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BYU, Utah football: 'Cheap seats' going for $1,600 for big game

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 19 2008 12:18 a.m. MST

 (Deseret News graphic) (Deseret News graphic)
Move over, Hannah Montana. Step to the side, David Archuleta. An even hotter act with harder-to-get (read: pricier) tickets is coming to town this week.
And, no, this isn't a story about a "Mitt Romney in 2012" fund-raising soiree for uber-rich Republicans.
It's about a football game.
Actually, to borrow a phrase from longtime Ute announcer Bill Marcroft, check that, it's about THE football game: BYU vs. Utah, of course.
If you think this backyard brouhaha and brotherly battle is tough on families and friends with divided loyalties, wait till you see the effect the costly rivalry is having on some people's wallets.
Just how hot are tickets to Saturday's sold-out showdown at Rice-Eccles Stadium?
Ute fans, of course, might say they're "red hot." Another way to put it: Those party-hearty AIG executives might even consider them expensive enough for their lavish ways — and they might need to use some taxpayers' bailout money to afford them.
On StubHub alone, the cheapest of the 300-plus available tickets being hawked are going for $110 apiece, the average price for tickets sold so far is $198, and a pair of seats in Redzone N 23 Row 40 are going for $3,200. Business majors at both schools might marvel at the capitalism in process here — all perfectly legal according to the Utah General Attorney's office, too — seeing as the face value of tickets for this game range between $35-$60.
"It's probably the biggest game in the series. Tickets are going crazy, and it's understandable," said Greg Keough, who works at the U. box office. "They're going for more than I've ever heard them go before, so I'd say they're extremely hot."
But $1,600 apiece HOT?
Keough, who's also a sophomore at Utah, laughed about that extremely inflated price for cheap-seat tickets he said normally sell for $35. BYU student Steven Roberts, who's looking for affordable tickets, got some sticker shock when he heard somebody was asking for that much without putting a "LOL" after the requested dollar amount.
"Sixteen-hundred dollars per ticket? What are they giving away for that price?" Roberts asked in awe. "It had better include unlimited hotdogs and hamburgers, a signed football from each team, an opportunity to participate in the (halftime) show, and come with recliners. Anything short of those items would seem like a rip-off."
Or a jackpot, depending on which end of the deal you might be on.
To put that legally-asked-for scalped price into proper perspective — at the risk of being the first to introduce that element into Rivalry Week — an undergraduate resident at the University of Utah could use that same amount of cash to pay tuition and fees for seven credit hours of classes for two semesters and still have $133.24 left over to pay for books and a burger at the Union.
No wonder Roberts, a soon-to-be-graduating electrical engineering major, has found more discouragement than good deals while looking for tickets online.
"Since it is my last semester, I think that seeing a game live with a friend would be great," he said. "However, because I am also a student, I am not going to pay through the nose to get the tickets."
He might not, but others apparently will — or at least wanna-be ticket-selling entrepreneurs are banking on them to do so.
A search for "byu utah football" in ksl.com's classifieds Tuesday afternoon produced 192 ads — down from 416 on Sunday. Two primo second-row seats being hawked are "so close to the action you can feel it!" — though pads aren't included, sorry — but will cost you $2,000. If that doesn't fit your budget, perhaps the pair of student standing tickets going for $120 will. According to the seller's claim, his steal-of-a-deal offers "the cheapest tickets available!"
Several creative football fans are hoping some scalpers are motivated by something other than greed for greenbacks.
For example, a number of online ads offered up trades instead of cash. Items on the bargaining table have included: Utah Jazz courtside seats; tickets for popular shows such as the Celine Dion concert (hopefully for the rescheduled date) and "Wicked the Musical;" and even massages, including from a therapist from Clearfield who has her own table and is willing to travel.
John Van Wyngaarden, who has massage credits for a Sandy day spa and is willing to trade them and not just for this game, has only received one call off of his BYU-Utah ad.
"It seems like a top-dollar commodity is hard to trade for," he said during that one call. "No one's interested in trading their tickets when they can sell them for $150 and $200."
He'll likely go to a sports bar and "just make it a day there" instead. But Van Wyngaarden has been fascinated to watch the ebb and flow of ticket prices on local Web sites. After BYU lost to TCU, he said tickets for the Ute-Cougar clash dipped in average from the $250-$300 range to below 200 bucks. He then noticed prices plunged again after Utah released some more tickets.
"It's been interesting to watch — kind of like the stock market," he said. "It's quite a phenomenon here, this little rivalry."
StubHub's Joellen Ferrer, the San Francisco-based corporate communications manager, agrees with that assessment. She has noticed that the ticket sales for this little rivalry game aren't so little. In fact, they've skyrocketed over the past few weeks on that Web site. The BYU-Utah matchup just entered StubHub's Top 25 rivalry rankings for gross ticket sales at No. 21. The 14th-ranked Army-Navy game is the only other Top 25 contest that pits non-BCS foes. The Oklahoma-Texas clash sits atop the sales chart.
As for the BYU-Utah game, it wasn't included in StubHub's rankings last year when average tickets sold for $105 for the fourth-and-18 game at LaVell Edwards Stadium. That accounts for a 70 percent gross increase with half a week to go. It is currently dollar-volume-wise the sixth-highest-selling college football game of the week on StubHub.
"This game was certainly not within the realm of rankings last year," Ferrer said. "It's great to see a change in guard here."
Before U. of U. students go online — and then are forced to make a really big "Mom. Send $, lots of $$$" sign — they should check with the box office. Tickets for the general public are long gone, but as of Tuesday a few were available for students.
Keough is among the crowd who won't even consider giving up a chance to see this potential classic, which features No. 8 Utah vs. No. 16 BYU.
There's no way he'll try to scalp his tickets, he said.
"I'm going to enjoy the game."

BYU-UTAH RIVALRY WEEK

No. 16 BYU at No. 8 Utah
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Rice-Eccles Stadium
TV: The mtn.;
Radio: 700 AM, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

E-mail: jody@desnews.com

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