifinal games.
That obviously has happened before. But staying a night or two in San Francisco, a place where it’s an average of $199 a night to stay without a national championship going on, is more expensive than any previous Playoff host city.
You want to stay at the Holiday Inn in San Francisco this week? If you got a room, you paid around $700 a night. A Hampton Inn? That’ll be $1,049. Anyone could’ve seen that coming. After all, the two most expensive U.S. cities to live in are San Francisco and San Jose, according to CNBC.
So why in the world did the College Football Playoff decide that this would be a good idea? Well, clearly they thought the market was somewhat inelastic, and that even if the secondary ticket market took a dip, it would still be more than enough to make a pretty penny.
But then again, of course this would be the thought process when it comes to college football. Fox Sports announcer Tim Brando told Sporting News that this kind of greed is par for the course.
“It’s lack of foresight and just grabbing the cash. It’s a money grab. Some thought needs to be given to these locations, instead of just going with the highest bidder.”
Levi’s Stadium, which fittingly opened the first year of the Playoff, is also 46 miles away from where they’re having the halftime show in San Francisco. In fact, nothing is centrally located because they decided to have things like the AT&T Playoff Playlist Live! in San Jose, which is 9 miles from the stadium and 49 miles from San Francisco.
It’s going to be a logistical nightmare, which clearly wasn’t of any concern when the College Football Playoff picked Levi’s Stadium back in 2015.
The likes of Houston, South Florida, Charlotte, Detroit, Minnesota and San Antonio all missed out on getting on of the title games for the 2017-19 seasons. None of those cities will have secondary ticket prices this historically low because all of them will have more affordable flights, more centrally-located festivities and considering Detroit and Minnesota are played in domes, all of them probably would’ve had better playing conditions, too.
Monday’s game is going to played in an outdoor stadium with conditions expected to be cloudy in the 50s. Breaking news: That’s basically how it always is there. That’s why this isn’t just a West Coast issue because at least in Los Angeles or Phoenix, weather isn’t a concern.
Obviously, the in-stadium fan experience was of no concern to the College Football Playoff. Or perhaps, it wasn’t enough of a concern.
It’ll be fascinating to see how low get-in ticket prices drop and if the game even has a full stadium. Even if you were a local who wanted to attend, getting to Santa Clara in California traffic for a 5 p.m. local time kick seems ambitious, to say the least. That again explains why the get-in price is so low.
The good news is that the next 5 sites for the title game are New Orleans, Miami, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Houston, all of whom actually have plenty of experience hosting championship events (unlike Santa Clara).
The other good news for the College Football Playoff and ESPN will be that ratings won’t suffer, despite what the naysayers will claim about being sick of this matchup. But in the end, the rare combination of low ticket prices and unhappy fans will prove to be an embarrassing look for the College Football Playoff.
Brando was right. Santa Clara will prove to be a mistake, and it’ll be up to the College Football Playoff not to make it again.